Ramps, Puerto Rican-Style

Chef Jose Enrique's favorite way to prepare ramps: grilled, then dressed in a simple escabeche

Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Chef Jose Enrique keeps a watchful eye on ramps as he grills them on a grill pan in the SAVEUR Test Kitchen.Matt Taylor-Gross

When the masses first pack away their wool sweaters and start eyeing their summer swimwear, you know that somewhere in a yet-unforaged field, ramps are pushing their littlest green leaves up out of the soil.

A species of wild onion that grows rampant (pun definitely intended) across North America, ramps are a much-loved springtime ingredient. Their white, narrow bulbs ombré their way into a vibrant pinkish violet before unfolding into a pair of rabbit-ear leaves. Entirely edible from root to tip, they taste like earthy, delicate garlic and find their way into menus pickled, grilled, sautéed, even battered and fried.

Puerto Rican restaurateur Jose Enrique (Miel, Capital, Jose Enrique) stopped by our test kitchen recently to provide a new twist on America's favorite allium. He reminisces fondly on the breaded and fried rounds of king fish in escabeche in his native Puerto Rico while he chars the ramps on the grill pan. Escabeche refers to both the dish itself as well as its vinaigrette-like sauce made from vinegar, oil, and a sweet element like sugar or honey. This preparation, usually reserved for chicken or fish, may seem a surprising choice for preparing ramps, but Enrique ensures us otherwise: The vinegar in the sauce gives the ramps a gentle pickling, meaning they can survive in the fridge well past the end of their brief season.

Enrique’s escabeche uses rice vinegar for its base, and is sweetened with honey and rounded out with olive oil. He grills the ramps over high heat to give them a good char without overcooking them, which can cause their delicate flavor to fade. You can grill them, dress them, and serve them right away, or preserve their garlicky goodness for later: Combine grilled ramps and escabeche in a large glass jar, seal, and store in the fridge. It’ll keep for 2 months.

Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Ramps are distinguished by their pearl white bulbs and vibrant pinkish purple shoots, and are prized for their delicate, garlicky flavor.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Chef Jose Enrique dresses the raw ramps with olive oil and salt before charring them on a grill pan.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Ramps are grilled over high heat to give them an even char without overcooking.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Chef Jose Enrique keeps a watchful eye on ramps as he grills them on a grill pan in the SAVEUR Test Kitchen.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
Grilled ramps are arranged on a platter before being dressed in Enrique’s rice wine and honey escabeche.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique Ramp Escabeche
After reducing rice wine, olive oil, and honey, Chef Jose Enrique pours the hot escabeche over the platter of grilled ramps before serving.Matt Taylor-Gross
Jose Enrique's Ramp Escabeche
Jose Enrique's Ramp Escabeche
Garlicky grilled ramps soak up the vinegary tang of the escabeche sauce, and because of the light pickling, can keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to two months.Matt Taylor-Gross