Monday, October 5, 2009

Asparagus Tarts with carmelized red onions and baby portobellos

With it being Asparagus week and all, I was thinking about how often and in what epicurean context do I eat this particular vegetable. I can count on one hand how I make use of this particular veggie. So... instead of making it the star of the show, why not make it a supporting roll in your dish?

One of the things I make sure to always have on hand in my kitchen is pre-made puff pastry sheets. Dinner for 4-8 in 30 minutes, no kidding. These tarts are my go-to when I have no idea what to make for dinner. And with temperatures starting to dip- they makes for a very lovely, cozy "lets warm the house up by using the stove" type meal. This recipe makes 2 very generous meal sized portions, no side dish necessary, but by all means could serve 4 with the addition of a small roast chicken, some steak, etc. (Also makes a divine app, just cut up the puff pastry accordingly).

To start, take 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (I prefer Pepperidge Farm). Unfold it. Do not fret should it crack- you're going to let it thaw while you cook up the ingredients and the cracks are easily mended by pressing the soft pastry together. Cut the sheet in half. Along the edges of each half, score a rectangle into the puff pastry- be careful not to cut all the way through! This prevents the entire pastry from rising to form a plank. By scoring an edge you'll have a nice edge to hold you ingredients in the center of the tart.

You should now transfer this onto a parchment lined (or not) baking tray. Let the pastry do its thing and off to the cooking portion of our dish.
Ingredients coming up next:

*When buying your asparagus for this, buy thin stalks or cut thicker stalks in half.
Also, the cherry tomatoes seen here did not survive to make it onto our dish. I would have had them halved and served with the cooked tart for a bit of acidity.

Take a medium sized skillet and put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in and set your oven to medium-low heat. Now, take 1/2 of a red onion and slice into 1/4 in. slices and add to your warm oil. Turn heat to medium and leave them be (no need to salt just yet!). Now, trim the ends off of your asparagus and wash. Same goes for your mushrooms. Take your Mozzarella and slice into 1/4 inch slices as well (or set aside as much grated you might have). Ok, get back to your onions and give them a good stir and add your mushrooms. Let everything cook on medium for 2 minutes (fight the urge to salt!!) After a couple minutes or reading a page or 2 of your magazine check back on the stuff in your pan.
Now you'll be adding this stuff:

2 tbs of Tamari (soy sauce* the source of your salt!) 1 tbs. of Balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs. Agave syrup (maple syrup will suffice, but I suggest you check out Agave). Give everything a good stir and turn up the heat just a notch- you want the mushrooms to release all of their liquid and to absorb the goodness that you just added and for everything to get caramelized and delicious!! Cook for about 2-4 minutes and your sauté pan should look something like this:

Totally crowded my mushrooms-they still browned. Julia Child can unearth herself and spank me.

Remove your pan off of the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes while your oven preheats to 400 degrees. While your pan is cooling, go ahead and press together any cracks/tears your puff pastry might have suffered. You can also add some fresh basil leaves to this if you have them- go and wash those and pat dry then roughly chop. The onion/mushroom mixture does not have to cool down to room temp- just so its not 'hot'. If you have everything prepared proceed to assembling the tarts!
First, lay down the mixture, followed by the chopped basil (not req.), then the sliced mozza.

The last step for assembling the tart is to take your asparagus and roll it around in the sauce remnants in your pan. This prevents them from burning and drying out and gives them a little flavor.
Lay them out on top of the mozzarella alternating tip/bottom/tip.

Pop these in for 15+min or until golden brown. Keep your eye on the oven after minute 12- depending on how hot your oven really gets the pastry can burn quickly!
While they bake why not set the table? I feel like not enough people set the table anymore.
Ding! They are ready crack some fresh pepper to taste and Enjoy!

Puff Pastry
1 lb or so Asparagus spears
1 red onion
1 ball fresh Mozzerella
3 cups baby portobello mushrooms
Balsamic vinegar
Tamari (soy)
Agave Nectar (or maple syrup)
Optional- Basil and halved cherry tomatoes


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