I don’t know about the rest of you, but here in Minnesota, spring has decided to be, well, a bit summer-y. Highs around 70 confuse me and try to tempt me into planting my garden, but I know I need to hold off a bit longer or risk an April (sometimes early May!) frost. So while I keep one hopeful foot forward, the other is still holding onto spring and everything we honestly haven’t completely gotten to experience produce-wise (which is rather a lot, actually). Today, though, I found some local via Wisconsin ramps for sale at the coop, which always excite me with their deep green leaves, slender red stems, and curvy little white bulbs.
I’ve heard of ramp festivals, particularly in the states south and east of my own, but I’d never even heard of these little wild leeks until a couple of years ago when I got a free bunch from work one day. My first experience was particularly heavy on the characteristic smell and taste (not that I’m complaining!), but today’s bunch was decidedly milder. Ramps, aka wild leeks, can not be cultivated and must be harvested from the wild, and have a taste somewhere between garlic and onion. Regardless of the ramp potency you might encounter yourself, this is a simple and tasty way to enjoy this spring delicacy.
As a nod to the cooler months in Minnesota, I paired ramps with one of my favorite local ingredients, wild rice. The slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor are a great complement to the potent ramps and bright dressing. We ate ours alongside a roasted portabella, green beans with saffron cashew cream (leftover from an amazing weekend secret cafe I helped host), and a mixed green salad topped with creamy peach-meyer lemon poppyseed dressing (also from the same event). Oh! and some peachy white sangria, because hot summer nights will be here soon enough, and beginning to tweak a refreshing summer indulgence early is always a good idea.
Sauteed Ramp and Wild Rice Salad
1 cup wild rice or wild rice blend (see note)
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bunch ramps, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp champagne vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
squeeze of lemon (optional)
Cook the wild rice in vegetable stock until tender but not splitting open (about 45-60 minutes over low heat after boiling, or in a rice cooker). Keep warm, or cool slightly, depending on what temperature you want to serve the salad.
Remove the roots and separate the larger white bulbs from the ramps, then roughly chop the stems and leaves. Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the ramp bulbs. Saute until tender and just beginning to brown. Add remaining stems and leaves and cook until leaves have wilted.
Combine rice with cooked ramps and add champagne vinegar, then taste for salt and pepper. Drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the salad if desired, and let sit a few minutes for the vinegar to mellow out a bit. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled with your favorite savory protein and some greens.
*Note: I’ve never had a problem cooking brown and wild rice together, but some prefer to do it separately. Alternatively, you can look for wild rice blends at your local grocery store or coop. I like to use vegetable stock (actually, bouillon, cuz I’m a cheater) to cook my grains for added depth of flavor, but it isn’t necessary.