Ramps are one of the classic spring foods, along with asparagus, morels, fiddlehead ferns and eggs. If you haven't had ramps, they look a lot like scallions that grew are a big green leaf on top, and indeed they are in the allium family. They have an intense garlicky aroma and flavor that inspires passionate devotees. Throughout Appalachia, small towns host ramp festivals where they crown Ramp Queens and hold contests to see who can eat the most of these pungent treats.
With the huge uptick in interest in traditional and wild foods, ramps have become much more readily available of late. In Seattle we see them at farmer's markets and Pike Place. There is some debate and confusion as to whether they are being foraged wild in this area, farmed, or brought in from afar. (If anyone has a definitive answer, I'd love to know.)
I decided to use ramps in a rather rich dish, fried crispy and served on top of a risotto cake with a fried egg. This could be a hangover breakfast, though I'd serve it anytime. I only used the white parts of the ramps this time, but you could use the greens to make a pesto that would be a beautiful addition to this plate. I served it with well aged balsamic vinegar instead (not pictured).
Whenever I make risotto, I make extra so that I can have risotto cakes the next day. Usually it will hold together enough to fry without any additions, but if it is falling apart, just stir in a beaten egg. If you don't have leftover risotto, you could do this dish with grilled toast (brioche, ideally), or even a savory French toast.
Risotto Cake with Crispy Ramps
Vegetarian and gluten-free; not vegan
- 6 ramps, white parts only, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup leftover risotto (any kind without too many mixins)
- 1 egg
- a few oregano leaves
- aged balsamic vinegar
- Melt the butter over a medium-high flame. Fry the ramps, keeping the temperature just below where the butter will burn. Cook until well browned. Season with salt. Remove the ramps, leaving the butter behind.
- Form the risotto into about a 3.5" wide patty, 1/2" thick. If it won't hold together, you can mix in a beaten egg. You can use a ring mold to form it more neatly if you like. In the same frying pan, cook the risotto cake on both sides until deep golden brown. Remove to a warmed plate and season with salt.
- In the same pan, adding a little more butter if needed, fry the egg until the white is done and the yolk is still liquid. (Insert standard disclaimer about the safety of eating undercooked eggs – use your own judgement). Again if you like, you can use a well oiled ring mold to hold the shape. It is helpful to add a little water and cover the pan to get the top of the whites to cook.
- To serve, put the egg on top of the risotto cake, and the ramps on top of the egg. Garnish with oregano leaves and a drizzle of well aged balsamic vinegar.