In New England, Spring is a colorful and dramatic turning point to a long and blistery tale about the hardships brought on by snow. When Spring arrives in the east, states that spend most of the year draped in snow are suddenly part of delightful show of color. Yellow daffodils and triumphant purple crocuses make a cameo. Green buds, sprouting from tree limbs, steal the scene.
But here in southern California, where temperatures linger in the 70’s for most of the year and flowers bloom year round, the shifting of seasons is so subtle, it takes more than just the eyes to observe the nuanced shift to Spring. Beyond the obvious wardrobe changes of its inhabitants—shoes are shelved for flip flops, shorts replace pants, miniscule dresses take over for floor length skirts—the real signs of spring in southern California can only be tasted.
One of the first flavors of Spring–sweet, pungent and earthy– is offered by the short lived ramp. This leafy, wild green closely related to onions (and lilies!) offers robust flavors akin to garlic and sweet onion, for a brief handful of weeks at the beginning of Spring.
The tear drop-sized bulb of the ramp is sweet while the delicate leafy greens hold intensely pungent flavors of sweet onion and garlic. It’s a perfect vegetable for a fast sautée in olive oil or a brief flash of heat from grill. At the Santa Monica farmer’s market, the “ramp man” suggested pickling the bulbs and grilling the greens on the BBQ.
My good friend Leah of Spicy Salty Sweet described a delicious bruschetta, she once had at a Lower East Side restaurant that had nothing but “prosciutto butter and sautéed ramps”. Anxious to recreate this recipe, I hurried home and prepared this recipe.
Sauteed Ramp bruschetta with prosciutto butter
5 slices of proscuitto. (I used just two slices short of a full package of sliced proscuitto from Trader Joes.)
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 pound of ramps (about 12 ramps)
1 small baguette
a splash of olive oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Delicately wash the ramps. Dry on paper towels. Remove the roots of the ramps from the bulbs. Sautee the ramps in a tiny amount of olive oil for about 2-3 minutes or just until the leaves have wilted. Turn off heat and lightly drizzle with salt and a quick turn of the pepper mill. Leave the ramps in the pan to keep warm while you throw the sliced prosciutto into a food processor with a pat of butter. Blend until you have the consistency of a creamy, pâté-like spread.
Slice, then lightly toast the bread. Spread a thin layer of prosciutto butter on the warm bread and then top with the ramps. Note, you may want to cut the ramps into quarters or bite sized pieces before putting them on the bread, in order to make the bruschetta easier to eat.