Monday, April 2, 2012

Ramped Up - Spaghetti with Ramps, Breadcrumbs, & Poached Egg

Since foraging is the new farming, I thought ramps would be a timely addition to NK's vegetable hall of fame. Not familiar with ramps?

Also known as Wild Leeks, ramps are a foraged green available for a very short period in early spring. A relative of the onion, they grow wild across the US, especially in the Appalachian region. In flavor, they are pungent and garlicky with both edible leaves and bulbs. For even more Neurotic Kitchen Ramp Recipes click HERE.

Ramps are also pretty attractive:

Ramps, Photo: NK

Like most pretty things, they become that much more alluring when they're hard to get. Said to be the earliest green of the spring season, the scarcity of ramps definitely adds to their veggie celeb status. If you look around this time of year, you'll surely see ramps popping up on farm-to-table menus everywhere. If you're lucky enough to have a good farmers market or gourmet produce shop, they're likely to show up during that fleeting window in early April. They have a cult following among chefs and at home cooks alike, as evidenced by this article about retailers price gouging for these sought after beauties: Price Gouging of Ramps! 

Still want more ramp edification? Check out this concise overview of Ramps, courtesy of the Organic Authority: All About Ramps

And this article from a few years back explores the reasons behind the popularity of Ramps, both with chefs and everyday gourmands - Time U.S: For Foodies, Ramps are the New Arugula

~Last April was my first ramp rodeo, and with this newly discovered ingredient, I decided to make Mario Batali's Spaghetti With Ramps. Ramps do well when simply prepared.  Their springy flavor is pronounced and definitely translates best to the palate with minimal interference from competing tastes. Mario's recipe was great, and in the subsequent weeks, I was inspired to buy up as many bunches of ramps as I could so we could enjoy them while they lasted. In general, ramps can be prepared in a similar manner as you would leeks or scallions. They taste fantastic when brushed with oil and simply grilled, or ground into a pesto, and even when pickled (an ideal way to make ramps last past their short seasonal window). Make ramps while the sun shines, I always say...

This year, I decided I would remake the Batali recipe with a few tweaks:

1 - Adding breadcrumbs to amp up the textural complexity of the dish.
2 - Adding a runny, poached egg, because, if you ask me, nothing is better than a runny, poached egg.

First, let's make our Pangrattato, or breadcrumbs. The basic way to make homemade breadcrumbs is simply to let a good quality loaf of bread go stale over a few days. From there, you can grate it on a box grater until you have the desired amount of crumbs. If you are looking for a time-saving option, most good bakeries package and sell their fresh breadcrumbs. It's Monday, so you can bet I will not be grating bread on my own...Short cut time.

Pangrattato with Thyme
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
Makes Half a Cup (Serves 4+)

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Grated Bread Crumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Thyme Leaves

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. 
Stir in breadcrumbs and thyme.
Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. Set aside.

Pangrattato Ingredients, Photo: NK

Golden Brown Pangrattato and Thyme, Photo: NK

Spaghetti with Ramps, Pangrattato and Poached Egg
Adapted from Mario Batali
Serves 4

1 Lb Dry Spaghetti
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 Ounces Ramps - white bulb ends cut off and green leaves cut in half or thirds & set aside.
1/2 cup Pangrattato with Thyme* (recipe above)
4 Farm Fresh Organic Eggs (free range if possible)
1.5 Tablespoons Red Chili Flakes (less if you like it not so spicy)
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt 

Boil Water in a large pasta pot and add 2 Tablespoons of Salt. 
Cook Spaghetti according to package directions.
While pasta is in the water cooking, heat Oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. 

Meanwhile put water in another high sided frying pan and bring to a slow boil ( for the poached eggs)

Next, Add the white root ends of the ramps to the skillet and saute until tender.
Add a bit of salt and chili flakes. 

Next, add the ramp greens and sauté until totally wilted - at least 5 minutes. Test the ramps by tasting. They can vary between tougher or more tender. If they are on the chewier side you can continue to cook.

Wilting the ramp leaves, Photo: NK

Once pasta is done, drain and add it to the skillet with the ramps. Reserve a half cup of pasta water in case you need to loosen the pasta later.Toss pasta with ramps to coat and turn heat down to the very lowest flame.

Pop your eggs into the slow boiling water and poach (adding a drop of vinegar to the water will help keep the eggs intact). Yolks should remain very soft.

Finished Spaghetti with Ramps, Thyme Pangrattato and Poached Egg, Photo: NK

To plate: Divide pasta among serving bowls, top with breadcrumbs, and carefully slide the poached egg onto the top of each bowl using a slotted spoon.
Serve right away.

Runny Egg Deliciousness, Photo: NK

~Special thanks to my master egg poacher, Mr. NK. 

Buon Appetito! 

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  1. I'm getting wild ramps in this week's farm delivery, can't wait to try this!

  2. Made this last night with my CSA shipment. Amazing!! I didn't follow the blog's warning about the hot breadcrumbs. I couldn't resist the smell and tasted them-- ooh whee! Burnt tongue time. Anyways, a really delicious recipe. My family loved it! Thanks, Jayla

  3. We are excited to hear it was a hit. If I had a dollar for every time I sampled food that I knew would burn my tongue. I'd be rich! Would love to say I live and learn but I am a bit too eager with the sampling.