Smoked salmon, asparagus and goat cheese tart
If you heard a little squee of joy over the city of Saskatoon recently, it was most likely my delight at seeing fresh asparagus at the farmers’ market.This much-loved vegetable is fresh from the fields and tastes of spring and fresh air and renewal. In my opinion, it’s one of the very best things that comes from the earth, and though its growing season is rather short, it means we have to savour every spear that comes into our kitchen.Whether it’s swirled in a pan with hot butter and garlic, roasted with olive oil and lemon, stirred into pasta or chopped into a salad, fresh local asparagus is just like that song: here for a good time, not a long time.If you ask anyone who has asparagus in their garden, it can be very labour intensive to grow; thus, the price is worth every cent. Once asparagus is ready to be harvested, you need to do so every other day, or perhaps every day if the weather is warm and the growing conditions are perfect. It can grow as much as six inches in one day, if all is right with the world.Asparagus are the young shoots of the cultivated lily plant that grows out from an underground stem or rhizome. Some plants can even produce asparagus for 15 to 20 years. There are about 20 varieties of edible asparagus that are divided into three groups: green asparagus, which is the most common, white asparagus, which is the result of growing underground or with light deprivation, and violet asparagus, which has a distinctive fruity flavour.All types of asparagus pack a nutritional punch, with high levels of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium. Asparagus is an aquatic plant and needs plenty of water to produce those delectable, verdant spears. Given the dry growing conditions around Saskatoon this spring, asparagus has been off to a later than usual start. Here’s hoping that the later part of spring will bring that most excellent combination of heat and adequate moisture.This simple tart showcases the beauty of fresh, local asparagus, and pairs well with its good friends smoked salmon and goat cheese. Toss the stalks of fresh asparagus in a bit of olive oil, fresh lemon zest and coarse salt and pepper. Lay out a sheet of puff pastry (you can get boxes of it already rolled thin — greatest invention ever). Cover it with creamy goat cheese, and the marinated asparagus.Bake until golden, then finish with torn pieces of wild smoked sockeye salmon and more goat cheese. Scatter the tart with fresh dill, because smoked salmon and dill are best pals. When you get a bite of asparagus, goat cheese and a snippet of fresh dill, it’s a flavour sensation, folks.Fresh, delicious and heaped high with salmon and cheesy goodness, this tart will surely put smiles on those gathered around your table this spring. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature as an appetizer, or slice into larger wedges and serve with a green salad for a light supper.My research shows that the tart goes very well with something chilled and bubbly in the glass. And, though I haven’t tried this yet, I think cracking an egg on top of the tart and baking it for breakfast or brunch would be smashing as well. Smoked salmon, asparagus and goat cheese tart10-12 spears medium-sized asparagus, tough ends snapped off.1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oilzest of 1 lemoncoarse salt and pepper1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed according to package instructions140 g goat cheese1 egg, beaten with a little water150 g smoked wild sockeye salmon2 Tbsp torn dill leaves1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.2. In a medium bowl, toss together the asparagus, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.3. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry (or roll out to roughly 10×12 inches). Use a paring knife to score a line around the perimeter of the pastry, about 1 inch from the edge. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. With a fork, poke holes all over the pastry within the border. This will ensure that this part remains flat during baking, while the border will puff up.3. Crumble half of the goat cheese over the puff pastry. Top with the marinated asparagus (I lined it up in pretty rows). Use a pastry brush and spread the egg wash along the border. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Top with the smoked salmon pieces and crumble the remaining goat cheese on top of the tart. Bake for another five minutes. Garnish with fresh dill leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes four to eight wedges.