Friday, April 6, 2012

In Praise of Asparagus

Asparagus is such a pretty vegetable, not to mention healthy - it contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as well as folate (heart health) and vitamin C.  Plus it's delicious!  Fresh local asparagus is one of the first signs of spring but you can also find it almost year-round in the grocery store.  Sometimes the spears are really thick (better for roasting) and sometimes they're really thin (better for stir fries) but for an asparagus tart you want spears that are medium-sized so they don't turn to mush during the baking period and are cooked to crisp-tenderness.

This tart is really easy and fast to assemble and would make a great brunch or lunch entree, a wonderful first course for a dinner party, or even a light vegetarian dinner with a salad.

Although my asparagus was beautiful, it wanted to curve for some reason.  I optimistically thought that I could talk it into straightening out by wrapping it tightly in paper towels and laying it flat in the refrigerator.  Right.  Anyway, I guess it's a matter of aesthetics whether you prefer your tart to have straight asparagus or curved asparagus.  Or maybe you won't have a choice, like me.  Either way, if you're a fan of asparagus you have to give this a try!

* * click here for a printable Asparagus Tart recipe * *

Asparagus Tart
Serves 4 (entrée) or 6 (first course)

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
1 ½ cups shredded cheese (gruyere and mozzarella mixed)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 lb asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll the puff pastry to a 10” by 12” rectangle and place on a baking sheet. Pierce the dough all over with a fork.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, then remove and let cool slightly. Brush the crust with mustard and sprinkle evenly with cheese, leaving a 1" edge on all sides.

Cut the woody ends off the asparagus. Tightly line the crust with asparagus spears, alternating ends and tips and cutting to fit where needed. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes until the crust is well-browned and the asparagus is tender. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into squares.

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