It’s been an odd week. On Sunday, I woke up with a sore throat that petered out by Wednesday, but then flared into a brief fever. Since, I’ve nursed a persistent stomachache that I can’t seem to shake. I’m a kaleidoscope of maladies over here. I seldom get sick, and rarely do I get so sick that I can’t work. As a result, I’ve found myself with a surplus of down time to just sit and think.
My 10-year high school reunion was a couple weekends ago. I attended with a clutch of dear friends and when I really think about that, it astonishes me–I’ve counted these women as friends and confidantes for almost half a lifetime. And although we’ve been largely separated by time and distance, we remain closely bonded by those invisible threads of shared experience and deep affection. At this point, conversations rarely need prelude–we know each other on a level that I think only happens with time.
It was wonderful to be back on campus (even if our class was relegated to the freshman boys’ dorm), to see old classmates, and visit with old teachers. Walking around campus was a minefield of half forgotten memories–names and events I’d tucked away until I returned to the physical place, until we were all together. High school was not all sunshine and roses for me; I suspect this is true for most people, but I can’t deny it was sometimes very sweet, and certainly formative. Being back, it was easy to remember the good (sledding in the dead of night) and the bad (slipping on black ice on my way back from swim practice and flashing probably the whole indoor track team).
Both nights we stayed up too late and drank a little too much, but that’s what was required. I made us a strawberry tart, a fancier version of the dessert we used to buy for birthdays from the local A&P and eat with our hands in a huddle on the dorm room floor. We followed tradition and devoured it in the most uncivilized manner possible.
On Sunday, my friend and I walked down to the dorm where we served as prefects our senior year. I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was. A current dorm parent let us into our old room–the room that is still gargantuan in my memory. There’s a picture of us at seventeen, dressed up for halloween, in the common room. (I’d forgotten that the whole dorm dressed as characters from Peter Pan that year.) A photograph I took in class, developed (underexposed) in the darkroom still hangs in the hallway.
If you had told me then that, in ten years, I would be performing maid of honor duties for her October wedding, and she mine the following May, I would have had a million questions. What would I tell my eighteen year-old self? It’s been an eventful decade. I am grateful for the milestone, and for the opportunity to celebrate the start of important, buoying friendships in the best possible way, with strawberry tart and plenty of wine.
You can build these tartines on thick toast for a hearty lunch, or onto small crostini for a party. (In this case, chop up the egg, or skip it for ease.) A little aged ham would make a nice addition, too. Divided by four, this recipe makes a satisfying lunch with two, smallish tartines per person. Divided into six, it is a light lunch or generous snack or starter.
If making the mayonnaise is too much of a pain, use (good quality) store bought. To make it even simpler, stir a little harissa into the mayonnaise instead of bothering with the scallions. If you don’t have access to ramps, you can substitute a few cloves of garlic + spring onions. (Actually, any combination of alliums would be good here.) Pea shoots or snap peas would also make a happy addition to the vegetable saute, or another herb of your choice, like parsley. But the vegetables are flexible–use the spring vegetables you have on hand. If you have a real grill, and it’s running for the scallions already, feel free to grill the other vegetables too. In this case, keep the bok choy in tact, and then chop it after you take it off the heat.
The mayonnaise and the vegetables may be prepared a couple days ahead. The vegetables won’t look as photogenic, but I normally make extra vegetables–you might as well–which can be stored for several days and tossed into pasta, scattered across salads or pizza, or paired with eggs in any form. With the leftovers, we made more sandwiches: spicy chorizo sausages piled into toasted baguettes with the vegetables + harissa mayonnaise; they were delicious.
Serves 4-6. Mayonnaise yields 1 cup/195 grams.
- 4 scallions
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) canola oil, or another neutral oil + 1 teaspoon
- 1 egg yolk, fresh as possible and at room temperature
- 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- the juice of 1 small lemon (about 2.5 tablespoons)
- 1 small white onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 bunch ramps
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 head bok choy
- 1/3 cup (12 grams) ribboned basil
- 1/3 scant cup (14 grams) minced chives
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- kosher salt
- building the tartines:
- 4 eggs
- 1 small boule country bread
- olive oil (optional)
- sea salt
- make the mayonnaise:
- Rub the scallions with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Over medium-high heat, grill the scallions for about 5 minutes, or until they wilt some and develop char marks. (You can do this in a grill pan, if you don’t have access to a grill.) Set the scallions aside, and allow them to cool. Slice any whiskery bits off the scallion bottoms, and then chop the scallions almost into a paste. Set this aside.
- Add the egg yolk to a medium bowl and whisk for 30 seconds. Add the mustard, a few cracks of black pepper, the salt, and the lemon juice; mix to incorporate. Slooowly pour the remaining oil into the bowl in a very thin stream while constantly whipping with a fork or whisk. Add a little bit of the oil at a time, waiting until the oil has ‘disappeared’ before adding more. The whole process should take about 5 minutes, and will require a bit of muscle. (If you don’t want to do this by hand, it can also be done in a mixer.) When the mayonnaise is ready, it will have risen in the bowl and turned a paler yellow–you should be able to tip the bowl over without the mayonnaise falling out. Now stir in the charred scallion “paste” until it is well incorporated. Taste the mayonnaise, and adjust the salt and lemon juice as needed.
- Let the mayonnaise rest in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for at least one hour before you use it. (You can also make the mayonnaise up to 2 days ahead.)
- prepare and cook the vegetables:
- Prep the vegetables: cut the onion in half lengthwise, and thinly slice each half. Clean and then roughly chop the ramps; separate the bulbs from the greens. Make sure the asparagus is clean, and then roughly chop the bunch. Cut off the base of the baby bok choy, and then chiffonade the leaves. Take this time to also chiffonade the basil, and mince the chives. Now you are ready to cook.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the onion and the ramp bulbs to the pan, and cook until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Move the onion and ramp bulbs to a large bowl; add another 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and cook the asparagus, another 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus to the onion bowl, add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to the pan, and cook the baby bok choy and the ramp greens; 1 minute. Add all the cooked vegetables back to the pan, and stir in the basil, the chives, the lemon juice, and the kosher salt to taste (I added a scant 1/4 teaspoon). Keep the vegetables warm until you are ready to build the tartines.
- building the tartines:
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the eggs to the pot, turn off the heat, and put the lid on. Allow the eggs to rest in the pot for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. After that time, remove the eggs to an ice bath. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel and slice them.
- Cut the boule into thick slices. You can simply toast the pieces, or you can brush the bread with olive oil and grill it, for a slightly more decadent tartine. When the bread is toasted, swipe each slice generously with the cold mayonnaise. Pile on some of the warm vegetables, and then top each piece with slices of the hard cooked egg. Finish with a light sprinkling of sea salt.