Rustic Free Form Asparagus Tart

Free Form Asparagus Tart - A Stack of Dishes

This is a first for me. With all my years of baking and cooking I’ve never made a free form tart, sweet or savoy. The beauty of it is that this rustic free formed asparagus tart was not entirely planned. It was more of a- well I’ve got this, and I’ve got that, and I don’t have the other thing…

You see, last night I had a few friends over. All relatively new friends, and a couple that I had yet to meet who are new to the neighborhood like myself. Now that I am settled into my new place I have the where-with-all to do some entertaining- which, as you know, is my absolute favorite thing to do. However, my place is small, and not all my baking bits and bobs made it into the tiny, albeit genius, storage system I have here. Alas dear Alice, there is only so much space in this Wonderland.

I also have a superbly ridiculous stove in this new place. A mere 24″ wide, which offers great challenges to my pot and pan array. Not everything fits!  On top of that, the inside does not have rack ridges for the entire height of the oven space, especially in the middle. What that translates to is that the things I am baking are either too low in the oven, or too high.

So far this has lead to a few too many burnt bottoms. Can you imagine? A professional baker for nearly 25 years and I am burning things now?

I do not lament however, it’s part of the learning curve- I WILL make this work. Nothing, my friends, is ever perfect. Nothing ever, so why fight it?

So back to tart making. For my guests I planned this long tart, but at this moment I have only the one pan.

Asparagus Dill Tart - A Stack of Dishes

I had some leftover filling, a bunch of pastry dough, and just a few asparagus spears, and some of the trimmed ends. I also had a bit of goat cheese left over in the fridge that I felt I should use up too. So this is what happened- No pan=free form tart on parchment paper. No available cookie sheet that fits the oven so I used the broiling pan top piece.

Free form asparagus tart-A Stack of Dishes

This all went very well, but as you can see from the dark paper, I placed it on the bottom rack of the oven first. That paper got toasty pretty fast, which cast off a bit of smoke. The result was the piercing scream of my smoke detector.

Who was it that said it’s not party unless the smoke alarm goes off? Somebody? Anybody? Ha! well, it made me laugh (and flap wildly at the smoke detector to get the damn thing to simmer down). 

In the end, even when things don’t go exactly as planned- with good food and good people, it’s always a success.

Don’t you agree?

Free Form Asparagus Tart

(or traditional tart pan too)

makes two

 

1 recipe of pastry dough

2 cups whole milk ricotta

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bunch asparagus

1/4 cup minced dill weed

2 oz goat cheese

drizzle of olive oil

 

Prepare the dough, roll it out and either press into a tart pan and trim, or lay flat on a sheet of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, milk, garlic and some salt and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine. Fill tart pan with ricotta mix, alternatively spread filling in center of free form tart, covering 2/3 of the circle. For the long tart I simply place the asparagus on top and sprinkled with dill. For the free form tart I chopped the asparagus ends (not the dried out part) and tossed them on top along with the dill.

Then I coated the long spears with a little olive oil added them on top. Then I simply folded up the sides of the dough. My dough was soft and very breakable, so I just tucked and patched where I needed to. All part of the charm. In the end I pulled up the heads of the asparagus so that they stuck out from under the dough. A sprinkling of goat cheese on top and an extra drizzle of olive oil on top and into the oven it went.

Depending on the pan and the thickness of the filling, baking time should take about 35 minutes. I keep an eye on mine since this oven seems to have a mind of it’s own- and with the free form tart, after I nearly burned down the house I moved it up to the higher rack. Baking as an art- not a science. Hoo yah!

Serve warm-preferable amongst friends.

Giving Thanks

peelings

With great joy I write to you from my new desk in my new home. This will be the first holiday meal in my new home which for me is the best housewarming gift I could imagine.  To fill my home by pulling out pots and pans and create beautiful food for those I love- this is a gift. All around my table will be those that I love most in the world. My table, my loves, my home. So wonderful.

