For a spring spin on pesto, swap out the classic basil for ramps! You can also use the greens from spring onions or green garlic - all will impart a bright onion flavor. Try this pesto as a sauce for pasta, spread on a sandwich, or as a condiment for fish or poultry.
makes 1 cup
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
3 tablespoons grated cheese, such as pecorino
2 cups ramp or other wild onion leaves, about 2 dozen
Salt to taste
About 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
If you want to prevent your pesto from browning in the fridge, blanch the greens before you begin assembling the pesto (this is an optional step). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of salt. Set a large bowl of ice water nearby. Plunge the ramp leaves into the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and quickly cool them down in the ice water. Squeeze dry with a tea cloth or paper towels.
Chop the ramp leaves and set aside. Pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, thus the name, which means "pound," but you can of course make it in a food processor. To start, add the toasted pine nuts and garlic and crush them.
Add the cheese and ramps and commence pounding. Mash everything together, stirring with the pestle and mashing well so it is all fairly uniform.
Start adding olive oil. The amount will depend on how you are using your pesto. If you are making a spread, use maybe 1/4 cup. If a pasta sauce, double that. Either way, add 1 tablespoon at a time, pounding and stirring to incorporate it. When it's a nice rough paste, taste it and add salt if you need to; sometimes the cheese makes the pesto salty enough by itself. Serve as a spread on bread, as a topping for minestrone, as a pasta sauce, or as a dollop on fish or poultry.
If you are using a food processor, add everything but the oil and pulse to combine. Then, turn the motor on and drizzle in the olive oil. Be careful not to let the mixture become a smooth paste!