Asparagus and cheese tarts with fresh herbsPublished on May 29, 2020

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These savoury tarts are easy to prepare thanks to frozen puff pastry and an innovative method for cooking asparagus that preserves its colour and flavour. The tarts can be assembled ahead of time and baked right before serving, or you can bake them then serve a few hours later. Leftovers, once refrigerated, can also be reheated beautifully. I like to serve these with a lightly-dressed green salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (454 g) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 lb or 225 g), thawed but still cold
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons (15 – 45 mL) all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) each grated Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced shallot or red onion
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) cream or milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.7 mL) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) minced fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Finely grated lemon zest and minced chives, for serving

Method

  • Rinse asparagus spears in cool water. Snap off the woody ends at their natural breaking point. Lay the asparagus in a single layer in a heatproof dish (or in a clean, empty sink with the drain plug inserted). Leave a gap in the centre of the dish or sink so you have room to add boiling water without having to pour it directly onto any of the spears.
  • Pour a kettle full of boiling water into the gap between the asparagus spears, enough to cover them by at least a half-inch (1.25 cm). Let the asparagus sit and cook gently as the water cools.
  • While asparagus is cooking, preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Lightly flour both sides of the puff pastry then roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper (or on a lightly floured work surface) into a 12 x 15 inch (30 x 37.5 cm) rectangle. Cut into 9 smaller rectangles (each 4 x 5 inches or 10 x 12.5 cm).
  • Transfer the rectangles of pastry to a large parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 - 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.
  • After 5 - 10 minutes in the boiling water (depending upon the thickness of the stalks), test the asparagus for doneness by poking the tip of a sharp knife into a stem; it should be just tender. Remove the asparagus from the warm water and run it under very cold water to stop the cooking process. Place the spears on a clean towel and dry them gently then cut into 3 inch (7.5 cm) pieces. Slice the pieces lengthwise if the spears are thick.
  • Mix the cheeses, minced shallot, sour cream, egg yolks, cream, nutmeg, thyme, chives and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the pre-baked puff pastry rectangles, leaving a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) border on all sides.
  • Toss the cooked asparagus pieces with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the asparagus neatly on the tarts (crosswise is best) and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy and turning golden brown around the edges, about 11 - 14 minutes.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with grated lemon zest and additional minced chives.

Makes 9 small tarts.


Paula Roy

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