Mozzarella, Roasted Red Pepper + Basil Sandwiches with Ramp Pepitas Pesto

“Spring drew on . . . and a greenness grew over those brown [garden] beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”  Charlotte Bronte,  Jane Eyre

I have lived in Massachusetts my whole life and every year I am surprised by how long it takes for spring to return. The winters here are hard and long. I constantly remind myself in the dead of winter that spring will come, it must. One day it does. One ordinary day I look up and I all see is green leaves and bursting flowers. I notice the sun is still up after I put my children to bed. I feel lighter and somehow stronger.

Our food cravings change as the seasons change. Bubba is no longer requesting chicken and white bean stew or pork ragu with fettuccine. For the past two weeks he has requested a mozzarella, roasted red pepper and basil sandwich. This is our go to meal on warm spring and summer nights when we need something simple and fresh. When tomatoes are in season I add them as well. Typically I make the sandwich with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar but I wanted to incorporate ramps after I read this recipe http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Seared-Salmon-with-Linguine-and-Ramp-Pesto in Bon Appetit.  This was my first time cooking with ramps. I went to our local Whole Foods and grabbed a bunch. They are so pretty and they scream spring!

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I adapted the recipe by using pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of Marcona almonds because my son has a nut allergy. Also, I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness.

Here is the recipe for the pesto and the sandwich assembly. This makes for a great lunch or dinner.

Ramp Pepitas Pesto

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Ramp Pesto

Ingredients:

 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided

2/3 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese

1/3 cup pepitas

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup ramp bulbs and stems to skillet and sauté just until soft but not brown, for about 5 minutes. (Reduce heat if necessary to prevent browning) Transfer sautéed ramps to food processor. Do not clean skillet. Add ramps, cheese, pepitas, and tarragon to processor and process until finely chopped. With machine still running, slowly add 1/2 cup oil and puree until almost smooth.
Transfer pesto to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

**Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.**

Mozzarella, Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Sandwich with Ramp Pepitas Pesto

PM3KH10020

Ingredients:

1 French Baguette

Fresh Mozzarella

Basil

Roasted Red Pepper (1 large red pepper or 1 large jar of store-bought roasted red peppers, drained)

Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Ramp Pepitas Pesto

Directions:

Roast a red pepper over the burner of a gas stove or a grill turning it constantly. You could also broil it on high for several minutes turning it every so often. Once the pepper is completely charred on the outside place it in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. This will make it easier to remove the skin. Once the pepper has cooled a bit, peel off the skin and dice the pepper. Place the diced pepper in a bowl with a bit of balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Set aside. (If you don’t want to roast a red pepper, buy a jar of roasted red pepper. Drain and add to sandwich.

Slice a fresh French baguette in half, spread a couple of tablespoons of pesto on the bread. Add several basil leaves and a few slices of mozzarella. Lastly, add roasted red peppers and season to taste with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

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