It’s been wild, to say the least. I have been cooking my brains out for the last few weeks due to a new baby in the family (YAY!!!), a good friends’ hip replacement (also YAY that she is doing so well), and last but not least, my mother, otherwise known as Neeners, has been sick with the flu and related ailments and I have been trying to feed her back to health. Never fear – she is better now, but it was a trying three weeks. Neeners is 85 years old, strong as an ox, and is on the go all day. She has no sympathy for anyone who is injured or otherwise under the weather, and her usual admonishment to them is “Get up – you aren’t that sick/hurt”. Needless to say she was a horrible patient, and I’m guessing her doctor armed herself with a whip and a chair on each of Neener’s visits. Here is a small excerpt from one appointment while was on the road to recovery, but not progressing as quickly as she expected. Neeners walks into her doctors office…”PUT ME IN THE HOSPITAL!! NOW!!!” The doctor was stunned, because she was under the correct assumption that Neeners, being 85 and all, was just taking awhile to get back on her feet. So she asked, “Why do you think you need to be hospitalized?” Neeners replied “JUST LOOK AT ME!! I want you to admit me to the hospital immediately and give me an energy shot!!!” As my brother later reported, the doctor sent her home with Pepto Bismol and told her to drink some Ensure until her stomach settled down. And now she is nearly 100% recovered – but she is still driving me to drink, which is situation normal. This brings us back around to the topic at hand – here are a couple of tarts you can throw together in no time, and are just the thing for cocktail hour, or any other hour for that matter. Rich, cheesy, crisp, and satisfying. I expect to make a delivery of these to Neeners tomorrow in celebration of her return to the land of the living. One is Mushroom, the other Asparagus. Take your pick or make both – speaking from personal experience, they go down easy..
Just two main characters, fresh asparagus and crimini mushrooms. I use criminis, otherwise known as baby portabella mushrooms, because I think they are meatier than the white, button mushrooms. But the choice is up to you, so use whichever you like.
I sashayed out into the herb garden and found some chives, marjoram, thyme and oregano – sounded good to me, so all got chopped up and will go into the cheese mixture. Lemon zest is also suggested to add some fresh citrus notes. If you don’t have fresh herbs, no sweat. Use your favorite herb blend, or skip them all together if you want.
The herbs and lemon zest go into the creamy cheese mixture. This is a combination of whole milk ricotta (part-skim doesn’t really have that much less fat and can taste kind of grainy if you ask me, so I’d splurge if I were you), mascarpone, and grated Gruyere cheese. Gruyere is a nutty tasting Swiss cheese and compliments both mushrooms and asparagus well. Stir it all together and add salt – it will need at least half a teaspoon and maybe more. You know what that means….you’re going to have to taste it. Try not to eat all of it, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
Roll out your puff pastry after dusting your counter with flour – you can make a tart using a whole sheet, or cut a sheet in half lengthwise if you want a smaller one. Just make sure you prick the whole works with a fork to allow steam to escape. If you do not do this, your tart will rear up on one end and all of the topping will go sliding off to the other side. This I know from experience. I also like to fold up the edges to create a border/crust because I am a crust lover. It is not required however. This is a half-sheet, and I used about 1/2 cup of cheese. For a whole sheet, use 1 cup or a tad more. Or a lot more. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes. Seems weird, but both the half sheet and full sheet seem to be done at the 25 minute mark.
Here’s the asparagus on a full sheet. I sliced the edges diagonally on this one just to see what would happen, and it doesn’t puff up as much so I will return to the fork method next time.
….and there you have it.
May I pour you a glass of wine? Happy weekend everyone!!! xoxoxox
- 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 ½ pounds of medium to thick asparagus, washed with tough ends trimmed (if very thick, slice lengthwise in half), then tossed with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ½ tsp. salt
- About 1 pound of crimini mushrooms, sliced and sautéed until all liquid is evaporated from the pan
- 1, 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese
- 1, 16 ounce container of whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 1 teaspoon each fresh marjoram, oregano, an thyme, chopped fine (if you don’t have them, no sweat – just use about 1 tablespoon of your favorite dried herb blend
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat mat.
- You can do this a couple of different ways – either use a whole sheet of puff pastry or cut a piece in half lengthwise to make two smaller tarts. Dust your counter top with flour and roll out (to about 10x12 inches if using an entire sheet, or about 7x10 if using two halves).
- Place puff pastry in center of the sheet. Using a paring knife, make a shallow cut around the entire sheet of pastry about ½ inch from the edge, then fold over to create a crust/border. Using a fork, prick holes all over the entire pastry, including the border.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and gruyere cheese. Stir in herbs and lemon zest. Taste for seasoning and add ½ -1 tsp. salt. If using half sheets, spread about ½ cup of cheese mixture evenly over top of pasty, leaving about ½ inch border all around. If using an entire sheet, use about 1 cup of cheese mixture.
- For the Asparagus Tart: Arrange asparagus over top of cheese mixture in layout of your choice.
- For the Mushroom Tart: Sprinkle sautéed mushrooms over top of cheese mixture.
- Bake tarts for about 25 minutes, or until tart shell has darkened, cheese is bubbling, and asparagus is crisp-tender.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
- COOKS NOTES
- Amazingly enough, this tart is as good at room temperature as it is hot out of the oven.
- If you don’t eat a whole tart in one sitting (as if), you can re-crisp it by putting in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes until the bottom crust crisps up again.