A few months ago we made a soup that tasted like the moment you wake up from camping. Viz…
Imagine, if you will, that you’re camping. You wake up in the morning and step out of your tent. Everything is damp and fragrant, and vividly glowing green. The ferns and grass and weeds are sweet and sharp, lemony and herbaceous. The smell of wet earth mingles with the smokiness of the embers from your fire of the night before.
Well, there was one thing missing from the occasion, and when we recently found bright beautiful fiddleheads at a local market, we knew we had to revisit the memory-of-camping. Let’s say this time it’s dusk. You’ve just been swimming in the river in the last warmth of the summer sun. You walk back along rapidly darkening trails, trampling ferns and weeds under foot, raising impossibly sweet scents that seem to surround you and cling to your wet skin. All around you the woods murmur with the secret life of busy summer bugs. A shivering breeze tugs at your damp clothes, so that when you reach your camp ground you’re glad to sit by a crackling fire that seems to smoke the changing light out of the damp earth.
We made that tart! It has a puree of roasted beets and garlic, mixed with all the spring (and summer) herbs we could find – thyme, rosemary, chervil, basil, summer savory. And smoked paprika warms the mixture. The fiddleheads are lightly boiled, and they add a lovely flavor and a little bit of texture to the tart. Delicious!!
2 cups beets chopped into 1/3-inch chunks. (this was half a huge beet, for me, but it would ordinarily probably be one regular-sized beet)
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, with a slice cut in each
1 t thyme
1 t rosemary
1 t basil
1 t chervil
1 t summer savory
(Less of each if you’re using dried!)
1 t smoked paprika
salt & pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or gruyere
1 cup fiddleheads
Roll the crust out, and press it into a tart pan. Preheat the oven to 425, and prebake the tart for about 15 minutes till it seems set and no longer shiny.
Soak the fiddleheads in a few changes of water. Then drop them in boiling salted water and boil till bright green – about 5 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and dry them on paper towels. You want them to be quite dry or they’ll make the tart mushy.
Spread the beets on a baking sheet with the olive oil and herbs. Put the garlic cloves, in their pierced skins, right on the baking sheet. Roast the beets for about 25 minutes, till they’re starting to darken and caramelize.
Let them cool for a minute, and then put them in the blender with the eggs, milk, paprika and goat’s cheese. Blend till quite smooth then stir in the cheddar, salt and plenty of black pepper.
Pour the custard into the tart shell. Lightly lay the fiddleheads on top, forming a pretty pattern. If you have fresh chervil or parsley, use the leaves to make even more of a pretty pattern.
Bake for about half an hour, till it’s puffed and starting to darken, and the crust is golden brown.