I love a good root vegetable as much as the next girl, but after a long winter of rutabagas, potatoes, and turnips, it's a relief spotting greenery at the farmer's market again. I especially love scooping up all those fleeting ingredients that will be gone in a few weeks' time--tightly coiled fiddleheads, pale stalks of green garlic, and everyone's favorite harbinger of spring, the ramp.
At the cafe, I try to work these ingredients into the menu whenever and wherever I can, but I'm an especially big fan of the ramp's distinctly delicate allium-ness. Gentler than scallions or garlic, you can throw them into many things (you might not even realize I'm swapping ramp leaves into the frittata. I am!), but I like ramps best when I can see and taste them. Pickling ramps has become my spring ritual. I can give the ramps a center stage on which to shine, and keep the season going a little longer for all of you at the cafe. Win-win.
This year, we're serving the ramps in our spring market salad, a celebration of the first market asparagus, crisp watercress, and tiny fingerling potatoes. But at home, I will eat them straight from the jar, or alongside a grilled cheese sandwich. They're basically made for charcuterie platters, if you've got a fancy something coming up. This is a solid, basic recipe, but you can experiment with different spices and seasonings if you like. Oh--and did I mention this takes 15 minutes, start to finish? Enjoy!
Kos Kaffe Pickled Ramps (Makes about 1 quart)
3 bunches ramps
1 3/4 cups white wine vinegar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander
1 to 2 dried chilies, to taste
1 bay leaf
Trim the hairy bottoms from the ramps and discard; remove greens and save for another use (they're excellent for compound butters, pestos, stir-fry, and egg dishes). Place ramps in a clean, dry quart-sized canning jar.
In a non-reactive, heavy saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring until sugar and salt is fully dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour brine over ramps. Cool to room temperature. Cover and store in the refrigerator. They'll be ready to eat in a day or so, and will keep for up to 3 weeks.