parmesan asparagus tart

One of the great parts of about these Downton Abbey meals is that I'm pushing myself to make appetizers and desserts. I mean, let's be real, I'm just one person here ... and when cooking dinner for myself there is no need for an appetizer or dessert.

I can usually be found demolishing half a loaf of bread that is meant for croutons or fiendishly cutting off hunks of cheese while I dice vegetables.

Well, this week's Downton Abbey episode was around women's suffrage and the Irish Revolution. I'm not sure that this appetizer really fits either of those categories. The category it does fit is that I bought the asparagus last week for use with the roasted cod but never used it. So, in the spirit of using what you have .... we have an asparagus appetizer.

For the last two dinners, I've had everything prepped and ready to roll when Baby Sister showed up. This time I was a little behind schedule. I mean I was swamped on Sunday. So busy eating breakfast sandwiches by the harbor and nursing a latte at Starbucks. When she showed up, I was wrapping up dessert (hint ... the return on Nutella) and had barely started the asparagus tart.

This was the first time that I've used puff pastry and I'm sure it won't be the last. I did learn that you need to be patient while waiting for it to defrost completely. I'm not super patient. Lesson learned.

But seriously, this baby comes together really quick. I had seen a handful of other similar recipes that called for sour cream, mustard, etc .... I'm sure they are all quite great but this recipe is the quick and dirty version that calls for the bare minimum. It works. 

Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface, just until creases are smooth.

(Step 2) Trim dough to a 10-inch square. Lightly score a 1/2-inch border around dough. Brush off excess flour and transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
(Step 3) Brush border of dough with the beaten egg. Some how I don't have a pastry brush? I'm not clear how I got this far without realizing that. Bake until puffed and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Honestly, a little less is better than a little more since you aren't done cooking.

(Step 4) While the pastry is in the oven, prep your asparagus. By using shaved asparagus you get to toss fussy presentation out the window. See ya! Use a vegetable peeler to shave down the asparagus. This is a slightly tricky process so watch your fingers and do the best you can. Toss asparagus with the oil, and season with salt and pepper.
(Step 5) Remove tart shell from oven and press down on the center with a spatula. Arrange asparagus on top.
(Step 6) One recipe I saw called for cooking the asparagus and then cooking the cheese. I think two steps is dumb. I did it all at once. Spread your asparagus out over the tart. At this point, you are thankful that it looks messy and it is supposed to.
(Step 7) Then add the cheese. I did the asparagus and cheese in two layers - but I think next time I'll mix some cheese in with the asparagus. 
(Step 8) Shaved asparagus will cook pretty quickly - so just keep an eye on the cheese. When the cheese is done, pull the tart from the oven. This is about 5-8 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 5 minutes before slicing into squares.

Adapted from this recipe

Shopping List
1 sheet (14 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 large egg, well beaten
10 medium asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, shaved into thin strips using a vegetable peeler
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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