Green season begins at Sepia in West Loop

April 24, 2013 (CHICAGO)

In the West Loop, one chef is using ramps in various ways. All of them are delicious.

The seasons help dictate what Andrew Zimmerman does each day. Since he's in charge of creating the menu at Sepia in the West Loop, that means right about now you'll see ramps.

"Kind of like a cross between a spring onion and garlic; they can be really pungent or sometimes they're a little more mild," said Zimmerman.

Even if they're tiny, Zimmerman buys as much as he can from foragers and farmers, knowing he can preserve them.

"So we get as many ramps as we can and pickle the stem ends and the bulb," he said.

He chops up some of those pickled ramps, tossing them with fresh herbs and olive oil, plus some of the pickling liquid. This salsa verde is then draped between a thick, grilled steak and a mound of asparagus - its springtime cousin.

Zimmerman even uses up the ramp leaves, pureeing them into a vibrant green sauce.

"And then use that to finish, for example, a potato-leek soup, which turns it into a potato-ramp-leek soup which is vividly green and really tastes of ramps and the spring," he said.

The soup is garnished with smoked trout, crème fraiche and caviar, plus miner's lettuce. Clearly, it's one of the most exciting times of the year for local chefs.

"It's one of the really clear harbingers of spring; and it's nice to know that the days of root vegetables and hoop house stuff are coming to an end," said Zimmerman.

And Zimmerman says it's not just ramps, but also morels, spring peas and asparagus this time of year.. A few hints as to some of our other stories coming up later this week.

123 N. Jefferson St.

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