Onions are a kitchen workhorse. All year long, they dutifully sizzle in saucepans and skillets, sending out tantalizing aromas as they magically transform into a flavor base–soffritto–for all manner of dishes.
But. When spring onions and their kin push up through the soil, they deserve their moment of glory. I can’t resist tossing any and all of them into my shopping cart. Leeks, shallots, green garlic and ramps all have their subtle differences, giving a fresh shot of energy to favorite foods. The trimmings make a simple, fragrant broth.
Ramps can be cultivated, but I hear they are the slowest growing of the onion family. They cost $14 a pound at my supermarket, but it didn’t take many to make a splendid frittata. I added zucchini, too, and generous amounts of gruyere, but the ramps ruled.
There were more ramps, so I sautéed them to top cheesy mashed potatoes. Good move.
Left over from my onion-buying binge were two fat leeks, plus some shallots, spring onions and garlic. I figured they would play nicely together–after all, they’re from the same family. So I made onion soup. Nothing like French onion soup, which takes onions to caramelized oblivion and is too heavy tasting for the season. Instead, I washed my onion family varieties, separating the white and pale green components from the hard dark green shoots. The former were sliced for the soup, while the latter simmered long enough to make a simple broth for same.
Enriched with a little cream, the soup is more delicate tasting than French onion soup. If the soup is to be served hot, puree some and mix back in as a thickener. If a chilled soup is your plan, puree all of it and garnish with snipped chives. I thought of adding diced potatoes or dried shiitake, and maybe next time I will, but this time the onions had the soup to themselves.
Za, a local pizzeria that prides itself on using seasonal ingredients, came through with a ramps pizza for a family birthday party.
Theirs had tomatoes and mushrooms. Delicious. I’m also thinking of making pizza with seasonal onions (green garlic?) plus anchovies and black olives, a twist on pissaladiere.
- 8 eggs
- kosher salt or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small zucchini diced small
- 1 to 1½ cups (firmly packed) chopped ramps green and white parts*
- 1 cup grated gruyere or Italian fontina
Preheat oven to 400F.
Whisk eggs in a large bowl with ½ teaspoon salt, several grindings of pepper and ¼ cup water.
Heat olive oil and butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat. Cook zucchini until lightly browned. Stir in ramps and cook a little longer, until just tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Scrape pan contents into a medium gratin pan, distributing evenly over the bottom.** Pour beaten eggs over ramps mixture. Sprinkle cheese on top.
Cook on top rack until eggs are barely cooked through in center, about 12 minutes. Check after 10 minutes and switch oven setting briefly to broil for a more browned surface.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
*Thinly sliced leek or scallions, including tender green parts, could be substituted for ramps.
**Alternatively, cook frittata start to finish in an oven-proof skillet.
***For a more robust flavor, saute 1/2 cup diced pancetta prior to adding zucchini and ramps (omit butter or olive oil).
- 5 to 6 cups mixture of thinly sliced leeks, onions, ramps, shallots, scallions or green garlic include white and tender green parts
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or pressed
- 2 quarts leek broth,* vegetable broth or chicken broth or a combination
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme optional
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- Freshly ground white pepper or black pepper
- ½ cup heavy cream
Place mixed onions in a large skillet with butter and olive oil. Cook over medium heat until butter melts. Stir, cover and cook until onions soften, about 10 minutes. Remove cover, reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking until onions are very tender but not browned, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in garlic.
Transfer mixture to a large saucepan. Add broth, bay leaf and fresh thyme (if using). Bring to a simmer and cook, partly covered, for about 20 minutes. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
After cooling, puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, puree only half the soup for a thicker but more variegated texture.
*To make leek broth: Cut tough green shoots in short sections, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper; strain.