Ramps are wild leeks, similar in appearance and flavor to scallions. This dish may also be made with scallions, an unusual and tasty preparation. It’s nice as an appetizer or with grilled meats or seafood. Romesco sauce is a Catalan dish, made with almonds and peppers. This recipe makes a generous portion, which may be stored, refrigerated, or frozen. It’s great on vegetables, pasta, and chicken.
Adapted from Executive Chef Haidar Karoum of Estadio, Washington, D.C.
1 white onion, peeled and cut in thick slices
1 jalapeño chili pepper
4 medium red bell peppers
1 cup olive oil, divided
1 cup blanched almonds
1 cup cubed bread
3 cloves garlic
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
Salt to taste
Grilled Ramps or Scallions
2 bunches ramps or scallions
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup romesco sauce
½ cup ultra thin slices Manchego cheese
1. Prepare the sauce. Preheat a grill or broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the onion slices, jalapeno, bell peppers, and tomatoes on the sheet and brush all sides of the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Transfer vegetables to the grill or place the baking sheet under the broiler and cook, turning occasionally, until they’re charred and lightly sweating juice.
2. Put the grilled or broiled vegetables in a large bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove jalapeno and bell peppers from the bowl, Cut open over the bowl to catch any juices, then remove seeds and skins and discard. Chop coarsely and return to the bowl. Leave everything else whole.
3. While the vegetables are cooling, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 3 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Add the almonds, cubed bread, and garlic and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the toasted ingredients to a blender or food processor, reserving any oil left in the pan. Add the vegetables with their accumulated juices along with the water to the processor. Process until combined, then add the vinegar, pimenton, and salt. Blend again. With the machine running, slowly add any oil from the skillet, along with the remaining ¾ cup oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container, or freeze in 1-cup containers.
4. Prepare the ramps or scallions. Heat a grill or broiler to high. Trim ends from the ramps or scallions, then trim the greens so each is about 6 inches long. Toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill or broil about 1 minute per side, until lightly charred. Place ramps or scallions on a plate. Top with romesco sauce and Manchego cheese. Serve warm.
Wine Suggestion: Raymond Vineyards Merlot Reserve (Napa Valley, Calif.)