There’s a line in the movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs where Uma Therman says something like, “It was a joke… but not funny “ha ha“…”.
That line popped into my head yesterday day.
I had carefully wrapped five beautiful pheasant eggs I’d collected from my dad’s pheasants (the boys are named Amadeus, Biff and Guiseppe; the two ladies are unnamed as of now for some reason). Nestled amongst paper towels in a fitted takeaway container, they sat in my purse while I collected Mitra, her blanket, my raincoat, a canvas bag of miscellaneous toys and booty I’d pilfered from the house, and my stuffed weekend bag. I was planning on daydreaming about what I’d pick up at Fairway back in Harlem to feature the tiny little gems during the hour-long drive home. Then, as I searched my bag for my car keys with my shoulders loaded with the rest, the container slipped from my bag and onto the cement driveway. The glass compartment was intact, but as I dropped everything else to inspect the contents… my heart broke. All but one of the eggs was a gooey mess.
It was sorta funny… but not funny “ha ha”.
The night before I had stayed up late to write my post on Living with Lyme: Staying in My Body. I was exhausted and words weren’t coming right, but I was content as I hit “save draft” until… my browser froze, or hiccuped, or coughed or something and poof… I called it a night and started from scratch the next day.
Slightly funny… but not funny “ha ha”.
The thing is, none of that really mattered. I collected my sad little mess of eggs, rinsed off the remaining darling, and kept going. I drove home in my clean car under a gray-blue sky with trees budding all around and my iPhone in my hand recording thoughts that became this blog post. Mitra lay content in her bed on the passenger seat, I had a chilled decaf Americano to sip on, and an hour to talk with Muffin.
Back in Manhattan, I decided to let Fairway source my inspiration. I usually have two options with my weekly grocery haul; buy affordable organics in Connecticut and rotate a limited stock of produce, or splurge a tad at Fairway and find something new and exciting. Today I found these…
If you live in a food-forward part of the country, you’re probably aware of the glory that is the ramp. Yes, so many menus are featuring them right now. But while I’d had my fair share of ramps in restaurants, I’d never cooked with them before. At $34.99 a pound, they’re not exactly something I’m going to indulge in every day. Not on my lovely little food writer’s budget, anyway. And yet… I needed something on which to properly page homage to that last little tough guy of an egg.
So into my cart went 8 ramps – about a quarter pound – as well as a package of maitake mushrooms. I love mushrooms. Growing up it was believed that they weren’t good for people with arthritic conditions, and anything considered containing a high mold content (fungal cheeses, root vegetable skins, mushrooms etc.) was off my diet. Then recent studies showed that not to be true of mushrooms, and their nutritional qualities are obviously abundant. So the past few years I’ve had a grand old time catching up.
A ramp and mushroom tartelette was to be the bed for baby egg.
Ramps are like delicious, sweet little leeks. I wouldn’t hold it against you at all if you just sauteed them up with some garlic and softened onions and served them alongside a good piece of fish. They’re so special they deserve simplicity of their own sometimes. But as I patched together what I had at home – some scallions and garlic (of course), some goat cheese, a fresh new bottle of good balsamic, my arsenal of flours, a variety of nuts – I figured I’d go for something a bit more. Cooking is all about play, right?
Ramp and Maitake Mushroom Tartelettes (Gluten Free)
Makes four little tarts
If you can get your hands on a tiny pheasant or quail egg, it makes this delightful little app even better. But don’t despair if you don’t…
- 1/4lb wild ramps (about 8 ramps), trimmed
- 1 package (3.5oz) maitake mushrooms, trimmed slightly so that they’re all around the same size
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp pistachio nuts, toasted until fragrant and crisp (walnuts would work great too, or whatever you have around)
- 1 Tbsp fresh herbs, such as savory, thyme or rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp goat cheese
- 1 tsp really good balsamic vinegar (optional)
- 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend (I used my premixed, but you could go nuts with 1/4 cup each millet, white rice and tapioca or arrowroot starch, and 1/8 tsp xanthan gum… quinoa flour would be great too
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
- 1 egg yolk from a large egg, white reserved
In a large skillet, toss together the mushrooms, shallots, garlic and olive oil. Season with a few turns of salt and pepper. Place skillet on medium heat and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until mushrooms have released their liquid. Turn heat up to medium/high, and cook for about another five minutes, or until they’re consistently soft but retain a touch of firmness. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl.
In the same skillet, toss ramps with whatever oil remains in the skillet, adding a touch more if needed. Cover and cook for about 8 minutes, or until ramps are slightly softened. Uncover, toss again, and cook on high until browned, tossing occasionally. Remove to cutting board and slice greens to about 1 inch and bulb in 1/2 inch pieces.
While they cool, preheat oven to 375°. Place four mini tart pans on a cookie sheet.
In a bowl whisk together flours, salt and pepper. Cut butter into small squares and slowly work it into the flour with your fingers. Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg yolk. Pull together with a fork until the ingredients start to pull into a dough, and finished off by kneading together into a dough. If needed, add a sprinkle of very cold water until it comes together comfortably. Divide into four pieces, and roll each out onto a lightly floured board, flipping and rotating dough after every roll – don’t stress too much about this rolling process, especially if making crust isn’t your thing. In fact, I heard that Pillsbury just came out with a refrigerated gluten-free dough, so if making your own feels like too much, try that and report back please and thank you! Press dough into tart pans, crimping edges.
In another bow, toss maitake mix and ramps together. Crumble goat cheese and toss lightly into mix. Add nuts and toss again. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. If desired, add balsamic and toss once more. Toss in herbs.
Divide filling amongst tart pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the edges of the tarts just slightly brown. If using eggs, very gently crack them right on top of tarts, in the center. Turn oven up to 475°, and bake another 5-7 minutes, or until the egg is set to your liking (I like my yolks soft).
Serve warm or at room temperature.