Nothing signals the end of winter like the return of fresh produce, and asparagus is often one of the first spring vegetables to remind us of the warmer months to come. By pairing the tender stalks with freshly grated cheese and puff pastry in an easy asparagus tart, you’re just minutes away from an elegant and delicious main course or spring starter that works well on the Easter or Mother’s Day brunch table.
A few things about asparagus… Asparagus spears, like knitting needles, range from pencil thin to carrot thick. Try and choose a bunch that are uniform in size so they’ll cook evenly, and save the thicker stalks for heartier dishes. Asparagus has a “woody” stem that many try to thwart by peeling the stalks, but the effort isn’t necessary. Simply bend the stalk with gentle pressure near the bottom and allow it to snap where it wants to (usually about 2/3 down). You’ll be left with a perfectly tender stalk, and if it pains you to toss those stems, you can always puree and strain the stems for use in a spring soup.
This recipe for asparagus tart in various forms pops up a lot each spring, and with good reason, since it looks much more impressive than the amount of time and effort it takes to put together. By using frozen puff pastry, the hardest part of this recipe is grating the cheese and snapping the asparagus stems, so really, you’ve got no excuse!
While the recipe calls for Gruyere, a delicious hard cheese with a light flavor that’s distinct but not overpowering, you can substitute it with Fontina or swap out 1/3 of it with Parmesan. Feel free to experiment with cheeses to suit your taste. I also decided to add a teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest to the olive oil before brushing it onto the asparagus. I love the way the citrus complements the asparagus, and anything that wakes up my taste buds right now at the end of such a long winter is most welcome.
It’s especially nice that the tart can be eaten hot or at room temperature, making things just that much easier for a busy host or hostess. A large slice of this asparagus tart paired with a fresh salad or bowl of soup is enough for a meal, but it can also be cut into smaller squares that would be a lovely addition to a spring brunch spread or appetizer table.