I don’t have a recipe to share with you today. What have is a tale of two tarts.
This is the story of the tart I thought I was making and the tart I ended up with.
This entire misadventure was based on a very short window of time: the end of ramp season. Those of us nerds who pay attention to these sorts of things know that for a few short weeks in the spring in the Great Lakes to the Northeast and down Appalachia way, these wild leeks, garlicky and delicate, pop up in the woods near the streams, on the mountain sides, and under the beech trees.
I was surprised to find them still readily available and reasonably priced from more than one vendor at our neighborhood farmers’ market this past Saturday. In early April, Mr. Husband and I went down to his hometown in southwestern West Virginia and his Uncle Kenny took us for slightly off-road trip to see if we could find any in the wild. I I guess that means we … foraged? They foraged. I protected the water bottles and snacks from… no one in the middle of nowhere.
The ramps we (they) found were early and small and super pungent. They were tough to spot so we were lucky. Here’s my obligatory PSA: On the off chance you ever end up searching the woods for your own, remember that these little beauties are wild and rare. Harvest only a few, be gentle, and leave plenty behind to keep the patch healthy. I learned from one of the farmers that ramps only flower and seed every eight years, so they are pretty special.
If you’ve never had a ramp before or live out of their range, their flavor is a combination of onion and garlic and earth. They are at the same time sweet and strong, pungent, and soft. The bulb is assertive raw but mellows when cooked in olive oil or butter. The delicate leaves inflate and soften dramatically in a hot pan. Basically, they are a little bit of wild amazing.
Because I again lucked into ramps yesterday at the market, I thought I’d try one of the honorable mention recipes that didn’t make the first cut last month – this one from Saveur
Goat cheese, lemon zest, thyme, oyster mushrooms, and ramps tucked into a flaky, innocuous puff pastry … it sounded absolutely perfect for a light spring dinner. Brilliantly, instead of picking up the dough on the way home from the market, I thought – well hell, this day seems perfect for a project! Obviously, I thought it best to make my own tart crust. The dough adventure started with me having to make my own confectioner’s sugar (good news – it can be done!) and ended with the crust spending an absurdly long stay in the oven. It was dead before I filled it, but I was committed. I even have one of those neat tart pans where one can push the bottom up and voila – a perfect tart!
Or, in this case… voila! It’s stuck! But… it’s still pretty gorgeous, right? At least we have that.
Oh – also… these oyster mushrooms? Stunning. I have my friend Sarah to thank for these.
In the end, we scraped the super delicious filling off onto plates and ate while standing. It wasn’t the worst of times by any stretch… but maybe next time I’ll remember that massively overcomplicating something does not always improve it. And I might not end up hungry again at 10pm.