Ramp Gratin

I have a nice tale for you. About this time of year, I start reading a lot about ramps on many the food blogs. Ramps are leeks that grow wild in the American Northeast, down at least as far as Virginia, yet I’ve never had them. I’ve never even seen them in person. But as they are touted as tasting like a mild cross between onion and garlic, both of which I adore, and as I live in Virginia, where they are native, I’ve always wanted to find and consume ramps. I knew my best bet was the farmer’s market, and I love farmer’s markets, I really, truly do but they all occur at some ungodly hour of the morning on weekends. Some of them actually close before what I deem an acceptable waking hour. I may, after weeks of feeling guilty, manage to drag myself out of bed early enough to hit up the farmer’s market mid-summer, but ramp season is very early and very short and ends before I’ve reached that point. This year more than any other, though, I’ve been wanting to try ramps.

So I did some research yesterday and learned there are FOUR farmer’s markets in my immediate area on four different days of the week. If I can’t make it to at least one of them, there’s simply something wrong with me. Furthermore, one of them takes place on Wednesday mornings directly on one of the two possible routes I can take to work. Wednesday – today – was the very next day. I had no excuse. Not only that but this morning the clouds parted and the rain relented and that glowing, glorious orb I think we used to call the sun shone down upon Northern Virginia, greeting us with its warm embrace after 40 days and nights of our soggy misery. I put the top down on my convertible and drove merrily off to the market.

There were only a few stalls today’s market, probably because it is so early in the season. I did, though, manage to snag some utterly gorgeous strawberries, and some fabulous asparagus, and some nice lettuce, and some plump tomatoes. I even got some lovely spring onions. What I did not get were ramps. There was a distinct lack of ramps at this market. Foiled! Nonetheless, I was pleased with my purchases and motored on into work in the bright sunshine.

After work, I had to go to the grocery store, for I had a shopping list a mile long. I puttered around the produce department at Wegmans, picking up items for my latest project (you’ll be hearing more about this shortly), when what to my wondering eyes should appear but ramps!!! At the grocery store!! My grocery store!! It’s difficult for me to put into words how much I love Wegmans. Anyway, I gathered as many ramps as I could stuff into a bag and finished my shopping with a beatific smile that didn’t leave my face even when it took three cashiers 20 minutes to find the code for ramps so I could be greatly over-charged for something that grows wild upon our land.

Returning home, I started some brown rice cooking in the rice cooker and contemplated what the heck to do with these elusive ramps. After a bit of googling, I realized most vegetarian ramp dishes involve either pasta, which I didn’t want for dinner and anyway I’d already started cooking rice, or potatoes, and for some reason none of the 80 pounds of produce I purchased today included potatoes. Then I found this recipe for ramp gratin, which I adapted for vegan tastes and served with that lovely asparagus and the aforementioned rice. And I share with you!

Ramp Gratin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
10-12 oz ramps
2 slices bread (I used one large chunk of homemade sourdough French bread)
1/4 cup Dragonfly’s Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix, or your favorite vegan cheese
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
6 Tbsp water
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tear the bread into chunks then put in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s in crumbs.

Place the bread crumbs in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring or tossing frequently, for about 3 minutes or until beginning to brown.

Wash the ramps.

Trim the bottoms off.

Chop them up, both the onion-y bulb and the green tops.

Zest the lemon, then juice.

Heat the skillet over medium heat, add some olive oil, then the garlic.

After a minute, add the ramps.

Sauté until the ramp greens are wilted.

Stir in the bread crumbs, uncheese, and lemon zest.

Add the sour cream and water.

Add the salt and pepper and let it thicken for a few seconds.

Move the skillet to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes.

For the asparagus, I mixed together about a tablespoon of olive oil, some of the lemon zest (before I added it to the ramps), 2 pressed cloves of garlic, some salt, and one or two tablespoons lemon juice.

Then I rubbed my hands in the mixture, then rubbed each stalk of asparagus with the vinaigrette before placing on the George Foreman grill.

Serve with a grain.

So, were ramps worth the wait? I’d say so. Let’s put it this way: if you like onions, you’ll like ramps. I’m looking forward to trying them in other variations.

In other news, Mark and I visited the parental homestead on Sunday, both for Mother’s Day and to see my parent’s brand-spanking-new renovated kitchen, which I found very exciting. I was the first person to cook in the kitchen! Neither of my parents enjoy cooking, so it was fitting that someone who does was on hand to inaugurate it. My mom requested I make spaghetti, which I think is sort of an amateur dish, but a safe one (my parents aren’t very adventurous eaters) and because it’s so easy, one that allowed me to relax and just have fun in the new kitchen. I put Mark in charge of photography, which was a bit of a mistake because he takes extremely unflattering pictures of me. And we somehow managed to not take any that really show off the beautiful new kitchen, but never fear, my aunt and I plan to do a post from the new kitchen soon so you can see it then.

