“Oh, ramps,” I hear you sigh, sniffing delicately. “That’s so last year.” To be sure, ramp mania seems to have dimmed somewhat, after a strong showing in the opening years of the decade, to be replaced by new must-have food items such as artisanal toast and eggs that are scrambled in the shell. Which is a good thing, really, as ramps have been dangerously over-harvested in recent years: perhaps everyone has finally gotten the message about sustainable ramp foraging? Or, perhaps, it is just human nature. After all, how can a pungent wild leek compete with a plastic gyroscope that presumably scrambles an egg in the shell so much better than you could ever do by simply shaking it in your hand?
Needless to say, there are those of us who will remain ever-dedicated to the lowly ramp. When the rest of you have moved on to chia-ground cherry puddings and salsify smoothies, we’ll still be excitedly hiking through the woods come the first buds of Spring, anxious eyes peeled for those tell-tale bright green shoots. And if we’re very, very lucky, we’ll find a secret stash, we’ll oh-so carefully harvest just a precious few plants, and we’ll toss them into lasagna or a salad, braise them with chicken, roll them into pork cutlets or make a frittata. Or, the easiest of all, squish them into patties with some beans and cornmeal and fry them ’til golden brown. Serve ’em up warm with a sweet-spicy sriracha-marmalade sauce. Revel in the crisp exterior, soft warm interior, mellow bean goodness and stinky onion love that is the wild ramp. Resolve to go for another hike: tomorrow.
- 1 small bunch ramps (about 2 oz), washed & trimmed
- 2 cups (16 oz) cooked white beans, well-drained (I used cannellini)
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 2 ½ tsp Meyer lemon salt OR 1 ¼ tsp salt + zest from 1 lemon
- several grinds black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- vegetable oil, for frying
- ¼ cup marmalade
- 2 – 3 tbsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp raw sugar
- Make fritter dough. Stack the ramps together and slice the bulb ends very thinly. Wrap leaves together in a cigar shape and chiffonade. Add bulbs & leaves to a large shallow bowl. Add beans, cornmeal, lemon salt, pepper, egg and olive oil. Using a potato masher, fork, or your hands, mash ingredients together until few beans are whole. The mixture should be just dry enough to form a loose patty with your hands: if too dry, add more olive oil or another egg; if too wet, sprinkle in a bit more cornmeal and incorporate.
- Make sauce. Combine marmalade, sriracha and sugar in a small saucepan. If sauce is very thick, add a splash of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil until sauce is thick and syrupy and flavors blend, about 3 – 5 minutes. Scrape into a heat-safe bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
- Fry. Fill a large skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of ½-inch. Heat oil over medium heat to a temperature of 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, use 2 – 3 tablespoons of fritter dough to make small patties. Keeping the oil between 325 and 350 degrees F, fry, in batches, for about 2 – 3 minutes per side, until both sides are light golden brown. These fritters will produce a lot of foam, so it’s best to fry only 2 or 3 small fritters at a time and to keep the oil temperature on the low end. Remove from the oil and drain on paper. Serve warm with sriracha-marmalade sauce.
Serves 4 – 6 as an appetizer.
- I tested a small amount of fritter dough without any egg as binder: it feel apart quickly and did not fry evenly. This definitely needs some sort of binder.
- You may be able to simply whisk together marmalade and sriracha to make the sauce: my marmalade was a bit tart and a bit runny, so I simmered with extra sugar.
- It’s best to fry these slowly, at a lower oil temperature, in order to keep the ramps from turning black and scorching. Try not to overcook, as a very browned exterior takes away from the bean, ramp & lemon flavors.
Best eaten fresh.