The “r” word made its first appearance on Twitter last week when one of the many food people I follow announced that they spotted ramps at the Union Square Greenmarket. “Ramps are here!” another cheered and, as happens every year, the ramp-lovers went on a rampage.
I’m a ramp liker, not a ramp lover. What are ramps? Ramps are really mild, skinny onions that pop up at farmer’s markets around springtime and are prized by chefs for their delicacy and their uniquely mellow flavor. I know that David Chang likes to pickle them (there’s a recipe online for that somewhere) and other chefs might use them in a sauce or a soup, but the best use for them I’ve yet encountered was the dish I ate last night at Franny’s: a simple and beautiful spaghetti with ramps.
As you can see from this old post, I’d attempted to make a dish like this once myself in 2006. But what I didn’t get then but that I do get now, after Franny’s, is that it’s best to use long skinny ramps whole in the spaghetti rather than buying fat ramp bulbs and cutting those up into slivers (which is what I did way back then.) If you buy long, skinny ramps, saute them in a little butter and olive oil, cook your spaghetti and use the cooking water to make a bit of a sauce; when you finally add the spaghetti at the end (along with some toasted bread crumbs), the long skinny ramps join the noodles in a ramp/spaghetti gestalt that’ll have you doing a springtime jig.
And a springtime jig is what I felt like doing last night after eating this: it tastes so, so springy. After a whole winter of Key Food garlic and onions–stale and soulless, sitting there under those fluorescent lights–the ramps in this pasta were like a beautiful gift from Mother Nature. They were indeed delicate and mild, but really fragrant and fresh. I may have started this post saying I’m a ramp liker, not a lover; but after this, I’m not sure: I think Franny’s made me a convert. Head to a farmer’s market this weekend, buy some ramps, make this dish and become a convert too.