Friday, May 7, 2010

Seared Scallops with Creamy Spring Ramps

For me, spring is truly marked by the arrival of certain spring vegetables -- asparagus, morel mushrooms, fiddleheads... and, of course, the ubiquitous ramp.

Ramps (Allium trioccum), often called wild leeks or wild garlic, are a member of the lily family -- which also includes garlic, leeks, and onions. Resembling scallions, ramps begin at their base as lovely white bulbs whose gorgeous reddish-purple stalks rise upward into a plume of elegantly silky green leaves.  With a mild flavor poised deliciously between that of leeks and garlic, they make a delicious addition to pasta dishes and pestos. And they marry particularly well with farm fresh spring eggs.

But, they're also fantastic when featured on their own -- which is how we decided to showcase these lovely locally grown spring vegetables for the Virtual Vegetable of the Month Club challenge, hosted by our friends over at  innBrooklyn (If you haven't taken the opportunity to check out their blog, you really must. It's positively gorgeous! And a good read, to boot!).  

Having been inspired by a gorgeous posting on The Sprouted Kitchen for Scallops on Creamy Leeks, we decided to take Sara's concept in a new direction by simplifying it a bit, and using ramps in place of the leeks.

Since the delicately flavored leaves of the wild leek cook much faster than the bulbs and stems, we chopped each separately.  First, we sauteed the bulbs and stems gently in a few tablespoons of butter.
And then, when the stems were quite tender (10-15 minutes), we added the ramp leaves, along with about 1/4 cup of heavy cream.  We turned the heat to medium low and allowed the cream to bubble gently while we prepared the scallops.
We purchased 10 gorgeous dry packed sea scallops from the lovely Colleen who was working the fish counter at our local Whole Foods (we may joke about "Whole Foods" being synonymous for "whole paycheck" in our house... but the truth is, they have some of the best and most sustainable fresh seafood for purchase in the city of Milwaukee).  Dry packed scallops are particularly good for searing, since they are free of sodium tripolyphosphate (STP), a chemical additive added to many scallops to reduce the natural loss of moisture after harvest. STP can affect the flavor of the scallop, and it also increases their moisture content -- which hinders browning.

We dredged the scallops lightly in a mixture of white whole wheat flour and salt (not necessary, but a step that adds a delicious crust to the final product), and then set them to cook in a pan of hot bacon fat.  This is the point in the story when Peef begins to swoon, and it's no wonder.  You can just imagine the sweet, smoky odor that infused our kitchen as the scallops were cooking...
By the time the scallops were cooked (about 3 minute per side did the trick nicely), the ramps were tender and the cream had reduced slightly.  So, we spooned the wilted ramps onto warmed plates, topped them with the scallops, and sprinkled everything with a bit of chopped fresh tarragon from the garden.
We ate in near silence -- paying homage to the amazingly complimentary flavors on our plates. The ramps were sweet, fragrant, and slightly earthy -- with a green, almost forest-like flavor that belies their "wild" nature. The sweet licorice flavor of the tarragon played nicely off of both the ramps and the scallops -- whose crisp browned crust gave way to succulent, briny, perfectly cooked meat.

In less than 40 minutes, dinner was served. And it was Spring Heaven. On a plate.
Or, as Peef would say, "This is the best use of tarragon. Ever."  And I'd have to agree.

Seared Sea Scallops with Creamy Spring Ramps

Inspired? Well, why not try your own hand at something equally delicious? And you have at least two more days to submit your own spring garlic recipes to the Veg of the Month Club!  We'll see you there!

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  1. I have had a devil of a time finding ramps for the past two years. I tried to forage in likely places and checked the farmer's market. No luck. I finally found them in Whole Foods. My ramp recipe should be online tonight. I'm very excited.

  2. Wow does that look great, love scallops. I ate ramps this year for the first time, what a treat they are.

  3. I want Spring Heaven. On my plate! Holy Crap... that looks amazing. Thanks for tip on dry packed sea scallops. I thought maybe they were a myth, cause they certainly don't exist in my neighborhood.

  4. The scallops look fantastic! Yum!

  5. I absolutely love ramps and this recipe looks fantastic! Great job!

  6. Gorgeous. Here are parts that got me entirely: cooking in bacon fat (yes!) and creamy ramps?? Oh, boy. I've got my fork ready.

  7. Ramps, new to me. Your description has sparked an investigation into these wonderful sounding veges. Mouthwatering meal to say the least! Thanks for the education. Have a great weekend.

  8. What a gorgeous veggie! I had never heard of ramps, let alone seen one but would love to try them. Great dish with the scallops!

  9. I am dying to have my first ramp dish of the year but have been traveling & not able to get any yet. I was so tempted to pick the ones I saw growing at the Arboretum!

  10. there isnt much better than a cast-iron skillet crispy seared sea scallop. oh yeah!!

  11. Great post! Ramps and scallops look like a delicious couple.
    Thanks for sharing,

  12. Wow - those scallops look so good! I need to buy fresh next time - the frozen ones I thaw are just too watery and I never get a nice sear!

  13. the information on the scallops is really interesting: i need to do more research about sustainable seafood and this is reminding me to get my act together and start!
    i should know better then to read your post at dinner time, i'm now drooling and with nothing near as good in my fridge!
    thanks for the shoutout and for making our virtual veg club look so good today!

  14. What a fantastic springtime meal!

  15. FYI -- If you're thinking about sustainable seafood, you might find the EWG pocket seafood selector useful! We definitely do!

  16. Wow you sure know how to properly cook a scallop, looks tasty!

  17. Few recipes make me salivate as much as a savory scallop dish. And leeks are my favorite veggie. Wish I could taste this one through the computer screen!

  18. Thanks for the ramps info. I've wondered about them. They sound pretty good. I'm going to check them out on my next trip to the grocery store. Scallops are a no brainer..:)

  19. Getting the scallops dry packed is a great idea. And so is a little flour on them. The crispy, browned crust is the best part.

  20. Of course you ate in silence!! Oh my, that looks delicious. I am so excited for Spring veggies and this is a perfect dish to start the season off right. We just added ramp tacos to the menu at my restaurant. Delicious. Thanks for sharing; I can't wait to try this out and tell all our readers about it!



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