Food & Drink

Savor the savory side of early spring

Asparagus spears are laid out side by side in this tart made with goat cheese.
Asparagus spears are laid out side by side in this tart made with goat cheese. Tribune News Service

In typical early spring fashion, the weather waffles between cold and warm; wet and dry; and raw and pleasant, but the season’s savory flavors don’t.

It is a time of the year when vegetables awaken from their deep winter slumber fresh and tender, and burst with flavor and color. When they are morphed into savory tarts, salads, dressings and purees, they are simply irresistible.

For better or worse, asparagus is available year-round but the vegetable is at its best now. When buying them, remember slender spears are not necessarily better; they are only younger and so more tender. Fatter spears can be more succulent. Roasting the vegetable brings out its complexity — the sugar caramelizes and an ever so slight bitterness emerges. If you want to go the classic French route, poach asparagus and serve it cold.

Stylish and satisfying, there’s no mistaking that the asparagus spears, placed closely beside one another, are the stars of this tart. The recipe is adapted from “Cooking With Cheese” by Ryland, Peters & Small (Ryland, Peters & Small; 2016).

ASPARAGUS AND GOAT CHEESE TART

For pastry

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of sea salt flakes

2 to 3 tablespoons ice-cold water

For filling

7 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups goat cheese

1 medium white onion, diced

12 asparagus spears, ends removed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse mixture for 20-40 seconds, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add water slowly and mix until dough comes together. Don’t over mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Roll dough out as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Line 9-inch fluted tart pan with the pastry and prick base all over with a fork.

Place on baking sheet, line with greased parchment paper slightly larger than the pan and fill with baking beans.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking beans and parchment paper and return pastry to oven for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until it is pale golden and cooked through.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, heavy cream and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper, then gently mix in goat cheese and onion. Pour mixture into tart, distributing it evenly.

Lay asparagus spears in a single layer on top of filling, alternating heads and tails, and gently push them into the tart.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden and just set. Serve hot or cold.

Serves 8 to 10.

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