With Easter around the corner, it’s a good time to plan for a showy tart that will outshine the ham as a centerpiece dish. Once this artful tumble of colorful veggies hits the table, everyone will want a slice.
Nothing elevates a simple vegetable like arranging it on top of a slab of golden, flaky puff pastry. This tart is an edible composition and a portrait of spring, complete with a burnished frame. A schmear of tangy goat cheese, laced with lemon zest and parsley, provides a creamy wash of white, the perfect background to make the colors pop. Vegans need not despair, as there is an option for cashew cream instead of cheese.
Puff pastry is one of the biggest time savers out there. If you haven’t worked with it before, it’s a frozen dough that relies on some amazing chemistry to create an ethereal texture. If you want to make your own puff pastry, you start with a flour and water dough, roll it out, cover with butter or shortening, fold, and roll out again. This process repeats until the dough is an assemblage of paper-thin sheets of dough and fat.
The puff happens when the heat of the oven causes the water in the dough and the fat to turn to steam, puffing the individual layers upward, and creating a final product that is both light and rich. The fat also creates an irresistible golden crust. Croissants are made in a similar fashion, and rolled to create an airy spiral. If you buy the most common puff, made by Pepperidge Farm, it is made with shortening, not butter, so vegans can enjoy it as well. If you want the buttery kind, look for Dufour at local food co-ops and grocery stores.
All you have to do is thaw the dough, roll it out a little, and score it with a knife to create the “frame.” You could make this tart with just asparagus, but I slivered some young, purple carrots and poached them in olive oil, then used the carrot-flavored olive oil to coat the asparagus. It’s a little touch that carries the carrot through the whole dish.
And there you have an impressive-looking feast, with a sprinkle of peppery parsley, good warm or at room temperature, for a happy spring dinner table.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.