It’s Thursday, which means you are one day away from Memorial Day weekend! It always seems funny that one extra day can turn a weekend into a mini vacation. I love menu planning for Memorial Day weekend because so many delicious vegetables are starting to come back into season. Even though summer doesn’t officially start until the end of June, Memorial Day weekend always marks the beginning of a new season in my mind. Flowers are in bloom, people are wearing shorts and dresses, and the traffic to The Hamptons is once again a hellish nightmare. All of the joys of summer!
Some trouble that I always seem to get myself into over these long weekends, especially when I spend the weekend away, is over planning my kitchen activity. You want to make enough food that the fridge seems full, and you have options, but not too much that you’re eating potato salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner into the next work week. Aside from over producing, trying to make too much food will lead to too much time spent in the kitchen cooking. As much as you want to feed yourself, your family and any guests you might be hosting, becoming an anti-social kitchen shut will make you resent the food you’re trying to make. Keep it simple! If you plan you menu in the upcoming week, you can get your shopping done before the weekend, limiting your kitchen stress and allowing you to relax and actually enjoy yourself!
I like to buy ingredients that can be made into versatile items. One of my favorite vegetables that are available right now (but only for a short time) are ramps, the foraged cousin of the spring onion. Ramps are amazing. They are oniony, spicy, fresh and sweet all at the same time. I like to buy them in bulk at the farmers market and pickle them so I can use them all year long (in actuality they usually get devoured by the end of the summer). Ramps have beautiful green leaves, which, when pickled, get soggy and stringy. What I like to do is pickle the bottoms of the ramps and use the leaves to make a ramp pesto. Ramp pesto has a more complex taste than normal pesto because the ramps themselves hold so many flavors. This pesto can then be used as a dip, on sandwiches or burgers, in salad dressing, in a quiche, or as a marinade. Pickled ramps and ramp pesto are the perfect ingredients to use in any or all of your Memorial Day cooking and all summer weekends to come!
Ramp & Parsley Pesto
Makes ½ – 1 pint
– A pot
– A cutting board
– A food processor
– A large bowl
– 1 bunch ramp leaves, removed from ramp bulbs
– 1 cup parsley, cleaned and roughly chopped
– ¼ cup chopped walnuts
– ¼ cup shredded parmesan
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 2 tbs red wine vinegar
– salt and pepper to taste
Bring a medium sized pot of well salted water to a boil. Once boiling blanche ramp leaves and parsley for 10 seconds, then place them immediately into a bowl of ice water. The leaves should now be bright green. Blanching greens helps to preserve color and flavor. Do not skip this step.
Remove the parsley and ramp leaves from the ice water and dry them well. In your food blender combine the parsley, ramp leaves, walnuts, vinegar and half of the olive oil . Blend until well mixed. Add the parmesan and the rest of the oil and blend again. Season with salt and pepper. To store the pesto, place in a jar or Tupperware, covered with plastic wrap under the lid. Make sure the plastic wrap is touching the entire top surface of the pesto. This will prevent any discoloration that may occur.
– a jar with a lid* or Tupperware
– a medium sized pot
– 1 bunch ramps, leaves removed
– ½ cup white wine vinegar
– ½ cup water
– 2 tsp sugar
– ½ tsp salt
– 5 whole allspice
– 1 whole bayleaf
– 1 clove garlic
Place the ramps in the jar – make sure it’s very clean. *If you want to store your pickles over a longer period of time, you must sanitize your jar and then seal it after closing it with the lid. To sanitize you can run the jar through the dishwasher or boil it for 10 minutes in water on the stove. Add the garlic, allspice, bayleaf and garlic.
In the pot, heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt until it begins to simmer. Pour the pickling liquid over the ramps and cover with the lid. Let the jar cool before refrigeration. If you are using Tupperware or decide not to seal your jar, you must refrigerate your pickles. If you’re sealing you jar, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the jar in the water so it is completely submerged. Reduce the heat slightly. Remove the jar with tongs and a towel (CAREFULLY) after 5 minutes. Let the jar cool and after an hour, test to make sure that the lid is sealed (it should be very firm and not pop when pressed down on. If properly sealed, pickles can be stored in a cool, dry place for 6 months.