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savory tarts

asparagus bicycle tart

asparagus bicycle tart

Savory tarts are a beautiful and delicious way to show off seasonal vegetables. In the Patisserie windows of France, not only are there gorgeous glazed fruit and nut tarts, chocolate éclairs, and croissants to drool over, but perfect vegetable tarts as well. In the fall and winter, they are filled with leeks, potatoes, and squash and in the spring and summer, the fillings are tomatoes, zucchini, peas, and asparagus. This fabulous tart is one that I have been making for years every Easter and for just about every brunch I’ve ever done. It is a variation of a recipe originally from Barbara Fenzl, owner of Les Gourmettes Cooking School, here in Phoenix. Trust me, your guests will be very impressed and will not guess how foolproof it is and how quickly it goes together.

Asparagus Bicycle Tart

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 to 5 tablespoons of ice water
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 cup of half-and-half
3 whole eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 pound ham, cut into thin strips 2-inches long
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan

Crust: Combine the flour, salt, and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and mix in the food processor by using the pulse button, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the ice water and process just until the dough begins to come together. Gather the dough into a ball and shape into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a 10-inch tart pan. Trim off the excess dough. Prick lightly with a fork and place in the freezer while making the filling.

Filling: Cut the tips of the asparagus into 3 1/2-inch lengths. Using 2 1/2-inches of each of the remaining stalks, cut each into thin slices. Discard the remainder (the bottom end of the asparagus stalk is tough.) In a medium saucepan of boiling water, blanch the asparagus tips until just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water; drain well on paper towels. Repeat with the thin shallot and asparagus slices, keeping asparagus tips and slices separated the entire time. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the asparagus slices.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese with the egg yolk using an electric mixer. Gradually blend in the half and half; the texture will be slightly lumpy. Beat in the whole eggs, one at a time. Mix in the salt and pepper.

tart stages: initial filling, initial baking, second filling and topping

tart stages: initial filling, initial baking, and second filling/topping

Remove the crust from the freezer and evenly distribute the thin slices of shallot, asparagus stalk, and ham over the pastry. Pour only HALF of the custard mixture (about 1 1/4 cups) into the tart pan.Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven; reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees; and pour in the remaining custard. Arrange the asparagus tips around the tart like the spokes of a bike wheel. Sprinkle the reserved 1 tablespoon asparagus slices in the center of the spokes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Bake the tart on the bottom rack of the oven for 40 minutes. Let the tart rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 10 to 12

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1 kim { 09.15.09 at 10:03 PM }

GORGEOUS. Take me to France.

2 Connor { 09.16.09 at 8:36 AM }

The (green) sun’ll come up tomorrow bet your bottom dollar that……

Very pretty… artisticy…ish =)

3 Linda Hopkins { 09.16.09 at 12:51 PM }

Thank you Connor, coming from you – the artistcy-ish part – means a lot! xoxox

4 Marissa { 09.17.09 at 1:00 AM }

I’m gonna make this one too. I just need to get a tart pan.

5 Linda Hopkins { 09.17.09 at 10:25 AM }

I think I can help you with that 🙂

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