Saturday, May 26, 2012

Asparagus-Goat Cheese Tart

As I mentioned in an earlier blog the other week, I have been commuting to New York from New Jersey for the next few weeks cat-sitting for my parents.  So when I'm in Jersey, I am always trying to find something fun and interesting to do to keep myself amused.  It is a great time for me to experiment in the kitchen since my parents have a rather fair size kitchen that was renovated a few years back.  My only complaints is that they have bare minimal cooking utensils and gadgets.

I had thought ahead this time around and packed a few things with me this time around that I could easily carry to/from NYC including my handheld immersion blender that I used for my chilled fiddlehead-asparagus soup and star-shaped popsicle molds for my upcoming Memorial Day blog (stay tuned for that!).  However, I was still missing a few essentials.  So after a quick trip to Target and HomeGoods, I happily unpacked my new kitchen tools for my Jersey kitchen including an inexpensive new food processor (used in this recipe!) that works surprisingly well.

So last Thursday, I checked out the weather forecast and saw nothing but beautiful sun and 80 degree weather up through the weekend. I hadn't been down to Princeton in a long time and I have a few favorite spots there that I love. It's the perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon with the outdoor shops and restaurants in Palmer Square, right on the outskirts of the prestigious Princeton University.  Another bonus is that I can take my pup shopping with me here and have him bask in the glory of the weather with me!

Princeton also has some great farms in the area where we usually go apple picking. One of my personal favorites is Terhune Orchards, famous for their apples and apple cider. I checked out their website to see what seasonal produce they were featuring and lo-and-behold, I read: "Pick your own asparagus." Yes. That's right. Pick my OWN asparagus.  It was too good to be true! I have never picked my own asparagus, much less seen it grown from the ground.  I am a city girl after all. I've tried my hand at growing my own herbs in the past, but my sister and I concur that our entire family has a black thumb. We've killed everything ever given or bought including a sad little cactus plant.  :(    It is a sad, but true, fact.

So, the next morning I packed up the dog and drove the 22 miles to Princeton, enjoying the cool breeze and warm sun on my face along the relatively quiet, winding and hilly roads. We did a little shopping and eating in Princeton's Palmer Square before heading out to the farms. But then it was onwards to Terhune Orchards and Griggstown Quail Farm. See my pictures below of my first experience picking asparagus!
The asparagus was everything I imagined: crispy, yet tender and sweet.  I featured it in my soup and had thought to do it raw but didn't pick any asparagus thick enough for that purpose.  Roasted asparagus is always a great way to use up your delicious spring asparagus.  This super easy and scrumptious asparagus-goat cheese tart is the perfect light dinner to have with just a side of fresh greens.  It is also great to serve as an appetizer or hors d'oeuvres. The addition of goat cheese was a great complement as the tanginess in the cheese brought out the sweetness of the asparagus.

For my pesto sauce, I didn't have any of my usual ingredients and was too lazy to go out to the grocery store.  So after scrounging through cupboards and the refrigerator I was able to put together what I am calling my "pantry pesto" which was just tasty.  I loved the addition of the sundried tomatoes which added an unusual sweetness to the pesto.  If you already have some pesto on hand, feel free to use that instead. But do try your pesto with some sundried tomatoes next time!

Serves 2-3 (as a main dish)

Pantry pesto:
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
12 mint leaves, stems removed
8 sundried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted walnut
1 clove garlic, whole
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry
10 stalks asparagus
4 tbsp pantry pesto
1 goat cheese log, rolled into small balls, and then sprinkled randomly
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  For pesto, add all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse on high for a few minutes until it is fully mixed.  Add more oil if it is still too thick.  I did not make the pesto very thin since I wanted it more like a paste.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Remove puff pastry dough from freezer and defrost for 40 minutes until soft enough to use.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

4.  On a lined pre-greased baking sheet pan, unfold the dough and roll up each edge.  Spoon pesto onto dough and evenly spread to the edge. Line asparagus lengthwise on the dough, flipping every other asparagus the other way.

5. Top with parmesan and goat cheese. Brush edges of pastry with oil for a nice golden crust. Sprnkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

6. Cut into squares and serve immediately.


  1. Sounds delicious! Asparagus and goat cheese, two of my favorite things. And I love the pantry pesto! And how cool that you went asparagus picking :-)

    1. Granted it wasn't anything awe-inspiring...but it was such a cool experience to pick it straight from the ground. Makes me want to grow some of my own!

  2. Your goat cheese tart looks great. I like the sound of your pantry pesto as part of the dish.

  3. Sundried tomatoes aren't all that uncommon in pesto. Very unique experience and congratulations on making the foodbuzz Top 9!

  4. I love this! What a fab dish. I am drowning in asparagus and always looking for uses.

    1. Please send some my way cuz I'm all out!

  5. This is beautiful! Princeton is a wonderful quaint area. We're way up north on the border of NY/PA, but husband has to commute there on some days too, and it always helps when the weather is nice. What a gorgeous dish! Buzzed!

    1. Wow...that's a long commute! I think Princeton's a hike from my parents at 40 minutes. But I do love it down there!!

  6. This looks AMAZING! Ironically enough, my next post is a curried asparagus tart :D

    1. Ymmmm...curried asparagus tart! That sounds sooo tasty! Can't wait to check it out!!

  7. Perfect dish! All stuff I love in one package and pretty, too!