This recipe is no recipe at all, it’s merely a suggestion. In other words, if you like to ad-lib in the kitchen and subscribe to the “cooking isn’t rocket science philosophy”, this non-recipe is for you.
It’s officially spring and in the Appalachians that means ramp season. While ramp festivals won’t be happening this year, it doesn’t mean you’re left high and dry unless you are willing to forage the highly coveted allium yourself. While I’ve been mainly pantry cooking, I did manage to pick up a bunch of ramps from a local restaurant and couldn’t wait to use them.
There are so many things that you can do with fresh ramps. But, I like to use them fresh instead of baking them into a dish that would mute their pungency. We had some flank steak left from a local beef order, so I grilled that up with some simple salt and pepper and looked around the pantry for inspiration. What arose were the ingredients for a nice spring pesto.
As you search out your ingredients, start a pot of water boiling and grab a bowl and make an ice bath.
When you’re peering through your pantry, look first at your nut options. You can of course use pine nuts, or even walnuts will do the trick. I passed over the pine nuts for a handful of pistachios. The fresh flavor of pistachio seems to suit the strength of the ramps without overpowering them. If you happen to have Sicilian pistachios, even better. Whatever nut you scrounge, throw it in a pan on the stovetop and give it a light toast or pop them in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Just a little heat will deepen their flavor and pull out some of the rawness.
While those are cooling, plunge your ramps (I used 1 bunch) into the boiling water. This is a quick dunk, 10-20 seconds. The result is less about cooking and more about preserving a deep saturated green color. Fish them out and immediately place in an ice bath. Leave for a few seconds and lay out on paper towels to dry.
You don’t need to add garlic since ramps already have the onion and garlic flavor nailed. Lemon, however, will liven this dish up phenomenally. I zested the lemon, juiced it, adding it along with the ramps and toasted pistachios to a food processor. We always have parmesan around, and a good heap freshly grated should go in as well, roughly a ½ cup.
Give the processor a few pulses and then start drizzling in olive oil. I eyeball this. I want it loose enough to spoon but not so much that it just tastes like oil, probably 2-3 ounces. Give it a taste and finish with a pinch of salt.
A slice of the steak and a drizzle over the top with a salad on the side is a perfect spring meal. But, it’s too hard not to toss some of this ramp pesto into pasta. The batch yields plenty to cover both applications. So, as a side, why not boil some pasta and give the pesto a toss or two. Finish your meal with a nice glass of wine. Although, if you are virtual homeschooling five days a week, that wine was probably the first thing on your table.
Matthew DeRobertis is a chef, writer and father to a kid who loves food more than her dog. Contact him at [email protected]
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