Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Tart with Asparagus and Red Onions



April in the Bay Area can be tricky. Just in the past week alone, it has rained, fogged over, and shot up to 80 degrees (luckily, not all on the same day). Thus, when planning a wedding in Golden Gate Park, you must call in all of your favors from the gods in order to get an appropriately sun-drenched meadow surrounded by a bower of leafy, bright green trees and bushes. Lucky for my dear friend, the gods owed her some favors, and her little patch of grass practically glowed for her wedding.

Converging the top three things I love about spring weddings (good love, good friends, and good food), this San Francisco wedding ended with a reception at one of my favorite places in the world (as detailed here, here, and here, yes here, even here, and finally here), Greens Restaurant in the city.* There, the sunlight kept pouring into this beautiful room overlooking the Bay and affording a spectacular sunset view. Even more wonderful, the light seemed to follow my friend around the room, and I have many a picture where she, in her gorgeous art deco dress, is flooded in glamorous light. Like I said, the gods owed her some favors.

*I wasn't kidding when I say Greens (and its subsequent cookbooks) is one of my favorite places. Oh, love.


Dinner was rightfully spectacular, where executive chef Annie Somerville and staff served a choice of either a gorgeous butternut squash and sweet potato gratin with an ancho-fromage blanc custard or an equally appealing wild mushroom and caramelized onion tartlet. And my darling friend finalized the food portion of the evening with a proper competition, results of which most certainly determined who gets bragging rights for the rest of the marriage: Team Cake or Team Pie. (I admit, I betrayed my friend and went with Team Cake, but it's because I am so delightfully happy to welcome and support her new husband. Alright, alright, my motives were more base than that. The cakes were from Susie Cakes.  I am a sucker for Susie Cakes).



Anyway, I absolutely knew at the beginning of 2015, when it came time to cook from Field of Greens, Annie Somerville's cookbook, I wanted to do so in honor of love and weddings and spring and my dear friend, who inspires and surprises me in wonderful ways. I wanted to pay a little tribute to her. Thus, I present to you a simple tart, whose shell proudly is printed on page 215 of the cookbook from the restaurant she and her husband will always hold dear.


Somerville suggests many different fillings ranging from Southwestern Corn (corn with chiles, cilantro, and onion) to Eggplant and Roasted Garlic (which is filled with exactly what it sounds like). However, I chose the most spring filling of all: Asparagus and Red Onions. The tart dough itself is quite easy. You stir in, rather than knead or cut or fold, a dallop of soft butter, and after you let the whole dough rise for about three quarters of an hour, you simply press its sticky form into the bottom of a tart pan (preferably one with a removable bottom for easy presentation). Then, without prebaking the dough, you fill it with a vegetable goodies and a custard of eggs and half and half (I have it in my stars to try this with whole milk rather than half and half, just to see if I can make it a tad healthier. I'll keep you posted on how it goes...). Pop that in the oven. Serve with a salad. A simple but satisfying dinner is on the table.


The dough becomes this spongy light vessel for whatever you can imagine, whatever the season. From this bright, highly celebratory of spring filling to something autumnal and warm (maybe butternut squash and porcinis?), the tart dough almost beckons with possibility. The husband and I even have plans for a roasted red pepper, red onion, and goat cheese filling either later this week or early next.


In all, I am so happy for my friend and her husband. I am honored I got to share in their celebration of their love both for each other and for this beautiful city. With their kindness and conviction and with their humor and generosity, they are so well suited to one another and so deserving of every favor the gods bestow upon them.



One Year Ago: Ottolenghi's Semolina, Coconut and Marmalade Cake
Two Years Ago: Paparot--Spinach and Polenta Soup



(I had hoped to post this entry last week, but I misplaced my camera cord and had to wait to find it or for the replacement to arrive. Ah, well. I have been exceptionally under the weather, so any movement has been a challenge. Patience and waiting have become my forte.)

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Spring Tart with Asparagus and Red Onions


Adapted from Fields of Greens

Yield:
One 9-inch tart, serves 6

Ingredients:  
Yeasted Tart Dough
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (1/2 package)
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup warm (110 degree) water
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1 large egg, room temperature
3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter (room temperature, not melted)
Unbleached flour for shaping

Tart Filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 pound of asparagus, tough ends discarded, sliced into 1-inch lengths on a diagonal, about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil or Italian parsley
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
Zest of 1 orange, minced
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 scant cup

Instructions:
Yeasted Tart Dough
1.  Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water set in a warm place while you gather the other ingredients. Combine 1 cup flour, the salt, and lemon zest in a bowl and make a well. 


2.   Break the egg into the middle of the well; add the butter and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a soft, smooth dough. Dust it with flour and gather into a ball; set it in a clean bowl and cover with a kitchen towel in a warm place.

3.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. If you are not ready to use the dough at this time, knead it down and let it rise again.

4.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (simply spray it with cooking spray).

5.  Flatten the dough, place it in the center of the prepared pan and press it out to the edge using either your knuckles or the heel of your hand. Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If the dough shrinks back while you’re shaping it, cover with a towel and let it relax for 20 minutes before you finish pressing it out. (This is a wonderful method to get the dough into the pan with little muss; however, if you're finding this frustrating, you may also find it easier to roll the dough out with a rolling pin.)  The crust should be thin on the bottom and thicker at the sides, about 1/4 inch higher than the rim of the pan. It can be filled immediately or refrigerated until needed. (Do not pre-bake the dough.)

6.  While the dough is rising, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan; add onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.  Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft, 7-8 minutes.  Add the asparagus, another 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few more pinches of pepper, and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 7-8 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and toss them with the herbs (chervil or Italian parsley), and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool.

7.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the half-and-half, orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.  [I did this step just before shaping the dough into the tart pan, thus giving the oven enough time to heat up.]

8.  Sprinkle the cheese on the bottom of the dough (in the tart pan) and spread the asparagus and onions over it.  Pour the custard over the vegetables and cheese and bake for about 40 minutes, until the custard is golden and set.  Serve with a salad (Sommerville recommends one of romaine, oranges, and nicoise olives) for a light meal.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds lovely. Going to give this a go. thanks for sharing this recipe.


    Simon

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    Replies
    1. It really is lovely, and quite easy. Let me know how it turns out!

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