Ramped Up

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By Janeen A. Sarlin
Those who live near wooded areas should be on the lookout for wild ramps.

Ramps, which have a very short season, have leaves that look like daffodils, with long white or pinkish leek-shaped bulbs. Unlike other members of the onion family, they are best eaten when they are cooked, not raw. Either stir-fry them to intensify their earthy, pungent flavor or sauté or braise them in olive oil or butter.

Bon appetite!
Slow Braised Lamb Shanks Garnished With Almonds, Wild Ramps And Apricots
(Serves six)
For the marinade:

2 large carrots, sliced into half-inch rounds

1/4 cup roughly chopped celery root

1 large onion, chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bunch wild ramps, washed and trimmed

8 cloves garlic, whole

3 shallots, roughly chopped

2 whole cloves

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground mace

1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 bunch thyme

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 cups crushed tomatoes

1 cup dry white wine

Zest of one lemon, grated

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 lamb shanks

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons flour

For the sauce:

Strained braising liquid

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon sugar dissolved

For the topping:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1 bunch wild ramps, trimmed, cleaned and chopped

Equal parts (about 1/4 cup) each, chopped fresh mint, chives and flat leaf parsley
To prepare:
Place all the marinade ingredients in a large sealable plastic bag or a bowl.

Tuck in the shanks, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Remove shanks, strain out the vegetables, place in a bowl and reserve the liquid.

Transfer liquid to a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.

Cook at a boil for 3 minutes, and then strain into a bowl and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Season the shanks with salt and pepper.

Coat the bottom of a large heavy casserole or Dutch oven with oil and cook over moderate heat.

Brown the shanks on all sides, about 10 minutes total.

Remove and set aside.

Add the vegetables from the marinade and cook until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook until the vegetables are coated.

Deglaze the pan with hot marinade liquid, adding 2 cups of water.

Push the browned shanks into the vegetables.

Bring to a simmer, then cover and braise in the oven until the lamb is very tender, about 3½ hours.

Remove shanks and cover with foil to keep warm.

Strain the braising liquid through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on the vegetables to thicken the liquid.

Discard the bits and pieces.

Strain with a gravy strainer and then transfer to a saucepan and cook over moderate heat.

Bring the braising liquid to a boil.

Whisk in the mustard, honey and butter and cook until frothy.

Add salt, pepper and vinegar, then taste and adjust the seasonings.

Prepare the topping while the shanks are baking.

Add the oil to a skillet and cook almonds and apricots over moderate heat.

Season with salt and pepper and sauté until fragrant.

Add the bread crumbs and sauté until golden.

Add the thyme, then taste, and adjust the seasonings.

Set aside.

Coat the bottom of a small skillet with oil and add ramps.

Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the almonds and swirl in the butter, then set aside.

To serve, ladle sauce in the bottom of soup plates, then place the lamb shank, spooning the apricot, almond and ramp mixture on top. Garnish with chopped herbs.
Potato And Ramp Soup
(Serves 6)
Extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 to 3 cups wild ramps, washed well, roots trimmed, white and most of the green parts chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, strings removed, diced

4 to 6 medium to large all purpose potatoes, peeled and diced

2 quarts good quality chicken stock or water

About 1 tablespoon sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

6 to 8 parsley stems tied into a bundle

Optional: about 1/2 cup heavy cream, for thinning

Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, for garnish
To prepare:
Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with oil and butter and cook over moderate heat.

Add ramps, onion and celery and sauté until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add potatoes and sauté 2 to 3 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add enough stock to completely cover the vegetables by 1 to 2 inches.

Add the parsley bundle.

Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool about 20 minutes.

Working in batches with food processor or immersion blender, purée soup until smooth.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Whisk in cream until desired consistency, then transfer to warmed soup bowls and garnish with parsley.

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