Two ingredients make this rustic focaccia absolutely irresistible: rich, buttery extra virgin olive oil and the unforgettable, unmistakably wild flavor of ramps.
Ramps, in case you haven’t heard of them, are a wild-growing member of the onion family, known to scientific types as Allium tricoccum. Ramps grow prolifically in fertile, well-drained soil from the hills of Appalachia northwards into southern Canada. Known as “wild leeks” in their northern range, ramps have a potent, garlic-like aroma and a sharp bite that is distinctly different from other members of the allium family. That unique flavor might be described as a cross between garlic and shallots, but, as is often the case, such comparisons fall far short. Let’s just say that once you taste a ramp, you’ll never forget it.
Ramps are a truly wild plant. While they may be successfully sprouted from seeds or transplanted, they tend to be unruly and resist behaving like their domesticated cousins. These days, ramps can be found on the menus of fine-dining establishments from New York to San Francisco, but they all still come from the wild, not from the well-ordered rows of a modern farm. Like other wild things, ramps grow as nature dictates – when and where they want – and that means fresh ramps can only be had during their natural growing season for a few weeks each spring.
Thankfully, ramps can be successfully preserved in several ways, so it’s possible to enjoy them throughout the year. Pickling, freezing and drying all yield excellent results. Of these three methods, drying is perhaps the most convenient. Dried ramps retain their unique flavor very well and once dried, they aren’t difficult to store and don’t require any special treatment. Just put them into an air-tight jar or container and keep them in a cool spot. They’ll be ready whenever you want to experience the heady aroma and remarkable taste that make ramps so memorable.
This simple recipe uses only a handful of ingredients, so it’s important to use really good olive oil. We used Athena Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, produced in the Kolymvari region of the island of Crete. This superb golden-green olive oil is pressed from the Greek Koroneiki olive, which is prized for its exceptional flavor.
For the Dough:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2-1/2 tsp sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp lukewarm water
- 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
For the Genoese Brine:
For the Topping:
- 1 oz Earthy Delights dehydrated ramps OR 1 cup fresh or frozen ramp bulbs OR 1 small onion
- 1-1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Measure the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center and add the sugar. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Pour yeast mixture into the well, and gradually start incorporating it into the flour. Add the oil, then the salt, blending it all together. Place the dough on a clean work surface and knead until soft, smooth, and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.
Place the kneaded dough into a clean bowl and cover with a sheet of lightly oiled plastic wrap, pressing it gently onto the surface of the dough. Place in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the brine. Combine the water, olive oil and coarse salt in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk to make an emulsion and then let it rest.
Lightly oil a rimmed baking pan of your choice. We used a 12″ diameter, rimmed pan for a taller, more bread-like focaccia. If you like your focaccia thinner, use a larger pan. It doesn’t matter whether it’s round, square or rectangular.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the oiled baking sheet. Using your fingertips, gently stretch the dough to fill the pan. Prod the surface of the dough with your fingers, forming small dimples where the brine will collect. Sprinkle the focaccia with the brine and let rise, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
IF USING DRIED RAMPS
Reconstitute the dried ramps in about 1 cup of warm water for 20-30 minutes. Once they have softened, strain them through a sieve, saving some of the water.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the reconstituted ramps and 2 tablespoons of the reserved soaking water. Simmer until all of the liquid has evaporated, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for a few more minutes until the ramps are light golden in color. Remove from the heat.
IF USING FRESH OR FROZEN RAMPS OR ONIONS
Slice thinly, then cook as above, minus the soaking liquid.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Scatter the ramps evenly over the focaccia. Sprinkle generously with coarsely ground black pepper. Slip into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of the focaccia are golden brown and the ramps begin to caramelize. Keep an eye on the focaccia to make sure the ramps don’t get too dark.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Slip the focaccia out of the pan onto a cutting board and slice into pieces.
Leftovers, if there are any, can be stored in a tightly sealed plastic bag or storage container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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