I returned from visiting with a friend in England about two weeks ago, where I had a lot of delicious foods. I didn’t take pictures of everything consumed because it’s not really something that they do there. I didn’t want to be the weirdo photographing everything before anyone can eat. I was also distracted by conversation and didn’t think to take a picture until well after everyone began eating. Though, I did take some pictures of the important things.
One morning, I had woken up before my friend did and decided to watch some TV. I ended up watching this (really horrible) show where five strangers are grouped together and they’re supposed to host dinner parties for each other – including a theme, food, and entertainment. Points are given by secret ballot and the person with the most points wins money. There was an older lady that was part of the group in the show that I was watching…And she was a pain the in ass vegetarian. The type who looks down her nose at meat eaters, preaches the awfulness of meat while everyone is attempting to eat their food, and generally held herself as if she were better than everyone else because she was vegetarian.
One of the contestants made a cheese and asparagus tart for her as a main course, since she couldn’t eat the roast that was made for everyone else. And since I saw that, it stuck in my head. When I returned home, it was the first thing that I had to make. While there are countless different recipes across the internet on how to make cheese and asparagus tart, this is the way that I made them. I originally wasn’t going to post this online, but a coworker who had a taste of these convinced me that I should.
Start with frozen puff pastry sheets. You could make your own puff pastry, but it seems like such a daunting task. I decided to save my jet lagged self some time and get the frozen stuff – which is just as good. Thaw the puff pastry sheets as directed on the box, then working on a lightly floured surface, divide each sheet into quarters.
Note: This recipe is for six tarts, so you’ll have two dough squares leftover. Place them in a plastic bag in the freezer for use another time, or use it to make a dessert.
Roll out each quarter into a rectangular shape – it’s okay if the edges aren’t perfect! These are “rustic”…Plus, you don’t want to waste any dough by trimming the edges to make them perfect. Once you have the dough rolled out, lightly score a border being careful not to fully cut through the dough. Pierce the middle with a fork multiple times – this will help the cheese mixture melt into it later.
Place the prepped squares onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the pastry shells are baking, it’s time to make the cheese mixture. Mix together mascarpone cheese, grated Gruyère cheese, lemon zest, fresh chives, and black pepper. Wash and dry your asparagus spears and trim to fit the tart. You can also use zucchini (courgette) – just pick a thinner or smaller one and slice it into thin rounds. I ended up using zucchini because I ran out of asparagus. Whoops!
Once the pastry is done baking, use a metal spoon to push down the middle of the tart, leaving the edges raised.
Add a quarter of a cup of the cheese mixture to each shell and spread evenly. The layer on the asparagus or zucchini/courgette, sprinkle with a very light pinch of salt and enough black pepper to taste. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. That’s it!
Cheese and Asparagus (or Zucchini/Courgette) Tarts
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed as directed
- 8oz mascarpone cheese, room tempurature
- 7oz (or approximately 2 cups) grated Gruyère cheese
- zest from 1 small lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Asparagus, washed and trimmed (save the stems for soup or stock/broth)
- Zucchini/Courgette, sliced into thin rounds (be sure to pick a small/thinner one)
- Optional: toasted almond slivers, arugula (wild rocket)
- Thaw frozen puff pastry sheets as directed on the packaging.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Cut each pastry sheet into quarters. Wrap and refreeze two squares.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out six squares into rectangular shapes, lightly scoring a border with a sharp knife and piercing the middle with a fork several times.
- Place the dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
- While the shells are baking, in a medium bowl mix together the mascarpone cheese, grated Gruyère cheese, lemon zest, chives, and black pepper.
- Wash the asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel, then trim them to fit in the middle of the tart shells. Save the stems to make a soup or stock/broth. If you’re using zucchini/courgette, wash and dry, then slice into thin rounds.
- Once the puff pastry has finished baking, remove from the oven and use the back of a metal spoon to press down the middle. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
- Add ¼ cup of the cheese mixture to each pastry shell and spread evenly with your fingers.
- Layer on the vegetables. Alternate the asparagus tips and stems when placing them in the shell – this helps you fit more of them in and makes it a pretty presentation too. Gather zucchini/courgette slices and fan them out very slightly in rows.
- Add a very light sprinkle of salt and black pepper to taste over the vegetables.
- Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before serving.
You can top the tarts with toasted almond slices, as it compliments the nuttiness of the Gruyère cheese and adds a nice texture to it. You can also serve it with some arugula (rocket) lightly dressed in lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.