Preparing Ramps: The Raw, The Cooked, and the Recipe for Total Ramp Tart
Having recently worried around at the ethical questions attendant on promoting wild foods to all and sundry, I offer this post with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, Have Ramps Will Cook. We are lucky enough to have access to several large patches; the spirit of experiment springs eternal and besides, people have been asking.
On the other hand, providing recipes is – I hope! – an invitation to use those recipes, so there we are with the ethics again, along with another reservation,
namely that ramps are at their most delicious when most simply prepared. Recipes that play around with these fleetingly available wild pleasures may be very tasty, but they have an unfortunate tendency to reduce the star ingredient to a supporting player.
But then on the third hand (something I often wish I had in spring garden and foraging season), some ramp recipes have components that work with other ingredients too. The tart shell below, for example, can be used for all sorts of custard or mousse based pastries, so there’s a bit of redeeming social value that has nothing to do with the marquee vegetable.
Ways to Use Ramps
- In a green salad vinaigrette, made with two thirds to three fourths Romaine and the rest roughly chopped ramp leaves, with a modest number of chopped ramp bulbs for crunch and punch (they’re not as garlicky as they smell, but if they’re freshly harvested they’re not shy, either).
- Chopped and mixed with mayonnaise moistened sandwich fillings like tuna, chicken and hard boiled egg.
- To make Ramp Butter. Finely mince a few, using both bulbs and leaves, put the result on absorbent toweling and squeeze out any free liquid, then mix the greenery with an equal to slightly larger volume of softened salted butter. Chill tightly covered for up to 10 days or freeze. Use as a topping for grilled meat or fish, baked potatoes or winter squash, on steamed asparagus or as a finishing fillip for milk based chowders. Spread it on slices of toasted baguette to get a pretty upgrade on the usual garlic bread.
- On their own as a green vegetable. Cut them up, keeping bulbs and leaves separate. Cook quickly in butter or olive oil, giving the bulbs about a minute head start on the greens. Eat. Heat makes ramps even sweeter while making them less pungent. Plop a poached egg in the middle, it’s dinner.
- In mixed vegetable stir fries – add the chopped ramps after you turn off the heat.
- In Pasta with Asparagus and Herbed Ramp Hollandaise, Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes, or Endive Wraps with Chicken and Roast Vegetables, all available on this post (Where I promised a recipe for ramp-wrapped meatloaf without stopping to remember I never make meatloaf the same way twice, so it never showed up. The recipe is: make meatloaf – I’m pretty sure the one in the picture was mostly venison. Form it into a fat cylinder, wrap the cylinder in a double layer of ramp leaves and wrap the whole works in foil. Bake on a shallow pan, peeling back the foil for the last 15 minutes or so.)
Total Ramp Tart
Conveniently made without a tart pan (or pie plate). It was inspired by this Rustic Ramp Tart but differs in having a lot more ramp in proportion to egg, in being innocent of cheese, in being more like a main dish than a snack, and, I have to confess, in being a bit more of a production to make which of course I think is worth it. The finished tart is very good hot, but even better at room temperature.
Bonus aspect: Shaping the crust with a double raised edge produces a deeper shell than just rolling up the perimeter, but it’s still flat enough to pre-bake blind (unfilled) for maximum crispness, without the whole “ line with foil, fill with beans, etc.” routine. That means you can fill it with a modest amount of anything that needs a pre-baked shell from quiche mixtures to pastry-cream lined fresh fruit tarts. Just in time for strawberry season!
For an 8.5 inch tart, 4 main dish, 8 appetizer servings:
- Pastry for a one-crust pie (this one is fine if you don’t have a favorite)
- 1 beaten egg
- (a pizza stone, if available. It makes a crisper bottom crust but is not essential)
- approximately 2 dozen good-sized ramps
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup cream
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbl. butter
Make the crust:
- Place the pastry between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out a little thicker than you would for pie crust – 3/8 inch, if you were measuring which please don’t bother. Put the whole works on a flat sheet and refrigerate or freeze.
- Use a toothpick to trace around an 8.5 inch template (overturned plate, bottom of spring form, cake pan). Remove top sheet of waxed paper and cut the circle on the marked line. Cut another line about ½ inch in toward the center. Re-cover and return to the fridge.
- Remove top sheet of paper, pick up the ring of crust, put it on a flat pan and refrigerate. Set aside the ragged outer edge of pastry in case you need to make repairs, then replace the waxed paper and roll the circle out until it’s about 10.5 inches in diameter and probably no longer tidily circular. No problem. Back to the fridge.
- Remove top sheet of waxed paper and replace with baking parchment. Flip pastry and peel off other waxed paper. Brush outer 3 inches or so with the beaten egg, apply the chilled circle of dough, then roll the outer edge up over the ring, crimping as though for a conventional pie. Into the fridge once more while oven heats to 375 (with the stone on the middle shelf).
- Bake for 10 minutes, then check. If bottom of shell is rising, prick just the top layer with a sharp knife point to deflate. Continue baking until the shell is completely cooked, well browned all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. You may have to cover with foil near the end to keep the rim from over browning but this is less likely here than with blind-baked deep shells.
Make the filling:
- While the crust is baking, cut bulb ends from the ramps. Halve the long way, then slice across thinly. Set aside. Chop the tops coarsely. Set aside. Beat the leftover beaten egg with the yolk, cream and salt and set that aside.
- When the crust is almost done, just a couple of minutes away, melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chopped bulbs until translucent, about a minute, then add the chopped greens and keep cooking, stirring constantly, until they’ve wilted and darkened, about a minute more. Object is to reduce mass and drive off extra water without cooking any longer than absolutely necessary, and to have the ramps hot when they get put on the crust.
- Spread the greens on the crust and slowly pour in the egg mixture; it’s basically just enough to glue the greens to themselves and the crust and there should be room for all of it, but if not, stop before overflow. Return tart to the oven, lower heat to 350 and bake just long enough to set the egg, about 8 minutes. (Extra filling, if any, can safely be poured over the top after about 4 minutes.)
Serve warm or at room temperature, neither hot nor cold. And don’t try to reheat it in the microwave; extra liquid will be forced out, making the tart runny and soggy…As you can tell, I tried it.