Hello spring. Finally. Well, sort of, it’s certainly April for starters. As much as I – and probably everyone else – hate Mondays, I double-hate Mondays that come with a constant mix of rain- and thunderstorms, a pinch of hail showers and merely a tiny bit of sunshine – just enough to let us know “Hey I’m still here“. What a tease. Now we have Wednesday and while I’m typing this, the roof tops are getting white again, it’s snowing! Can you believe it?!
In spite of the horrible weather mix, the overwhelming proposition of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables at the Viktualienmarkt stalls seems to stand for a good and proper spring season – God knows when. Colorfully and temptingly arranged rhubarb, peas, wild garlic, Swiss chard, radish and asparagus now occupy prime spots on all their tables. There’s a German idiom that I’ve been living up to since I can remember: “Na, waren Deine Augen mal wieder größer als Dein Mund?” my mum would have asked me (word by word: “Eyes bigger than your mouth?”, or more commonly “Biting off more than you can chew …”). So it’s no surprise, that I could not just pass by all the fresh green temptations and subconsciously ignoring my shopping list items for a second -before I knew it- I found myself additionally equipped with fresh peas, small pink radishes and two bunches of green asparagus. Not having a clue what to do with all those extra vitamins, of course.
My recipe management system (colorful Post-Its in all my cookbooks) is anything but reliable, although I use every available color, I still misinterpret my own system. Was PINK for desserts or starters? And why have I tagged a green salad recipe BLUE and not GREEN ? Ah, right, I ran out of GREEN last time… What’s a tad more reliant are my powers of recollection. Which are truly fantastic – well, for all things unimportant. I still have memorized telephone numbers from my best friends at first grade or all the horses’ names I have fallen in love with as a teenager. And thankfully it’s also a great help in narrowing down the number of books I need to go through to find that one mouthwatering dish I ran across weeks or even months ago: such as this asparagus tart from Alistair Hendy, which has been haunting me for quite some time. ‘Made a mental note when I first saw it, but never got to it. Until now.
Green Asparagus Tart with Potatoes
Cut off the asparagus’ tougher stalk ends (about 1-2 inches/3-5 cm). Blanch the asparagus briefly for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling, lightly salted water, then transfer to a bowl with ice water (to preserve its fresh green color and overall quality).
Peel and thinly slice potatoes (3-4 mm) and add to a pot with a few spoons of olive oil. Carefully pan-fry potatoes over low to medium heat for about 5-8 minutes (don’t let them brown). Then remove the slices from the pot.
Grease a suitable rectangular tart (8 inch/20 cm) form with butter, arrange puff pastry and form a small rim. Using a fork, stab little holes all over the arranged puff pastry. On top, add a layer of potato slices and sprinkle with grated Gruyère.
Combine eggs and Crème double in a bowl, season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg and pour over the potatoes/Gruyère. Now arrange asparagus spears equally across the tart. You may want to brush the tart edges with melted butter or egg yolk to let it gain a nice golden color while baking.
Bake at 180°C (360°F) in the preheated oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Resume: Although I tweaked the recipe quite a bit, the outcome was a perfect cold starter for every spring meal, the consistency is pretty firm after chilling it, so we didn’t even need any silverware to eat it up. Great finger food! The still crisp asparagus works incredible well with the cheese/potato layer underneath, what a yummy combo!
But hold on, I had bought even more asparagus, so I had to come up with another recipe. The choice was O’s; he took one of my recent cookbook bargains, skimmed through it in less than a minute and handed me the book. “This one’s got a poached egg on top, I can’t settle for anything less!” Ok, ok, ok!
Asparagus Risotto with Poached Egg
Blanch the asparagus in boiling, lightly salted water for about 5 minutes, transfer to a bowl with ice water, then drain and cut it into small pieces. Set aside.
To poach the eggs, use a pan that is at least 3 inches deep so there is enough water to cover the eggs. Bring water to a boil, add a tablespoon of vinegar (the vinegar should help the egg to keep its shape) and stir briefly to create a “whirlpool”. Slip egg carefully into its center and simmer for about 3-4 minutes depending on the size of the egg. Remove from water with slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl with warm water. Repeat process with the other egg(s).
Note: The best eggs for poaching are the freshest eggs you can find. If eggs are more than a week old, the whites tend to thin out. If this happens you could always cut off some of the excess egg white, just be careful to not damage the – still liquid – egg yolk.
Add the shallots and half of the butter to a sauce pan and sautée for about 5-6 minutes until soft and translucent (don’t brown them). Add the rice and stir over moderate heat to coat the grains with the butter.
Now add a cup of the warm broth and stir gently until almost all of the broth is absorbed. Add broth one cup at a time, continuously stirring and having an eye on the pan to not let the rice stick to the bottom. Do so for about 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and creamy. Fold in the grated Parmesan, some chopped parsley, the remaining butter and season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Now add the asparagus, allow to rest for a minute or two.
Serve with a drained poached egg on top and additional Parmesan shavings.
Resume: There is a *best* moment when eating this risotto: just after poking your spoon into the poached egg, seeing the orange yolk smoothly oozing out once broken. I wished I had made an extra poached egg to go with my risotto! Spring, I’m ready, so bring it on!
PS: In case you’re thinking “What’s up with the photo of the peas, am I missing somehting?“, well, the peas looked so wonderful, but the tarts didn’t exatcly turn out taste-wise the way I had envisioned them to (a little too bland). And the little radishes simply got nibbled away…
Green Asparagus Tart with Potatoes
Recipe source: Genießen mit Gästen, Alastair Hendy, p.45, adapted
Prep time: 20min., baking: 25-30min.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
a bunch of green asparagus (about 12 pieces)
2 large potatoes, sliced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
puff pastry, cut into shape
75g Gruyere, grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml Crème double
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Asparagus Risotto with Poached Egg
Recipe source: Food for Lovers, p.41, adapted
Prep time including cooking: 30min.
Ingredients (serves 2-3):
250g green asparagus
0,75l chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 free range eggs
1 large shallot, finely chopped
250g risotto rice
30g Parmesan, freshly grated
coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese shavings
fresh parsley, finely chopped