The humble ramp, or wild leek, has become a trendy foodie obsession. With a delicate onion-like flavor, they have come to dominate spring's dining landscape. They are so popular that many are starting to question if we're over-harvesting. Ramps are not easy to cultivate, and are typically foraged from sandy hillsides near streams.
Like that other spring obsession, morel mushrooms, wild leeks begin showing up in Facebook and Twitter feeds just as soon as they appear in groceries and restaurants.
An easy way to eat ramps is to simply cut and cook them with eggs for brunch. But any application calling for scallions or garlic is ripe for substitution; as a fellow allium, ramps add interest and zing to soups, salads, grillables and pizzas.
I think of them as the third part of a holy trinity, the first two being mushrooms and bacon. They also make great pesto. Wisconsin forager and cookbook author Brett Laidlaw makes a walnut, watercress (also now in season) and ramp paste that he spreads on trout
This is a singularly upper-Midwestern dish, one particular to our region and its terroir, and can be made of all local ingredients.
Broiled Trout with Ramp Watercress Pesto
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 packed cup watercress, leaves and tender stems, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped ramps and their greens, or 2 tablespoons pickled ramps, chopped, rinsed, and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating fish
Juice of 1/4 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 ounce Asiago or Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-to-8 ounce) boneless rainbow trout, butterflied
Heat a small skillet and add the walnuts. Cook over medium heat, stirring until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the watercress, ramps, olive oil, and lemon juice and process to a smooth paste. Add the cheese, walnuts, and 2 pinches of salt. Process for 5 seconds more.
Preheat a broiler. Lightly brush the fish on both sides with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place them flesh side up on a baking sheet. Spread each with cress-ramp paste, coating liberally; you may still have a bit left over. Broil for 6 to 8 minutes, until the coating is bubbling and starting to brown. Serve Immediately.