Walking through the woods on Kelleys Island, Paul has his eyes on the ground. Paul always has his eyes on the ground when we’re walking through the woods in the spring. He’s looking for morels. We found one morel once, a big one, but we tragically left it in the fridge at our friend’s place when we headed back home from Madison…the fridge of our friend who hates mushrooms.
Eyes on the ground, we started noticing patches of leafy plants that we thought were ramps, or wild leeks. Around Chicago, the ramp is present on all locavores’ grocery lists, but it’s often elusive. I’ve only eaten them pickled and didn’t like them much in that preparation. Here, on this tiny island in the middle of Lake Erie, there are enough ramps to fill a stall at the Saturday Lincoln Park Farmer’s Market.
We checked the Forager’s Press site to ensure that what we had found were definitely ramps and that all parts were edible. Yes and yes. Then we started dreaming about recipes. We decided to make our small harvest stretch over two simple dinners. They’d play a starring role in a potato and (wild) leek soup and a ramp-y pasta sauce. They were delicious, not too pungent, fresh, spring-y.
The sense of satisfaction you get from finding food in the woods, gathering it, preparing it, and eating it is way bigger than you’d think it would be. Especially when the preparation and eating are also done outdoors. It’s not the same as bringing something home from the grocery store or farmer’s market and cooking it in your kitchen. It’s bigger and better, basic and complicated, ancient and modern.
Potato Ramp Soup
Serves 4 as an appetizer
3-4 stalks of ramps
1 can of chicken broth
1/4 cup of milk or cream
Salt and pepper
Saute diced ramps in butter with salt and pepper. Cube potatoes and add to pan with broth and enough water to cover the pototoes. Boil until potatoes are cooked through. Smush some potatoes with a fork to thicken the soup. Finish with the milk or cream. Garnish with wild chives if they’re growing next to your campsite.
Ramp-y Pasta Sauce
16 oz of tomato sauce
2-3 stalks of ramps
Olives to taste
Salt and pepper
This is a play on our Olive Bar Puttanesca recipe. Slice then saute the ramps and sliced olives in butter with the chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add tomato sauce and cook for a few minutes. Toss with 12 oz. pasta.