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Get Your Ramp Fix While You Still Can

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 14, 2012 3:30PM

2012_5_14_Ramps.jpg Ramp season is rapidly coming to a close, and while plenty of Chicago restaurants still have the odorous weed on their menus, the bounty won't last long. If you want to get your fix, head to one of these spots—but make sure to do it soon. Plus, we've got some cooking suggestions if you are one of the lucky few who snags some ramps at the Farmers Market.

In case you've been wondering what all this ramp fuss is about, the ramp is a relative of garlic and onions. It's usually gathered from the wild, though it's popularity in recent years has led to fairly large-scale cultivation. We even found bunches of Wisconsin-grown ramps at Whole Foods a few weeks back. Ramps pack a serious bite, so garlic lovers can't get enough - plus, you can eat the whole thing, greens and all.

Tons of restaurant have ramp specials on the menu right now, but here are a few great ones. Our favorite encounter with ramps this year is at Nana Organics, where they are throwing ramps on top of everything. Their fabulous antipasto pickle plate is topped with ramps, and their hanger steak comes with a side of grilled ramps. And by a side, we don't mean some fine-dining sliver of ramps - this was a good two cups of whole wilted ramps, ready for us to sink our teeth into. Make reservations before they run out.

Nellcote's ramps have been getting raves. When we asked for ramp dishes on Twitter, more than one person pointed us to this wonderful dish. They are serving them on one of their groan-inducing pizzas, made with house-ground flour. Illinois ramps are featured alongside taleggio cheese and smoked guanciale. The whole thing is only $11.

Where else can you get your fix? Three Aces is serving an adventurous ramp dish with sweetbreads, lemon and radishes. Vera has pickled ramps, Ada Street is serving them with grilled asparagus, parmigiano and mint pesto, and this weekend The Southern was pairing them with pan fried soft shell crab.

If you've encountered any other great ramp dishes, let us know in the comments!

Last of all, if you're looking to cook them yourself, try subbing them into recipes that call for scallions - just be sure to cook them first. Our pasta with scallions and cherry tomatoes is even better with ramps, added at the same time you add the tomatoes to the skillet. Lightly saute them and put them in your frittatas, or take a page from Nana's book and add them to the grill when you make steaks. Put them inside the grill basket with your whole fishes. Most of all, just make sure you get as many as you can now, because they won't last much longer.