If you’re fortunate enough to have wild ramps – the ultimate springtime delicacy here in the northeast U.S. – this is a wonderful dish to make with them. I am a big fan of risotto – it’s creamy, filling, hearty, as well as a perfect palette for flavors both subtle and bold. The combination of the garlicky ramps, fresh, floral lemon and creamy risotto is truly delicious.
I began by separating the ramp stalks from the leaves so that I’d be able to cook each part for the best flavor and consistency.
You don’t add the chopped up greens until the very end of cooking, then you fold them into the risotto, along with the lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.
Just a little lemon zest adds a world of light flavor to this dish. And thanks to my beloved microplane zester, it only takes a few seconds to produce a lovely little pile of zest.
The first step of the cooking process is to sauté the chopped ramp stalks and shallot in butter.
Once the ramp stalks and shallot have softened, you add the Arborio rice and sautée it for a few minutes, stirring all the while, until the edges of each grain of rice edges become opaque and the center turns white.
Then comes the tedious part – add stock and stir repeatedly until it’s absorbed. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…
Just when you begin to fear that your arm may actually drop off from all the stirring, it’s time to fold in the ramp greens, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese!
Stir well to ensure even distribution of these yummy late-stage additions.
Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and enjoy the sighs of delight and pats on the back from your fellow diners.
An important note about wild ramps: concerns about overharvesting are growing apace with their popularity. So if you are lucky enough to find some, please be extremely sensitive to their plight — take only a small fraction of whatever bed you find (5% max) or, better yet, just snip the greens to leave the root in place to grow back next year.
I also strongly recommend starting your own ramp patch if you have appropriate land (details on what they like here). You can start by ordering plants and/or seeds from the good folks at Ramp Farm and then harvest the seeds from your plants to scatter around your woods/yard in the fall once they’re dried. It make take you a few years to get to the point where you have enough to harvest from but all good things are worth waiting for, right?
Wild Ramp & Lemon Risotto
* 1 large bunch of wild ramps (8-10), cleaned and trimmed with the roots removed (instructions here)
* 2 large shallots
* 2 Tbps olive oil or butter
* 7 cups organic vegetable stock (you can also use chicken if you prefer – that’s the traditional Italian choice)
* 2 cups Arborio rice (risotto)
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1 Tbsp lemon zest (use an organic lemon – you don’t want any yucky pesticides or wax)
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
1. Separate the ramp stalks from the greens and chop each, keeping them separate. Finely chop the shallots.
2. Heat the stock in a saucepan (you’ll want to position this right behind whatever burner you plan to use for the risotto pan since you’re going to be ladling stock into the pan continuously during the cooking process.) Cover the stock and leave it on low at a simmer (it will need to stay hot the entire time you’re cooking the risotto.)
3. In a large, heavy bottomed pan (there are special risotto pans but although nice, they’re not necessary) melt the butter and cook the onion on medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains with butter. Sautée the rice for 2-3 minutes until the rice becomes chalky and you can see a white dot in the center of each grain. Then add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it’s been absorbed.
5. Now the fun begins (by the end of this, your arm will be very tired!). Add one cup of the hot stock to the pan and stir until it has all been absorbed by the rice – if you don’t stir and cook until the liquid is absorbed with each addition, the rice will get very gummy).
6. Continue to add stock, one cup at a time, stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed the liquid and starts to seem dry before adding more stock. Once you’ve added 6 cups of the stock, you should start adding 1/2 cup at a time. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through but still a little al dente, about 30 minutes total (you may not end up using all of the stock but it should be pretty close — if you run out of stock, you can substitute hot water towards the end.)
8. Turn off the heat, add the chopped ramp greens, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese, mix well to incorporate, then season with salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper, and serve.
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