Asparagus at the Greenmarket
With all the hoopla about ramps, it’s hard to forget that we are also heading into prime asparagus season. When I was shopping for food last week at the Greenmarket, I saw row upon row of bundles of purple-tipped New Jersey asparagus all standing at attention as though they were ready to be marched into our kitchens. I plucked the heartiest bunch of the ones that I saw, paid for my purchase, and headed home with them, not quite sure how I’d prepare these springtime gems.
Ingredients for tart
I’ve been trying to eat my way through the things I’d stored in my freezer until I’d finished with culinary school, which is quite a bit of soup, stocks, bread, and meats. Rummaging around, I also found a batch of puff pastry I’d frozen. Then, there were still some of those ramps to be used up. They really do go a long way. For years, I’ve wanted to come up with a great asparagus tart recipe to have on hand. So, I decided to fiddle around with making an Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart, just to be able to use up everything.
Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart
The recipe is really very easy to make. First, you bake the pastry shell. Then, while it cools, you prepare the asparagus. Next, mix together the ingredients for the cheese. The final step is to put all the components together and then bake it one last time, basically to warm it all the way through. The tart is fragrant, gooey, and feels healthy with the bright green asparagus nestled on top. It would be a perfect side dish for dinner or maybe the centerpiece of a luncheon or tea party. Any way you decide to serve it, the asparagus and ramps won’t be around for long, so now is the time of year to make it.
Asparagus-Ramp-Goat Cheese Tart
Prep time: about 45 minutes (including baking time)
Serving size: makes one 12″ x 8″ tart, although you can make it larger if you like
1 sheet Puff Pastry
1 Egg, large
1/2 tsp. Water
4 oz. Goat Cheese (regular Chèvre is fine)
4 oz. Cream Cheese
4 Ramp leaves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg, ground
1 pinch White Pepper, ground
1 tsp. Butter, unsalted
1 Shallot, small, minced
4 Ramp bulbs, minced
7-8 Asparagus, ends peeled and trimmed
1 pinch salt
Adding strips to tart shell
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough very thinly to about a 12″ x 8″ rectangle. You can make this a bit larger if you like, but you’ll need to be careful not to stretch it when transferring it to the baking sheet and you need to have a bit extra dough with which to make the edges. Cut out strips of dough about 1/2″ wide and as long as the length of the tart. Add them on top of the long edges of the tart and press down to seal them.
Docking and applying egg wash to the dough
With a fork, gently poke holes in the base of the dough, avoiding the edges. This is called “docking” and will prevent the dough from rising too much during baking. Mix together the egg and water and with a brush, lightly apply the egg mixture (or egg wash) to the base of the dough and the sides, taking care not to spread too thick of a coating. You’ll have lots of egg wash leftover. Put the dough in the oven and let it bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Mixing together cheese layer
While the tart is baking, combine the ingredients for the cheese layer. Mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, ramp greens, salt, nutmeg, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Set aside until the tart has finished and is cool.
These asparagus were so fresh and tender, I didn’t really have to do much to them. I peeled off the tough outer layer and cut off the rough, stringy ends. To cook them, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the shallots and ramp bulbs and cook for about a minute, until they soften. Then, add the asparagus. Toss to coat the vegetables in the butter mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of water to the pan and cover it with a lid, letting the asparagus steam for a minute or two until the water has evaporated. Take care not to burn the asparagus or the shallots and ramps. Remove the lid and toss to coat the asparagus in the remaining liquid in the pan.
Baked tart shell
When the tart shell has finished baking, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. As you can see from the photo, mine did rise and the strip on the edge shrunk up. This is why I need to continue to work on my cooking skills. I still make these kinds of mistakes. Allow the tart to cool for about 5 minutes before working with it.
Spreading the cheese
Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture over the base of the tart. This will help to smooth out the bumpy bits that rose during baking.
Ready for the oven
Place the asparagus over the cheese in a neat row. The asparagus should be about the same length. Spread the cooked shallots and ramp bulbs over the middle of the asparagus. These will add a touch of sweetness to the herbal-savory cheese and grassy asparagus.
Place the tart in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the tart has heated through and the cheese is soft and slightly melty. The asparagus will still be a bit crisp. If you’d like your asparagus to be softer, add a touch more water to them when you cook them on the stovetop and let them steam in the pan for a few minutes more. Serve the tart out of the oven or at room temperature.