I am lucky enough to enjoy the bounty of several farmers markets in the city, and it is not lost of me that this all happens in the dead of winter for the rest of the country. My mom calls to complain to me about walking the dog in the snow, while I am about to head out the door in flip flops. Oh California, how I love thee.
On one of my weekend walks around town, my best friend and I stumbled upon the Fort Mason Farmers Market. Tucked away behind the great meadow right along the waterfront are stalls of the most stunning produce. I was overwhelmed by gorgeous spears of delicate asparagus, miniature strawberries that melt in your mouth, and the juiciest pink Cara Cara oranges. I stuffed my bags full of fresh produce and shared a Vietnamese coffee to help rocket fuel my way through the rest of the day.
I was heading to a picnic in the Presidio later that afternoon, so I decided to whip up a simple asparagus tart for the occasion. Puff pastry is the perfect base for a variety of sweet and savory dishes, so keeping some on hand for impromptu baking is always a good idea. You can also spend a few hours laminating dough for homemade puff pastry, but I prefer to take the easy way out and go with frozen. I’ll tackle the full version another day.
Now there are a million ways to dress up puff pastry, but taking whatever beautiful produce you can find at the farmers market and tossing with some olive oil, salt, & pepper is a pretty good route to start. Finish with whatever fresh herbs and cheese you have on hand (in my case, a nutty, earthy Pecorino Romano) and you have a perfect appetizer or side dish. I based my asparagus tart on a Martha Stewart recipe and just swapped out the Gruyere for Pecorino. Experiment with other delicious combinations: caramelized onion and Gruyere, sliced zucchini with ricotta and fresh basil, or balsamic tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. There are endless options and I doubt you’ll have trouble finding any taste testers.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or Gruyere, Parmesan, or other nutty, sharp cheese)
Preheat oven to 400° F and line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Crack an egg into a small bowl, whisk and set aside. Wash asparagus and trim by holding each stalk and bending the end until they snap. Asparagus know better than you where the tender part ends and the fibrous part begins. However, with these thin little guys, I found that even the trimmed ends were completely fine to munch on raw, or stir fried into some vegetables the next day.
Sprinkle some all purpose flour on your work surface and unfold the thawed sheet of puff pastry. flatten with your palms or a rolling pin. I cut my pastry into 4 squares because it was a bit dry on the edges and it just didn’t want to stay together, but you can also keep in one long sheet. Whatever you fancy. Take a sharp knife and gently score about 1/4 inch from the edge and use a fork to pierce inside of that rectangle to keep the inside of the tart from rising.
Move the tarts over to the lined sheet pans and brush with the egg. Sprinkle salt & pepper over the whole thing and grate Pecorino Romano cheese over the top. Lay out asparagus spears over the puff pastry, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and heat in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove when the puff pastry is golden brown and the asparagus is tender. Let cool before diving in.