Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bargain Ramps = Pesto

My visit to the Philly Farm and Food Fest Sunday resulted not only in renewing acquaintances with farmers and fellow foodies not seen since the seasonal farmers' markets closed last fall, but a big score in ramps.

Wild foods gatherer David Siller posted himself and his collection of ramps, fiddleheads and other early spring edibles with Cobblestone Krautery at the Convention Center conclave of hungry people. I couldn't resist leaving without buying two pounds of ramps at the bargain price of $14/pound. Considering that a single bunch weighing maybe two ounce goes for $3.99 at Iovine Brothers Produce at the Reading Terminal Market, that was a savings of about 60 percent! I also picked up a considerably lesser quantity of fiddleheads.

Of course, David's ramps had a fair amount of soil still clinging to them, but it still took me only about 10 minutes to separate the roots from the bulbs and the bulbs from the leaves, then another 10 minutes to go through the leaves to discard about 20 percent because they were a bit too fibrous and rinse off the bulbs.

The bulbs are now sitting in a glass jar in the fridge in my slightly sweet pickling liquid -- they should be ready to accompany some grilled meat or fish by next weekend, and they'll last at least a month.

The leaves required a bit further cleaning to dislodge larger particles of dirt. I set aside about a dozen leaves which will go into pilaf tonight. But yesterday, after a triple wash through my salad spinner, I concocted some ramp pesto.

A perusal of recipes on the web found a number of recommendations to blanch the leaves first to inhibit browning. After shocking the blanched ramp leaves in a bowl of iced water, I laid them in a kitchen towel, pressed as much excess water out as I could, then repeated in paper toweling. Once dry, I roughly chopped them.

After pulsing about a cup and a half of grated parmesan and about a cup of chopped walnuts with a little table salt and a teaspoon or so of dried oregano in the food processor, I added the leaves and pulsed a bit more. Then I drizzled in extra virgin olive oil until I reached my desired consistency, stopping the process once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. I didn't measure but I'd guess the pesto took about a cup of oil. (I would have used less oil if I wanted a spread rather than a pasta sauce.)

I served some over penne rigate last night and froze the rest for future use.

The resulting pesto was quite herbal rather than oniony. Had I included half a dozen or so chopped ramp bulbs it would have had more kick. But it was delicious as prepared.

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