I’m down in a cold, misty, rainy Asheville this week, spending some time with Mom. On my list of things to do before I left for the week was to preserve anything in the fridge that Tai wouldn’t cook while I was gone (so, essentially, everything). After enjoying ramps in a lovely chickpea salad and a leeky-cheesey fritatta this week I still had a pile to use. Just a few days ago, I saw a recipe for Ramp and Parsley Pesto on Simply Recipes, guest-posted by Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I had no parsley, but a big bunch of cilantro from the farmer’s market; hence, a Mexican-inspired ramp pesto was born.
Ramp leaves, cilantro, lime juice, Cascabel chiles and toasted almonds combined for a powerful, grassy green but deliciously wild pesto. I froze an ice cube tray full of pesto then used the remainder to make a pesto-goat cheese appetizer: spread on crusty Wild Hive hearth bread, it was the perfect start to a simple dinner of grilled sausage and Spring green salad. The almonds were probably not a soft enough nut for pesto (toasted hazlenuts would have been delicious, in my opinion; Hank Shaw uses walnuts in his parsley version) but the flavor was lovely. I’m looking forward to using the frozen bounty in all sorts of wonderful ways.
For everything you always wanted to know about ramps (including additional ramp recipe ideas), but were afraid to ask, click here.
Ramp & Cilantro Pesto
- 1 medium bunch ramps (about 30 young bulbs), washed well, bulbs removed, leaves spun dry
- 1 bunch cilantro (about 2 cups leaves, loosely packed), washed and spun dry
- 2/3 cup raw almonds
- about 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 3 small dried Cascabel peppers, rehydrated in boiling water
- salt & black pepper to taste
- Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 5 minutes.
- Add almonds and Cascabel peppers to the bowl of a food processor; pulse several times to chop finely. Add ramp leaves, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times to begin chopping, then, with the motor running, drizzle olive oil in a thin stream; continue to add oil slowly until pesto looks smooth, then stop motor (shoot for a minimum of processing of the olive oil, to prevent a bitter flavor that comes from over-processing). Taste; if texture is too chunky, process a bit more and/or add more olive oil. Add salt, pepper, lime juice or olive oil to your taste; if simply adjusting spices, scrape pesto into a bowl and stir in spices with a spoon.
- Portion pesto into a clean ice cube tray, or dollop by the tablespoonful onto a sheet of plastic wrap; freeze individually, then transfer to a Ziploc or other plastic bag for storage.
Yields about 1 and 1/4 cups (about 20 tablespoons).
- I don’t add cheese to my pesto if my plan is to freeze it; I like the flexibility of adding it later, and I find it stores better without the cheese. However, you could add about 1/2 cup of parmesan or other hard grating cheese.
- The pictures above are pesto mixed half and half with fresh chevre: delicious!
- Hank recommends blanching the ramp leaves and herbs to maintain the bright green color; the pesto will start to darken over time, even in the freezer (I am usually too lazy). The oxidation does not affect the taste, only the color.
- Reserve the ramp bulbs for another use; Hank has an intriguing recipe for Sweet & Sour Ramps. You can saute the ramp bulbs and use them as you would sauteed onion or garlic. I coarsely chopped mine and added them to the jar of Pickled Shallots (which have been slowly making their way into salads, vinaigrettes and roasts), added a little more salt and red wine vinegar, shook it up, and popped the jar back in the fridge.
Frozen, for up to 1 year. Refrigerated for about 3 – 5 days; can extend this by covering the top of the pesto with olive oil.
Ramp greens are in season in early Spring.