This past year has been one of great challenges. To be honest, I am getting weary of them. My father passed away this week seven years ago. Ever since that time my life has been on an often difficult twisting ride. Don’t get me wrong, it has not been all bad, if fact, some remarkably wonderful and “best” times have occurred. I am grateful for those times.

I believe in 7 year cycles. I believe that there are seasons of things. Though there have been many times I preferred easier moments, I have been taught many lessons, and I am stronger and more peaceful for having been through the experiences. Life is never easy, nor do I expect it to me, but I believe my spinning now will be in a positive and productive direction. It’s a heart expanding and wonderful feeling.

napkins

Of course this year we have had immediate reasons to take time to reflect and hold dear ones closer. As a person who witness NYC’s attack first hand, my heart goes out to my sisters and brothers in Paris, and everyone around the world, for I believe we’ve all been touched by this.

I’ve been asked more than once recently if I am concerned to be living in the city again, a place where threats seem to be more likely. Each day I/we step out into uncertainty. We are a compact people with many personalities and bump and jostle together as we each make our way. But am I concerned? Not a whit. 

I live my life in happiness and joy. I am tickled every single day when I roam the city streets. All sorts of people, such beautiful people, all living side by side. Life is so rich here, why would I darken it with sour thoughts? No, I do not fear assault. I prefer to move with grace and amongst grace.

recipelist

What I am more concerned with is time. As my mother ages, and my children mature, and my own body begins to creak, I find time more precious. During my recent packing and unpacking, one of the joys is going through the memories. Honestly, moving is exhausting work, but touching all my loved things, and flipping through photos, or remembering the stories behind objects I have collected- it is delicious. I am reminded how we impact the world. How we fit in. How we connect to each other.

Which is what this blog is all about.

Gathering around tables has always been the best place to create bonds and strengthen the ring. Yeah yeah, we sometimes bicker and fight with each other- but for the most part-time heals those wounds, and the being togetherness is richer than the cost.

oranges

I send you all the warmest and most heartfelt Thanksgiving affection in my heart. The folding napkins, the clinking of silverware on china, the rustle of platters and pots in the sink is a symphony to me. As those sounds emanate from wherever you are, know that those vibrations will find their way to my heart and resonate with me- and for that I am thankful.

Cranberry Port Conserve
Print
93 calories
21 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
76 g
2 g
17 g
0 g
0 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
76g
Servings
10
Amount Per Serving
Calories 93
Calories from Fat 1
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
0%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 2mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates 21g
7%
Dietary Fiber 2g
7%
Sugars 17g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
2%
Vitamin C
11%
Calcium
1%
Iron
1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 1 12oz package of cranberries
  2. 3/4 cup sugar
  3. 3/4 cup port wine
  4. 1 tangerine, deseeded and diced
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and place over a medium/low flame. Bring the mixture to a low boil and cook until the berries have burst and there is a thick sauce.
  2. As the sauce cools it will thicken. I like to keep my berries just slightly whole for more texture. I also think it adds a touch of acidity too.
Notes
  1. The conserve may be made several days in advance.
beta
calories
93
fat
0g
protein
0g
carbs
21g
more
A Stack of Dishes http://www.astackofdishes.com/

Summer Bounty: Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs

Lavender Honeyed Seared Figs - A Stack of Dishes

Alas, once again I find myself in the throes of change. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. Know that my heart and mind has not been far from this place- I’ve just been overwhelmingly busy.

My life has once again taken me in a new direction. I am returning to New York City to begin again. The reasons are not complicated. I love a woman, she loves me, but we could not create an US that gave us joy and completion. It has been sad and frustrating, maddeningly so. In the end it was a realization of truth, which lead to a loving gesture to allow each other to go.

When I left Louisiana I spilled enough tears to overflow the bayou. It is indescribable the warmth and generosity of heart that the people have shown me there. I was an awkward scrappy Noo Yawk City gal who was quick to interrupt and spoke at a much faster cadence. My friends were patient, they were kind. Though I never lost my city edginess, I learned to slow down, smile more and breathe that Southern sultry air. I have come to recognize the drawling Southern accent as comforting, and I will sorely miss the “might could’s” and “fixin’ to’s”. Louisiana has left an indelible mark upon me.

