And I should probably warn you that we’re in greens season, at the moment, here at The Ordinary. In our CSA box we received kale, chard, spinach, and turnips with lovely perfect leaves. So there will be greens recipes! Every kind you can imagine! Fasten your seatbelts! I was inspired to make this dish because we’re growing chervil. Chervil is lovely. It’s pretty and delicate and fernlike and has a subtle anise/lemon flavor. As I understand it, chervil is one of the fines herbes, along with tarragon, chives and parsley. So I mixed these with some chickpeas, and some greens, and some artichokes and zucchini, and served it with pearl couscous and giant puffy flatbread, which I’ll tell you about after I get a few chores done. This isn’t the prettiest dish you’ve ever eaten, but what it lacks in visual flash, it more than makes up in wonderful flavor.
A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not–
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
-Thomas Edward Brown
I used to love this poem, when I was little. I know … it’s overblown, it’s stilted, it’s very Victorian, but I thought it was great. I learned recently that the poem spawned a word, “godwottery.” Godwattery refers to a) gardening in an elaborate and affected style, or, b) affected use of archaic language. I love that! I love the word, I love the idea, and the gentle teasing quality of the whole arrangement.
My parents gave me a small part of the yard to make a garden in. I used to plan it furiously. I had a little garden book. I drew pictures, I researched seeds. I visited the Cloisters in New York. I read overwrought victorian poetry about gardens. I was never quite as good at actually planting the garden, though, or weeding it, or taking care of it. I did make a nice little space, for a while. Where we live now, we have a tiny yard, and an even tinier space set aside for a garden. We grew tomatoes for a few years, but we’re giving the soil a break, and this year we’re planting herbs and small greens. I’m thrilled! I’ve always loved a tangled combination of greens and herbs in any food. Not carefully planned out, but all thrown wildly together, so you get a small taste of each, and it forms a beautiful, complicated whole. I love the way this works year round. In winter you have kale and spinach, winter savory and rosemary. In summer chard, more spinach, basil and thyme. In fall, small, bitter greens, sorrel and sage. In the spring – you have a big jumble of small spicy sassy plants. Chervil and tarragon, tiny beet greens, arugula, lovage, summer savory. (I was never the most organized farmer – this is more my bright idea about how things might fit togehter! The names are a pretty part of the plan!)
I love recipes that combine a wild mix of herbs and greens. Soup meagre, or small salads that combine a few herbs and greens. You can mix them with butter, or toss them with pasta or mashed potatoes. Or bake them into a tart! Which is what I did! I combined baby arugula, baby spinach, basil, summer savory, tarragon, chervil, parsley, bull’s blood beet leaves, lovage, and chives. Most of these things we’re growing; some I bought. It doesn’t matter! It all tastes good! You can use whatever you like – whatever you can find. The only other flavoring I used was a clove of roasted garlic. And the crust has some ground pecans – a nice nutty combination with the herbs. I think it turned out very nice – every bite has a new combination of flavors. It’s possible to distinguish one or two, now and again, or just to enjoy them as they come.
But I bought more castelvetrano olives, because I still have a big crush on them, and I bought some little nicoise olives, which are the cutest things you’ve ever seen! Small and perfect little purply-brown ovals. They’re firm and salty and meaty, and very easy to pit. I decided to add them to some quickly sautéed zucchini, with some garlic, summer savory and chervil, for a quick, light side dish. And I decided to fry some sliced almonds in butter to top it off, because they’re ridiculously tasty that way! (But you could toast them in a dry pan, if you’re vegan). Nice with an arugula salad, but it would be good tossed with pasta, as well!
I love books with cross-section drawings. Books that will show you the inner workings of an ancient Roman villa, or a castle, or a galleon. I used to pore over them for hours as a child. They seem to give such a clear idea of how people might have lived. I wish I had the skill and patience to draw pictures like that! We have a few of these books around the house, you know, ahem, for the kids. I like to read the one about castles. On one page, you can see the kitchen (fascinating) and then the next shows a glimpse through the kitchen window into the great hall where a feast is in progress. You just know they’re eating savory pies! And I like the book that shows a man-o-war. There’s a kitchen in that one, too, with it’s mealy-worm infested hard tack. Yum! Well, this morning, as I was perusing a cross-section drawing of a galleon, I learned that the shipwrights that built them didn’t have written plans. They used a method called rack-of-eye, in which they would have a mental image of how parts should fit together. My first thought was, “that doesn’t seem very safe!” And my second thought was, “that’s exactly how I cook!” Although, obviously, the consequences of fitting the parts together incorrectly are a lot less dire on a savory tart than on a galleon.
But I digress. As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I ventured into Whole Foods again. I entered in search of a few specific things. Didn’t find them. Came out with a few unexpected non-specific things. They didn’t have golden beets or king trumpet mushrooms, but…what was this? Unbound and unlabeled, nestled on a little mound of ice…RAMPS!! I’ve been searching for ramps! I’m a curmudgeon when it comes to trendy things, I always have been. I didn’t wear lavender docksiders in third grade! I resisted the temptation! Food trends are no different. But when it comes to delicious garlicky greens that have pretty white flowers and have to be foraged when the world is cool and that completely represent spring? I’m on board! I don’t care if they’re so 2011. And then I saw a bag of meyer lemons. I’ve never had meyer lemons! I never thought I’d be able to have meyer lemons in New Jersey. They’re so pretty and smell so sweet I want to inhale them!
Imagine my surprise when I looked at my receipt and saw that ramps cost $14 a pound. Ha ha!! Who knew!! Probably everybody but me! So I had to cook them immediately, and I had to make something delicious with them. And I might as well use meyer lemons, too, because they’re so pretty! And David suggested adding chervil, which is also so pretty and smells so good, and which we recently acquired. It’s waiting to get planted in the garden. Let’s hope it makes it before I eat up all the delicate little leaves. So I caramelized the bulbs with meyer lemon juice and a little white wine. I quickly sauteed the greens with chervil, and I made a pretty pattern with chervil on the top.
In the interest of keeping it ordinary, I should tell you that you could probably make this tart with leeks, parsley and ordinary lemons. In the interest of justifying my extravagant ramp purchase (and to speak the truth) ramps are mother-flippin delcious! Meyer lemons are also delicious! This was a very very nice tart. We ate it with tiny boiled potatoes, mixed with a little butter, salt, pepper, and summer savory (also hoping to make it into our garden before I eat it all). And a nice salad with arugula, tart dried cherries and hazelnuts.
Here’s Antsy Pants with Vampire. I was having trouble coming up with a song to go with ramps, but David, the genius, suggested this one. Here’s why it’s perfect. I read that ramps are strongly garlicky when eaten raw that children would eat them to get sent home from school, or to ward off vampires!!