These simple tarts are super-easy, delicious, take nearly no time at all, and make you look like you’ve been to cooking school in France. Here we offer three choices, so make one, two or all three. Or combine everything on to one tart. Or make up your own toppings – it’s fun! The filling is chock full of the rich nuttiness of Gruyere cheese, the creaminess of ricotta, and the soft tang of mascarpone. Highlight with some fresh herbs & lemon zest and look out! Note: This recipe makes two large tarts, or four smaller ones. Feel free to get crazy with whatever toppings you can think of – after all, it’s your tart now.
I developed this recipe about three years ago in an attempt to feed my mom, Neeners, back to health after a bout with the flu. Neeners is a drama queen, and she had pronounced “My tastebuds are dead. I may never eat again”. Sure.
Neeners is 88 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 at the time, 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. She quickly recovered thereafter – but she is still driving me to drink, which is situation normal.
As I may have mentioned before, these tarts are seriously fun to make and will happily take on pretty much anything you want to put into and on them. I started with the ricotta, mascarpone, and Jarlsberg cheese combination, sashayed out into the herb garden and grabbed an handful of chives, oregano, and marjoram which were chopped up and tossed in, and then added some lemon zest to brighten it up a little bit. Easy peasy. The asparagus is just sliced down the middle and tossed with a little olive oil and salt, the onions are caramelized over medium high heat until good and brown, and the cherry tomatoes got sliced crosswise.
No need to feel intimidated by that puff pastry. It comes in two sheets per package in the freezer section of the supermarket. Thaw it out and either cut each sheet in half or use a whole sheet – entirely up to you. They need to be rolled out just a little bit, and then make a shallow 1/2 cut around the edges, fold it over, smoosh it up to crimp it, then go to town jabbing the whole works with a fork before adding the filling. This, I have learned from experience, is crucial. One time I forgot to do the fork thing, and the entire tart bucked up in the oven and spilled the vegetables overboard. This did not stop me from piling them back on and eating it anyway, but visually it left a lot to be desired. No need to feel like this needs to look perfect – we are going with the rustic approach with these. Sometimes if I have a little extra cheese of any sort laying around, I’ll sprinkle it over the crust for some added texture but up to you if you’d like to try it. A few assorted fresh herbs on top is also a nice touch if you happen to have any laying around.
Put together, baked and ready to serve. May I pour you a glass of wine? Our friends Shelly (otherwise known as Princess Baby Sheelina) and Dave, generously gave me their collection of Fiestaware. I have been having great fun using it in photos. Thanks you two!!
These guys are great for brunch, appetizers, or even for lunch or supper, speaking from experience. Hope you enjoy making this your own. Happy Spring, and thanks so much for reading today!! xoxoxo
- 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1, 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese
- 1, 16-ounce container of whole milk ricotta (NOTE: Be sure and look for ricotta that doesn’t have fillers, preservatives, or other strange ingredients you can’t understand the name of. The stuff with all of those additives usually tastes dry and gritty so it’s worth spending a little bit more on the good stuff)
- 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
- 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 one pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced cross-wise
- 2 large white or yellow onions, sliced about ¼ inch thick and sautéed over medium high heat until they start to soften, turn brown and caramelize. Hint: The less you fuss around with the onions, the better off you’ll be. If you let them sit in the hot pan for a few minutes without peeking and stirring them around, you’ll see that they start to brown pretty quickly.
- 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. At this point, I like to take my two index fingers and make a sort of scallop pattern around the tart by smooshing my fingers together. This seems to hold the crust down a little better, but don’t do it if you don’t feel like it.
- Using a fork, prick holes all over the entire pastry, including the border. NOTE: This is important. I forgot to do it once and ended up with my filling spilled all over the side of the tart because it puffed up so much it bucked everything off.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and Gruyere cheese. Stir in herbs and lemon zest and salt to taste. If using half sheets of pastry, 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 Cherry Tomato Tart: Same thing. Arrange the tomatoes however you like.
- For the Grilled Onion Tart: Drop spoonfuls of the grilled onion over the cheese mixture. You’ll probably have more than you can use, but I’m sure you can be creative in figuring out what to do with them.
- 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.
- Cook’s Notes:
- You will probably have a little bit of the cheese mixture left over. You can toss it with some pasta or rice, spread it on bread for a sandwich filling, or whatever else suits your fancy.
- 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.