An Appalachian Riff on French Vichyssoise Starring Wild Ramps

Come April, try a wild-grown spin on classic leek and potato soup

Bowls of green ramp and potato soup on a marble background


Ramps, how I love thee. Allium tricoccum. Wild leeks. Ramson. Wild garlic. Bear’s garlic. At heart, I’m a mountain man and forager from West Virginia. I’ve learned to love ramps, and I yearn for them each spring. I plan my work schedule around foraging trips into the forest to explore my ramp patches, and I harvest them to use throughout the year. 

Ramps are a beloved ingredient among chefs as they are found only in the wild, and for only a few weeks of the whole year. When I asked one old-timer about when to forage for ramps, he said, “Tax Day is Ramp Day around here.” And I think he’s right. Mid-April is when the mountains in Appalachia begin to turn green again with life, and if you look hard enough you might be able to find this elusive allium delicacy hiding among the trees. —William Dissen, Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes Rooted in the New South

Read our Q&A with Dissen about his new cookbook, and check out our guide to sustainably foraging for ramps. (If ramps aren’t in season, you can swap in leeks.) 

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  • Wild Ramp and New Potato Bisque with Pine Nut Dukkah and Mint Pistou (Yield: 4)

    • 2 tbsp. diced bacon

    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • 3 cups rough-chopped wild ramps (may substitute leeks)

    • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

    • 2 cups peeled and medium-diced new potatoes

    • 1 quart vegetable stock

    • ⅓ cup heavy cream

    • ⅓ cup whole milk

    • 2 tbsp. honey

    • Kosher salt, to taste

  • For the mint pistou

    • 2 tbsp. almonds

    • ½ cup lightly packed, chopped mint leaves

    • ¼ cup lightly packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley

    • ½ tsp. lemon zest

    • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

    • ½ tsp. kosher salt, to taste

    • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

  • For the dukkah

    • ¼ cup pine nuts

    • ¼ cup pistachios

    • 1 tbsp. benne or sesame seeds

    • 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds

    • 1 tsp. coriander seeds

    • 1 tsp. cumin seed

    • 1 tsp. fennel seed

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • ½ tsp. ground sumac

    • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare the dukkah: Place the pine nuts, pistachios, benne seeds, sunflower seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, salt, sumac, and pepper in a medium sauté pan, set over medium heat, and cook, moving continually, until aromatic and slightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Be careful not to burn.

  2. Prepare the mint pistou: Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times until roughly chopped. Set aside. Store any unused dukkah in an airtight container for 2 to 3 weeks.

  3. Place the almonds in a small sauté pan, set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool, and then roughly chop.

  4. Place the almonds, mint, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until a rough paste forms, 5 to 6 times.

  5. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Taste and season with salt as desired. Set aside until ready to use.

  6. Make the bisque: Place the bacon in a large, heavy pot set over medium heat, and cook until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Set aside and reserve.

  7. Add the butter, ramps, and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook until the ramps have wilted and are tender, about 5 minutes.

  8. Increase the heat to medium high, add the potatoes, reserved bacon, and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

  9. Add the heavy cream, milk, and honey and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to heat through.

  10. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Transfer the mixture in batches to a blender and carefully puree until smooth. Pour the soup back into a clean pot and set over low heat to keep warm until ready to serve. 

  11. Serve immediately, in bowls garnished with a sprinkle of the dukkah and a drizzle of the pistou.

Excerpted with permission from Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes Rooted in the New South by William Dissen, published by Countryman Press.


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