Making Lavender Honey - A Stack of Dishes

Now that I am a returned New Yorker I see the city in a different light. Though I have visited plenty over the past two years, as a full time resident I feel it very differently. It’s true, New Yorkers are gruff and abrupt. I’ve heard quite a few “FU’s” and sharp bitter language between strangers that rattles my sensibility. Folks don’t slide and glide along, they often bump and butt against each other and the results are hissing cat standoffs. My reaction at first was to cringe, but now- now I find it endearing in a way. My NYer brethren, you make me smile. The truth about us city folk is that we may possess a scaly exterior, but inside there are tender golden hearts. There is generosity and community here too, you just have to patiently work past that tough outer skin.

And now begins the new. I found a sun filled studio apartment in Morningside Heights with a kitchen that is open and large enough to become a productive playground. I made an offer in May and it was accepted. Now I await the verdict of the board for my approval. It’s been three months of imagining and planning (Oh I can’t WAIT to show you!), but this trial is far from over. Welcome back to the Big Apple where no one buys an apartment without first tearing out much of their hair! In the end it will be worth it. I practice supreme patience.

In the meantime I am nested in my dear friend Claire’s apartment where she has generously cleared shelves and emptied a closet for me. Her cosy home is a safe gentle place to untangle myself from my past and reenter the new. I simply cannot fully express my gratitude- you should all be so fortunate to have such dearness in your life.

So here I am dear ones. I am back, in all respects, and it is now you that I turn my attention to. I have missed you.

One of my first acts of nesting here was to purchase a batch of herbs for my windowsill. They sit in front of me at my writing place so that I might look upon them as I think. To my left, in the corner I placed the lavender. I’ve never kept lavender before or even considered it for a potting, but this particular plant caught my eye at the farmer’s market, and that wink completely seduced me. Lavender is a fantastic thinking plant. I love its simple grace to gaze upon, and when my mind wanders I appreciate the refreshing scent it gives me when I stroke the leaves. And so naturally it wasn’t long before it made it’s way into a recipe.

Lavender in my window

Figs grew beautifully in Louisiana into beautiful plump jewels. My dear friend Candy Peavy handed me a bucketful last year that made me swoon with delight. Her tree hugs an outer wall of her home espalier style with elegant grandeur. It reaches up to the roof ridge with wide open arms. She has tended it beautifully, and it’s thanks to her is to drip sublime fruits off of it’s limbs. Whenever I drove past I always slowed to admire her gorgeous tree.

Here in NYC rich purple figs are everywhere on fruit market stands, tempting me at every turn. Late one recent afternoon at the end of a long walk, I grabbed myself a basket and headed home. I eyed them on the counter for a bit (that is after enjoying one or two), and my mind turned to the lavender.

Sliced Figs - A Stack of Dishes

I thought a fragrant honey would be perfect match for my ruby fruits. After snipping a stalk off my plant, I simply plucked the flower buds and put them into a small pot with a glug of honey. I gently warmed the little pot over a low flame and then set that aside for a few minutes to steep. The figs I sliced in half and seared in a cast iron pan to gently enhance their natural sweetness.  After a few minutes onto the plate they went, along with a dosing of fresh goat cheese and chopped toasted almonds- to be topped with the warm lavender honey. Salty, sweet, fragrant, with the mild crunch of almonds and fig seeds. Heavenly!

In this instance I gobbled these up myself, but think of these as a quick and delightful dish to accompany some of that summer rose wine you’re drinking with friends.

It is with friends and for friends that I believe the world exists. Gathering and sharing is what grounds us, connects us and feeds our souls. I have learned this to be more true than ever. In the kitchen cooking, behind my camera photographing, and writing has always been my solace, my joy and my best playground. I am supremely grateful for it.

It’s good to be back amongst you. Thanks for waiting for me.

drops