Wild Ramps and Hazelnut Pesto

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let’s talk about ramps! Ramps are, ramsom, wild leeks or wild garlic, not to be mistaken with scallions, shallots, or onions. When spring arrived, their images flooded across social media--Instagram, Pinterest, and you name it. Why are ramps so popular? They grow wild in only certain regions along the Appalachian ridge from Georgia to Quebec, and are foraged like truffles. Chefs and home cooks alike go wild for their pungent garlicky-onion flavor. I personally have never seen them at our local farmers markets or even Specialty Produce.

When I saw a picture of a field of wild ramps on Lawrence’s IG feed, a friend I had met on Instagram, I left a teary emoji knowing the chance of me finding ramps is like winning the lotto (I’m exaggerating of course but it would require a trip to the east coast in the spring and a full force hunt for them). Imagine my surprise when Lawrence sent me a text that the ramps were on their way to my kitchen! Aaaaaaahhhhhh! I jumped for joy! 

When I finally got that precious gift in the mail, I jumped for joy again and dropped everything I was doing to take a few photos for evidence that they were real and not a figment of my imagination. The possibilities swirled in my head--saute, pickle, grill. In mid April, I had gone to Chicago and got to taste both grilled ramps and pickled ramps and decided to do something different. In the end, I went with a ramp and hazelnut pesto since their long trip from the east coast to San Diego took some life out of the leaves even with Lawrence packing an ice pack to keep them fresh. I gave them a nice cool bath as Lawrence had suggested to plump them up then salvaged as much of the leaves as I could.  

For the pesto, I purposely did not add any garlic to preserve the unique flavor of ramps. I kept my pesto simple with hazelnuts, a little Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. This ramp pesto is quite versatile and can be used in pizza, paired with gnocchi or pasta, and even chicken or fish. It’s the perfect blank canvas for your culinary imagination. Good luck finding some and have fun cooking!

Wild ramps and hazelnut pesto

⅔ cup hazelnuts
1 ½ cups ramps (leaves), washed and roughly chopped
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Dry-fry the hazelnuts in cast iron skillet over medium heat until golden brown, stirring frequently to avoid burning them. Once they’re done and cool enough, peel the skin off.

2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a fine texture and set aside.

3. Add the chopped ramps, olive oil, and lemon juice to the food processor and puree until smooth.

4. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and hazelnuts and pulse for about 1 minute until everything is well combined.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6.Transfer the pesto to a glass container and store in the coldest part of your fridge for up to a week. Or you can freeze the pesto and thaw it when needed.

Cookbook Review: The Basque Book

Thursday, May 12, 2016


I love Spanish food and couldn’t be more excited to cook from The Basque Book by Alexandra Raij.  It’s been many years since I’ve taken Spanish and have forgotten about the Basque region and its food.  Chef Raij prefaced that this cookbook is her and her husband’s interpretation of Basque cuisine adapted for home cooking and the modern kitchen.

The book starts off with the Basque Basics where she teaches you how to make different types of mayo, seafood and meat stocks, sauces, and paste.  Pintxos is the next chapter, and one of my favorites from the book given my love for tapas. I really enjoyed the explanation for different types of pintxos--banderillas, montaditos y bocadillos, hojalderes, cocina en miniatura, and raciones.  My favorite dishes from this chapter are the open-faced fried quail egg and chorizo sandwich and gratin of deviled crab.  Those recipes were easy to make and weren’t time consuming.  I used pre-picked lump crab meat from a jar instead of fresh blue crabmeat but didn’t feel like it took away from the dish.  The poached leeks with chopped eggs were good but not something I would have craving for.  Eder’s avocado salad, though simple in nature, was quite good because of the harmony of flavors created by the balsamic vinegar, Spanish paprika, and olive oil.  I can eat this every day! Another dish that took me by surprise is the soft scrambled eggs with garlic chives and shrimp.  Garlic chive is very common in Vietnamese cooking and is usually sauteed with shrimp but never in a scrambled egg.  I will definitely be making this again for lunch.  The Basque-style French toast with pineapple was a breakfast hit and will be on regular breakfast rotation.   

I’m looking forward to trying the scallops in its shells with jamon iberico fat, Basque fisherman’s stew, Chinatown-style periwinkles, squid in its ink, poached monkfish with garlic soup, seared croissant with honey butter and orange marmalade, and red wine poached cherries with creme fraiche flan.     

Some of my favorite parts of this cookbook are the suggested dinner menus, basic recipes, and how easy and straightforward the recipes are.  I was pleasantly surprised at the number of recipes with Asian influences in this book.  If you’re looking for a cookbook on classical Basque cuisine, you might want to browse through it before making a commitment.  I also own Basque Spanish Recipe from San Sebastian and Beyond and like both of these books for very different reasons.  The Basque Book is perfect for someone who loves Basque food but is adventurous enough to try these recipes with a modern take.        

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Giveaway: The Vegetable Butcher and Zwilling Pro Prep Knife

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Hi everyone! I'm excited to partner with chef Mangini to give away a copy of her just released book The Vegetable Butcher and a Zwilling pro prep knife to one lucky winner.  To enter, please leave a comment about a vegetable you find most challenging to prep or cook with. The winner will be selected at random and announced on Saturday, May 14th.  US residents only please.