Cooking 4 Dummies: Ramp Pesto!

The other day, this Foobooz post got us hungry for those harbingers of spring, ramps. (Some light ramp reading here.) We picked up a bunch at Reading Terminal’s Iovine Produce on Wednesday, stirred some into our omelet this morning, and used them to make pesto this afternoon. For home cooks just starting out, classic Genovese pesto is one of the most invaluable recipes and as well as one of the easiest recipes to master. The basics: basil, olive oil, cheese, pine nuts, garlic, lemon, all zipped together in the blender. It’s fresh, sharp, lively. We just love the stuff. But pesto, which means ‘paste’ in Italian, can be made a thousand different ways. We add garlic scapes to pesto in the early summer, for example, and fresh peas in the spring. The bright, oniony flavor of the ramps killed it in today’s version. It also freezes beautifully, so you can enjoy this springy sauce all year round.

We start with the basic blogalicious pesto recipe…

One handful each fresh basil and mint
One handful Locatelli cheese
Two garlic cloves
The zest and juice of half a lemon
Half a cup of almonds
One cup extra-virgin olive oil

…And just added one bunch of ramps, roughly chopped. Traditional Genovese pesto calls for pignoli nuts, but we had none on hand, so we substituted almonds. Walnuts and pistachios, or a blend of nuts also work well. Pile everything into a blender, turn it on, and stream in EVOO until the pesto comes together into a thick, glossy, green puree. Today we used a combination of DiBruno’s fruity cold-pressed oil from Italy and Les Moulins Mahjoub’s delicate, organic oil from Tunisia, but you can use any good-quality EVOO you happen to groove on. You can take the pesto to a smoother consistency, or just pulse it for a rough, rustic version.

Pour the pesto into a freezer-safe container and give it a try. The cheese is pretty salty, so don’t salt and pepper until this point. We added a little of each, and dialed up the brightness with a little extra lemon zest and chopped mint stirred in at the last minute. For lunch we spread some on a simple pan-roasted chicken breast alongside sweet-and-sour mushrooms. Ramp pesto: make it now.

Photo: blogalicious

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