Welcome spring in Northern Michigan with this elegant tzatziki spread featuring ramps, also known as wild leeks.
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I was first introduced to ramps in the Hudson River Valley. My New York City boyfriend was originally from there, and we took the train north to visit his mom from time to time. One of my favorite things to do when we would go see her was visit Blooming Hill Farm, where Guy Jones hosted “farm dinners” long before that was a household term. During an early spring visit, I had arranged to help prepare for one such dinner in his kitchen. I was working on a Masters in Food Studies at the time and volunteering in a kitchen was a part of some assignment. The novice task I was assigned that day? To wash and trim bushels of ramps that had just been harvested from the forest floor. I stood over that sink for hours, rinsing the dark black earth from each allium, peeling back the outermost layer of translucent skin and pinching off the roots. The boyfriend didn’t work out, but somehow my love affair with ramps survived such an intense first date.
Photo by Sarah Peschel
Related Read: On The Table: Pot O’ Gold Potato Leek Soup Recipe for Spring.
More than 20 years later, I’m lucky enough to have access to ramps right outside my Michigan mudroom. These days, instead of harvesting them by the bushel, I prefer to grab just a few at a time as an herb or flavoring, which is how they show up in this tzatziki recipe. Tzatziki is a Greek dip, condiment or sauce that is made with strained yogurt, cucumber, olive oil and dill. I spike mine with ground sumac, which is common in Middle Eastern cookery and adds a welcome, acidic tang. One of the best things about using this spring forest find in tzatziki? It works well with another spring favorite: lamb. If you made lamb this Easter, join me in placing leftover slices of meat between some pita, slather it with this tzatziki, and you’ll have spring’s best gyro.
Ramp Tzatziki Recipe
Makes 4 cups, enough for gyros, keftedes, snacking and more
- 24-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt, about 3 cups
- 1 long English cucumber (the kind that’s wrapped in plastic), rinsed
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 4 sustainably harvested ramps, cleaned
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about half a lemon
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 9 fresh mint leaves, julienned, about 2 Tablespoons
- 3 dill fronds, chopped, about 2 Tablespoons
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground sumac
Photo by Sarah Peschel
Related Read: On The Table: Simple & Fresh Radish Tea Tartines For Spring.
Ramp Tzatziki Diretions
1. Cut a piece of double-layered cheesecloth that is longer and wider than the opening of a food storage container or another covered bowl. Lay the cheesecloth over the bowl, spoon the yogurt onto the cheesecloth, and cover. Pull at the sides of the cheesecloth to lift the yogurt off the bottom of the bowl, creating a gap for the liquid to sit. Place this container in the refrigerator to strain until a pool of liquid has collected at the bottom of the bowl, about an hour.
2. Meanwhile, grate the cucumber across the coarse holes of a box grater. Place the shredded cucumber, about 3 cups, into a colander set over a plate. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and let sit for 10 minutes.
3. While the cucumber is draining, chop the ramps. Separate the pink and white stem end from the green leaf end. Finely mince the stems and julienne the leaves.
4. Once the cucumber has been draining for 10 minutes, use your clean hands to squeeze the shredded pieces, releasing any extra liquid onto the plate. Place the squeezed cucumber into a large bowl and add the ramps, lemon juice, olive oil, mint, dill and sumac.
5. Remove the yogurt from the refrigerator. Discard the reserved liquid and add the thickened yogurt to the cucumber mixture. Add remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon of salt and stir to combine.
Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.