Savory asparagus tart ushers in spring

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch
Fresh local asparagus combines with goat cheese and flaky puff pastry in this savory tart.

A tart is defined as an open pastry shell containing a filling. We’ve all seen those beautiful fruit tarts with a custard base that look almost like works of art. Tarts can also be topped with a savory filling.

A light and flaky pastry dough is the usual base for tarts. For mine, I decided to use puff pastry. Topped with local asparagus, it seemed like a great way to usher in the spring season.

This column is titled “From Scratch,” and it is my general principle when operating in the kitchen. The results are usually better and less expensive than the store-bought alternatives. However, I am not a trained pastry chef, and making my own puff pastry seemed like a daunting task.

In theory, making puff pastry seems simple enough. Combine flour, butter and water, then roll out into a dough. In practice, it involves multiple steps of rolling, folding and chilling to make those wonderful crisp, airy layers. It is an exacting process and requires a degree of patience that I lack.

Enter frozen puff pastry. Available in all supermarkets, it makes a convenient, acceptable substitute. If you can find it, I recommend the Dufour brand. It is pricey because it is made with butter. Mainstream brands like Pepperidge Farm still produce a light, fluffy crust but are made with oil.

Fresh, local asparagus works best for this savory tart. Imported asparagus tends to be woody and stringy, so it doesn’t do well cooking in the oven. If you don’t happen to find thin ones, thicker asparagus will work if you blanch them first.

I like the combination of tarragon and asparagus, but any fresh herbs, such as chives or basil, would be a good substitute.

Asparagus Tart

4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature

1 large egg, lightly beaten, at room temperature

1 large garlic clove, finely grated or minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature

1/2 pound thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed but still chilled

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash together the goat cheese, egg, garlic, tarragon, lemon zest, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Whisk in the yogurt and beat until smooth.

Cut the asparagus into 4-inch pieces and toss with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 13-by-11-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score a 1/2 -inch border around the edges of the pastry, being careful not to cut through the pastry. Spread the cheese mixture evenly inside the scored border. Line up the asparagus spears on top and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.