I am so excited. My favorite part of the year is finally here, at least, the start of my favorite part. Because with spring comes the beginning of produce season. With spring comes rhubarb and berries, of course, tart in the early weeks, but sweetening as spring extends into summer. Then come the stone fruits, as well as other juicy things like melon. Everything seems to drip. And finally autumn. Deep flavored fruits like Italian prune plums, and figs, who's fresh form so outstrips its dried. They're accompanied and followed by things like quince and pomegranate and honey-flavored persimmon. I can't wait. But first, there's spring.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
And although I tend to romanticize fruits more than vegetables, nothing signals spring quite so well as the appearance of asparagus. I've already shown you how I roast them, my favorite simple way. But for a centerpiece dish, nothing beats a bready, custardy, eggy tart.
And the best part is that with this tart I have discovered the best, the tastiest, and the easiest tart dough ever, assuming you're not afraid of yeast (please don't be afraid of yeast). It's an adaptation of an Elizabeth David recipe via Annie Sommerville, so with that kind of lineage it's sure to be a winner. Imagine a buttery brioche puffing around a bed of asparagus and custard. And it doesn't even need to be rolled out. It's pressed right into the pan to await your toppings of choice. This is my new go-to tart dough, for sure. I hope you love it as much as we do.
Spring Tart with Asparagus and Red Onions
Barely adopted from Annie Sommerville's Fields of Greens
1 recipe yeasted tart dough
Olive oil for the pan
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, sliced on the bias in 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
Zest of 1 orange
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the asparagus and season again with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the asparagus is softened, about another 7 minutes.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool. Toss with the parsley. Season once more with salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the half-and-half, the orange zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt as well as a few pinches of pepper.
Sprinkle the cheese on the bottom of the prepared tart dough, which should already be in the tart pan. Spread the asparagus mixture on top, then pour the custard mixture over that. I had a bit of custard left over. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is set and the crust is slightly browned.
Yeasted Tart Dough (my new favorite)
It's important that your egg be at room temperature and your butter softened at room temp as well so that they easily incorporate into the dough.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup ap flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional but wonderful, that's about the zest of half a largish lemon)
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and let stand as you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Combine 1 cup flour, salt and lemon zest in a bowl, and whisk to incorporate. Make a well in the middle and add the egg and butter as well as the yeast.
With a wooden spoon, mix until you get a soft, stickyish dough. Dust with flour and transfer the dough to a clean bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size. You can either shape the dough at this point, or knead it down and give it an additional rise.
Prepare a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom by spraying it with cooking spray.
Knead the dough down again and place it in the center of your pan. Press the dough out to the edges of the pan. The dough should be thicker on the sides than in the center. If it snaps back as you try to spread it, just let it rest for a few moments before trying again. Fill, and enjoy.
* The dough can be made the day before and refrigerated after its last rise, before it's spread into the pan. Just bring it to room temperature before filling and baking.
* The orange zest in the custard was good, but I might go with lemon next time.
* I had a little custard left over, but just filled the tart as full as it would go and forgot the rest.
UPDATE: A reader pointed out that I had said the butter should be melted in my note. Sorry, it's supposed to be nice and soft at room temp. but not melted. I've corrected the recipe above.