On a Dare: Ramp Pizza

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By Edward Schneider

[Ed Schneider is a friend of mine, a contributor to the Times and the Washington Post, and among the best home cooks I’ve ever known. I love him, even if he does write about ramps. I remain unconvinced, but I'm going to try it - next spring. – mb]

I happen to agree with New York’s Newspaper of Record that Motorino’s is the best pizza in New York. I haven’t actually been to many of its competitors, but, since for Jackie and me pizza is a meal rather than a hobby, I’m happy to accept that as fact. Anyway, it is wonderful pizza.

Right at the very beginning of spring, however, they served a ramp pizza that we didn’t much like. For one thing, the chopped ramps were chewy and harsh-tasting, and for another it was a tomato-sauce-based pie, which I thought was a bad idea – I rarely like greens cooked with tomato, though I’m more open to the concept than I used to be. When I told Mark about this, he dared me (his word) to devise a ramp pizza that wasn’t a bad idea. I’m not one to rise to a dare merely to save face: I’ll do it only if I’m confident I can actually perform the stunt in question.

And I was, because I had a pretty clear idea of what I’d want to see in a ramp pizza: no tomatoes, for starters, and nothing chewy or too assertive. Something dressed in light spring colors if you can figure out what that’s supposed to mean.

I’d want, basically, a white pizza – a pizza bianca – that incorporated pre-cooked ramps rather than depending on the feeble heat of a home oven to cook them on the pie. And for me, cooking ramps means separating white from green, because the former takes a few minutes to get tender while the latter almost melts mere seconds after hitting the hot pan.

So, having made some pizza dough, I cooked the white bulbs in olive oil with salt and pepper, sometimes covered, until tender, reserved them and threw the slivered greens (from which I had taken the trouble to remove the tougher part of the central stems) into the same pan and stir-fried them for the few seconds it took for them to wilt and shrink to nearly nothing. I left the ramps to cool.

While my oven was pre-heating to its pathetic maximum temperature of 500 degrees F, I beat the ramp greens into some (drained) ricotta along with a little diced mozzarella and some grated parmesan. Plenty of salt and pepper, too.

I baked the pizza base, on a stone, without toppings – just a little olive oil – for six or seven minutes. Why? Because in a home oven pizza takes so long to cook that toppings inevitably burn or at least dry out by the time the crust is done. (If you have a pizza oven, vaya con Diós: you can bake the pie fully assembled.) I then spread it with the ricotta/ramp-greens mixture, topped it with the ramp bulbs and returned the pizza to the oven for another five or six minutes.

Mark: this recipe plus Motorino’s skill and equipment would convince you of the potential of ramp pizza. Even my ham-fisted technique and feeble oven produced a delicious thing: sweet rather than harsh ramps, which hadn’t lost their nice garlic flavor/aroma, on a gentle dairy base that set them off beautifully.

I only wish it had been a bet rather than a dare.

 

Posted in Italian, Produce

6 Comments

  1. simplesocial said...

    What a fantastic idea. I’m going to try this tonight with the extra ramps I have in the fridge.

  2. TheNervousCook said...

    There was a delicious-looking ramp pizza at Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint when we visited on Friday (called, cutely, the Peter Rampton). Embarrassingly, I’m just sick enough of hearing everybody talk about ramps that I didn’t try it — but I can say that the other pizzas ordered were all exceptional.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Until just now I didn’t know what a ramp was, at least in its non-wheelchair connotation. But my lovely and talented wife constructs a scratch-built pizza most Friday evenings, and I will pass this dare on to her. (Having left the Greater NY area nearly two decades ago, I can’t hie on over to Motorino’s to calibrate my palate. just as well, I guess.)

  4. Carlo Scannella said...

    MB is anti-ramp? Go figure…I made bruschetta with ramps the other night, essentially cooking them the same way (though I had twice as many greens, having saved them from the weekend when I pickled the bottoms…). Really good!

  5. Anonymous said...

    Mario makes a delicious ramps pizza at Otto. Very simple pizza bianca topped with a combo of cheeses(I think there’s some ricotta) and grilled ramps.

  6. thatgrrl13 said...

    I made a great pizza last summer with ramp pesto; grinding up the ramp greens eliminates the chewiness factor, and the oil in the pesto keeps them from drying out in the oven.

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