Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a plant native to Appalachia. One good thing about living in the midwest is that right now they are everywhere! These broad leafed members of the onion family are very pungent, and can be used in place of onions or garlic in most dishes. But I decided, why not embrace the culture that is best known for embracing them, and create a dish inspired by traditional Appalachian cuisine?
I foraged for these near the river, and felt a little bit like Pollan during his last segment of Omnivore’s Dilemma, when he created a meal entirely from food he foraged himself. Now I didn’t go wild boar hunting, but foraging for ramps oddly inspired a sense of coming back to the earth, kind of like finding your own roots (ha, no pun intended!). Foraging for food is great. You aren’t encouraging any non-sustainable food industry, and it’s free! Just make sure that you forage in places where it is ok to do so. Don’t go foraging on protected land, etc.
Ramps are pretty easy to identify – they smell really strong when you dig them up, have these big broad leaves and reddish stems near the base of the plant, and grow in bunches.
The entire plant is edible – the bulb, stem, and the leaves, so if you cook ramps, please eat all of the plant to enjoy the most that you can!
When I got home, I washed them and let them soak in water overnight so that I could make my dish this morning. Being in a little bit of water in the fridge worked really well for keeping them looking fresh and happy:
Ok now that you know all about ramps, onto the dish that was inspired by them!
Ingredients (Serves 6):
4 tbs. veg oil, or butter, or if you are using bacon you can use the bacon grease here
2 oz. prosciutto*
1 1/2 – 2 cups ramps, chopped
1 1/2 cups spinach, chopped
3 medium to large sized red potatoes, skin on, cubed (*omit to be diabetic friendly)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup parmesean cheese, grated
*Note - you can sub in just about anything here – bacon, sausage, pancetta, the list goes on, or to just keep this dish vegetarian, you can put in some wild mushrooms or just keep it simple with the ramps and spinach.
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In a cast iron skillet (or something that goes stove to oven, but cast iron is best because it is non-stick), heat up oil on med to med-high, and fry up prosciutto, ramps, spinach, and potatoes, until the potatoes are soft enough to eat. You may want to reserve some of the ramp leaves for decoration on top, like I did.
3. In a separate bowl, crack eggs, and add milk and cheese, and beat until uniform.
4. Remove skillet from heat and pour in egg mixture and add reserved ramp leaves for decor.
5. Bake in oven about 15 – 20 min, or until the eggs are cooked. This time might need to be adjusted, I wasn’t really keeping track. Usually when I bake, I just keep it in the oven til whatever is baking starts to smell really good throughout my place, and that’s when I know to start checking on it to see how done it is. Seriously this is how I bake. But I provided a time for the rest of you who may not like to be so carefree with their cooking. I’m just putting in the disclaimer that this time could be off, so don’t hold me to it
6. Take out of oven and serve! (Make sure to use a trivet and a pot holder before placing cast iron pot on pretty coffee tables. Don’t worry I there is a lot of padding underneath that cast iron skillet in my top photo!)
This dish was very budget friendly too, yes even with the prosciutto – 5 eggs is about $1.50, 3 red potatoes is about $1 worth, the ramps were free, the fresh spinach was about $1.50 worth, but this can be cheaper if you buy frozen, I used about $3 worth of prosciutto, and the 4 tbs. of oil and little bit of milk and cheese can’t have been more than $.50 worth. You are looking at under $8 for 6 servings here, not bad.
And just for fun, here is a really cool shot I got after I chopped up the ramps, don’t they look so yummy!!