What's your favorite first sign of Spring? Most people look for the pink and white blossoms of the fruit trees and magnolias. Or the little heads of the crocuses poking through the frosty soil. Then come the bright forsythia blooms along with daffodils and finally, the vibrant hues of tulips burst onto the scene. As the grass gets greener, the weekend lawnmower races begin and the fresh new green leaves begin to pop out against the sky. But my most favorite sign of spring ---
Those first tender shoots of asparagus with their tight little purple heads signal a fresh new season of garden delights - and tasty dishes to cook!
One of the first dishes of spring is a savory Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart that's simple to make and perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner. It's one of those versatile dishes that can be served warm from the oven or at room-temperature, making it perfect for gatherings (think Mother's Day brunch!). Serve with a simple green salad and you've got a delicious spring dinner.
Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, well-rinsed, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 lb asparagus, blanched, tips reserved, stalks cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2/3 cup half-and-half
2 large eggs
2 T minced fresh herbs, such as parsley and mint
5 oz rindless goat cheese
1 9-inch pie crust
Lightly butter a 9 1/2 inch tart pan. Press the pie crust into the pan and trim off any excess pastry.
Heat the oven to 350. Line the pastry with foil and fill with dried beans. Bake until the edge looks set, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans, and bake until pastry is barely browned, about 8 minutes.
For the filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and shallots, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add the sliced asparagus stalks and cook until leeks are very soft and asparagus is tender, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half. Stir in herbs and season.
Spoon the filling into the baked crust. Pour over the egg and milk mixture.
Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the tart.
Bake until filling sets, about 45 minutes.
Variation: In the summer months, when the garden tomatoes are nice and ripe, I omit the asparagus, use thyme and parsley for the herbs and top with sliced tomatoes before finishing with the goat cheese.