Spring has been my favorite time of year ever since I was a little girl. Growing up in Norway, the winters were harsh, long, freezing cold and dark, which made people a bit depressed and not very social. Having day light only for about five to six hours a day will do that to a person. But when the snow started melting, the days slowly were getting lighter and longer and I saw the first snowdrop flowers (“snøklokke” in Norwegian) pop up on the ground and the birch trees blooming, I always turned cheerful and excited for warmer weather to come.
Synonymous with the change of season, came the new produce available to cook with. I’ve always associated asparagus with spring; the bright green, succulent and tender stalks offer a vibrant color signifying that nature is alive yet again, and provides a wonderful taste and texture to any dish. Besides being tasty, asparagus is also nutritious, low in calories, helps digestion, is rich in fiber and has anti-cancer benefits. Asparagus has been prized as an epicurean delight and for its medicinal properties for almost 2000 years. Only in season from April-May (in some areas through July), make sure you take advantage of picking up some bunches at your local market and hopefully you will want to try out my delicious asparagus tart – recipe below!
SPRING TART WITH ASPARAGUS, WHITE BEANS AND PESTO
1 whole wheat tart dough * recipe to follow
1 15 oz can cannellini or white/navy beans
1/4 heaping cup raw cashews
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp pesto * (recipe to follow, or use store bought)
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp almond milk or soy milk
1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 large Vidalia / sweet onion, sliced thin
Extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
1-2 garlic cloves
To make bean filling:
Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the clean bowl of a food processor. Add the cashews, pesto (see recipe below), salt and lemon juice. Pulse the food processor, stopping to scrape down the sides and pulse again. It should look like a rough paste. Pulse a few more times, then sprinkle in the almond milk while the machine is running, helping to further smooth the paste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. See further down how to make asparagus/onion topping.
To make whole wheat tart dough:
I chose to use whole wheat here for a healthier dough, but you can substitute regular all purpose flour if you’d like. I love how easy this dough comes together, and with only three ingredients (not counting salt and water)! I use this as a base for many of my savory tarts as its healthy, easy and super delicious. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients when baking, it’s always more accurate.
About 9 oz /250 grams whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
Grease a 9 inch tart pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.
Mix the flour, sea salt and fresh herbs in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add in the extra virgin oil and mix with a fork. Add in the cold water and knead lightly until it comes together in to a ball.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough using a rolling pin, large enough to fit your tart pan. Carefully transfer the dough into your tart pan and line it neatly. Trim the excess dough off the edges and place the pan in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Blind bake the crust: Prick the dough with a fork, then cover with foil and place either dry beans or as I did, decorative rocks (!) on top to keep the dough from puffing up.
Place in oven and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove beans/foil. Meanwhile make the pesto.
To make pesto:
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp nutritional yeast (I use this in place of parmigiano cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
Place the basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor – pulse to combine until mixture is coarsely ground. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper, pulse a few more times until combined. Scrape out into a container and set aside.
To make topping:
In a large saute pan, place 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with a clove or two of smashed garlic over medium high heat, then add sliced onions, season with kosher salt and saute for 15 minutes or so until caramelized. Remove from pan and add asparagus stalks. Season with salt and saute over high heat for about 5 minutes or so until they begin to soften. Set aside.
Place in oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until tart is cooked through. The tart is equally tasty warm right out of the oven or at room temperature. Serve with a nice green salad and your favorite full bodied white wine – this is absolutely mouthwatering and tastes just like spring!!