The first time I laid eyes on these colorful wild leeks was in Vermont in the late 1980s. I had just moved there and was getting acquainted with local farmers and discovering local foods. I must say it was love at first sight.
Since then ramps season can never come soon enough for me — and I make sure they are on the menu every week until they vanish.
Now that I live near New York, I have to make a weekly pilgrimage to the Union Square Greenmarket to find my precious ramps. Fortunately, as they become more popular more farmers are growing them. So this year several stalls at the Greenmarket are packed high with perky bunches of ramps.
Although they look dainty, ramps are in fact quite pungent, so a little goes a long way no matter what dish they end up in. My favorite way to cook ramps is to sauté them briefly in a little butter and olive oil until they wilt. Then I toss them with handmade ravioli, add them to soups or risottos, or serve them alongside poached eggs.
But today, my gorgeous bunch found its way into these unbearably light little tarts. The fresh goat cheese and lemon zest pair perfectly with the ramps’ slight garlic flavor to make these tarts an irresistible hors d’oeuvre or appetizer.
Mercifully, ramps season will be around for a couple more weeks. I’ll make sure to have my fill, until I can indulge again… next year.
You can find ramps at your local farmers’ market or online at Melissa’s Produce.
Goat Cheese Tarts with Ramps and Lemon Zest
makes 8 tarts or 4 servings
active time: 30 min
For the ramps
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons julienned lemon zest
- 1 bunch ramps (5 oz) (142gr) – root ends trimmed, stalks and leaves cut on the diagonal in 1/4” slices
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the tarts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted
- 6 sheets fillo dough (10” x 14”)
- 6 oz (170gr) fresh goat cheese – crumbled
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 large jellyroll pan
- Step 1: Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and olive oil. As soon as the butter is melted, add the lemon zest and sauté for 1 minute until the lemon zest starts to curl up but doesn’t brown. Add the ramps and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the ramps have released their moisture and the leaves begin to turn dark green. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, quickly toss and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
- Step 2: Brush jellyroll pan lightly with melted butter. Place one sheet of fillo on a work surface and brush lightly with melted butter. Top with another sheet of fillo. Brush the second sheet of fillo with melted butter and continue to stack and lightly butter each sheet until all 6 sheets have been used up. Cut the stacked fillo in 8 equal rectangles and place on the prepared jellyroll pan. Top each fillo rectangle with a little crumbled goat cheese. Top with the sautéed ramps and sprinkle with black pepper.
- Cook’s note: The tarts can be prepared to this point up to 12 hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
- Step 3: Pre-heat oven to 375°F (190ºC). Bake tarts for 18 to 20 minutes until edges are golden. Remove from oven and serve warm.
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To peel the lemon zest, use a vegetable hand peeler and make sure to peel the zest without any of the white pith, which is quite bitter. Then slice the zest crosswise in 1/16″ julienne slices.
Cut the ramps on the diagonal (stalks and leaves) in 1/4″ slices.
Fillo dough is quite delicate, so make sure your work surface is very dry, and work quickly. Place one sheet of fillo on a work surface and brush lightly with melted butter.
Top with another sheet of fillo. Brush the second sheet of fillo with melted butter and continue to stack and lightly butter each sheet until all 6 sheets have been used up.
Cut the stacked fillo in 8 equal rectangles and place on the prepared jellyroll pan. Top each fillo rectangle with a little crumbled goat cheese. Top with the sautéed ramps and sprinkle with black pepper.
Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.