During a recent trip to Asheville, we indulged ourselves in all the food-centric activities we could. We ate fabulous food, checked out the local natural food stores, ogled the shelves in an Asian market, almost become residents of a few spice stores as well as an olive oil/balsamic store, and managed to fit in a trip to the Western North Carolina farm market. The market is unlike any we've ever visited. There are two parts: at the top of the hill are two buildings with all kinds of specialty foods. Down below, the open air market is actually a drive thru! We walked it, but the locals pull up with their pick up trucks and buy huge bags of peanuts, potatoes, apples, onions, and so on. We were intrigued by the boxes full of green leafy bundles. At first, we thought they were "starters" for onions. But they were ramps! I've read about them before, but this was my first time seeing them in person. We bought a bunch which the sales lady double bagged. She also gave us lots of warnings about the intensity of their flavor. Ramps are one of the "it" ingredients right now, with guest spots at the hottest restaurants. They are widely available in spring if you live in the right places, and quite affordable if you happen upon them in a farm market. Of course, one of our very first meals back at home was going to feature these ramps. After some reading at Wikipedia, I settled on pesto. To temper the garlic and onion, I added some spinach. The result tasted very "green", but in a good way.
Ramp and Spinach Pesto Pasta [Vegan]
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 1 bunch (2 ounces) ramps, cleaned and roots trimmed
- 1 packed cup spinach
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon savory miso (I prefer Red Pepper Miso, if available)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Fine sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Grind the cashews in a small food processor or mini blender.
- Add the ramps, spinach, lemon juice and miso.
- Process to a very thick paste.
- Drizzle in the olive oil and process into a concentrated sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, cook 12 ounces of pasta. Before draining the pasta, scoop out about a cup of pasta water. When adding the pesto to the pasta, add as much water as desired to create a sauce that will coat the pasta. We like this served with a smoked portobello mushroom and topped with some finely minced sun-dried tomatoes. The brightness of the tomatoes pairs perfectly with the earthy mushroom and flavor-packed pesto. If I had more patience, the smoked portobello and a bit of the pesto would have made a sensational ravioli filling! I guess that dish will have to wait until next spring!