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.

Chilled Asparagus Soup

Chilled Asparagus Soup ~ A stack of dishes.comSultry.

Such is the perfect word to describe these dog days of summer. The morning starts out warm but with a touch of breathable coolness in the air.  As the day broadens, the heat swells. It rolls in like an invisible fog that slinks in around you with long puffy arms which envelop you from the ground up and settles in around you, until suddenly you realize- yep, it’s hot.

Growing up my summer days were spent tearing up the yard with games and adventures. Waving sprinklers were set up to run through, trees were climbed, bugs were collected in jars, and homemade popsicles were for after dinner as the day faded.

The difference here is the quiet of the day. As the sun blazes on the lawn mowers remain dormant, reposing is contained within cooled homes-shutters closed, while the summer song of the cicadas (locusts here) CHCHCHCHCHChhchchchch…. chatter in the trees in sound waves that rise to a rousing crescendo, then dissipate once again into the close quiet.

Southern summer quiet.

chilled asparagus soup~ A Stack of Dishes.comLight meals are preferred and sipping cool soup is a delight. Delicate asparagus is coddled in creamy Greek yogurt and made zesty with some tangy goat cheese.

Summer ease.

Chilled Asparagus Soup
Greek yogurt adds the creaminess and a sense of richness, but the goat cheese adds a zing that keeps that spoon dipping.
241 calories
25 g
8 g
11 g
13 g
4 g
450 g
448 g
15 g
0 g
7 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 241
Calories from Fat 100
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g
Saturated Fat 4g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 8mg
Sodium 448mg
Total Carbohydrates 25g
Dietary Fiber 4g
Sugars 15g
Protein 13g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 1/4 pounds of fresh asparagus, rough chopped
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 small yellow onion, diced
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 2 tablespoons flour
  6. 2 14oz cans of low sodium chicken broth, warmed
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  11. 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  12. 2 ounces chèvre to serve
  1. In a medium to large sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil then add the onions and garlic and gently cook to release the aromatics and soften the onions. Take care not to brown the onions.
  2. Add the asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes. At this point you may remove some of the tips and reserve as a garnish.
  3. Add the flour and cook for a good minute, stirring constantly.
  4. While stirring vigorously to avoid lumping, add half the broth and stir smooth. Then add the remaining broth and the bay leaf.
  5. Set on a low simmer for 15 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the bay is infused. Add salt and pepper.
  6. Remove from the heat and cool until warm to the touch, about 30 minutes- or chill overnight.
  7. Remove the bay leaf and add the parsley. Puree in a traditional blender or with a hand blender until smooth. Add the yogurt and blend again until thoroughly incorporated. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. Chill until cold, or you may serve at room temperature. Divide equally amongst four bowls and add the goat cheese and reserved asparagus tips.
  9. A little drizzle of earthy olive oil on top is a nice finish too.
  1. The soup may be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a day or two.
A Stack of Dishes


Spring Salad of Asparagus, Garden Peas and Pickled Red Onions

Spring Salad- A Stack of Dishes


The peas are poppin’, the asparagus is snappin’ and the pickled onion gives this spring salad a sparkling little kick! This spritely salad is the epitome of spring to me.

This year for our Easter dinner I made a larger version of this salad, and it was such a hit that I had to remake for me, I mean you. I was never much of a pea eater as a kid. My experience of peas was salty, mushy, petite pois, straight out of the can, thanks to Le Sueur.

That elegant silver labeled can would get me wondering about Le Sueur. I always assumed him a grisly Frenchman who, with a huff and a wave of his hand, insisted on packing his precious peas into a precious looking can so that ignorant American children, such as I, could be enlightened. My mother certainly though them schmancy (and still does I believe…).

Come to find out that, Le Sueur bears no beret, expels not a huff, nor even an attitude- Le Sueur is actually a town in good ol’ Minnesota- right ‘chere in the U S of A. Apparently peas are aplenty and produce with aplomb in MinnesOHta! Who knew?

Somewhere in my youth and childhood I was given the opportunity to eat a fresh pea straight out of the pod- and my friends, that was a moment.  Round bellied pods with sweet nuggets inside. Jewels! Fresh peas are just so sweet! Why- I mean WHY?!?! did someone ever think that cooking them into gray mushy beads was the way to go? No wonder it has become the supreme  “face making” vegetable for kids.

There are no such horrors in my salad. I put just a slight blanch on mine. Just enough to draw out the full potential of the sweetness, while still keeping the pop and crunch. They also turn a brilliant green, which is a beautiful thing all on its own.

Same with the asparagus- mostly cooked- I wouldn’t say al dente necessarily, but steamed or boiled just 2-3 minutes to bring out the flavor, yet still keeping a bite to them.

For the dressing I used some of my Homemade Mint Vinegar which was so perfect I cannot begin to tell you. First I pickled the onions in some, then took the residual juice of the onions and vinegar, and made a dressing out of it. So frightfully simple, fresh and and divine with a hint of mint.

Sorry Le Sueur, I think you got it all wrong- I think this American child has got something better than any fancy can could compete with.


asparagus and garden pea salad, spring greens, spring vegetables, a stack of dishes


Asaragus and Pea Spring Salad with Pickled Onions
Cold or room temperature this salad is a hit. The onions take some time to do their thing, so start them first and dress the salad last. Serves 6
148 calories
16 g
0 g
7 g
6 g
1 g
194 g
42 g
7 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 148
Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 42mg
Total Carbohydrates 16g
Dietary Fiber 6g
Sugars 7g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 large red onion
  2. .25 cup Mint Vinegar (recipe under condiments), or red wine vinegar
  3. 1 pound Fresh garden peas
  4. 1 pound Fresh asparagus, washed and tough ends removed
  5. 1 bunch of pea shoots, or some other tender lettuce (watercress, etc)
  6. 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  7. 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  8. Salt & Pepper to taste
Pickling the onions
  1. First peel the onions and slice on a mandolin (or very finely by hand). Place slices into a bowl and sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over, and toss while slightly massaging the salt into the onions with your fingers.
  2. Let rest for 10-15 minute, then pour vinegar over and set aside for 30 minutes, giving them a stir from time to time. Over time they will soften and develop a beautiful bright pink color.
The Greens
  1. In a good sized pot, fill with about 2 inches of water and a hefty three fingered pinch of salt- bring to the boil- and ready a colander in the sink.
  2. Wash and trim the asparagus- if thick like mine shown, slice in half the long way.
  3. Wash and set aside the peas.
  4. First toss the asparagus into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes until crisp-tender. They will turn a bright green. Test one for doneness. Remove with tongs from the pot and place into the colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process, then remove and set aside.
  5. Then into the same water, toss the peas and cook for 1 minute- maybe 70 seconds- really, don't over do it. They will also turn a bright beautiful green. Pour the water and peas through the colander and, as with the asparagus, rinse with cold water. Allow to drain.
Composing and dressing
  1. On a large platter arrange the pea shoots, then lay the asparagus on top. Sprinkle with the peas, and the onions.
  2. Remove 2-3T of vinegar/onion juice to a separate bowl, add the mustard and mix. While continuing to mix, add the oil- then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour the dressing over the entire salad and serve.
  1. Do not be tempted to dress this salad in advance. The acid in the dressing will cause the asparagus and peas to lose their brilliant color. You may compose the salad in advance, and dress it right before serving.
A Stack of Dishes