Asparagus are everywhere right now, and I'm pretty sure they're at their peak. I saw them at three different farmers' markets this week (why I went to three different farmers' markets this week is another story entirely), and most every farmer had them wrapped in nice, tight bundles of 1/2-1 pound each. There are long, skinny ones and short, stubby ones. I'll happily eat them all.
If going to 3 farmers' markets in one week isn't absurd enough for you, I currently have about six pounds of asparagus in my fridge. Yes, I'm crazy. But the season isn't very long, and I need to get my fix while I can - not to mention put up a few pounds as pickles.
I have one little bundle of purple asparagus - beautiful, sturdy little things - from Smucker Farms. Smucker Farms is an Amish market at 14th and V. It's relatively new, and they're carrying beautiful produce, jarred goods, meat and dairy from local growers and producers. (No, I'm not counting them as one of the markets I visited last week. Yes, I know I'm nuts.) Their asparagus and strawberries looked especially good last week, so I brought home both, along with some chevre.
I couldn't wait on those purple asparagus - they found their way into my eggs the very next day. But this weekend, I did tuck into my massive collection of green asparagus to make this beautiful tart. To my taste, it's got the perfect ratio of vegetable to custard - just enough egg mixture to hold the vegetables together - and it tastes unmistakably of Spring. I think it'd be perfect on your Mothers' Day brunch table tomorrow.
The tart shell recipe I used for this tart is from Le Pain Quotidien. I found it on the back of one of those recipe cards they give you with your receipt, which I usually throw away but, this time, blessedly, didn't. I've tucked the recipe into my permanent rotation. A few things set it apart from others I've made: first, no blind-baking. The tart shell gets rolled, fitted, filled, and baked all in one fell swoop. Two, It's got cornstarch in it, which I think makes it extra crispy (the same way it crisps up these "waffles of insane greatness," from the queen of soul herself). Three, it can be made with or without a food processor. Four, it barely shrinks back at all when baked. Lastly, well, it tastes great.
And the filling? Not bad, not bad at all. I'm excited with how this came out; if you make it, do let me know if you like it as much as we did.
We won't be eating this tart tomorrow. We're having mother's day brunch, but my mom isn't such a quiche person, so I'll be making things that are more up her alley. It's the least I can do, for the woman who taught me to cook and to love cooking.
There's some really wonderful writing about Mothers' Day out there this year: don't miss this piece about a mother-daughter trip to a beach resort (and the accompanying write-up from the author's daughter offering some tips for traveling with mom. NYT also has a moving tribute from Timothy Egan on his relationship with his mother, not to be missed. Lastly, Kat Kinsman - managing editor for CNN's Eatocracy blog - wrote about her personal choices on parenting. It's a must-read, as much for parents and those with parenting aspirations as for those who don't want children. Don't miss it.
Happy Mothers' Day to all! Have a lovely weekend.
Asparagus and Scallion TartAdapted from Martha Stewart and Le Pain Quotidien
For the tart shell:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons butter, diced 1 egg, lightly beaten
Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter, and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of peas. Add the egg, and use a fork to combine. Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times (or more than a few times, if the egg is small and the dough is dry) to bring the dough together. Be patient; the flour takes a few minutes to absorb the egg, and once it does, the dough will more easily come together.
Sprinkle a bit more flour onto the work surface, and roll the dough into a 12-inch disk. Lay into a tart pan, press against the sides, trim off the excess, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the filling:
1 tablespoon butter 1 pound asparagus, rinsed, dried, and sliced thinly on the bias 2/3 cup scallions, sliced thinly on the bias 4 eggs 1 1/4 cups half-and-half salt and pepper 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 3 oz. goat cheese or fresh chevre 1/2 cup gruyere cheese 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.
Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat, and add scallions and asparagus. Toss to coat with the butter, season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of the pepper mill, and cook about 6 minutes, until asparagus are crisp-tender. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add gruyere cheese, and stir to combine.
Remove tart shell from the fridge and set on a baking sheet. Pour asparagus mixture into the tart shell, distributing evenly. Dot with goat cheese. Pour egg mixture over asparagus; mixture should nearly fill tart shell. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese overtop, and tuck into the oven for 50 minutes, until top is lightly golden and the center is just set. Cool about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.