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!!
For the crust…One batch of paté brisée, with the zest of a meyer lemon grated into the flour, as well as a few grindings of black pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400. Line a tart pan (floured and buttered) with the dough. Poke with a fork in a few places. Pre-bake for about 10 or 15 minutes, till it firms up and loses that shiny look
For the ramps…
One largish bunch of ramps. About 3/4 pound. It cooks way down, but it’s so intensely flavorful that you won’t mind. Put them in a big bowl, and fill it with cool water. Swish them gently around. Drain, soak and swish again. Drain. This is how I cleaned them. I didn’t want to damage any of the leaves, and I’m lazy.
1 T olive oil
2 T white wine
juice of one meyer lemon
1 t. fresh chervil, plus more for garnish
Cut the very bottom of the ramps (the part with the rootsy tentacles). Cut the green leafy parts off, and set them aside. Take the white, bulbous part and the reddish stemy part, and chop them very finely.
Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the ramp bulbs and stems. Stir and fry for about 5 or 10 minutes, till they start to brown. Add a splash of white wine and the lemon juice, and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes, till the pan dries out again, and the ramps seem brown and sweet. Set them aside.
The pan probably now has a brown delicious film of rampyness on the bottom. Add another splash of white wine, and a tablespoon or two of water, scrape the bottom. You should have a shallow brothy mixture. Roughly chop the ramp greens and the chervil. Add them to the brothy pan. Cook until they’re wilted, and the pan is quite dry. If they’re too moist they’ll make everything soggy.
Set them aside.
For the custard
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/2-1 cup grated sharp cheddar
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and goat cheese. Small lumps of goat cheese are fine. Stir in the ramp greens and the cheddar.
Take your pre-baked tart shell. Scatter the caramelized ramp bulbs along the bottom. Pour the custard over top, and smooth it. Arrange five or six pieces of chervil in a pretty pattern.
Turn the oven up to 425. Bake the tart until it’s puffy and golden brown. Shall we say 1/2 hour?
Hooray for Mayer lemons, a favorite in this household, I make an annual batch of ML marmalade which is very delicate and wonderful. I have two trees. You should look online for a nursery that sells ’em, you could be picking your own within a couple or three years. Mine are both dwarfs, appox 6ft tall.
Hello, Tony! I thought of you when I saw them in the store. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get them here. I wonder if I plant the seeds from one of the lemons, if I could have an indoor tree. It wouldn’t survive outside around here.
Claire: Not sure about the seed idea, for some obscure reason many fruit trees don’t grow from seeds, check apples. Today almost all fruit trees are grown from cuttings and if you were to google Mayers I’m sure a nursery would turn up. If planted in a large tub it would grow to decent size and start producing fairly quickly, we have a regular routine of moving large planters indoors and out every winter, it works. If you already had an established citrus bush you could graft a mayer cutting onto it fairly easily.
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