The thing that makes this pesto so addictive is that the ramps are lightly sautéed before they go into the food processor. This mellows their characteristic garlicky bite (which also prevents you from becoming a social pariah for a full day after eating it) and brings out their sweetness. My husband hit on this method for taking the edge off the garlic in basil pesto a few years ago and we've never looked back.
Parsley adds another note of light, fresh flavor, and pinenuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese add richness to round out the combination.
I served the pesto over pasta with pimenton-crusted, pan-fried salmon. I wished I'd had some asparagus to grill as a side to go with the meal but I'd used up all of my baby-free time for the day hunting for and cleaning the ramps so there was no time for grocery shopping!
If you'd prefer to use walnuts or roasted almonds in place of the pine nuts, feel free. Also, the quantities below are only guidelines - everything is open to interpretation. After all, it's pretty hard to screw up pesto.
Wild Ramp & Parsley Pesto
Makes roughly 2/3 cup
* A dozen wild leeks, cleaned and prepared
* 1 cup fresh parsley, rinsed, dried and with the stems removed
* 1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts or roasted almonds
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino cheese
* Olive oil
* Sea salt, to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Coarsely chop the ramps, separating the green leaves from the white stems. Add olive oil to a pan over medium heat and add the white parts of the leek stems. After about two minutes, toss in the chopped ramp greens and stir. Sautée the ramps until they are just cooked through, you do not want to brown them.
2. Dump the sautéed ramps, parsley, cheese, and nuts into the bowl of a food processor or blender and add a few glugs of good olive oil. Process the mixture until it's all ground then stop to taste it and add the salt and black pepper to taste. Process again for a few seconds to mix well, then taste again and adjust the flavors as needed -- you can add more nuts, cheese, salt, oil, etc., depending on the flavor and consistency you're going for.
3. If you make enough to have any left over, put in an airtight container in the fridge. I prefer glass to plastic for storage.
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