How can you go wrong with pesto? It is one of my favorite things to make because I can make it with such a variety of things. Any kind of green, any kind of seed or nut, any kind of oil, you can add cheese or don’t add cheese, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and then use it on all kinds of stuff! Pizza, pasta, bread (alright, I might be a little wheat-based), roasted veg of almost any kind, rice, fish, a spoon (why not – it has all the stuffs, sounds like a spicy snack to me!).
And right now, the world is proliferating with free vegetation – dandelion greens, violet leaves, bee balm and daisy shoots, and ramps! (if you are even more industrious than me, I’m sure you could find plenty of clover, plantain, cleavers, young evening primrose leaves to make a batch as well, perhaps you have other favorites?). Last week we layered our mushroom pizza (from Wild Fruitings in Augusta – soon to be in our shop!) with young dandelion greens and I know I’ll be putting together a fresh new batch of Foraged Kimchi for all your detox needs.
Though our batch of ramps (which we seeded from Forager’s Harvest of Sam & Melissa Thayer) is looking good, we still want to give them one more year of spread and growth before we harvest any leaves (maybe a few bulbs). And lucky for us, one of our lovely customers brought in a generous collection of large ramp leaves – oh, they smelled so good (thank you so so much!). We promptly took them home and turned them into Ramp Pesto. I had pumpkin seeds, parmesan, and garlic olive oil on hand so in they went. We had it with pasta and a sexy tuna steak. Our friend Kelby turns his into his silvopastured pork sausage so tonite we might have a little more pesto with his Wild Ramp Sausage (find him at Olde Haven Farm in Chelsea – go check out the farm store, it’s awesome).
Though my basic recipe is the same for all pesto: toasted nuts or seeds of your choice (I’ve used pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts – of course, pistachio, hazelnuts, I don’t see why you couldn’t use walnut though we don’t eat them here because they irritate J’s mouth though I might shy away from pecan or macadamia as they are very sweet), handful of green things (you could also use lacinato or baby kale, spinach, basil – classic, arugula – peppery!) (and by mid-Summer amaranth leaves, chickweed, garlic mustard, nettles – wear gloves!), garlic if not using garlic greens/scapes/ramps, etc, oil of choice – avocado or olive oil might be the best options, lemon juice, sea salt, and a dry cheese of choice (optional) though I generally use parmesan (grated or shredded fresh). It is fresh and fine without cheese, but I’m a hedonist, cheese it is.
My ratios are eye-balled. For a small batch I probably start with 2 cups of loosely chopped greens. I like probably twice as many greens to seed/nuts, enough oil to keep it a bit loose, just enough lemon juice and salt to flavor and brighten it, and probably the same amount of cheese to seed/nuts but you may find that you can adjust all of this to your tastes. I also recommend toasting the seed/nuts first and pureeing in small food processor (but pulse, you don’t need nut butter!), then adding cut up leaves of choice – add a little oil to loosen and make puree easier until all leaves are broken down, adding a little lemon and more oil if you need more liquid, add cheese if using – then taste, then add more salt or lemon or olive oil if needed.
If tossing onto pasta, remember to keep a little of the pasta water in the pan to loosen the pesto and make it a little ‘saucy’. I probably use a 1/4 cup on a pound of pasta (yes, hedonist) and mix it thoroughly but gently. Refrigerate the rest and use within a week or so.