Nothing excites me more, from a culinary perspective, than the beginning of the spring vegetable season. So this past week when ramps, or wild leeks as they are known by here, showed up at my farmers' market, I was first in line.
Ramps have had a huge surge in popularity over the past couple of years, but I have noticed a bit of a backlash this year. I guess those people searching for the newest fad are bored, and looking for something else to fascinate. Not this girl. I'll be cooking with wild leeks until my family begs for mercy.
Although it's early days yet, the easiest way to deal with wild leek fatigue is to make a pesto and stick it in the freezer. Then during a winter snow storm you can defrost it and have a wonderful spring tasting pasta. Pickle them, put them in egg dishes or in soups and tarts, stir fry them, you can even use the root ends for making stock, that way you use every single bit of them. This recipe calls for the white and pink parts of the ramps, but I used fewer of them and included the green parts, which are just as delicious as the bulb.
Even if you decide not to make the pancakes, give the miso dipping sauce a try. We loved it, and I used the leftovers as a salad dressing with baby greens and it was great.
This recipe is from the website Food52.
Ramp-Sesame Pancakes with Miso Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
about 20 ramps, white and pink parts finely chopped to yield about 1/3 cup
bacon fat, peanut oil, or canola oil
For Miso Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons yellow or brown miso paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
3 dashes toasted sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1. For the pancakes, combine the flour, sesame seeds, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in the boiling water, stirring with a fork to combine. The mixture will be thick and hard to work, but keep at it until it's cool enough to start kneading by hand. If it's too tacky, add in another tablespoon or two of flour until the dough is workable. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest, covered with damp towel in the bowl, for 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the ingredients for the miso sauce, adding in ground black pepper and cayenne to taste. Mix well. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to use.
3. When the dough has rested, divide it equally into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. On a lightly floured board, roll a dough ball out to a flat circle about 1/4-inch thick. Spread a heaping teaspoon of the ramps all over the dough. Starting at the edge of the circle, roll the dough up into a tight cigar. Coil the cigar into a snail or a cinnamon roll shape. Flatten the snail/roll and roll it out again to about 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
4. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add in a half teaspoon of bacon fat, peanut oil, or canola oil. Cook the pancake for 60-90 seconds on each side or until golden brown, adjusting the heat as necessary. Move the finished pancake into a warm oven until the rest of the pancakes are done. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Slice the pancakes into quarters and serve with the miso sauce.