Ramp, Asparagus, and Ricotta Frittata, and an Apology
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas at the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes, like this frittata that captures the essence of spring, with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in the region’s farms, fields, and gardens.
Before we get into it–an apology.
I’m just a little bit sorry for including ramps in this recipe. I’m sorry this recipe includes a food for which you might have to forage, most likely with someone who either 1) despite living in Brooklyn, seems to know her way around the woods better than any of the Boxcar children; or 2) is some old reclusive friend of your great uncle who offers to show you his “ramp spot.” Although I do come into a little bunch of ramps now and then, most of the time, I see beautiful recipes with ramps, and I feel that they are out of my reach. It is not a particularly inclusive ingredient.
And with all that, how did I manage to find these ramps to scatter and roast with asparagus? The short answer is–they were a gift.
In April, we had a little book party at The Chef’s Shop, hosted both by them and The Bookloft. The promise was snacks, book signing, and demonstrations, and we got most of that accomplished. My mother and I had been cooking for two days straight working on the snacks. I signed lots of books, and one demonstration happened, but I learned that cooking and signing are not complementary activities.
At one point my friend Christina walked in with her mother, and after I squeezed out from behind the table to give her a hug, she presented me with a bunch of ramps that she had foraged from the farmers’ market in far away Saratoga Springs. Over the next few hours, those ramps sat on the table, and their perfume made me drunk. I was hungry, and just a little preoccupied by those ramps and what I would do with them.
Toward the end of the afternoon I started squeezing lemons for ricotta. By the time it was ready there were just a few stragglers patiently waiting for their dixie cup of ricotta. I passed out the ricotta, happy, tired, and looking forward to a big glass of water (then a big glass of wine), and there they were, side by side on the table, warm ricotta and ramps. It was all I could do not to pull a cast iron pan off the display shelf and make this frittata right there. Like I said, I was hungry.
Ramp, Asparagus, and Ricotta Frittata
This might be my favorite in a long line of frittatas. It’s heavy on the ricotta, and the result is a bit denser and more substantial than a typical frittata. If you don’t have access to the ramps, no need to worry. As ramps are wild leeks, regular old leeks will do. Scallions or chives would also make a fitting replacement, but I’d recommend that you reduce the quantity by about half.
One large bunch asparagus, trimmed of the tough stalk area (11-12 ounces after trimming), cleaned and dry
1 bunch ramps (4 to 6 ounces)
7 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons salt (use less if your ricotta is salted)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
a few grinds of fresh-ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil, and lay the asparagus on it. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and roast for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the ramps. Cut off the root, and remove the loose outer skin around the bulb. Cut off the leaves, rinse, roughly chop, and set aside. Clean the bulbs of any excess dirt. Then, add the bulbs to the roasting asparagus and roast for another 5 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then roughly chop the asparagus and ramp bulbs.
3. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, ricotta, salt, flour, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
4. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and as it melts, spread it around the sides of the pan as well as the bottom. Add the ramp leaves and cook, stirring often, until the they wilt, about 1 minute. Then add the asparagus and ramp bulbs, then the egg mixture. Do not stir!
5. Preheat the broiler setting on your oven to a medium heat (if you have that option). While it heats, let the frittata cook on the stove top under your watchful eye. It will start to barely bubble and firm up, but what you’re really watching for is that moment when it starts to separate from the sides of the pan. If you smell any hint of burning, remove it from heat. Transfer to the oven, and watch carefully. Within a few minutes (or quicker- some broilers are fast!), the frittata will be golden and firm all the way through. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
This is also great cold, and excellent picnic fare. —Alana Chernila