Asparagus savoury pie

Ingredients
For the dough
  • 100 g flour 00
  • 100 g cold butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • Cold water
Or
  • 1 ready puff pastry 
  • A bunch of green asparagus (usually ½ kg)
  • ½ lemon grated zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 50 ml fresh cream
  • 100 g fresh ricotta
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt
  • 4 dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Portions:
  • 6 persons
  • Time:
  • 1 hr.
  • Difficulty:
  • Easy
The asparagus is a delicious but precious vegetable, it makes you wait for it for a whole year and then it only lasts a few weeks at the market stalls, forcing us to binge in a short time to make the most of its flavor. 

Eat only fresh asparagus, so that they have crispy texture. Even when they are cleaned, their scent reminds us the land where they grew.

In Veneto the most famous area for asparagus is Bassano del Grappa, where the Bianco Dop is produced. Farmers need to work for a long time on the Bianco Dop, its picking requires a huge effort because they have to stay bend over the whole time. This quality of asparagus is white because it grows underground, far from the sunlight. They are cut one at the time at the base, then they are wrapped in bunches and tied with a “stroppa”, a small typical twine.

In my family, when it was the asparagus season we did not use to cook anything in particular. We used to stew them by laying them in a perpendicular way in a pot and leaving the ends out of the water. Once they were tender we would place them on a big dish and cover them with aluminium foil to keep them warm. 

At the same time, we hard-boiled the eggs. I have always rather soft yolks, but grandma’s didn't like that way, so there was no choice. 

Everyone took an egg, squashed it with the fork’s tines on their own dish to make it floury that it looked like a mimosa flower. Then we seasoned it with a fair amount of oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and dipped it in the top of the asparagus, tasting first this part then peeling the pulp with the teeth. It was a sort of competition on who would find the most tender asparagus.

Finding out when it’s time for the asparagus is easy. All the way going from Vicenza to Bassano del Grappa is packed with vans showing big signs saying "We sale asparagus” or fruit boxes placed out of farms to encourage people to buy.

If you are in this area, don’t miss it!  

I think we still have to wait a while for having the perfect white asparagus so I decided to use the green ones in this savoury tart.
It looks very nice, colored and with a touch of dried-tomatoes in oil perfectly matching with the slightly herbal and liquid taste of the asparagus. 

I hope you will enjoy this recipe, together with a simple salad it could be a perfect dinner, for a whole satisfying meal.

____________

NOTES

  • With the last part of asparagus, you can cook a good risotto or a rich lasagna al forno with salsiccia. you can also use it for season some toasted bread slices with scrambled eggs and some asparagus cutted in little pieces, or in a soup to be served with garlic and herbs crostini.
  • You can boil asparagus then freeze them, but when you defreeze they will not be compact and meaty, because they're full of water. If you use them in dishes that don't requires them entire, that's ok.
  • The best mold for the tart is the one with the removable bottom: both the edge and the bottom can be removed separately and the tart is more likely to remain intact. Be careful in any case, the edges are very delicate.
Steps
Heat the oven to 180 degrees, ventilated if possible.

Carefully clean the asparagus, leaving the hardest and most fibrous end aside and removing some of the "skin" with a potato peeler. 

Put them to boil in a tall, narrow pot leaving the ends out of the water pointing upwards or in a steamer until they are tender. Another very quick but less conventional way is to place them on a plate, cover them with the appropriate lid and cook them in the microwave for about 3/4 minutes.

Meanwhile put the flour, the cold butter cut in pieces and a pinch of salt in a mixer. Use the blades and pour water in spoons, stopping as soon as the dough is compact and it takes shape of a ball inside the blender. Using a little more flour, remove the dough, make it compact and leave it in a wrap in the fridge for an hour.

When the asparagus is cooled, cut it to half length then prepare the filling of the tart (if you want to use only the ends because it looks nicer then keep the part below and read in the 'Notes' for some tips on how to use it). Mix the lemon zest, the egg, the cream, the ricotta, salt and pepper in a bowl and leave it aside.

Roll the cooled dough out with a rolling pin until you get a couple of millimetres thickness, then lay it down in the mold. If you choose to use the ready pastry, prick it well once it is laying in the mold.

Arrange the asparagus in order, spread the dried chopped tomatoes and pieces of walnuts, then pour the mixture of eggs and ricotta you previously prepared.

Bake in the oven for about 30/40 minutes until the dough is golden and the shell shrinks a little from the edges. 

Leave to cool very well before removing from the mold: it is good both when it is hot and when it is cold, but if you want to heat it then choose the normal oven instead of the microwave, which tends to soften the dough a bit.
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Asparagus savoury pie