I would never consider myself a picky eater, but growing up I was not fond of asparagus and refused to eat it. I vaguely remember my mother boiling the life out of the tender spears... maybe that was the reason I couldn't stomach it. I'm crazy about asparagus now, however, due in part to these recipes.
And I have my fingers crossed that three times a charm. Having struggled for years to grow asparagus in my vegetable garden, I made my third (and final) attempt to plant last year. I'm now waiting to see if it pokes through the ground this spring.
This Lemony Ricotta Tart with Asparagus is perfect for a spring bunch. Invite some friends over to celebrate the end of winter! And consider doing what a restaurant in Prague does to welcome asparagus season. Plan each course around the vegetable. It's a meal my husband had several years ago when he was in Prague on business. His dessert? Asparagus sorbet.
• Pâte Brisée for 11-inch tart pan (recipe below)
• 1 pound asparagus
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 pound fresh ricotta (if necessary, drained of any liquid)
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• Grated zest of 1 small organic lemon
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Prebake tart shell following recipe below. Reduce oven temperature to 375˚F.
2. In a large sauté pan, gently boil asparagus until just tender, approximately 4 minutes. Drain and wrap asparagus in a dish towel. Set aside.
3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk by hand until mixture is smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and salt.
4. Trim asparagus to roughly 4 1/2-inches and arrange in a spoke pattern on the crust. Use leftover trimmings to fill spaces inbetween the spears. Pour the cheese mixture over the asparagus and transfer tart to the middle rack of preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tart is set. Remove from oven and allow to rest for several minutes. Unmold and serve warm or at room temperature.
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 8 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
• 4 tablespoons ice water
1. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until you have tiny pieces of butter about the size of peas throughout. Pour the ice water in slowly and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. You may need a bit more or a bit less ice water.
2. Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap and press into a disc. Wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
3. Roll dough thinly to fit into an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Wrap in plastic and place in your freezer while you are preheating the oven.
4. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. When the oven is hot, line the pastry shell with foil and fill with rice or dried beans to keep the pastry from puffing-up during baking. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and rice or beans and return the tart shell to the oven and continue to bake until golden brown. (Watch closely)
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