For the past couple of weeks I have been patiently waiting for ramp season. I have a slight obsession with the little wild leeks (well, the allium genus in general) and it probably has something to do with the fact that they are only available for 4-6 weeks each year. So, I started making grocery store rounds on Good Friday ready to pounce on the first ramps I saw. Typically I’ve only been able to find them at Whole Foods, but since I didn’t want to drive the 20 minutes to Short Pump, I decided to head to a small local grocery in Northside Richmond, Little House Green Grocery first. I’m so happy I did, because although they did not have them that day, I placed an order for a pound and picked them up the following Tuesday!
Ramps are such an awesome addition to so many dishes – but be warned, if you are not a fan of onions or garlic they might not be your thing. Ramps are super strong in flavor and pungent. Last year I added them to a spring onion soup and grilled them to be served with a poached egg. This year I’ve stepped it up a bit. I mean really – it was a week-long ramp binge. I made collard greens with ramps, warm potato salad with ramps, a ramp frittata, and finally, risotto. Needless to say, my husband now hates ramps. Me? I’m on the search for more so I can pickle them. 😉
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
½ cup dry vermouth
4 ounces pancetta, diced
10-12 ramps, stalks chopped crosswise, chiffonade the greens
1 small young Vidalia onion, diced
2-3 Cremini mushrooms, diced
1/4-1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoon of butter
While prepping all of the other ingredients, bring the vegetable stock to boil in a pot. Once it gets going, turn the burner to low and let it sit. When all the prep is complete, place the pancetta in a cold risotto pan or a deep sauté pan and turn the burner on medium heat. Let the pancetta cook slowly until it is nice and crispy – but not burned. Remove the pancetta from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Save a small amount of the fat rendered from the pancetta in the pan for sautéing the vegetables.
Throw in the onions and cook until translucent. Then add in the mushrooms and sauté until tender. Finally, throw in the ramps, season the veggies with a dash of salt, and enjoy the garlic-like scent that is about to take over your kitchen.
After 2-3 minutes, add the Arborio rice to the pan. Give it a good stir or two, combining all of the ingredients and lightly toasting the rice in the process. Next, pour in the vermouth, stir, and let it simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated. Next, add ½ cup of the warm vegetable stock and stir again until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Continue to add the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly. In my experience, it usually takes 2 – 2 ½ minutes for each ½ cup of stock. Once you are finally at the end of the vegetable stock and the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Pecorino Romano, a tablespoon of butter and the chiffonade of ramp greens. Serve the risotto hot, topped with extra Pecorino and the crispy pancetta.