Photo Credit: A. Kane
Long and spindly, they look almost like a green colored pencil, but the taste is so much more appetizing. As soon as asparagus hits the market, it seems like I am buying it at least once a week. Roasted, steamed, and raw it’s a good thing I like this vegetable prepared in a variety of different ways.
I had always thought that the size of an asparagus stalk connoted its age. Fat stalks—mature plant, thin stalks—they were the babies. Well, I was wrong. Size has very little to do with the age of the stalk, rather it has to do with the type of asparagus. One asparagus plant can send off both sizes of this vegetable. The plumper stalks come from the center of the plant.
What size you choose is a matter of preference, and what you will be using the vegetable for. I find that fat stalks are perfect for grilling—they don’t slip through the grate, and fall into the embers. Thin stalks are perfect for roasting. In a matter of minutes they adopt a nutty taste, and shrivel to perfection.
In this recipe, for an asparagus tart, I use the thin asparagus, to ensure that the vegetables are done cooking at the same time as the tart shell. Using store-bought puffed pastry dough, this recipe is quite impressive looking, but it couldn’t be simpler to make. Just a handful of ingredients, and minutes in the oven, and you will have a lovely and scrumptious tart. Sounds like a perfect springtime meal to me!
1 sheet puffed pastry, thawed and rolled out to 12-by-10 inches
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
20-24 stalks thin asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
½ cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the puffed pastry on a baking sheet. With a fork, poke surface several times, leaving a half-inch border around the puffed pastry. This docking is to ensure that the dough underneath asparagus stays flat while cooking, and a border of crust forms.
Spread mustard on docked portion of the dough. Lay asparagus in a single layer, widthwise on the dough. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush the beaten egg on the border around the asparagus to make the tart glossy and golden upon baking. Sprinkle with cheese.
Place in the oven and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until tart is golden brown, and asparagus is cooked. Serve warm, or room temperature.
Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog, nosheteria.com.