Let me forewarn you, ramps are not for the faint of heart or stomach, this wild leek packs a potent punch of huge garlic & onion flavor, aroma and taste that will have you reeling for days! It also packs an equally potent punch of healthy vitamin A and C and has legendary medicinal properties, from blood purification, and curing colds, coughs and flu to a bee sting and pain reliever. You can use them as you would use garlic or onion in any recipe and they can be eaten raw, but let be warned that the taste and smell will linger, and from personal experience I can tell you the saying "Don't sweat it" does not apply here. You will even exude the smell as you perspire for days afterward! There are whole festivals devoted to this wild leek on the East coast, particularly in the Appalachians (I am not sure why Chicago does not have its own ramp festival?). The preferred method of cooking at these festivals is to fry in bacon grease with potatoes, they also like to mix them with eggs for a hearty mountain breakfast. For this Sunday we are going to try a different recipe that will help tame some of the wild flavor, Tony's Famous Pasta & Ramps, a play on the famous Italian dish Aglio E Olio (pasta with garlic and oil). Now we come to fiddlehead ferns. Yes, it is a fern; technically it is the front of the fern plant just before it begins to unfurl, but don't go out picking fern fronds, bringing them home and trying to eat them. The edible fiddlehead fern comes from the Ostrich Fiddlehead fern plant and is quite edible and delicious when picked by experienced foragers. Some people say they are similar to asparagus in flavor (I might disagree, but let's eat them on Sunday and see what you think) and can be cooked the same way. They are also popular in the eastern part of the country, particularly in Vermont where the best quality fiddleheads can be found, but are gaining in popularity in this area. Vermonters like to serve them with butter and apple cider vinegar. We will taste this as well on Sunday and I have included the recipe. You can also use the ramps recipe and simply substitute fiddleheads for ramps. They are great in salads with a nice vinaigrette dressing too. I like to pair seasonal items together, and these make a wonderful side dish to fresh Alaskan Halibut which is in now season as well.
Buttered Fiddlehead Ferns
1/2# Fiddlehead Ferns
2T Butter salted or unsalted
1T Apple Cider vinegar (optional)
6C Water salted
Salt and Pepper to taste
Clean the fiddlehead ferns thoroughly soaking in cold water several times brushing off any brown leaves and rinsing. In a large pot heat water to boiling. Place fiddlehead ferns in water cook 3 to 4 minutes until al dente. Remove and immediately rinse with cold water. You can refrigerate until you are ready to use them or in the same pot or sauce pan melt butter over medium high heat add fiddlehead ferns sauté until warmed through, salt and pepper to taste, if desired vinegar add now swirl and serve as a side dish to game, beef or fish. I particularly like it with fresh Alaskan Halibut, pairing seasonal items together.
Tony's Pasta and Ramps
1/2C Pasta cooking water
6T Extra Virgin Olive Oil 3T reserved
1/2t Red Pepper flakes
1/3C Parmesan cheese
Clean ramps thoroughly, brushing of dirt and trimming roots, rinse and dry. Cut bottom white part from top leaf and chop. Julienne top green leaves. In a large pot cook pasta in salted water, just before draining pasta reserve 1/2C of water, Drain and reserve pasta. In a large skillet heat 3T olive oil over med heat, add chopped white part of ramps and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, then add julienne leaves and stir until wilted. Finally add pasta, red pepper flakes, remaining oil stir in then add water stir ring until heated through, then add cheese, mix and serve immediately.
Wild Ramp Dip
1# Fiddlehead ferns clean
1/2C Yogurt Plain
1T Lemon Juice fresh
3t Dijon mustard
3T Ramps (wild leeks) finely chopped no leafing part
Drop cleaned fiddlehead ferns into boiling water and cook 1 to 3 minutes until still crisp tender immediately drain and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking. Place in a bowl for serving.
In a small bowl whisk remaining ingredients until smooth. Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve as a dip to fiddleheads.
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