As Mom is still in the process of unpacking all the items she’d packed away before the old kitchen was torn out, we spent a lot of time looking for stuff, like this:

Behind Mum’s head you can see the large built-in bread box, which I envy so badly. But she’s not even using it for bread! It’s stuffed with tea supplies!

Here I am looking for more stuff. All the lower cabinets have pull-out drawers, which is handy.

To my surprise, I found a cast iron bacon press!

“Hey, can I have this?!” I asked, having recently put a grill press on my wish list.

“No!” Mum retorted, “You don’t eat bacon!” But she doesn’t use it for bacon either!

I had brought with two bags of foodstuffs, which I spread out on the island. “What is all of this…what do you call this stuff?” my father asked. “Um, ingredients?” I said. “Yes, that’s the word: ingredients. I’ve never seen so many ingredients before.” “What do you people eat?!” I exclaimed. I still don’t know, but apparently it doesn’t involve ingredients.

I also brought my own knife, as well as several other utensils. My mother did have much better knives than Smucky did, but I learned my lesson in Australia and I now travel with my trusty chef’s knife.

While I prepared dinner, Mom continued to unpack stuff and Dad stood around holding dogs. The white blob in this picture is one such dog.

Although I LOVED my parents’ new kitchen, the one thing I didn’t love was the stove, which is a glass-top electric stove. I don’t like electric stoves to begin with, but I really dislike glass tops because they seem very fragile. I’m sure I would break the glass in about a day, and I don’t know that cast iron is good for them. Not only that, but a little bit of water boiled over when I was cooking the pasta and when the stove top cooled down, we realized it wasn’t coming off. WATER wasn’t coming off the stove top. Mom tried to wipe it off and it wasn’t budging. Dad said they’d have to use the special cleaner. What? Special cleaner to get WATER off? The only reason they got a glass top stove was because they said nearly all models of electric stoves sold today are glass top; it’s hard to find non-glass top electric stoves. So of course I’m convinced this is all a marketing ploy. The manufacturers are only selling glass top stoves because it costs so much money to replace the glass and it’s a GIVEN you’re going to break the glass. Not to mention the ridiculous cleaning products you’re supposed to buy. Lame, lame, lame. I guess I’d better be careful not to break my electric stove if the only thing the landlord will be able to replace it with is a glass top! I rather doubt he’s going to follow up on my request to have a gas line laid so I can go back to having a gas stove, which I much prefer.

How Mark got himself kicked out of the kitchen:

And here’s Sophie being incredibly cute. She doesn’t seem to care one way or the other about the new kitchen.

Finally, how awesome is my new logo?! My friend Travis made it for me! Coming soon: my mom gives me an awesome and timely family heirloom, and I cook Colonial.


  1. eatavegan Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 1:18 am

    Your new logo is fantastic! And those ramps look pretty awesome too!

  2. Jodye Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 1:24 am

    This looks like an absolutely wonderful way to highlight the ramps that are running rampant (I had to) this time of year!

  3. Anna Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 4:47 am

    When I moved here where there isn’t any gas I had to buy an electric cooker. I refused to get a glass topped one as they’re not supposed to be used with cast iron pans (and I wasn’t giving my my skillets!) and I knew that I’d bread it pretty quickly being the total clutz that I am! In the end for the things I wanted (sold rings and 2 ovens rather than just an oven and a grill which seemed like a waste of space as I don’t use a grill very often) I had the wide choice of….. 1 item that I could buy! Luckily it’s proved to be ok and easy to use but the whole glass thing was really irritating… I didn’t know about the special cleaners, I wonder how eco-friendly they are?

    The food looked great by the way!

  4. Mom Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 7:56 am

    That ‘breadbox’ is called an appliance garage. There is even a wall socket inside the garage for Mr. Coffee.

    The sample special cleaner and pad (that I guess came with the range) removed the cooked-on water on the stove top. So much for easier cleaning when you need a special cleaner to clean up water.

  5. Josiane Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    Your new banner looks good! And so does that ramp gratin. I hadn’t heard of ramps before a couple of days ago, when I’ve seen them on another blog. Sounds like something I’d love, so I’ll check if they can be found at the market here (first, I’ll have to find out what they’re called in French).
    And yeah, I’ve read recently that it wasn’t recommended to use cast iron skillets on glass stovetops, sadly. :/ I’ll have to find something else, I just can’t stand teflon stuff anymore!

  6. Courtney Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

    I love the farmers market! I am jealous that you have so many so near to you–that is lucky…even if you don’t like getting up early :o)

    I am with you 100%–I HATE the glass top stoves! My grandparents have one, and when I am visiting them and cooking, I am paranoid about anything–even water–spilling or boiling over. I warned them about it, but my grandmother insists she likes it. *shrug*

    Your new logo looks great!


  7. Alexis Said,

    May 14, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

    That ramp gratin looks fantastic, and so does your new logo!

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