It wouldn’t be spring in the Northeast without wild leeks, also known as ramps, bulbous onion-like plants that grow deep into the woods. Wild leeks smell and taste somewhere between onion and garlic and look more like scallions but with broader leaves and bulbous bottoms. They are high in vitamins A and C, selenium, and chromium.
Wild leek leaves are mellower than the super-pungent bulbs, so using them together tones down their bite. And here in this dairy-free pesto, I combine them with cilantro, sweet miso, and a fair amount of lemon to balance out the flavors and give you an entirely new pesto experience. Use the pesto anywhere you’d use standard pesto, with pasta or vegetables dishes or tossed with fiddleheads (see my last post, Thai-Flavored Fiddlehead Fern Salad, for how to prepare fiddleheads) to really make the most of the early spring season.
Makes about 2 cups
¾ cup pumpkin seeds or pine nuts or a mixture
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or to taste
8 ounces wild leeks (aka ramps), cleaned well, root ends cut off, chopped
½ bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, chopped
3 tablespoons light miso, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
Combine the pine nuts and lemon juice in a food processor and process briefly to form a chunky mixture. Add the wild leeks, cilantro, miso, and salt and process until well combined, scraping the sides of the machine once or twice as needed. Slowly pour the oil in through the hole in the top of the machine and process until incorporated, scraping the sides of the machine once or twice if needed. Taste and adjust the seasonings with miso, lemon juice, and/or salt if needed.
Leda Scheintaub’s latest work is Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation, to be published by Rizzoli in September 2014. It’s available for preorder through Amazon. She is also the coauthor (with Denise Mari) of Organic Avenue; coauthor (with Carol Alt) of Easy, Sexy Raw; and the recipe developer for The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto. She has been a freelance writer, editor, and recipe tester for the past twelve years and lives with her husband in southern Vermont, where you’ll often find her at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market.