Asparagus is my favorite Spring vegetable. I absolutely love roasted asparagus! It’s an amazing plant as well. When you first plant it, you have to wait for 3-5 years to harvest many spears because it takes that long for its root system to get really strong. But it is a perennial plant, and can continue to produce spears for up to 30 years. Coolest of all is that it can grow up to 7 inches IN ONE DAY! That just seems like magic.
Our local asparagus hasn’t come in yet, or at least it hasn’t shown up at the Farmers Market. However, it is abundant and cheap in the grocery stores, so it is obviously growing profusely somewhere. I try to indulge when it is the US growing system, because I endeavor to avoid buying much produce that needs to shipped up from Chile during, say, the winter months.
So the centerpiece of this week’s Meatless Monday meal was a fresh asparagus tart. It’s a relatively easy dish, but looks and feels fancy.
The recipe I used has a crème fraîche and goat cheese base over a puff pastry crust, topped with fresh asparagus and shavings from a block of parmesan cheese. I just used frozen puff pastry; I have severe doubts about my ability to produce decent puff pastry of my own. I had never made crème fraîche before, but despite the fancy-sounding name, it’s super easy. You just add 3 tablespoons of buttermilk (which I had on hand after making buttermilk biscuits last week) to 2 cups of heavy cream (Farmers Market vendor Queen B Farm sells some from local Maple View Dairy). Pour it in a jar, cover the top with cheesecloth secured by a rubber band, and leave it out for 24 hours to thicken as it creates good bacteria. Then you replace the cheesecloth with the jar’s lid, put it in the refrigerator to cool for another 24 hours and voilà––you have crème fraîche!
After that, unfortunately, I ran into a little snag. I had bought some lovely local goat cheese from Paradox Farm at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market, but it was…missing. Turned out my son ate it as a snack. Sigh. These things happen with a college student still living at home during this coronavirus academic year. I substituted feta cheese, and that seemed to work. Besides, now I have an excuse to make it again and see what it tastes like with actual goat cheese.
So, thaw and roll out the puff pastry, mix 1 cup crème fraîche, 1 egg, cheese, and some spices and cover the puff pastry up to half an inch from the edge. Lay down the asparagus and shave some parmesan over it. Cook at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes and you have a luscious main dish.
I tried something new to accompany it––brussel sprout leaves. Jason from Parker Farms sells the leaves as well as the brussel sprouts, so I thought I would give them a try. If brussel sprout leaves are new to you too, here is what they look like:
So it looks pretty much like a typical green. However, there is a surprise hidden amongst the leaves:
Tiny little baby brussel sprouts, about the size of a pea. I pulled them off and threw them in with the leaves. The whole thing ended up tasting quite good.
So trust your local Farmers Market farmer. They know what they are doing….
It was a delicious dinner. This is the kind of meal that has even committed meat-eaters forgetting to miss the meat. If you are looking for a Spring vegetarian dish that looks like it takes a lot more work that it actually does, this asparagus tart is a winner!