“April come she will, When streams are ripe, And swelled with rain…….” (Lyrics by Paul Simon “April Come She Will”)
Somehow the end of March sneaked up on me while I wasn’t looking! I have been very aware of the trees leafing out, the tulips starting to bloom, daylight savings time of course, but the actual dates…not so much.
March was a very busy month for food styling with many photo shoots that needed a lot of my attention as well as a few garden renovation projects that have been taking up the remainder of my time. This morning I realized there is only one more day in March. I felt happy as this is a week I can stay home for a few days, and a little sad as it is all moving by so quickly. Alas such is life! Is that not April I see on the near horizon?
I made this Spring Leeks & Asparagus Tarts recipe a couple of years ago for a dinner party. Perfect for an Easter brunch or lunch. Enjoy.
Small leeks just pulled from the garden…
….thin, tender asparagus, shallots chopped & caramelized……
…crispy bacon crumbled.
Flaky buttery pie crusts with just a bit of cornmeal to add some crunch. I just love these rectangle tart pans with fluted edges & removable bottoms.
Varicolored eggs…perfect for Easter.
A scattering of chopped leeks over the crusts, topped with a parmesan-egg mix….
…caramelized shallots ….
…decoratively arranged asparagus…one tart with bacon, one without.
Puffy, warm and ready to eat.
Spring Leek & Asparagus Tarts
- For 2 crusts: 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal.1 tsp salt, 1 cup cold butter cut into small pieces & ice water
- 6-8 small Spring leeks (or 2 regular size leeks), trimmed & sliced
- 1/2 lb thin asparagus spears
- 8 eggs
- 7 slices bacon cooked crisp & chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped & sautéed until caramelized
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
- In a food processor place the flour, cornmeal & salt & pulse a few times. Add butter pieces & pulse until mixture is crumbly looking. With processor running drizzle in ice water until a dough ball forms. Remove dough & divide in half forming two balls. Flatten each into a disk, wrap in plastic & chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Roll out dough and fit into two rectangle tart pans with removable bottoms, trimming edges, or 2 pie pans.
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, yogurt & salt & black pepper until well blended. Set aside.
- Evenly scatter the sliced leeks over the bottom of each tart shell and ladle the egg mixture over the top.
- Sprinkle the top of each tart with caramelized shallots & chopped bacon. I added the bacon to one tart and made the other vegetarian.
- Decoratively place the asparagus spears over the tops of each tart gently pressing into the filling.
- Place filled tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes or until they are golden brown and puffy. Remove to cool a few minutes before serving on a wire rack. Serve hot or at room temp.
Late last year…December to be exact….I was pushing my cart through Whole Foods shopping for a photo shoot. There is always a sense of urgency about this type of grocery store foray…time is of the essence…the quicker I get this done, and done well, the sooner I can be finished for the day….when out of the corner of my eye, while rolling out of produce toward seafood, I saw a display of stunning chartreuse Romanesco Cauliflowers. The brakes went on…I backed up…I was once again entranced by a vegetable! Such moments have often played out while I am shopping for one thing when I totally become obsessed by another thing…usually as in this case the exotic, the beautiful and the artful.
Looking more like an exotic creature of the sea than of terra firma these cauliflowers must make all others jealous. I call them the Cinderella of Cauliflowers!
I usually shy away from soups with lots of cream but for this soup just a splash was perfect.
Roasted Romanesco with garlic clove, shallots & olive oil to soften & bring out the flavor.
I topped our bowls of soup off with another recent culinary love, Za’atar. This Middle Eastern spice mix is getting added to everything I cook these days. This little obsession began a few months ago while eating at one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, Epice. Among other dishes they add it to little bowls of dipping oil for the bread they serve. Then my friend Nancy Vienneau served roasted head of cauliflower with a generous dusting of Za’atar this past New Year’s Eve. Two delicious experiences with Za’atar in one month!
Have you ever tasted Za’atar? It is at times a spice and a condiment. An earthy mixture of sumac berries, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, white sesame seeds & crunchy sea salt that is equally good smeared on a chicken or vegetables to roast. You can easily find it at most import groceries or, as I did, on-line.
A light sprinkle of Za’atar & Gruyere Cheese…..
Are you drawn to foods you have never cooked before? The exotic? Do you ever become obsessed with a comestible? What do you think this says about me…or you?
Romanesco Cauliflower Dressed with Za'atar
- 1 head of Romanesco Cauliflower (or any other Cauliflower will be fine), cut into florets
- 6 shallots, peeled & cut into pieces
- 4 garlic cloves
- Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt flakes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1/4 cup cream or half & half
- 2 Tbsp Za’atar (divided)
- Shredded Gruyere Cheese for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the cauliflower florets, shallot pieces & garlic cloves on a large baking sheet pan.. Drizzle with olive oil & toss to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper & sea salt.
- Roast for 15 minutes or until florets are softened, but not browned. Remove pan from oven.
- Add roasted vegetables along with the chicken stock to a pot. Cook over medium high heat until vegetables are softened. Remove pan from heat & let mixture cool for about 20 minutes.
- Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put pureed mixture back into pan and reheat on low right before serving.
- Stir in 1 Tbsp of the Za’atar while reheating soup.
- Add cream right before serving. Stir well. Remove from heat.
- To serve garnish each bowl with a light sprinkling of the remaining Za’atar & shredded Gruyere.