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Savory tarts: Filled with tastes of spring

Apr 3rd, 2013 | Category: Cooking

by Tina Hoban

This week, as I passed by our asparagus patch, I saw the little green tips of the asparagus plants pushing through the layers of hay that had kept them warm through the winter. Their emergence as our first crop of the year is a welcome sign of things to come, and after months of relying on roots and squash it is once again time to enjoy some green. There are many ways to use asparagus, but one of my favorites has always been to make an asparagus tart.

The Asaparagus-Leek Tart with Balsamic. PHOTO BY TINA HOBAN

In fact, tarts are one of my favorite things to make in the kitchen. I love the pretty, fluted edges of the pans and their many shapes and sizes. I love the buttery, flaky crust, which can cradle any number of sweet or savory fillings inside. When made with a savory filling, they make a great appetizer to serve to a group, or you can serve them with a salad for a light dinner. Any leftover slices are perfect for tucking into a lunchbox for enjoying the next day.

So if tarts are so versatile, why don’t more people make them? I think many people are intimidated by the thought of making a tart, although they shouldn’t be. A tart is really not much different than a pie, except that the ratio of crust to filling is altered a bit. Admittedly, the hardest part is making the crust, but even the crust is not all that difficult once you get the hang of it. And if you don’t mind cheating a bit, you can always buy premade pie dough.

But what about the pan, you might ask? Everyone owns a pie pan, but many do not own a tart pan. So, are they necessary? Nope. I am all for working with what you have, and a pie pan will work just fine, thank you. Although you should be aware that the filling might not reach up to the top of your pie crust, and that is o.k.

You can even skip the pan altogether and make what is called a gallette. For this type of tart, simply roll out you pie dough into a large circle and place it on a baking tray. Put you filling into the middle, leaving about two inches around the edges (this will not work with the ricotta filling). Fold the edges up over the filling, forming little pleats as you go, then bake as usual.

Savory Tart Dough

Makes 2  9-inch tart shells

Ingredients

2 sticks cold butter, cut into small cubes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 to 8 Tablespoons ice cold water

Directions

Toss the butter, flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using your finger tips (or a pastry cutter), work the butter into the flour until only very small bits of butter remain visible.

Stir in enough water to make the dough begin to clump together.  Gather the dough into a ball.  Dived in half and form 2 discs.  Wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into an 11 or 12 inch circle.  Roll the dough onto a rolling pin, then unroll it over your tart pan.  Gently fit the dough into the pan, trimming any edges which are hanging over. Refrigerate before using.

Mushroom and Herb Tart

1 9” tart pan, lined with Savory Tart Dough (or purchased pie dough)

Mushroom and herb tart. PHOTO BY TINA HOBAN

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons olive oil

12 oz. sliced mushrooms

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 Tablespoon chopped chives

4 oz. fresh chevre goat cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) on top of the chilled tart dough, and fill it inside with dried beans (or pie weights) to weigh the crust down as it bakes. Bake for 25 minutes. Take the tart shell out and carefully remove the parchment paper and beans.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms, and cook until they are browned slightly and soft.  Add the garlic and herbs, and cook for a minute more.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into the tart shell and crumble the goat cheese over the top.  Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

Asparagus-Leek Tart with Balsamic

1 9” tart pan, lined with Savory Tart Dough (or purchased pie dough)

Ingredients

1/2 a bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed

1 large leek, white part only

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup ricotta

1 egg

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 cup grated gruyere (or Swiss)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) on top of the chilled tart dough, and fill it inside with dried beans (or pie weights) to weigh the crust down as it bakes. Bake for 30 minutes. Take the tart shell out and carefully remove the parchment paper and beans.

Meanwhile, place the asparagus on a large rimmed baking sheet. Cut the leek lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips and place them on the baking sheet with the asparagus.  Drizzle both with the olive oil and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the leeks just begin to brown.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, milk, cheese and salt.  Pour the mixture into the baked tart shell and arrange the leeks and asparagus decoratively on top.  Bake the tart for 20 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Let the tart cool slightly before serving, and if desired, drizzle with a little aged balsamic vinegar.

Published in the April 2013 issue of Grow Northwest

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