Apparently this week has been National Vegetarian Week, and I kicked it off with a post about lamb meatballs. Huh… well, to make up for it, here’s a vegetarian dinner idea that is easy to put together and takes advantage of all that plentiful asparagus that’s popping up in markets everywhere.
An loyal subscriber to Bust magazine, I was thrilled to see that this month’s issue was dedicated to food and foodies. Inspired by a recipe in the blogger potluck article for asparagus pie, I wanted to achieve the same combination of flaky pastry, custard filling, and crisp, green asparagus, while somehow making it even easier to assemble. I settled on making a crostata instead of a full-on pie with lattice topping: this way, I only had to worry about folding in the sides of a single layer of crust so as to make a large tart and with a flat, open surface, I could take out a step of pre-cooking the asparagus since the vegetable could roast while the pastry bakes.
For the custard filling, I combined ricotta cheese with creme fraiche along with an egg for even more richness and lots of bright flavors from lemon zest, chives, and thyme. I spread the filling out on a large round of pate brise dough then carefully lined up the slender asparagus that I had tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I folded in the edges of the crust, set the whole thing in the oven and crossed my fingers. Twenty-five minutes later, I had a golden crust, a firmly set custard, and nutty, roasted asparagus. I sprinkled on some additional fresh chives before cutting them into wedges to serve.
Admittedly, the crostata itself wasn’t too pretty to look at, but look at the final product below– I loved how when cut into wedges, you had these little triangles that were pin-striped with bright green. Served with a lightly dressed pile of arugula for a salad and you have an easy, light, and satisfying meal.
Note: The pastry recipe to which I hyperlink creates enough crust for 1, double layer 9 inch pie. The remaining third can be wrapped tightly in plastic and tossed in your freezer to use in combination with other dough scraps for pie or quiche or you can roll it out flat, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then cut into strips and bake for a tasty snack.
- 2/3 of a recipe for pate brise (I use Joy of Cooking’s recipe.)
- 1 bunch slender asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1.5 teaspoons)
- salt and pepper
- 8 oz creme fraiche
- 10 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 egg yolk, mixed with a little water, or a little heavy cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the asparagus of tough, woody ends then toss with olive oil, garlic, and about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the creme fraiche, ricotta, egg, 1 tablespoon of chives, thyme, and lemon zest. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.
Roll out the pastry dough to about 16 inches in diameter. Place the dough on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet. Spread the ricotta and creme fraiche mixture on the dough, leaving about a 1-2 inch border. Carefully line the asparagus in a single line across the diameter of the dough, alternating whether the tips face up or down. Fold in the borders of the dough until the meet the edges of the custard filling. Brush the crust with the egg yolk and water mixture or some heavy cream (you can sprinkle with large flake salt, if you want.) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden, custard is set, and the asparagus is spotted brown and crispy at the edges. Cut into wedges and serve.
Garden Count: 2
Fresh chives and thyme