I was lucky to find ramps again this week at my grocery store, leading me to believe that the first grocery store man lied to me. An innocent white lie, for sure, but he adamantly stated that the growing season for ramps was barely more than a day, maaaaaybe a week if we were all lucky and the stars aligned, but I needed to buy and use them now, post haste, no waiting. So I did. Before you start to think poorly of the grocery store man, let me assure you that he did me right by firmly encouraging the purchase of ramps. But, his exaggeration of the brevity of the growing season caused me to panic– we need more, we need to buy all the ramps, what if they are gone. You can imagine my happiness when I found them at the store a full two weeks past what I imagined to be the end of ramps season.
Now that I am able to relax and enjoy ramps, assured that they weren’t a one-time find, I have been more creative in using them for dinner. The ultimate ramps meal, so far, was the pizza we made with the bulbs chopped into the sauce and the greens as a decorative garnish on top, put on after the pie was cooked so we could appreciate how delicious the raw ramps greens really are. That was a decadent meal, a real treat, but not everyday fare. In contrast, the saute? sauce? I made this week to serve with soft polenta was so happily simple and delicious that I can imagine eating it every week that ramps are in season. Polenta is such comforting food to begin with; adding the herbal-onion flavor of ramps and some butter-browned mushrooms was incredibly satisfying. It was rich and filling, so we ate it as a one-bowl entree, but I think it would be delicious as a side-dish with roast pork or chicken as well. So, let me echo our grocery store friend and implore you to get some ramps, if you still can, because you might just want to try this dish.
Polenta with Ramps & Mushrooms
- 3 T. butter, separated
- 1 T. olive oil
- 6-8 ramps, bulbs chopped & greens cut in ribbons (chiffonade)
- 4-6 cremini mushrooms, cut into small pieces
- 2 c. water
- 1 c. milk
- 1 c. polenta
- salt & pepper to taste
In a skillet or saute pan, heat 1 T. butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped ramps bulbs to the pan and cook for 1-2 mins.; add the mushrooms and cook for an additional 5-7 mins., stirring occasionally, until golden brown. (I typically start my polenta just after adding the mushrooms to the pan.) Season to taste with salt & pepper, lower the heat to very low/warm and stir in the greens. The greens don’t really need to be cooked, so they could be added just before serving, rather than to the saute pan, if you prefer.
To make the polenta, heat the milk and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When it just starts to boil, whisk constantly as you stream in the polenta and continue whisking as the mixture thickens up; turn the heat down to medium-low. Expect to cook the polenta for 7-15 mins. depending on your preference; I like mine with a bit of texture, but polenta will become creamier if you continue to cook it. When you have achieved a consistency you like, season with salt & pepper and stir in the remaining 2 T. butter. To serve, ladle some polenta into a bowl and top with a spoonful of mushrooms and ramps. If you’re serving it as a side-dish, just mix everything together before serving.