amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

Polenta with ramps and peas

POSTED ON April 4, 2012

spring lunch

The arresting yellow color and aroma of open daffodils beside me, the blinding white blossom outside, slowly giving way to green leaves and the fresh cool breeze entering through the just open window, is a delightful reminder of what’s to come. Since it’s still chilly out a comforting bowl of warm polenta topped with the unique flavors of early spring is just what I crave.

On my trip to the farmer’s market last week I picked up a couple of bunches of ramps and started dreaming about their possible marriage with soft cooked polenta. The smell of ramps sautéing in my kitchen instantly elevates my mood and signals the beginning of a new cooking phase. In their raw state, ramps smell exactly like the forest floor in which they grow. If you haven’t smelled them before, you will be surprised by their unique aroma. Yes, it’s pungent and garlic-y (since they are wild leeks) but it’s also damp, verdant, earthy and moss-like. Their short harvesting season only adds to their appeal and keeps them a special wild spring treat that is unique to the east coast mountains of North America.


After reading this article about the damage being caused to our local ramp population, I will be seeking out ramp leaves with no bulb attached, so they can continue to grow. Ramps are difficult to cultivate because they need shade and being the first local edible to hit the market in spring, they are a hot commodity.

Organic Hudson Valley Polenta from Wild Hive Farm

My friend Susan Simon gave me this polenta from Wild Hive Farm, which is also a bakery and micro mill in Clinton Corners New York. They make great whole-wheat crackers too.  You can find them and an array of their products at Union Square farmer’s market.

The texture of the Wild Hive Farm polenta is like coarse corn grits and makes a lovely sweet tasting polenta, without any of the pastiness you might experience from regular polenta.

To top off the ramps, I crumbled some lovely, fresh local goat cheese over the top, which melts slightly when it hits the warm polenta.

Without the goat cheese the dish is vegan and also delicious!

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Happy spring!

lunch from above

broth for polenta

sauteeing ramp stems

added peas and ramp leaves



Polenta with ramps and peas

There are no local peas available here yet, so I used frozen. If you use fresh, blanch them for a minute or two first. I bought 2 bunches of ramps and used them all. Be sure to wash them well, as they tend to be gritty. You could replace them with a couple of leeks, using the white and green parts.

4 cups filtered water

3 bay leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

Sea salt

1 cup corn grits

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling.

½ cup sliced ramp stems (1/2  inch pieces)

2 cups chopped ramp leaves (1 inch pieces)

1 cup frozen peas

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh goat cheese, about 3 ounces

Add the water, bay leaves, rosemary and ½ a teaspoon of salt to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and rosemary, raise heat and return to a boil. Slowly pour the corn grits in, whisking as you go. Continue whisking, once mixture is boiling, lower heat and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is thick and creamy. To prevent lumps and the mixture sticking to the pot, whisk every couple of minutes.

Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and additional salt to taste. Cover pot while you cook the ramps and peas.

In a skillet or frying pan, warm remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ramp stems and a pinch of salt and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in ramp leaves and peas and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes or until leaves are wilted and peas are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon polenta into bowls and divide the ramps and peas between the bowls. Top with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 2 generous portions, with a little extra polenta.

POSTED IN Gluten free, Grains, Mains

TAGGED UNDER: corn grits, goat cheese, spring

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  • Juliah says:

    Looks great! Can’t wait to make it!

  • Yummy! I want to try this! Great blog!

  • I was surprised to see ramps so early at the market this year! We had a blast foraging for them last year. Great post!

  • susan says:

    What a great idea. However, I think that all of our HV ramps have gone to the markets of NYC – do I need to forage?

  • Aunt_Pete says:

    I couldn’t find any ramps and I discovered AFTER I started cooking that I was out of frozen peas. I did a version with leak and asparagus. Perfect spring dinner.

  • Natali Gill says:

    Never heard of ramps. They sound delicious! I’m so excited about polenta right now too. Just wish my kids were too!

  • Ami says:

    I just made this for dinner, and added in some pea tendrils too since I had them in the fridge. Didn’t have goat cheese, so threw in some toasted pine nuts for crunch and richness. Holy moly was it delicious. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Sara says:

    uau, so nice to find polenta dishes.. In Italy the people of my region are called “polentoni” because this dish have been for centuries the main nutrition.. and today it is still present in our menus.. 🙂 nice recipe!

  • Jasmine pahl says:

    Ah! This dish looks like the first colours of spring. Beautiful. Just Beautiful.

  • Sarah B says:

    Hi Amy!

    This looks SO yummy! And what good timing – I have never made polenta before (can you believe it?!) and lately have been feeling the urge. This is the push I need. Thanks for the inspiration and always lovely recipes.

    Love and ramps,
    Sarah B

  • That looks incredible! I just found this while browsing around but I will definitely attempt to make it when I get home next week. Thanks!

  • Sasha says:

    This post totally inspired my dinner last night. I didn’t have any peas, but I roasted a fair amount of asparagus with some lemon zest and then used wild garlic instead of the wild leeks. I added some fresh mint and the dish just sang spring. It was delicious and beautiful. It was perfect for a cool spring evening as the polenta makes it warming and comforting, but the green veggies make it still feel lighter than winter grub and more seasonal. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Daniela says:

    What a beautiful recepie, and gorgeous photographs. I have just discovered your blog and I think it’s wonderful. Thank you!

  • Lovely recipe. This is my kind of meal.

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