A picnic is one of the best ways to celebrate the season.
Today, I am very pleased to be collaborating with Sara of The Cozy Herbivore on this delicious meal. Sara's recipes are always a delight for all the senses. Her food looks as lovely as it tastes. Fresh and seasonal are the words of the day.
For the main course, I was very happy to have the chance to make a wonderful asparagus tart for Food Network Magazine. Asparagus is one the world' most perfect foods and the spring is the time to indulge.
Asparagus and Cheese Tart
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound), thawed
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 1 cup grated comte or gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.
Meanwhile, mix the fontina, comte, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.
To accompany this yummy tart, I really recommend The Cozy Herbivore's Arugula Salad with Stinging Nettle Dressing and Quick-Pickled Radishes.
Sara says, "The peppery arugula pairs nicely with the mild green taste of the stinging nettle dressing and the sour crunch of the radishes. Please take care in handling fresh stinging needles-- always wear heavy gloves and use tongs to transfer fresh nettles to cooking water. I have included directions for blanching the nettles to remove the stinging silica hairs that contain formic acid, which is an incredible skin irritant. Makes: enough for 2 salads, with dressing leftover for tomorrow's lunch!"
for the pickles:
~2 small or 1 large cherry radish, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced into rounds
~1/4 cup champagne vinegar
~1 tablespoon rice wine or mirin
~pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
for the dressing:
~1 1/2 cup loosely packed blanched stinging nettles (see instructions below)
~1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
~2 tablespoons mellow miso paste
~2 tablespoons agave nectar
~pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
~about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
to put it all together:
~2 handfuls fresh arugula
~2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, divided
~2 teaspoons sunflower seeds or pepitas, divided
1. Make the pickles: in a shallow bowl, combine champagne vinegar, mirin, sea salt & pepper. Place sliced radishes in bowl and set aside.
2. Assemble dressing. To blanch the nettles: bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rapid bowl. Place a bowl of ice water next to the stove. Using tongs, carefully submerge fresh stinging nettles in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove nettles from boiling water with tongs and immediately submerge in ice bath. Remove nettles from ice bath and place on a clean kitchen towel. Roll nettles up in kitchen towel and squeeze all excess moisture out. (The blanching water can be drunk as a tincture-- stinging nettle tea is a diuretic and is said to reduce inflammation)
3. Place blanched nettles, apple cider vinegar, miso paste, agave nectar, salt & pepper in a stand blender. With the blender running, carefully stream in olive oil until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Assemble salad: remove radishes from vinegar and discard vinegar. Toss fresh arugula in a couple tablespoons dressing. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese, pickled radishes and sunflower seeds. Soak up that sunshine!
I can't wait for Sara to share more recipes with us. Follow her blog and/or on Facebook. You won't be sorry!
A refreshing way to wash it all down is Spiced Sun Tea. I love it and drink it all the time.
8-10 tea bags (to make it even spicier I use Sunset Spice tea bags!)
1 3/4-inch piece peeled ginger, sliced thin (also, include any juice that oozes out while you slice it)
2 3-inch pieces of cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
7 cups water
Place tea bags, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger and allspice into a clear container. I put my spices into a a muslin sachet so I don't have to strain it, but so what you prefer!
Add water, cap the bottle or jar, and set in a bright, sunny spot. Allow to steep for a few hours.. Personally, I like to brew it for as long as possible to get the strongest flavors.
Shake, then strain directly into pint glasses over ice. Sweeten with honey, if you'd like. Serve with lime and orange slices.