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Ramp Pesto

Traditional pesto is made with basil, pine nuts and olive oil.  There are numerous variations, but one of my favorites is my ramp pesto.  Ramps are wild leeks that grow near river banks.  I stumbled upon a patch of ramps several years ago (I’m not telling where).  Look at my picture if you are not sure what they look like.  You will know for certain after you pick one and give it a sniff.  There will be a distinct onion aroma.  This is usually when my stomach starts to growl.  When we harvest we just bring plenty of plastic shopping bags.  You can clip them with scissors or a knife.  I bring along my garden gloves too, so my hands don’t get too smelly.  The hardest part is keeping your balance on those hill sides while you are harvesting.  Try to avoid going ass over tea kettle.  It’s totally worth the effort.  If you are  not lucky enough to live in an area where you can harvest your own, you might be able to find them at farmer’s or specialty markets.

The Stuff You Need:

2 pounds Ramp leaves

1/4 cup toasted Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1 & 1/2 to 2 cups Vegetable Oil (Extra if you want Ramp oil to have on hand, which I highly recommend)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Here's How It's Done:

  1.  Rinse your ramps in cool water, picking out any leaves, grass, and sticks.
  2. Fill your largest pot 3/4 full of water, a few healthy pinches of salt, and put the pot on medium high heat and bring the water to boil.
  3. While the water is heating, preheat your oven to 300°.
  4. Prepare a large bowl about half full with icy water*
  5. Place your pepitas on a small sheet tray.  Toast them in the oven for 5-7 minutes.  Cool on a plate in a single layer.
  6. When your water has reach a gentle to medium boil, submerge your greens for just a minute or so, then remove to water bath.
  7. Transfer your toasted pepitas to the work bowl of a food processor, fitted with the chopping blade.  Pulse until finely chopped.
  8. Drain the ramps well and transfer to the food processor.  Add the oil and process until smooth.
  9. If you are using extra vegetable oil to make ramp oil, set the Parmesan cheese aside until you have filtered out the extra oil.**
  10. To finish the pesto, add your cheese and stir well to combine.  The end product should be glossy but thick.  Not soupy and not too overly dry.***


*We blanch the greens to preserve their beautiful green color.  Brown pesto is very unappetizing.  We next plunge the blanched greens into icy water to stop them from cooking any further.

**I use a China cap to separate my pesto from the extra oil.  If you don’t have a China cap, you can use a wire sieve or several layers of cheese cloth.  We don’t add the cheese until later because it would make the oil cloudy, limiting its usefulness later on.  This emerald green is so sexy!  I love garnishing plates with little dots of it.  It works beautifully for sauteing and making salad dressings.

***If your sauce is soupy you’ve used too much oil.  Filter some of it off.  If your sauce is too dry, drizzle in more oil until your sauce is smooth and thick.


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