Saturday, May 21, 2011

Asparagus Tart

Admittedly, puff pastry is one of my favorite ingredients. Besides the obvious - it's innate buttery goodness - it is quick to bake with and can transform something as simple as asparagus into something extravagant. Not there is anything simple about these local asparagus. At present, the farmers market is teeming with these young and tender spears. It will be worth your trip there.

Asparagus Tart
Serves 4

1/2 pound fresh asparagus
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar
freshly ground black pepper

1. Set the oven to 400 oF. Roll out the puff pastry onto a baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry one inch from the edges to make a inner rectangle. With a fork, pierce this rectangle at 1 inch intervals and bake for 15 minutes.
2. Remove the pastry from the oven and spread the ricotta evenly across the inside of the pastry shell, followed by the cheddar and the asparagus. Sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly golden brown.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spring Lettuce Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

The Minneapolis Farmers' Market is open for the season! And even though our last winter was absurdly long and spring is being a bit temperamental, the farmers ever so dutifully strive provide a lot to amuse our taste buds and cooking pleasures. Cheeses, honey, turnips, asparagus, meats, and endless flowers and herbs for planting. The basis for this vinaigrette is some bacon I purchased from meat sellers Bar Five. It's hard to resist a salad with all the intensity of bacon! You can use spring lettuce or baby spinach for this salad. I happen to enjoy the abundance of spring lettuces around these days so it's used here but be sure that, once you toss with the warm vinaigrette, you serve immediately as the tender leaves will wilt more quickly than spinach leaves.

Spring Lettuce Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Makes 4 servings

4 oz bacon, diced
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 oz red wine vinegar
2 oz vegetable oil
6 to 8 oz fresh spring lettuce leaves
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup croutons

1. Render the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove and reserve the bacon bits and add the sugar to the bacon fat; blend to dissolve.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vinegar and oil to form an emulsion; season with salt.
3. Toss the lettuce, cranberries, diced pepper, croutons, reserved bacon, and vinaigrette. Serve immediately.