Thursday, June 9, 2011

Asparagus & mushroom tarts

News flash: as of today, Matt and I are getting married in exactly 6 months and one day!!!  Exciting, right?! It seems like just yesterday that he had the crazy notion of spending the rest of his life with me and proposed. I couldn't be happier!!

Though we've only officially been engaged six months or so, we've been dating for over four years.  In that time, we've learned so much about each other and still discover new things every day.  Thankfully, one thing I committed to memory right away was how to smooth things over and get what I want. :)

(You thought this was going somewhere sweet, didn't you?)

But really, relationships are all about knowing how to compromise.  It's about giving a little so each party can be happy.  It's also about knowing your darling's weak spots or, as I like to call them, victory buttons.  For example, Matt knows that if I'm being stubborn regarding something or he'd like to ask a big favor of me, all he has to mention is a little trip to Razzy Fresh or Oakmont Bakery (for the butter stars... mm!), and I'm putty in his hands.  P-u-t-t-y.  It's a bit shameful (though not surprising), really.

Likewise, if I need an opinion regarding fonts for our wedding invitations or a ride to the mall to return something, there is a short list of weapons that'll ensure the job gets done.  Matt has few victory buttons (at least that I've unearthed so far) and they're all edible.  (Aren't we just perfect for one another?!)  His number one is hot dogs.  He's like a shark -- put a hot dog within 500 yards of his smeller and he'll locate it within minutes.  Since hot dogs don't exactly turn heads when it comes to culinary masterpieces, I had to settle for his #3 and #4 victory buttons: asparagus and mushrooms.  (In case you're wondering, #2 is cherry pie, but last season's supply is gone and we're waiting on this year's.)

This spring I made a promise to myself to eat more seasonal ingredients, and asparagus was at the top of that list.  It was never a favorite vegetable of mine, but I'm quickly discovering that it's pretty darn delicious if prepared correctly.  No bland steamed spears here.  I'm talking mixing asparagus with sauteed mushrooms, nutty Gruyere cheese, smooth tangy sour cream, and fresh lemon zest. In the words of one of my heroes, Ina Garten, "How could that be bad?"

The short answer is, "It can't!"  The long answer is that it's absolutely amazing what a few standard ingredients can become with a little love and attention.  Without sounding like some tree-hugging hippie, this dish is so earthy yet upscale at the same time -- still-slightly-snappy asparagus and tender mushrooms atop a fluffy delicate square of puff pastry.  The touch of lemon is a just enough to make you go "Hm..." without overpowering the melted Gruyere or vegetables.  All together, it's sheer bliss!!

So, I bet you're curious whether I used the powers of asparagus and mushrooms for good or for evil.  The truth?  Neither.  There was no need for bribery or coercing that night or this week.  But Matt and I both absolutely loved this dish, and he requested it again.  I'll save it for a rainy day, as I see many appointments for testing cakes in our near future :)

Asparagus and Mushroom Tarts
(adapted and shortened from Bon Appetit)
-makes 4

A few notes: I streamlined Bon Appetit's version of this, not because it wasn't delicious, but because it was simply too fussy regarding the assembly.  I also swapped sour cream for creme fraiche because it's more readily available and has a very similar taste.  Finally, though we served these with steaks, I was surprised how filling it was, and it'd make a great light dinner on its own paired with a small salad or even a great Sunday brunch with fruit and fresh juice.

2/3 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces mushrooms (button or baby portobellos are just fine)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Roll out each pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface to 10-inch square. Cut each into 4 squares. Arrange squares on 2 rimmed baking sheets.  Chill until needed.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Saut√© until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to large bowl; cool 15 minutes.  Add asparagus, chopped thyme, lemon peel, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to mushrooms. Mix in sour cream and cheese.  (Filling can be made up to one day ahead and chilled, if necessary.)

Preheat to 400°F.  Mound filling atop pastry squares, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.  Bake tarts 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are turning golden brown.  Serve immediately.


  1. I've had this recipe in my binder of magazine clippings for a while and I never get around to making it. Sounds like (and looks like) it's a hit and I should really try to make it!

  2. Fonts? Really? You have OTHER people in your life for that. :-)

  3. Yum squared - Great minds think alike! I also had this one marked for months.

    Susan - Glad that you picked up on the shout-out :)

    Nytesong - Thank you! And infinitely adaptable, too.