It’s springtime again, which means the Internet is running rampant with reports of ramps. Amidst all the gushing over this early allium, I read probably the best assessment of ramps ever written:
Most “spring” menus are cruel teases. The good stuff we really want, like local peas and asparagus, doesn’t turn up for at least another month. So impatient chefs smother us in ramps, the garlicky, leek-like wild onions that come out of the ground in March. They’re supposed to presage the glorious bounty to come. Instead, they remind us of winter’s bottomless pit of turnips and rutabaga. I’d rather eat wild grass on the High Line.
In spite of a certain shared cynicism with Cuozzo, when I saw The Wedge had ramps from Harmony Valley Farm in Wisconsin, I more or less dropped what I was doing to head over and claim a bunch. After all, what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t jump on the occasional bandwagon?
There are many possibilities for cooking up this wild stinkweed; risotto seems obvious for some reason, and they are a popular target for pickling. But I wanted to taste my ramps in all their oniony, burny goodness, so I wanted to kep them raw. How about pesto?
The beauty of ramp pesto is its simplicity; the ramps have the onion family more than covered, so no need to add garlic. I used:
- 1 bunch of ramps
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (or use whatever nuts are on hand)
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- ~1/3 cup olive oil
- ~1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
The first step is to wash your ramps, since ramps come from the dirt and dirt is gross. After that, the ramps should go into a mortar, at which point you use a pestle to grind a fear of God into them. Adding a little sea salt gives traction. Once the ramps are sufficiently broken down to allow space in your mortar for the nuts, add those and keep grinding. Eventually, your graceful, slender ramps will be reduced to a funky green paste.
With the ingredients ground to your satisfaction, you can stir in the lemon juice and enough olive oil to loosen the consistency up from paste to sauce level. Then add in the cheese and adjust the seasoning. Presto: pesto!
The flavor of ramps is hard to describe; they are close enough to garlic to satisfy my strong garlic appetite (and probably alienate any garlic haters), but they have a further green, grassy taste. In a good way, I think. Anyway, they’ll have to do until we get some real spring vegetables.