Ramps, those hyper-seasonal spring alliums, are busting out all over, and there’s only a few weeks left in their fleeting season. Found in the wild in the U.S. and Eastern Canada for about two months out of the year, ramps are beloved by chefs and home cooks for their punch of onion-garlic flavor. Both the bulbs and the leaves work well in a variety of preparations, from pesto to pickles.
For this approach, ramps lend their zippy goodness to zhug, a spicy Yemenite sauce traditionally made with green chilies, cilantro, parsley, and other spices. This springtime version is the perfect way to preserve ramps and can be frozen in small containers to thaw and use throughout the year whenever a ramp craving happens to strike. Equally at home on a grilled skirt steak, a pan of roasted vegetables, or swirled into a mound of hummus, you’ll have no problem finding uses for this fiery condiment.
Note: If you can’t find ramps where you live, this recipe works with scallions as well. Or try a more traditional zhug recipe like this one from Chef Michael Solomonov.
- 2-4 jalapeños, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 4 oz ramps, bulbs and leaves separated
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced (no more than ¼ cup juice)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a dry saute pan, toast cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Allow to cool and then run through a spice grinder or smash thoroughly in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl with ice water. Blanch ramp greens for about a minute to bring out their bright color and then immediately remove them, placing them in the ice water bath. Allow them to cool, and then lay them on a kitchen towel to dry.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine jalapeños and garlic and two of the ramp bulbs (save the rest and pickle them!), and pulse several times to chop and mix.
- Squeeze any excess water from the ramp leaves, and combine with cilantro, parsley, spices, and lemon zest. Pulse for a few seconds, then scrape down the bowl with a plastic spatula and pulse again. Add lemon juice while pulsing. Scrape down the bowl and taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary. Continue to pulse while drizzling in olive oil. The finished zhug should have a thick, slightly chunky texture that’s still spreadable.
- Store zhug in an airtight container in the refrigerator, with a sheet of plastic wrap or a layer of olive oil on top to preserve the vivid green color. It will last in the fridge for about a week, or freeze in small containers and thaw in the refrigerator as needed.