Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Filtering by Tag: pesto

Ramp pesto

My Dad phoned me yesterday while he was out on one of his local exploring mini-expeditions. "I found a place covered with wild onions. They're all over." "Already?" I replied. "It's little early yet." I have my spots that I start checking around this time of year and thus far no ramps have made an appearance. 

"Where are you?" I asked. He told me and I said, "Well, why don't you come get me and we'll have a look?" He was a bit further inland than where I begin looking for the dagger-shaped leaves around this time of year, enough so that the cool Lake Michigan temperatures weren't a factor in slowing spring growth like they are closer to the lake. 

I retrieved a couple of bags, my old digging knife and a camera and waited for my Dad to show up. Upon arriving at the place he had found I had to admit that he had indeed come upon a good location for spring ramps ("wild onions" to Dad). Although they were still relatively small in size they were growing thickly, with little bunches more or less uniformly covering a pretty large expanse of ground. 

Young ramps bursting through the earth in early spring.

I was excited and harvested just a couple of handfuls-worth, while planning to return to the spot in another week or two.

Just-harvested ramps. It's not cool to harvest too much. Be frugal and leave more than you take.

Ramps, also known as wild leeks or wild onions, are one of the first wild edibles a lot of folks learn to identify and harvest. That may be because they are also one of the first edibles to make an appearance each spring. They are hard to mistake for anything else once you've harvested them yourself. They also seem to have become much more popular (trendy might be a better word) with chefs in recent years, and you'll find them on menus in a number of noteworthy restaurants.

Ramps have an intense flavor that's something of a marriage of green onion and garlic, and you can use them just about any way you might use either or both of those vegetable herbs. When the morels begin to appear a plate of grilled morel mushrooms and ramps, washed down with a nice ale, is practically tradition.

Ramps after cleaning, beautiful and colorful.

This morning I decided to make a pesto from the bunch I dug up yesterday. I'll share the recipe here, but bear in mind that the ingredient amounts are entirely arbitrary. Pesto is one of those things that can be made any number of ways with any number of ingredients and any number of mutable measurements.  

Ramp & Arugula Pesto

Ingredients:

  • Ramps, one large handful
  • Arugula, 3/4 cup
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2+ cup
  • Almonds, 1/2 cup, toasted
  • Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, 1 cup, shaved
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, just a couple turns of the pepper mill

Ramp pesto ingredients, romaine and baby spinach I added later not shown.

1. Toast the almonds in an oven at 400° for around 10 minutes. They smell oh-so-good! Roughly chop them up and pour into your food processor. Give it a few pulses to chop them even more.

2. Roughly chop the ramps, leaves and all. Add the chopped ramps, arugula, oil, cheese, salt and pepper to the processor. Pulse it until everything is well blended. You may want to add more oil until it gets to a consistency you like.

Ramp & arugula pesto, ready to rock your taste buds.

That's pretty well it. Easy-peasy. But now here is where the adaptable nature of pesto comes in handy. I found that my initial recipe was far too pungent. I knew that Kim would find it too spicy and "hot" for her taste. So I grabbed a handful of baby spinach and three big leaves of romaine lettuce, tossed them into the processor and pulsed it to blend everything together. Perfect! The spinach and romaine mellowed it out quite nicely. The finished pesto looked fantastic, a beautiful vibrant green, and it had a spicy freshness that made spring seem even more spring-y.

Eager to use the ramp pesto right away, I whipped up a huge omelet with a row of canned diced tomatoes and a strip of the pesto spooned over them before folding the omelet over on itself. I cut the fat egg pie in half and plated one half for Kim and the other for me. It was incredible. I am not making this up--go ahead and ask her--Kim actually licked her plate clean. That's how good it was.

The pesto will stay fresh in your fridge for a month or so, if it lasts that long before you eat it all!

After we finished breakfast I jarred the remaining pesto into an empty gelato container and thought, "I would totally buy this if it was on a store shelf. Someone should make this stuff to sell." Someone like me! (Let me know if you would like a jar.)

Goosefoot Pesto

Goosefoot or Lamb's Quarters is one of the first wild plants that I tell people about who are new to foraging, just because it's so very abundant, tasty and easy to identify. We'll discuss more detailed goosefoot taxonomy and identification in a follow-up journal entry; for now I just wanted to share some images and the recipe for a pesto I made this morning using the plants that were growing in a small patch next to our house. They're forecasting frost and freezing temperatures for midweek, and I thought I ought to harvest what I can while there's still time.

This patch of goosefoot sprang up in two big washtubs I had filled with dirt and intended to plant something else in, but never did. Once I saw the washtubs being taken over by this "weed" I was more than happy to let that be my chosen crop.

Goosefoot is most often compared to spinach as a leafy green. I don't find that to be accurate as it concerns flavor (to my palate it doesn't have near the intensity or bitter qualities of spinach), but it's certainly true in how it may be used as an edible green. Use it fresh in salads, steamed with butter as a side vegetable or as an ingredient in ravioli or canoli. But one of my favorite ways to use it is as the green in pesto, in place of the traditional basil.

Detail of Goosefoot/Lamb's Quarters leaf attached to plant. (clcik to enlarge)

Goosefoot leaf. (click to enlarge)

Harvested Goosefoot.

Ingredients:

  • Goosefoot leaves
  • Oil (olive or canola, enough to create the consistency you want)
  • Pecans (you can use any kind of nut; I just happened to have a 1/4 cup of pecans left)
  • Sea salt (just a pinch)
  • Fresh crushed black pepper
  • Garlic (1/2 clove chopped)

Rinse the leaves well. You'll find that running water easily beads and runs off of goosefoot, a function of the white, almost powdery bloom on the leaves. It's nothing to worry about. Goosefoot is one of the cleaner plants you'll find, but rinsing under running water or immersing in a sink full of cold water should be standard practice for all plants anyway.

Assembled ingredients.

Add everything to a food processor (the really fun part) and pulse until you get a nice smooth paste. I always start with less oil that I think I'll need and drizzle more in as seems necessary (you can always add more, but you can't take any out once it's in there).

Adding the oil; canola oil in this case.

The fun part. Pulse, pulse, pulse...

What a beautiful color! (click to enlarge)

Tada! I like this image. That green is just gorgeous. (click to enlarge)

Ooh, that's good!

Label and refrigerate. It will last, if you let it, two or three months in the fridge.

Addendum: There is a cultivated variety of Goosefoot that I am considering trying next year, called Magenta Spreen. It's a beautiful plant, vibrant green with patches of brilliant purple/pink on the stem and base of the leaves. Seeds can be had from several sources, including Johnny's Selected Seeds (image of the plant at this link).

 

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