A savory ramp tart is one of our favorite dishes to make for an easy brunch or light lunch with friends. With a buttery, flaky crust and a custardy, cheesy filling, what’s not to like? This may just be the tastiest one we’ve ever made. The combination of tangy goat cheese with sweet, melted leeks is delicious on its own, but add in garlicky ramps and fresh thyme and this becomes a true Spring treat (though you could use spring onions or scallions if ramps are not available).
What are ramps?
Ramps are wild alliums, foraged from shaded, woody areas. They’re one of the first signs of spring, popping up just after the snow melts and sunlight begins to warm the soil. They’re also one of the first Hudson Valley vegetables to hit markets, showing up even before asparagus and green garlic. The flavor, a punchy combination of garlic, onion and leek, is singularly delicious. You can use them anywhere you would use scallions or spring onions. We love making ramp butter, and this year we made a few rounds of this ramp tart with leeks and goat cheese.
Unfortunately ramps are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging (or buying from a forager) is still the main way to find them. If you’re harvesting them yourself, the most sustainable way is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and the second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. The recipe below uses only the ramp leaves, which is what you’ll find available for purchase from sustainable vendors.
If you happen to have bulbs (some lucky folks have enough on their own property to pull some out), just chop them and add them to the leeks along with the leaves.
Keys to a buttery, flaky tart crust
To be honest, we don’t make our own crusts from scratch all that often. The convenience of ready-made pie crusts and store-bought puff pastry is often too great to resist, and we wouldn’t judge in the least if you went that route here. That being said, this crust is super easy. It requires no rolling out, and the whole thing gets whipped up in the food processor. It does need to be blind-baked, but that’s just time, not effort.
If there’s a trick to it, it’s to start with really cold butter. If your kitchen is warm, it’s a good idea to chill the food processor bowl and blade before you start. Adding the flour, butter salt and sugar to the bowl and chilling it all together is a good habit to get into. We also recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh the flour and butter. It’s much more precise than going by volume and will ensure that you have the proper ratio of fat to flour.
Once you have the ingredients in the food processor, simply pulse it a few times until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. A few larger chunks of butter is fine. Then add the ice water and pulse again until it’s incorporated. Squeeze a little bit of the dough between your fingers and if it clumps, it’s ready. If it crumbles and still feels powdery, add more water a half tablespoon at a time until it’s right. Then tip the crumbs into an 11-inch tart pan (any shape is fine!) with a removable bottom that you’ve lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
Lightly distribute the dough around with your fingers so you have enough to go up the sides. Then, use more pressure to press it firmly into the sides and bottom. If you’ve ever made a cookie crust, this is the exact same technique. Poke the bottom with a fork a few times, then chill it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. You can alternatively cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator overnight.
Heat the oven to 350ºF and set a rack in the middle slot. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the chilled tart on top. Place another sheet of foil, large enough so you have some overhang, over the crust. Gently press it to conform to the shape of the dough.
The best way to blind bake the crust
You could use pie weights or dried beans to blind bake the crust. However, we took our cue from Stella Parks (also known as BraveTart) over at Serious Eats, who recommends using sugar. Trust us, it’s genius.
Sugar is, by volume, heavier than beans. Their tiny granules conform to the pan more tightly, minimizing the risk of slumping, shrinking, or puffing. You’ll want to fill the (foil-lined) tart with sugar all the way to the rim and bake it until the dough turns light golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. You’ll need to lift up the foil a little to check, but just put it back down if it needs more time. When the crust is golden, transfer it to a cooling rack and allow the sugar to cool. Once the sugar has cooled to room temperature, you can transfer it to an airtight container. (Note: the sugar will turn slightly darker and take on a toasty flavor which is absolutely delicious).
Make the Ramp Tart Filling
Both leeks and ramps tend to be dirty, so make sure you wash them well. Roughly chop all but a few of the ramp leaves. (Set aside the whole leaves for decorating the top of the tart.) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high, add the leeks and season them with a good pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Cook them until they turn soft and begin to look translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the heat down if they start to brown. Add the chopped ramps and cook until they wilt, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer them to a plate and set them aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together the goat cheese, cream, lemon zest, thyme and eggs. Season with another good pinch of kosher salt and pepper and stir it together until it becomes mostly smooth. A few small lumps of cheese is fine. Make sure the goat cheese is room temperature or it will be hard to mix.
bake AND SERVE
Return the cooled tart crust to the baking sheet. Spread the sautéed leek and ramp mixture over the bottom of the tart and pour the custard mixture over it. Arrange the whole ramps on top of the custard. Bake until the center is just firm to the touch and the tart is lightly golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Transfer the tart to the cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. To un-mold the tart, place the tart on a bowl that’s a little smaller than the inside edge of the tart rim. Press gently on the metal rim so it slips down off the tart. Then place the tart on the countertop and run a long, flat spatula between the tart and base to separate them before transferring the tart to a serving plate.
Cut the tart into 8 pieces and serve it warm or at room temperature. It reheats beautifully in a low oven (250ºF until warm, about 10 to 15), so feel free to make it ahead and heat it up when your guests arrive.
Ramp, Leek and Goat Cheese Tart
- 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Food Processor (optional)
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (180g)
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons), cold and cut into small cubes (140g)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup ice water or more as necessary
- Cooking spray
For the tart:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium leeks (about 270g) white and light green parts thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 to 4 ounces ramp leaves (about 24 leaves) roughly chopped, save 6 or so leaves whole for decorating
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese chèvre, room temperature
- 2/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 large eggs
Make the crust:
- Heat the oven to 350ºF and set a rack in the middle slot. Spray an 11-inch tart pan lightly with cooking spray and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until crumbly, about 15 one-second pulses. (You can also add everything to a bowl and cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or fork). Add the water and continue to pulse until the dough sticks together when pinched between your fingers.
- Tip the dough into the pan and use fingers to press it evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough a few times. Place in the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes (or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight). Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Place another piece of foil over the chilled crust and fill it with pie weights, dry beans or even better, sugar. Bake until crust is light golden brown and baked through, 35-45 minutes. Let cool and remove the sugar (and the foil on top of the crust).
Make the Filling:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the leeks and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped ramps and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the goat cheese, cream, lemon zest, thyme and eggs. Season with salt and pepper and stir until mostly smooth. A few small lumps of cheese is fine.
- With the tart pan still on the rimmed baking sheet, spread the leek and ramp mixture over the bottom of the crust. Pour the custard mixture over the leeks. Arrange the whole ramps over the custard. Bake until the center is just firm to the touch and the tart is lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Transfer the tart to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes. Un-mold the tart and transfer to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.