Every year from April to early May, food enthusiasts throughout the Eastern US and Canada go crazy for one simple vegetable known as the Ramp. These leek-like vegetables have an almost cult following, popping up on restaurant menus for just a few shorts weeks every year. It's unique flavor of an onion mixed with garlic and adds an earthy touch to all types of dishes.
"They are staying on the menu for about another week," said chef Toni Elkhouri of Cedars Cafe in Melbourne, FL. She says Ramps are exciting for Chefs because, "They are the first taste of spring a chef can work with."
Often considered 'the delicacy of the onion family' Ramps are an often foraged plant but can also be purchased at markets (like Whole Foods). This oniony and garlicky plant is praised during this time of year by Ramp Festivals throughout the eastern US, one of the oldest being the annual ramp convention in Haywood County, North Carolina since 1925. People serve them deep fried, sautéed with potatoes and bacon, and how Chef Toni Elkhouri prepared them for us, grilled and served over fish.
Here is a delicious and light recipe for Ramp Feta Pesto by Chef Toni Elkhouri that subtly highlights the unique flavor of the famed Ramp. Run out and get your Ramps today because chances are they'll be gone by tomorrow.
Cedars Cafe is located at 4100 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32935 and you can call (321) 751-0000 for reservations.
RAMP FETA PESTO
This basic ramp feta pesto can go with anything - fish, chicken, pasta, etc...
1 lbs of ramps washed and trimmed
1/2 cup of crumbly cheese, we used Feta
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup nuts (pine-nuts,almonds, walnuts or pecans), we used pecans
Put everything (except olive oil) in blender or food processor.
Puree until smooth, slowly adding in your olive oil.
Your pesto is complete.
Use this pesto lightly coat a protein before grilling, we used white fish. Grill accordingly. You can also toss cooked pasta in this pesto and eat as is or top with your protein.
To finish off this dish. grill whole ramps. Plate your grilled protein on top of salad greens and place grilled ramps on top with a little extra pesto. Finish off with a hit of fresh lemon juice.
*note: You could also make this pesto using leeks & garlic instead of ramps, if ramps are out of season.
recipe by Toni Elkhouri
article by Craig Chapman