When you see asparagus at the farmers’ markets, it’s a sure sign that spring has arrived.
This year, the “queen of spring produce” made a brief appearance at mid-February markets then disappeared with the extreme temperature fluctuations.
Never fear, asparagus reappeared this week! Whether steamed, roasted (my favorite~topped with chopped hard-boiled egg, toasted panko bread crumbs a drizzle of olive oil, s & p), grilled, raw or fried I make sure it finds a way into at least one dish a day at my house, I can’t seem to get enough! Pick up a bunch or two and add this versatile tart to your spring menu.
One of my go-to spring dishes is a spring vegetable tart. Made with store-bought puff pastry, spring’s queen vegetable reigns when surrounded by green garlic, spring onions, leeks, and cheese. The tart works as a delicious appetizer, brunch or light meal- perfect for entertaining. It is very adaptable – simply substitute another vegetable or cheese (mozzarella is lovely) if you can’t find the ones listed. And the components can be made ahead of time so you can assemble the tart and cook it just before serving.
How to choose asparagus
When shopping for asparagus look for bright-green smooth skin, not wrinkled, pitted or dry. Tips should be closed and tight. Spears should be firm not limp.
To store, cut off about a half-inch from the bottom and insert in a glass with sides that reach at least half way up so as not to topple over. Fill with water until the cut ends are submerged and place in refrigerator. Check water daily, making sure that the cut ends are in water, until ready to use.
Unfortunately, asparagus is short-lived at farmers’ markets, typically arriving in February and continuing through May in Marin markets.
What is green garlic?
The ultra-seasonal green garlic has something of a cult-like following. What started out as farmers thinning their rows of garlic to allow the bulbs to fully mature, has turned into a wildly popular and sought after ingredient. When very young, green garlic looks similar to green onions. As the weeks pass, it grows larger and begins to look like baby leeks eventually turning into heads of garlic. Green garlic is simply garlic that farmers thin to make room for other plantings to fully develop into bulbs that turn into the pale white dried forms most typically used everyday.
Another recipe using green garlic is my spring buttermilk coulis. It’s delicious drizzled over steam asparagus.
- 1 package of puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
- 1 bunch asparagus (depending on size of asparagus you may not use the whole bunch)
- 1-2 stalks green garlic*
- 1-2 baby leeks or 1 medium-size leek*
- 1 spring onion (white or red)
- *use the white and pale green part only-all are optional
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese-plus 1 tablespoon
- Olive oil
- salt & pepper
- Optional toppings: lemon zest, prosciutto, and/or eggs (I like poached or sunny-side up)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface roll out puff pastry into a rectangle approximately 10" X 14"
- Place the pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a knife, score the pastry within one inch of the edge being careful not to pierce all the way through.
- Using the tines of a fork, pierce the puff pastry randomly within the rectangle made with the knife, avoiding the edge. Bake for 15 minutes.
- While pastry is baking, trim asparagus ends so that they will fit horizontally within the inner rectangle.
- If using, thinly slice leeks, green garlic and spring onions. Wash to remove dirt and debris. Dry thoroughly.
- In a small bowl combine the 1 cup shredded gruyere and 1/2 cup grated parmesan.
- Remove pastry from oven, sprinkle with cheese. Starting at one end of the pastry, lay asparagus over cheese. If using, add slivers of leeks, green garlic and spring onions between the asparagus spears. Bruch vegetables lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until asparagus is tender about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon grated parmesan.