A cold bottle of Riesling, a sunny afternoon and a few friends should be the three ingredients required for this tart, because that’s how I prefer to eat it. But before you open the wine, you’ll just need to pick up some asparagus, puff pastry and cheese. For this is the most accommodating of tarts. It requires very little to turn simple ingredients into a dish that looks like you trained in a French patisserie to make.
Store-bought puff pastry is always handy to have in the freezer. This recipe uses one sheet, so you’ll have another sheet ready to turn the last of a punnet of berries into a fancy-looking dessert or to sit atop a ramekin of leftover roast for a pub-style pie. Thaw your dough according to package directions, and once you’ve rolled it to the size you need, fold it gently in thirds like a letter in a long envelope. This makes it easy to transfer the dough from the bench to the baking sheet where you can then unfold it, sans stretch marks.
When choosing asparagus, select ones with medium to thick stems that are uniformly sized. This will ensure they cook evenly and you’ll avoid unsightly shriveled rows in your nicely arranged tart.
Gruyere is an excellent melting cheese and lends this tart a salty, nutty flavor that goes so beautifully with the buttery shell. Emmentaler or Fontina can be substituted if you can’t find any Gruyere.
This tart is of the low-fuss kind, requiring very little to become the pretty centerpiece of a long lunch or picnic. I included it in my Easter Sunday lunch this year and my vegetarian cousin, who enjoyed it on the day, has now put it into her weekly dinner rotation. I served it with a small bowl of hot pink beetroot sauerkraut, because I couldn’t resist the colour, but a simple side salad will do just as well.
Three-Ingredient Asparagus Tart
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
- 2 cups grated gruyere cheese
- 6-700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Flour for work surface
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F.
Roll out the puff pastry on your lightly floured work surface. Using a ruler as a guide, make a rectangle roughly 40cm x 25cm / 16 x 10 inches. Trim uneven edges.
Place the dough on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (the paper makes it easy to lift the tart when it’s done). Lightly score the dough with a sharp knife to form a 1-inch border around the edge of the dough. Pierce inside the markings to stop the base from puffing up too much. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
While the pastry shell is baking, grate your cheese and trim your asparagus to fit crosswise inside the shell.
Remove pastry from oven and sprinkle with Gruyere. Place the asparagus in a single layer over the Gruyere, alternating tips and ends to make it look beautiful. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, around 20-25 minutes.
(Recipe from Everyday Food, 2003)