Letter 11: EVOO Skincare and a Ramp Recipe

And some serious restraint on the pun front

Happy Creamline Day!

You find us with crazy eyes, as we’ve both had a trying past few days. We’ll spare you the details, but we’re feeling particularly unhinged, which is why you lot are getting two sections instead of three this week. If anyone has any objections to this, it’s hands on sight from both of us.

Insert Ramp Pun Here

CC: Happy ramp season, friends!

Not all of you are based in the eastern part of North America, so it’s highly possible that you have no idea what a ramp is. I had no idea they existed until I moved to New York City in my early 20s. A ramp is a hyper-seasonal wild leek that folks freak the fuck out about in early spring. No one’s growing them commercially, as far as I know, so they really do have to be foraged.

That’s essential to their magic, I think; you won’t stumble upon them in your local supermarket. Nabbing ramps during their short season above ground feels like you’ve joined the ranks of in-the-know food folks. In NYC, you can usually buy them at the greenmarket and in Vermont, I texted my ramp guy for a few bunches (lol). You can also forage them yourself, which I’ve never done, but I hear they like shady, wooded areas. If you do this, please make sure to read up on responsible foraging first.

Ramps have a, uh, musky oniony aroma. If ramps were a person, they would definitely be a white dude with dreads who doesn’t shower because it inhibits his crown chakra. I don’t know why we don’t talk about how they smell like hot garbage when they’re raw, because they really do. The aroma settles down once they’re cooked, but oh boy. If you’re white, please don’t EVER complain about another culture’s food aromas, but especially if you spend springtime stanning ramps. I made some farmer cheese with ramps a few days ago and made the unfortunate decision of leaving the chopped ramps on my counter for like 30 minutes while the cheese was setting. It took three hours with the windows open to get the apartment smelling normal again.

The first time I tried ramps, it was kind of like my first time having sex (which I was similarly late to the game on, given my Mormon upbringing). Both reactions were along the lines of, “I feel like someone should have mentioned the weird smells, also, is this really what everyone was on about?” Later, I had better experiences and have since become a fan on both counts. The vibes need to be there.

If ramps were available year-round, I think we could probably admit to ourselves that they’re not the most exciting allium out there. But, because they’re so ephemeral, they hold unquestionable mystique. Big springtime “maybe I’ll learn how to forage this year” energy. While they’re not my favorite allium or even my favorite wild edible, I am wholly bought in on the magic, especially this year. This winter lasted approximately a decade in Christine years and I am ready to toss my winter coats in storage and to enjoy a hearty bowl of ramp pasta.

Please know that you can probably get the same ramp-y flavors with a mix of spinach, garlic, and shallots. It just won’t feel as special.

Below is a recipe that I use when I inevitably buy too many ramps and have already used them in pasta, over eggs, and on toast, and have decided that I’m too lazy to make ramp butter. It takes 20 minutes and is incredibly satisfying. You won’t get a lush green springy food photo out of them, but the flavors are worth it. And, you are in a ramp-less part of the world, just make the meatballs with some sautéed garlic or something, because they’re delicious and easy.

However you use ramps, you’ll usually want to treat the greens and the whites like two different ingredients. In this recipe, you sauté the whites for a few minutes before you throw in the greens. When I made my ramp cheese, I blanched the greens for a few minutes in salted water, then crisped up the whites for a crunchy allium topping. Lots of options!

Extra points if you take your ramp meatballs outside for a lil springtime picnic.

Ramp Meatballs

1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey or a combination. I bet you could use a plant-based “ground meat” here too, but I have not tried this)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons buttermilk (or milk or stock)

4 individual ramps

Black pepper, to taste 

Optional: 

1/4 cup grated cheese (I like Gruyere, but Parm is also great)

1/4 teaspoon fish sauce (for bonkers umami) 

Step 1

Clean ramps carefully, then slice the ramps in half crosswise, separating the greens and the whites. Chop the greens into about 1” pieces and the whites about half that size. Sauté the whites over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then when they start to soften, throw in the greens and sauté until the greens have wilted.

OR, if you have a grill pan, grill whole over medium-high heat until tender, then chop into large pieces. 

Step 2

Pour buttermilk over bread crumbs in a large bowl. Mix to combine. 

Step 3

Mix in meat until evenly combined, then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Roll into 1 ½-inch balls. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Step 4

Broil until golden and firm, 7 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!

TG: I, too, have been ramp-ing and would like to use this opportunity to show off my three-cheese ravioli with ramp pesto.

If Christine’s brain has been consumed by ramps, mine has been pickling in brine. We’re talking olives baby, since lately, they’re all I can think about. I’ve been dreaming up a small cocktail hour at which gin martinis with blue cheese-stuffed olives are the star, and I’ll double down by whipping up Olives with Saucisson from Rebekah Peppler’s delicious new cookbook À Table. Molly Baz’s Black Olive Mayo sounds fab on a BLT once the tomatoes start shaping up, and I’ll probably break out the tagine I lugged back from Marrakech soon and braise some chicken thighs with the green olives and preserved lemon. These salty little guys have even infiltrated my bookshelf: I recently revisited one of my grad professor’s poems that always makes me wish I were wandering some vague, provincial European street eating wrinkly cured variety from a paper bag while reading a book Belle-style.

They’re all up in my Outlook inbox, too. While olive oil has been used in beauty rituals since essentially the beginning of time—ancient Egyptians cleansed their bodies with a clay and olive oil paste, and Sophia Loren famously adds a capful of EVOO to her baths—it feels like the ingredient been cropping up in products more prominently as of late. It’s the hydrating hero product in the new line from the ageless and perpetually nude-lipped JLo, who tauts EVOO as her family’s secret to good skin and shiny hair. Listen, I’ve seen this woman close up and in person. Her body is insane, her visage a vision. She swears she’s never gotten Botox, which I just don’t believe—Botox is absolutely fine, I’ve gotten it!—but if she’s saying that olive oil paved the way for this, then I’ll drink from that damn spring.

Jenny isn’t the only one preaching from that pul-pit. (Please clap.) Skincare brand Circumference recently partnered with Instagram darling Brightland to use olives more sustainably. The former is using the byproduct from the latter’s fall 2020 harvest to formulate their gentle new cleanser as part of their Waste-Not Sourcing Initiative. There’s so much waste created in the beauty industry—expect more on that in a future letter—and this is one example of how the intrinsically-linked supply chain for food and beauty products should be more consciously and responsibly utilized. 

Ok, I’m gonna go take a deep breath and put a beer in the fridge for later. Enjoy your weekend, and we’ll see you in a few weeks!