Last Friday night, I was living my best life. I had 2 glasses of wine, 3 pieces of pizza, watched 4 episodes of Shameless and plucked 5 new beard hairs. I’m not sure when exactly I started sprouting facial hair, I think it was probably some time after 27. But at this rate, I’m going to be highly employable as an early 1800s sideshow attraction by the the time I hit 30 in August.
As I edge closer to the dawn of a new decade, I find myself thinking more about what I’m putting in my body. Don’t worry, this blog is not going to become a paleo/keto/raw/vegan treasure trove any time soon. That being said, I am trying to be more mindful of getting my daily dose of fruits and veggies. As Spring approaches, at least in name, the return of farmer’s markets and fresh produce will make it that much easier, and affordable, to celebrate nature’s bounty.
Asparagus is one of my seasonal favourites for Spring. I always take the opportunity to feature this vegetable in at least a few different forms. One of my perennial favourites is this Shrimp and Asparagus Pizza from i am a food blog – might sound weird, but trust me, it’s a winning combination.
This particular dish that I’m sharing today takes seasonal asparagus and builds on it with fresh herbs of tarragon and chives. Perfect for a meatless Monday main or Easter brunch, puff pastry and a generous topping of goat cheese and pecorino add a touch of decadence to this elegant option.
Unless you’re some kind of pastry ninja, you’re going to be using store-bought frozen puff pastry in this recipe. As you’ll be baking the pastry twice, keep a close eye on it to ensure it doesn’t get too dark the first time around. The timing I’ve provided herein are guidelines, keep your oven light on and don’t stray too far from the kitchen when you’re doing the first bake.
If you’re wondering where to find Pecorino cheese, I know some of the better-stocked grocery stores are carrying it or you can always find it at your local Italian deli, like Bottega Nicastro or fromagerie.
I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Pecorino when I was on a walking wine tour of Tuscany a few years ago. Pecorino is a family of hard Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. Under the Tuscan sun, there are seemingly endless variants – from peppered pecorino, to examples studded with delicate black truffles or walnuts. It’s definitely a cheese worth discovering if you haven’t had a chance to sample it and it makes a delightful topping to this tart.
I’m not sure eating more greens is going to curb my beard-growing habit, I’ll probably just have to keep my tweezers close at hand, but it might help me feel a bit better when I cave to the occasional indulgence of Pizza Hut and red wine.
With Spring arriving later this week, it's time to start thinking seasonally. This Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart is the perfect celebration of nature's bounty and is perfectly-suited to meatless Monday or Easter brunch.
- 1 pkg frozen pre-rolled puff pastry sheets thawed
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 lbs asparagus
- Kosher salt to taste
- 8 oz soft goat cheese
- 2 tbsp finely chopped chives
- 2 tsp finely chopped tarragon
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup finely grated pecorino
- Finely chopped chives for garnish
1 Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 Unroll both sheets of puff pastry. Arrange on parchment with 1 end of 1 sheet overlapping the other by about ½ inch. Brush edges with beaten egg and seal well.
3 Brush a ½-inch border of beaten egg all around the rectangle of pastry. Fold in edges by ½ inch and brush folded border with beaten egg. Prick pastry all over with a fork, avoiding border.
4 Bake until pastry is starting to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until golden and crisp, about 6 minutes.
5 Remove pastry from oven and slide pastry, along with parchment, onto a wire rack. Gently press down on pastry with back of a spoon to flatten. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
6 Trim asparagus by snapping off ends of stalks where they break naturally. Discard ends. Trim stalks so all are 4 inches long (reserve cut bits for soups or stir‑fries).
7 In a large skillet of boiling salted water, blanch asparagus for 2 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Spread asparagus out in a single layer between 2 clean tea towels. Pat dry.
8 Increase oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, with a fork mix together goat cheese, chives, tarragon and pepper to taste.
9 Slide pastry, along with parchment, back onto baking sheet. Crumble goat cheese mixture evenly over pastry, avoiding border. Arrange asparagus in 2 even rows on top of goat cheese. Brush asparagus with oil, then sprinkle evenly with pecorino.
10 Bake until cheeses have melted and edges of pastry are deep golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes, then slide onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with chives. Use a pizza cutter to cut into slices or squares.
Recipe adapted from: Aitken, Julia. "Asparagus and Tarragon-Goat Cheese Tart." Food & Drink. Spring 2017.