Friday, May 23, 2014

Ramps Pesto

Well, after reading about ramps for years, and never tasting them, I'm finally on the ramps bandwagon. If you've never eaten them, your time is running short this year because the season is almost over. If you're lucky you'll live near a farmer's market that sells them. But if you're even luckier, you'll have a friend who gives you some, like the ones I got from my neighbor Insung, who got hers from a friend who picked them in New York's Catskills Mountains. They grow wild in many places across the Eastern U.S. and Canada, from Nova Scotia to the the American South, including Richwood, West Virginia, a town that just celebrated its 76th annual Ramp Feed, or Feast of the Rampsome, as the locals call it. 

"Allium tricoccum," the botanic name of ramps, already tells you something - that it's in the onion family and they have a garlicky, oniony flavor. In the 1987 movie Matewan, when an Italian woman receives some ramps to flavor her stew from an Appalachian woman in West Virginia, she smells them and declares "aglio!" (garlic).  The strong smell permeates everything - including the refrigerator, so make sure you wrap them well or put them in a container.

For my bounty, I decided to make a ramp pesto, and I added in some spinach to stretch it a little further. You could also add arugula or nothing extra at all. But the added spinach helped intensify the green color. To aid in keeping the color green, I also first blanched the ramps in boiling water for a couple of minutes. 

It's great merely smeared on some toast.

Or spread a swath of ramps pesto on a plate with grilled fish, like the one below. This was a delicious dish I ate recently at Ed's Chowder House in New York City, served with fava beans and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. 

Or just add a few minced ramps to your potato salad this weekend to give it a really nice "bite." Click here for my potato salad recipe.

Happy Memorial Day!

Ramps Pesto

printable recipe here

1 bunch ramps (about 20 stalks)
1 small bunch spinach (about 1/2 cup packed hard)
1 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup olive oil
sea salt, white pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Blanch the ramps and dry them on paper towels.  (optional, but the color will stay brighter if you do this step.) Put
everything except parmesan cheese in a food processor and keep pulsing
until you have a creamy mixture. Add more olive oil if needed to make it looser. Mix in
the cheese later if you’re planning to freeze, otherwise, stir in the cheese and serve - over pasta, on bread toasts, with grilled fish or chicken.

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