Ramps are wild leeks. These lily-like plants are the harbinger of spring in the Northeast, the first new taste after a long winter of cabbage and root vegetables. They are a treat long before... the first local asparagus arrives. This is a simple and delicious recipe for a cool spring day. The earthy taste of the mushrooms and the soba noodles pair perfectly with the sweet, oniony taste of the ramps and the sharp zing of lemon.
Cut the roots off the ramps and clean any dirt or old skin off the white parts of the stems. Rinse well and pat dry. Thinly slice the whites and stalks of the ramps. Shred the green leaves in a chiffonade (a style of slicing meaning to cut into long, thin ribbons). Keep the greens and whites separate and set aside.
Warm the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is rippling, add the white parts of the ramps. Saute until they start to soften, then add the thyme or savory. Cook for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and a pinch of sea salt. Saute until the mushrooms have lost their water and colored slightly. Add the shredded ramp greens. Mix well and continue cooking until the ramp greens have wilted, about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, stir to mix, then remove the pan from heat and cover. Leave it to stand while you cook the soba noodles. (Follow the package instructions or see our recipe here .)
Uncover the mushroom mixture and heat through over medium-high heat. Add half the reserved soba water, ground black pepper, and grated cheese, if using. Bring to a simmer and cook just long enough to melt the cheese, which will thicken the sauce. Add the drained soba noodles. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles are heated through and well coated with sauce and vegetables, for about 1 minute. Add a little more soba water if the pan looks dry or the noodles start to stick. Serve immediately with a grind of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
If ramps aren’t available, you can substitute with either 2 bunches of scallions or a bunch of leeks; the smaller and skinnier, the better.
Be careful not to overcook the soba noodles. They need to finish cooking without falling apart.
If you prefer, you can substitute the portobello mushroom for 12 ounces of mixed oyster, cremini, and/or white mushrooms.