Asparagus season is said to last only until June 24th in these parts, so before the season for the most tender white asparagus comes to an end, here is one more recipe for a dish with white asparagus. This is a delicate, pretty tart that easily serves four as an appetizer or two for lunch if served with a seasonal side salad or lovely summertime soup.
White asparagus has a mild, delicate flavor, with a hint of nuttiness. It is grown under mounds of soil to protect it from the light that would turn it green, and the spears are usually harvested early in the morning and, as mentioned above, asparagus season is short, running only from mid-April until early June, much to the dismay of many white asparagus enthusiasts.
The spears range from very thin to very fat and no matter their size, you have to peel the tough outer layers of the stalks, leaving the tips. After carefully peeling the spears, you need to snap the tough root end from the spears, as these can be stringy when cooked. White asparagus takes about twice as long to cook as green, and requires about 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, depending, of course, on the thickness of the spears.
White asparagus is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and topped with Hollandaise sauce around here. Or with chopped boiled egg and melted butter in Belgium (asperges à la flamande). After having eaten my share of white asparagus prepared the traditional way, I really enjoyed it paired with a fresh local goat cheese, meadowsweet blossoms and fresh dill from my garden on a crunchy filo base.
The meadowsweet, or filipendula ulmaria, is a herb which has some fascinating medicinal uses including its ability to reduce pain, it is also known as a traditional hangover remedy. It is a perennial herb from the rosaceae family and can be found growing wild all over Europe and Western Asia. The most likely place you will find them growing are damp meadows where they often cover vast areas with their fluffy plumes of off-white flower heads. Meadowsweet is sweetly scented (a bit like almonds) and when you pass a large area of them, the scent is almost intoxicating.
It is no wonder then that meadowsweet has been long used as a 'strewing herb', meaning that this fragrant herb was strewn on floors to scent a room, dwelling places or buildings. It is said that meadowsweet was the favorite chamber flower of Queen Elizabeth I, as she was particularly fond of meadowsweet, it was regularly strewn (scattered) over the floor of her chamber where it gave off a pleasant smell.
The most interesting thing about this plant though is its use in the culinary world. The plant itself is edible and has many uses in the kitchen from making beer, wine and vinegars as well as adding the flowers to jam.
The Tudor herbalist and botanist John Gerard called this wild flower the 'Queene of the medowes' and described how it was used to scent people's houses and 'delighteth the senses'.(John Gerard, Gerard's Herbal)
Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Meadowsweet Blossoms
(serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish or 2 as a main dish when served with a side dish)
- 5 layers of filo pastry dough (stack them up and cut out a circle that will fit your baking sheet, this is best done using kitchen scissors)
- unsalted butter, melted (if you prefer, you can use olive oil)
- 100g fresh goat cheese (preferably locally sourced), or use more if your tart is larger
- about 14-18 white asparagus spears, depending on the size of the tart and the asparagus, you might need more or less
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (you can also use white pepper if you prefer)
- mild olive oil (suitable for cooking)
- a few meadowsweet blossoms or other edible flowers
- fresh dill or other fresh herbs
- Boil in salted water and cook the peeled white asparagus until they are soft yet retain a bite, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 180°C (365°F).
- Lay out the first layer of filo pastry on your baking sheet lined with baking parchment, brush with some melted butter, add the second layer of filo pastry, brush with more melted butter and do the same with the remaining filo pastry, until all 5 layers are brushed and stacked.
- Firts, spread the goat cheese evenly over the top layer, leaving a 1.5cm (0.5in) border around the edges (an offset spatula will come in handy for this).
- Then top the filo tart with the cooked and cooled white asparagus.
- Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Drip a little olive oil over the entire tart.
- Bake the tart for about 15 to 20 minutes in your pre-heated oven, remove from the oven, place the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let the tart settle and cool for a few minutes. Then transfer to a serving platter and just before serving, sprinkle fresh dill (or other fresh, soft herbs) and meadowsweet blossoms (and/or other edible flowers) on top.
- Serve right away.
Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten
- 5 Filoteigblätter (aufeinander legen mit einer Küchenschere in der Größe des Backblechs zuschneiden)
- etwas geschmolzene Butter (wer möchte nimmt Olivenöl)
- 100g Ziegenfrischkäse (wenn möglich regional), oder mehr falls die Tarte größer ausfällt
- zirka 14-18 Spargelstangen, oder mehr, je nach Größe und Dicke
- Meersalz, frisch gemahlener Pfeffer
- Olivenöl (mild)
- einige Mädesüssblüten oder andere essbare Blüten
- frischer Dill oder andere frische Kräuter
- Den Spargel schälen, kochen und etwas abkühlen lassen.
- In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
- Für die Tarte ein Teigblatt dünn mit etwas Butter bepinseln, zweites Blatt darauflegen und dünn mit Butter bepinseln, dann das dritte, vierte und fünfte Blatt darauflegen, jeweils dünn mit Butter bepinseln. Teigblattstapel vorsichtig auf ein mit Backpapier belegtes Blech legen, dabei darauf achten, dass der Teig nicht reißt.
- Den Ziegenkäse auf den Teigstapel streichen (dabei einen 1.5 cm Rand aussparen).
- Den Spargel auf den Ziegenkäse legen.
- Pfeffern und salzen.
- Ein wenig mildes Olivenöl über die Tarte tröpfeln.
- Die Tarte zirka 15 bis 20 Minuten im vorgeheizten Ofen backen. Aus dem Ofen nehmen, etwas abkühlen lassen und dann auf einer Platte anrichten, dabei kurz vor dem Servieren mit Mädesüßblüten (und/oder anderen essbaren Blüten) und etwas Dill (oder anderen frischen Kräutern) bestreuen und sofort servieren.
A little fresh white asparagus, herbs and edible flowers/blossoms go a long way in this seasonal dish.
For more Filo Tart inspiration on my blog, have a look at:
- December Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts (Winterliche Filotarte mit Rosenkohlröschen) (HERE)
- Filo Tart with fresh Figs & Prosciutto (Filotarte mit frischen Feigen & Prosciutto) (HERE)
- Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart (HERE)
- River Cottage "Veg Everyday" Courgette and Filo Rice Pie (HERE)
- Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & braunen Champignons) (HERE)