I’m not sure why, but 40 degrees at the end of March feels a lot colder to me than 14 degrees does at the end of January. While there may be all kinds of reasons for this effect, I can’t wait for the warmth of spring.

Technically it’s spring now, but here in Minnesota, we know better. It’s not really spring until the daffodils and tulips start popping up and, at least in my garden, that’s not happening yet.

Still, it can feel like spring in my kitchen. All I need to do is pop this Asparagus, Leek and Gruyère Tart in the oven and I can almost smell the lilacs blooming. Or is that the tart I smell? Whatever the fragrance is, it smells incredible.

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can work with almost any cooking technique thrown its way. You can roast it, purée it, steam it and more. It’s just as much at home in a soup as it is in a stir-fry.

While I often just roast it with a little olive oil and serve it as a side, sometimes I like to celebrate it a bit more and make it the star of the plate, which is the case in this easy tart.

Homemade or store-bought puff pastry is rolled out and topped with a mixture of sweet sautéed leeks, nutty Gruyère and crème fraîche, which gives it a slightly tart creaminess. Asparagus spears (I use thin ones for this recipe, as they cook quickly and don’t release a ton of moisture), which have been roasted a few minutes to give them a head start, are lined up on top of the leeks and cheese like little soldiers before the tart is placed into the oven to bake to golden, flaky perfection.

Even if snow often falls here in April, if I buy a bunch of greenhouse tulips and serve this beautiful and mouthwatering tart with a crisp green salad and a glass of wine, maybe a few flakes won’t seem so bad. Or maybe I just won’t look out the window.

Asparagus, Leek and Gruyère Tart

Serves 6.

Note: Look for asparagus that is of thin or medium thickness to ensure the tart and asparagus are done at the same time. If you can’t find crème fraîche, you can substitute sour cream. From Meredith Deeds.

• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

 1 medium leek, white and tender green, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise and rinsed well

• 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 3/4 tsp. salt, divided

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 lb.), thawed

• 2 c. shredded Gruyère cheese

• 1/2 c. crème fraîche

• 1 egg yolk

• 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

• All-purpose flour, for dusting

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until softened and slightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Place the asparagus on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place in oven to roast for 3 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the sautéed leeks, Gruyère, crème fraîche, yolk, nutmeg, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Roll out the puff pastry into a 10- by 16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread the leek/cheese mixture onto the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Fold 1/2-inch of the pastry over the filling on all sides. Arrange the asparagus on top of the leek/cheese mixture and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tart is browned on the sides and bottom and the asparagus is tender.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 505 Fat 39 g Sodium 670 mg

Carbohydrates 23 g Saturated fat 17 g Total sugars 2 g

Protein 16 g Cholesterol 100 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 ½ high-fat protein, 6 fat.

 

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Follow her on Twitter: @meredithdeeds.