There is just something exotic about eating something that was harvested from the wild. On top of that, we know that wild food by definition cannot be genetically modified, nor can it have pesticides on it. However, when eating wild game, fish caught from the ocean, or plants harvested from the wild, one must be sure that everything is taken in a sustainable manner. If we over harvest, over fish, or over hunt, there will be nothing left for future generations. Of course, much like sustainable farming, if we harvest food from the wild in a sustainable way, we are ensuring that it will be around for years to come.
One of my recent Farmer’s Market finds was wild arugula. Wild arugula seems to have a smaller leaf than the cultivated arugula I’ve had, but the overall taste seems pretty much the same. It just has that wild mystique.
I also got some ramps, which I’ve been working my way through. Ramps are like wild leeks or green onions. I find their flavor to be somewhere between a leek and garlic, so I’ve been using them in place of just about anything that calls for garlics, leeks, or onions. They are wonderful, and edible from the bulb to the leaves.
A great way to put these together is in an arugula pesto. An arugula pesto is very similar to the regular basil pesto, just with the distinctive peppery arugula bite. It is wonderful on pastas, salads, or as a way to dress up some baked chicken. It is an incredibly versatile ingredient, and it should last a good week or two in the fridge, or several months in the freezer (freeze in individual serving sizes for ease of defrosting – I like using ice cube trays). Make a couple batches and keep them handy in the freezer. It makes for an incredibly easy meal when you don’t feel like cooking.
Though I couldn’t get the pine nuts or the olive oil locally, I did go with a local cheese from a local artisan cheese maker as opposed to the traditional Parmesan. The cheese I selected was their most aged cheese. It was hard, grated easily, and had a flavor not dissimilar to Parmesan, but there also seemed to be a slight cheddar-y flavor as well.
If you don’t have arugula, well, just about any green leafy herb or green could be substituted – the traditional basil, parsley, etc. You can mix different greens together for your own unique blend. And if you don’t have the traditional pine nuts, go for walnuts, though most any other nuts could probably be used in place. If you don’t have ramps, use garlic instead. I tend to go light on garlic compared to many other people I know, so feel free to make your own adjustment there, as needed.
This recipe makes about 1 cup of pesto.
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 4 cups fresh arugula, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup finely grated hard cheese, like Parmesan or your local equivalent
- 1 ramp (bulb and leaves)
- coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toast the pine nuts. I do this stove top. Put them in a pan on med high heat, stirring frequently about 3-4 minutes or until the nuts turn golden brown and become aromatic. It can also be done in the oven – spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes or so.
Chop the ramps and grate the cheese. Put pine nuts, arugula, cheese, ramps, and olive oil, in a blender and blend until there are no lumps. Since it is a lot of greens, you may need to pause the blender and stir it up a bit manually to make sure the greens on the top are pureed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
It’s that simple. Enjoy! This post is submitted to Real Food Wednesdays.