Spring is here and so are the asparagus! Though we really didn’t experience much in the way of winter this year in SF, I still can’t help but be happy it’s spring. The other night we had the most heavenly asparagus at our friends’ house. Among their many talents, Russ and Kelly have an impressive green thumb. They have a garden plot near their place in Potrero Hill and we were lucky enough to sample some of their freshly harvested asparagus. Sweet Demeter, it was the best asparagus of my life, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some more.
So on Sunday before Jordan headed out for work, we went down the Civic Center Farmers Market and picked up two beautiful bunches of asparagus. While these weren’t quite the caliber of Russ and Kelly’s, I was still pretty pleased. Hurray for spring! Hurray for asparagus!
I decided to turn one of the bunches into a simple tart. The inspiration was from an old issue of Sunset magazine—a phyllo and tomato ‘pizza’ that I used to make at my mom’s house in the summers, but hadn’t made in years. I had some phyllo sitting in the freezer from another so-so experiment, and so this was a snap to throw together. It takes about 10 minutes to assemble, about 20 bake and then you’ve got a beautiful tart to show for your efforts. For a crust that is almost no work, this one is deliciously flaky and satisfying. And, bonus fun fact, phyllo dough is vegan … until you slather it in butter. Easy, fresh and delicious!
Asparagus Tart with Creme Fraiche
1 bunch asparagus (if you can snag ones that are the thickness of a pencil, that would be perfect)
8 sheets of phyllo dough (defrosted either on the counter for a few hours on in the fridge overnight)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup creme fraiche
parmesan, for shaving on top
a few lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat your oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and pat your asparagus dry.
In a small dish, melt the butter. Spread one sheet of phyllo dough on the baking sheet. Brush the entire sheet lightly with butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo. Continue brushing with butter and layering with the rest of the sheets.
Once you’ve stacked the phyllo, spread an even layer of creme fraiche in the middle of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2″ border along the sides. Arrange the asparagus evenly in a row. Fold the phyllo dough up around the asparagus and brush the border with the remaining butter. Sprinkle the asparagus with a little bit of salt.
Bake the tart for 20 – 25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and top with some black pepper and shaved parmesan. Add a squeeze of lemon if you’re feeling feisty.
Ps. This op-ed about food and health by Mark Bittman from this week’s New York Times is fantastic. Butter is back, and all I can say is 1000 times YES.