Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ricotta & Spring Onion Tart with Green Garlic & Herbs

The market was bursting with produce this week:

The first new potatoes (dug Friday!), broccoli, beets, turnips, early tomatoes, Swiss chard, baby summer squash, lettuces & herbs, strawberries, asparagus, spring onions and green garlic. It is so exciting to see the trickle of local produce become a torrent almost overnight. I bought too much...but it will be fun to see if I can use it all up.

When I went to the market, I planned on getting extra spring onions because I had seen a tart at David Lebovitz's blog that I wanted to try. The tart is a variation on a leek and goat cheese tart in Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. His variation uses spring onions and ricotta, which really appeals to me because spring onions are one of my favorite things at the farmers' market. By and large unavailable in the stores (our local Whole Foods carries something they call Spring onions, but they are nothing like the ones from the farmers' market—they actually seem more similar to leeks), spring onions are young onions with the greens still attached. Available only in the spring, they are the "thinnings" pulled from the main onion plantings to give the main crop room to grow. As the season progresses, they get larger and eventually begin to form a little round bulb—if they were left in the ground, they would eventually be a large onion. They are not the same thing as a green onion (or scallion); green onions will never form a bulb—they are bred specifically to stay straight and thin, probably to mimic the look of spring onions.

The entire spring onion—white and green—is usable. Spring onions are tender and cook quickly.  During their short season, I frequently use them in place of regular onions (in pastas, risotto, vegetable ragoûts, etc.). Not surprisingly, their mild taste is particularly well-suited to the young vegetables of spring.

I also found some green garlic at the market:

So called because it still has a green shoot or leaves, green garlic is to garlic what the spring onion is to an onion. Similarly, it is mild and tender. When it is very young, the entire white portion is edible. As it matures, the moist sheath, which will eventually become the papery skin, gets tough and must be peeled away.

I thought it would make a perfect impromptu addition to my tart (and it did), but if you can't find it, I'm sure the tart will be pretty wonderful without it.

In fact, this tart is amenable to all kinds of variations. As I mentioned, Deborah Madison uses goat cheese and leeks. In addition to the ricotta and spring onions that David Lebovitz used in his, he added some finely diced Spanish Chorizo. I think it would be good with some pine nuts sprinkled over the surface. Vegetables could be added too—maybe some wilted greens or some sautéed zucchini or summer squash—but I enjoyed it with the vegetables on the side. It made a nice, light, meatless meal for a warm spring evening. It would make a great first course with a small salad for a dinner party.

Ricotta & Spring Onion Tart
with Green Garlic & Fresh Herbs

1 T. unsalted butter
1 T. olive oil
2 large bunches spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 8 oz.)
1 head green garlic (about 1 oz.), husks removed if tough and thinly sliced
2 t. minced fresh thyme, plus more for sprinkling over the finished tart
1 t. minced winter savory
6 oz. whole milk ricotta
1 large egg (see note)
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
salt and freshly-ground pepper
one blind-baked 9-inch Pâte Brisée tart shell (see below)

In a large sauté pan set over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic, along with a pinch of salt and cook until tender and cooked through, covering the pan if it seems dry. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh thyme and savory. Let cool to room temperature.

Crack the egg into a large bowl and whisk to break up. Whisk in the ricotta, mixing until smooth. Add the cream and milk. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Fold in the cooked onion and garlic.

Scrape the filling into the pre-baked tart shell set on a baking sheet. Bake in a 400° until just set. The tart should be slightly browned on top and beginning to get puffy around the edges, about 20-30 minutes. If the tart is set, but not golden, run the tart under a broiler to brown it a bit.

Sprinkle some fresh thyme leaves over the tart and let it cool briefly. Serve either warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: The egg that I used was from a carton of "large" farm fresh eggs. I find that local, farm fresh eggs are not always true to standard size. This particular egg weighed 69 grams—a "true" large egg weighs only 50 grams. If I were to make this with a "true" large egg, I would probably use 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk.

Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour (150 grams)
1/2 t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
3 to 4 T. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 2 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water, a bit at a time, if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out: Let the disk of dough warm up for a moment or two. Butter a 9- to 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan. On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8-inch thick—you should have a circle of dough that is about 12 inches in diameter. Brush off the excess flour and transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Ease the dough into the pan being careful not to stretch it. Cut the dough off flush with the edge of the pan by pressing gently. Chill the shell for at least 1/2 hour.

To blind bake: Line the pastry with aluminum foil or parchment paper, pressing it into the corners and edges. Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans. Bake in a 400° to 425° oven for 10 to 18 minutes. When the pastry begins to color on the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a light golden color. Let cool before filling.

Note: The tart dough may be made ahead and frozen—raw in disk form, or rolled out in the pan (raw or baked).


Blasé said...

You just can't go wrong with THAT combination!

Paige said...

Katrina (of Baking and Boys) asked me if green garlic was the same thing as a garlic scape. I had not heard of garlic scapes before, so I had to look it up.

Deborah Madison has a good discussion in Local Flavors (p76). They are not the same thing, but a garlic scape is part of the green garlic. There are basically two broad categories of garlic (at least that I am familiar with)--softneck and hardneck. I won't go into the differences between the two here, but a garlic scape is part of the green shoot of stiffneck (hardneck) garlic. Apparently it is used in stir fries.

I would be interested to hear from people who have used the scapes--how they have used them and what they are like. Thanks!!

Cristie said...

What a beautiful tart, and I learned so much in the post. Delicious!

Katrina said...

A GREAT blogger, Kevin, makes all kinds of great dishes, a lot of them foreign. His photography is fabulous. Last year and this year he's used garlic scapes a lot. (I also saw them used on Chopped, a FN cooking show.)
Check out Kevin's blog and google search "garlic scapes" on it.

Katrina said...

Just saw scapes at the market this morning!

I also keep thinking about ramps. Are they in the same garlic family, too? Closet Cooking has used those a lot as well. I've never seen those locally.

The Lawrence market is finally all abloom! I wanted everything there this morning! ;)

Paige said...

Hey Katrina, I will definitely check out "Closet Cooking".

Ramps are wild leeks. We used to get them at The American Restaurant. I think I may have seen some at Whole Foods this year too...