Chef’s Blog – May 2012
The ramp, sometimes called wild leek, is a wild onion native to North America. Though the bulb resembles that of a scallion or young garlic, the beautiful flat, broad leaves set it apart. Ramps are one of the first delicacies of Spring. They grow in the woodlands east of the Great Plains, and often in huge swaths.
Ramps are gathered by professional foragers each Spring and make their way to any number of local food festivals. These days ramps are trendy; you can find them on white-linen menus. Ramps taste a lot like green garlic, though more subtle in their garlicky flavor. They can be eaten raw, but are best sautéed, roasted, grilled, pickled or made into pesto. Ramps appear first in their southern range in late March. The season finally ends in the far north in early-to-mid June. Fresh Ramps and Wild Leeks have a bold, spicy flavor, like a combination of onions and garlic and make an exciting statement no matter how you use them.
Yield: About 1 1/3 cups
2/3 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 small bunch parsley
1 small bunch ramps
Pinch of salt
- Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat, tossing from time to time, until you can smell them, about 5-7 minutes.
- Bring a large kettle of salty water to a rolling boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Blanch the parsley in the boiling water for 1 minute, then submerge it in the ice water (shocking the parsley with ice water will keep it bright green). Cut off the leaves of the ramps, leaving the white parts for another use (see sautéed ramps with truffle salt recipe). Blanch the ramp leaves in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Douse in the ice water.
- Drain the parsley and ramp leaves, then put them in a kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the greens, and twist one end of the towel one way, and the other end of the towel the opposite way. Wring out the parsley and ramps tightly. You want as much water as you can to drain away.
- Chop the parsley and ramps well and put into the bowl of a food processor. Chop the walnuts well and put them in, too. Add the parmiggiano cheese and a healthy pinch of salt. Buzz the mixture together a few times, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil slowly. Stop the food processor immediately after the oil is incorporated. Taste for salt, and add if needed.
Serve within a couple days. For storage, keep covered in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil over it. Freeze if you will have any left over after 3 days.
Serve this pesto like you would any other: With pasta or in risotto, on crusty bread or as a dollop in soup.