I’m curious — is it just me, or has the spring ramp craze been extra crazed this year? At first, I thought maybe it just seemed that way because I finally started using Instagram (total old lady when it comes to embracing new forms of social media). But when I asked my mom last weekend if she and my dad had ever seen any ramps in the woods, she replied, “What is it with those things? Wai Shun (long-time family friend who owns a Japanese restaurant in Delhi, NY) asked me the same thing the other week.” She went on to say that they’d never come upon any, which surprises me considering their property consists of around 60 acres of forest-y land adjoining 500 acres of state land. She then called yesterday to tell me that she’d spoken with the woman who runs a little garden center/farm stand in the neighboring town, and when my mom asked her about ramps, she was equally unsure of their existence on her property, although thought that might be what’s been growing under her blueberry bushes. But she said that just that past weekend, some douchetastic guy that was clearly up visiting from the city (better known ’round those parts as a “citiot”) came into the store demandingly searching for ramps as well.
If the ramp market has yet to be tapped in that part of upstate NY, it’s probably a good thing. Since I’d only been introduced to ramps two years ago, I hadn’t given much thought to over-foraging until Laura wrote this post last week. I’d still like to search my parents’ woods myself, though, just to see what I can find. Perhaps my parents can spend their retirement foraging and making a fortune off selling ramps to the citiots.
(Also, I have a number of friends and I’m sure a lot of readers from downstate, so I’d like to assure everyone that we certainly don’t think you’re all citiots! :) That term is reserved for the weekenders that speed through our towns, talk down to locals, and have their cell phones permanently attached to their faces. Ugh.)
Given the ramp craze, I probably don’t need to explain too much about these delicious little things, despite the fact that they can be hard to come by in certain places. My love of them kind of fascinates me, considering just how much I hate onions. (You can read more about my introduction to ramps in this post.) Between their short season and the fact that I tend to cook and eat ALL the ramps before I can even think about getting out my camera, I don’t have the chance to get in many posts about them. You aren’t really missing out though, since I’m pretty much just caramelizing them every time, then putting them in or on whatever else I’m making. I’d love to try oven roasting them or making them into pesto, or incorporating them into butter (omg right?) too. Eventually, this will happen. But right now, we’re going to talk about caramelizing, and pairing them with one of my other favorite spring veggies — asparagus.
I wanted to keep this pizza on the lighter side, so I made the crust a lot thinner than usual, and dialed back the cheese to allow the veggies to be the real stars. The base of the pizza is a healthy dose of Greek yogurt dotted with agave, thyme, and goat cheese, then topped with caramelized ramps, asparagus ribbons, and some baby kale, plus a little bit of parmesan and fontina, and some red pepper flakes. The one thing I had intended to do once the pizza came out of the oven was drizzle a balsamic reduction all over it, but I completely forgot! You should do that, though, if you make this pizza. (It was a totally passable version of delicious without it, but really, balsamic reduction. It can do no wrong.)
Since ramps consist of a bulb and greens, I caramelize them in three stages: The bulbs go in the pan first, then the section where the leaves me the bulb, and finally, the greens. I added the leftover asparagus heads and stems to the pan at stage two as well. The asparagus ribbons and baby kale get tossed with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt (if you have some smoked sea salt on hand, definitely use that). The tang of the Greek yogurt base works really well with the greens and the occasional kick from the red pepper flakes. The cheese mostly hangs out at the back of the flavor party, lending a hint of earthiness from the fontina and saltiness from the parmesan, and the occasional punch of decadence from the goat cheese. I can only imagine that a drizzle of balsamic would have made the whole thing perfect, but there’s always next time!
Caramelized Ramp & Ribboned Asparagus Pizza
- half of this pizza dough recipe (for a thin crust pizza)
- cornmeal for dusting (or parchment paper)
- 1 small bunch of ramps (approximately a dozen)
- half a dozen medium-sized asparagus, shaved into ribbons, remaining heads and stems reserved
- handful of baby kale (or another green of your preference)
- 1/3–1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan
- 1/3 cup of freshly grated fontina
- fresh thyme
- agave or honey
- pinch of smoked sea salt
- red pepper flakes
- olive oil (no more than 2–3 tbsp should do it)
- healthy pinch of kosher salt
To caramelize the ramps:
Wash ramps thoroughly to remove any dirt. Cut bulbs from ramps a little bit below where the leaves begin. Make a second cut separating the section where the bulb meets the leaves. Finally, chop remaining greens into large-ish pieces.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over low heat. Add ramp bulbs and sprinkle with the healthy pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring often, for 10–15 minutes, or until bulbs begin to soften and lightly brown. Add the stem-meets-bulb sections to the pan along with the reserved heads and stems of the asparagus. Cook for another 7–10 minutes, or until the bulbs have become quite soft and nicely browned. Add remaining greens and cook until thoroughly wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the pizza:
Preheat oven with your pizza stone to 500°. (If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake your pizza on the back of a baking sheet. [I actually had to do this to make this pizza, because my pizza stone was MIA! Turns out it was in the stairwell storage space. I put it there during Easter and then forgot about it......] Just preheat the baking sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes, then carefully slide the pizza right onto the back of it. I recommend using parchment paper if you follow this method, since it just makes things so much easier.)
Toss asparagus ribbons and baby kale with a drizzle of olive oil and the smoked sea salt. Set aside.
Dust your pizza peel with cornmeal. Shape dough, getting crust as thin as possible without tearing. Spread Greek yogurt over the surface, then dot with agave or honey and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Add some small bits of goat cheese (I made mine a little larger than pea-size and spaced them about an inch and a half-ish from each other.) Spread half of the parmesan and fontina over the pizza, then evenly distribute ramps, asparagus, and baby kale. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and top with the remaining cheese.
Combine one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of agave/honey in a bowl and whisk to combine. Brush onto crust.
Bake pizza for about 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes. Top with a drizzle of balsamic reduction to make things extra delicious!