As much as I love meat, fish and fowl, I sometimes want something savory and light for dinner. Dare I say, vegetarian?
That’s when I think about making a savory tart. And, this time of year gives plenty of options for filling a tart. One of my favorite combinations is leeks, asparagus and goat cheese. The leeks are young and tender at this time of year and, cooked until meltingly sweet, they contrast deliciously with the tangy goat cheese and crisp asparagus.
I like to use a cream cheese pastry for this kind of tart. It is easy to make and virtually impossible to screw up, making anyone feel like a pastry pro. Besides, it is rich and flaky and holds the filling solidly in place. Other doughs have been known to break open, leaking the precious custard all over the baking sheet. Not a pretty sight.
So many variations can be made on this tart, from season to season. In autumn, I sauté chanterelles with garlic and parsley and use them for the base, using gruyere as the cheese. In summer, I slice tomatoes place them over a layer of grated parmesan cheese, topping them with goat cheese or mozzarella, finishing with slivered basil when it comes out of the oven. Lightly sautéed zucchini and shallots with aged cheddar is another great summer variation.
And, while this tart is delicious right out of the oven, warm and fragrant, it is also perfect at room temperature, when you happen to find yourself walking by, once again, cutting just one more little sliver.
Leek, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart
For the dough:
1 cup unbleached flour
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 16 pieces
½ teaspoon salt
3 ounces cream cheese, chilled, cut into 6 pieces
1 tablespoon ice water
Place the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter and flour come together loosely, but there are still visible small chunks of butter, about 5-6 times. Add the cream cheese and ice water and continue pulsing the dough until it is moist and crumbly and, when pinched, comes together, another 5-6 times.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured board and lightly knead together into a disc, about 6” in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Remove 20 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling:
4 large leeks (about 2 lbs.), greens and root end trimmed off
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ pound asparagus, washed, tough ends removed, cut into ½” slices
½ cup half and half
4 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice into ¼” slices. Wash thoroughly in a large bowl of water and drain.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the leeks, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, or until the leeks are starting to get tender. Add the white wine, stirring to combine. Cover the pan and cook until the wine has evaporated and the leeks are very tender, another 5-6 minutes. The mixture should be dry. If not, uncover and cook until all the moisture has evaporated. Stir in the lemon juice and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus, using a slotted spoon or skimmer, and spread out onto a small baking sheet. Cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, the half and half and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper.
Place the dough on a lightly floured board. Roll out to a circle approximately 14” in diameter. Transfer to a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
Distribute the leeks evenly over the center of the dough, leaving a 2” margin around the edges. Sprinkle the asparagus over the leeks. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over the vegetables. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, crimping slightly as you go. Slowly pour the egg and half and half mixture over the filling, being careful to keep it inside the dough. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top. Beat the remaining egg and brush the edges of the dough.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the crust is a rich golden brown.