One of the greatest parts of ramps are their leaves. As they will go bad faster than the bulbs, its fun to have a wealth of interesting tricks at your disposal for preparing them. A time honored and versatile classic in my book is the old ramp pesto. This is really one of the finest ways to preserve ramp leaves, the added fat in pesto makes it naturally resilient to freezer burn.
There are plenty of recipes for ramp pesto you can find online. Many that I have seen are merely adaptations or recipes passed along “telephone game style” from another website. Many of these also contain vague proportions, which through simple misunderstandings, could ruin your expensive batch of ramps.
Typically pesto recipes are made with pine nuts. Unless you are independently wealthy you may cringe when you see the price tag of the miniscule bag of pine nuts at your grocery store. Also, an added caveat is that since pine nuts are so expensive, many people do not buy them, this means that I have had to alert grocery store workers to the fact that their bulk pine nuts are rancid, so be careful.
To bypass this blow my pocket book, I like to use toasted sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are the most similar to pine nuts of any seed I have used. They also do not have a bitter covering on them like almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, which when added to pesto can turn it bitter or tannic.
Makes about 4 cups-scale as needed
- 8oz fresh ramp leaves, washed and cleaned
- 1/2oz fresh ramp bulbs, chopped roughly
- 1 heaping tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil or a combination of other cheaper oils, if you’re on a budget, use canola
- 3 tablespoons finest quality parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, or another hard grating cheese, if you prefer
- Heat the oven to 300 or so, toast the sunflower seeds until they are aromatic and lightly golden.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil large enough to accommodate your fresh ramp greens. Cook the ramp leaves just until they wilt in the water, then immediately transfer them to an ice bath and chill.
- Remove the ramp leaves from the water and squeeze the water out with your hands or by placing them in a towel. Chop the ramp leaves roughly.
- In the bowl of a blender, combine the ramp leaves, toasted sunflowerseeds, cheese, ramp bulbs, and oil. Begin the pureeing process by pulsing to break things up, then brace the top of the blender with a towel to prevent splatters and puree on the highest setting for a minute.
- After pureeing, if the pesto isn’t creamy, fluffy and light, drizzle in some more oil and continue to puree until velvety smooth.
Preserving Your Ramp Pesto
- I like to put this stuff into individual tiny sandwich bags and then freeze those in larger, labeled and dated bags for easy reference.
- Another great way to preserve this is to fill ice cube trays with ramp pesto, freeze them, then pop out the cubes and freeze those for easy portioning. I use one cube per serving.