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The Passion for Ramps and a recipe for Bucatini with Andouille Sausage, Pan Grattato and, of course, Ramps

If foraging for ramps, make sure you’re not
mistaking day lilies for the real deal.
Photo: Courtesy of Kerry Heffernan
         Ramp season is upon us and we’re off.  Every other foodie in New York will race to their local greenmarket in search of these tender, yet pungent, harbingers of Spring.  In fact, the interest is so intense that the only comparable event that comes to mind is to the running of the Bulls in Pamplona.  They attract that kind of crowd. Fortunately, the only real danger you’ll encounter is the distinct possibly that you’ll be run over by a ramp-crazed Chef at the Union Square Greenmarket. What’s all the excitement about?  Well, after the kind of winter we’ve had in the East, the mere sight of these woodland wild leeks, with their bright green leaves, is more than welcome.  And the fact that this year the asparagus is late rising from its beds only makes the leeks even more appealing.  There are said to be people who view the ramp as a mere “meh” on the menu.  And then there are those who haven’t a clue what a ramp is.   Not that that’s all that surprising.  They may be wild in the East and the South but they don’t even exist west of the Dakotas.   But they do grow here and picking your own may be an option.  But be careful.  My friend Kerry Heffernan mistook the day lilies growing near his house in Sag Harbor for ramps.  As you can see from his photo, it’s not a hard mistake to make.  Since I am not the forager that Kerry is, dutifully, I went to Union Square solely for the purpose of buying the first ramps of the season.  And then I was faced with what to do with them once I got home.


The simplest possible way to cook ramps is just to trim the roots, wash them carefully because they’re generally full of soil, and then put them in a hot pan coated with olive oil, salt and pepper them and cook them for all of 15 seconds.  They’re delicious that way but I wanted to make their aromatic, garlic-y presence felt in something more substantial.  A contributor to www.thedailymeal.com, which I’ve just been asked to contribute to as well, posted an interesting recipe using Bucatini. 

The thicker-than-spaghetti pasta is characterized by its hollow center. Now some believe that it holds sauce better because of the tunnel that runs right through its middle.  I’m no whiz at physics but that does seem to be a stretch to me.  Instead I would hold that it’s infinitely easier to eat Bucatini than Spaghetti because the larger Bucatini doesn’t fall all over the place while you are wrapping it around your fork.  It’s more substantial than Spaghetti and that’s important to me because I am trying not to give up pasta altogether but to limit our portions to just 3 oz. a serving.  That portion size still gives me my pasta fix but cuts down the shocking number of carbohydrates in pasta.  This recipe however had carbs all its own.        
Jacques Larson

Jacques Larson, whose recipe was my take-off point, is the chef at Wild Olives, (2867 Maybank Highway, John’s Island, S.C. 29455).  Jacques’ recipe introduced me to Pangrattato. Made with days-old bread which is cubed and cooked in olive oil spiced with chiles, garlic and anchovies, it’s a fried crouton.  It looked very good but with my pasta rationed,  I thought the dish needed some more body.  That’s when I latched on two Andouille Chicken Sausages, lonely orphans in the fridge.  They amped up the flavor and the kick and were a great addition, which I’d heartily endorse. However, Andrew and I thought Italian sweet sausage, taken out of its casing and crumbled into bits might have been even better.  Here’s the recipe, which I urge you to try.  It just might hold you over for the run on Asparagus that’s just about to begin.


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