Wild Garlic Pesto
A little while back, I attended my first proper Swiss wedding. They tend to be intimate but lively affairs. This one was mostly family and some friends, a grand total of perhaps 30 people and only one American, me. I pride myself on my intuition regarding languages. I can sit at a table listening to a conversation in a say Swiss-German and just tie together the couple of words I know to get the gist. Needless to say, this takes a lot of concentration.
My skills also tend to degenerate after a glass of wine and then miraculously improve after a couple. It turns out that the main course that night hit me squarely in the middle. As the gentleman to my left began to tell me all about the bärlauch risotto, I must have stopped paying attention for long enough to lose the plot entirely or perhaps my perceived talent as a universal linguist is vastly over blown. Either way, I stared at him blankly and replied “How delicious!” I learned later that he had been telling me about how one had to be careful in harvesting the wild garlic or ramps, as the foxes like to use them to clean their nether regions. Thankfully his English was just about as good as my Swiss.
Every year when all the chefs around town are humming about the appearance of wild garlic, my mind will often wonder to foxes. Even so, I do love it and its just one more affirmation that springtime is upon us. One of my favorite applications for the allium is pesto. Pesto, commonly made with basil, comes from the Italian word pestare meaning to crush. The basic construct is the same. Greens, nuts, oil and cheese. In this case I went with wild garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan. The flavor of the pesto will be quite strong, to mitigate this you can blanch the wild garlic before hand or allow it to mellow out in the fridge over the coming days. Basil too, appreciates a dip in some hot water, as it tends to darken when blended, this way it will keep its vibrant green color. Rocket/Arugula is a nice spicy alternative; also subbing in walnuts for pine nuts works a treat.
You will need 2 handfuls of greens, 1 handful of pine nuts, a healthy chunk of Parmesan, Olive Oil, and salt, perhaps a lemon.
- Blanch (briefly introduce them to boiling water) the greens or in this case, wild garlic, and wring out the water.
- Add to a food processor or blender or mortal and pestle if you’re feeling up to it
- Chuck in the pine nuts and grate as much parmesan as you see fit
- Give it a pulse or two to get it going then start to drizzle in a bit of olive oil, let it go full whack for a while before adding more oil
- Give it a taste; add salt, more oil, more cheese, lemon zest?
- The rest is up to you
Wild garlic isn’t only for pesto; you can use it in sauces or as an herb. I substituted it for the parsley in Sole Meunière and it was delicious. Gentle enough not to overpower the fish. And pesto isn’t just for pasta. Use it as a spread on toast; I happen to have given the 4-hour baguette recipe from Food 52 a try so was very happy to have a vehicle for my pesto or as a chimmichuri sauce for steaks, adding lemon here makes it especially nice. Needless to say, you will have thought you made way too much and will soon find it all gone.
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