Redbud trees, daffodils and lilacs are feasts for the eyes, but ramps are one of springtime’s tastier gifts. It used to be they were harvested down in the “hollers” of my native West Virginia and either boiled, sautéed, pickled or fried to garlicky, oniony deliciousness. Now I just grab a few bunches from my local Heinen’s produce case in early spring, but what a thrill it would be to pluck free dinner from the moist black earth like my great-great-grandma Petty did in her day.
Lucky for us, professional foragers are on the hunt for ramps at the first sign of spring so that we can make something delish from the forest floor with less work. Take this Spinach Salad with Bacon, Ramp Vinaigrette which is as much at home in Richwood, West Virginia (home of the ramp festival) or in New York City at Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant.
Spinach Salad with Bacony Ramp Vinaigrette
Ramps and bacon add a smoky flavor to this zippy, oniony vinaigrette. Perfect drizzled over any kind of greens, baby spinach is perfect as it reminds me of the warm, bacony spinach salads of my childhood. It’s a shame the season for this dressing is so fleeting. I could eat it all year round.
It’s that easy: You can also skip the blending and leave the vinaigrette chunky. Just combine the ramps, parsley, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk in the oil…no processor bowl to wash. Be sure to chop the ramps into smaller pieces if not processing.
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 12 ramps, trimmed and chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 or 3 tablespoons water
- 16-oz baby spinach
- 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
- 6 radishes, sliced
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Once the fat begins to render from the bacon add the ramps and saute until the ramps are tender and bacon is crisp, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer the ramps to food processor or blender along with the oil, parsley, vinegar, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Process until smooth and add water by the tablespoonful until it can be drizzled. Taste and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.
- Combine the spinach, tomatoes and cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle over about 1/3 cup of the dressing and toss gently to combine.
- Divide the salad between 4 salad bowls and serve immediately.
In the glass: A rosé bridges the gap between the tart vinaigrette, onion and smoky bacon.