Alistair looked at the tart with a raised eyebrow. That’s not the only thing we’re having for dinner, is it?
Actually we are also having grilled asparagus — and without missing a beat I passed the platter of charred green spears to him to take to the table. We both sighed deeply, an inner groan, dreading dinner in different ways.
He plunked himself down in his chair and looked intently at his brother. Leo, check out the weird green stuff mom is making us eat for dinner. I rolled my eyes and served them each a slice. The tart cut beautifully, the ramps just tender enough to yield to my knife. It looked gorgeous too, with that messy nonchalance that seems to be the thing in food photography. It also smelled pretty good. The whole house smelled great in fact, probably because of the bacon. And also, probably because of the bacon, both boys tried the tart. Those boys. First the ramp tart was deemed too green, and all of a sudden they’d cleaned their plates and were asking for seconds. This kind of moment is very gratifying for parents.
We got a big bag of ramps from the chef at Martin’s office. (Chefs seem to be de rigueur in larger tech offices – I know this must seem inconceivable to most working people. Don’t worry, it seems that way to me too.) We also got cauliflower rabe, leeks, and rhubarb.
Ramps are not something you see on the West coast very often although I’ve heard they’re trying to cultivate them here in Washington. They’re a kind of wild leek. They grow in the forest on the east coast like crazy at this time of year. Locals actually give them away because they’re so abundant; elsewhere they show up in posh restaurants up and down the coast. On the east coast these are a locavore, foraged delicacy; until recently in Washington, they were an exotic import. I was pretty excited to try to make them into something. It took me two days to think of exactly what I wanted to do…
I have to say, in a mere two days, those ramps kind of took over. I had read, and failed to heed, the warning that ramps need to be carefully wrapped in the refrigerator because of their aggressively leek-y smell. It’s more than that. There is an underlying funkiness that is hard to describe, intriguing but not entirely pleasant. I carried on with the tart anyway, dying to know what all the fuss was about.
The tart was actually kind of wonderful. Was it because of the ramps though?! Certainly they added a sort of earthy exoticism. On the other hand, doesn’t anything taste good with ricotta, shallots and nutmeg? Ramps are very lovely to look at and it is fun to try new and unfamiliar foods. Do I think you should make this tart if you can’t get your hands on any ramps? Absolutely. Use scallions (making very sure that they’re spanking fresh ones) if you can’t get ramps. You’ll still have an unusually pretty tart, reeking of spring (and bacon!)
- 1 3/4 cups ricotta
- 1 egg
- 5 slices of good bacon
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 3 cups fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
- a grating of fresh nutmeg
- 15 ramps
- sea salt and pepper
- 1 partially-baked tart crust – Use this tart pastry recipe replacing half the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. Allow the pastry to rest for an hour in the refrigerator before rolling it out and baking. See below for instructions.
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- In a large non-stick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until somewhat but not totally crisp. Set aside on paper towels. Pour out all but 1 tbsp of the drippings.
- In the leftover bacon fat, sauté the sliced shallot until softened. Place in the bowl of the food processor.
- Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel and add the wet spinach leaves. Set over medium heat until wilted. Add to the bowl of the food processor.
- Put the ramps in the skillet with a little water – maybe a 1/3 cup. Cook the ramps until they are a bit wilted. Drain and set aside.
- Add the ricotta, egg and a grating of nutmeg, a pinch of salt and several grindings of pepper to the food processor. Whirl until completely mixed and smooth.
- Cut or tear the bacon into bite sized pieces.
- Fill the the tart shell with the ricotta mixture. Scatter the bacon over top and arrange the ramps over the bacon.
- Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until puffed and golden at the edges.
Baking the Tart Pastry
I was kind of nervous about the pastry in the loose bottomed tart pan. Lining a regular pie plate is pretty easy but the ridged edge of the tart pan seems like it would be more difficult. I was wrong. See below. If I can do it, anyone can.
I was going to write about the Delicious Detox too, but it can wait until tomorrow. There was a very Delicious Setback on Day 1…