Monday, 14 April 2014

Pie to the Power of 2

Tortina Salata con Asparagi, Dragoncello, Menta & Ricotta Salata
Asparagus, Tarragon, Mint & Salted Ricotta Tartelette

Ah, the joys of living alone... Not! On the one hand, this was the second great meal I made from one single bunch of green asparagus- and there is third of that bunch left to make yet another meal this week. Which is very cool. But at the same time- this was a really amazing little dish and with a little salad on the side it would have been enough for two! Sigh!

And of course I could have just made a regular, small-sized tart rather than make 2 separate little individual ones... but you have to admit- these are pretty cute-looking!

One thing I always have in the fridge is puff-pastry. Everybody loves it, nowadays it is almost always a great quality, no matter where you buy it from... and does also have magic powers. That's right! I always lets you transform the most basic of ingredients into something simply delicious! 

To make 2 little individual tartelettes, or one small tart that will serve 2 people, you will need 2 eggs, a handful of asparagus (these were 14 stems if you want to be so precise!), a shallot, a sprig of mint, a couple of sprigs of tarragon and a small piece of salted ricotta cheese. 

And as always- there is a little rinsing and chopping to be done- is that too much to ask? Nah! Other than that, this is so little work and so easy to make that I am sure you have 2-3 minutes to slice the shallot up really finely, to finely chop the mint and tarragon and then to first trim off the tips of the asparagus at around 2" and to finely chop the rest. 

Once you have done that, turn your oven on at the top setting to get it nice and hot and ready for our little pies... they will be going in there in just 15 minutes or so!

The next thing to do is to pop the finely chopped asparagus into a small frying pan with just enough water in it to cover the surface and to crank up the heat, bring the water to the boil, season with a little salt and pepper and toss until the water has evaporated away and the asparagus turns one shade darker- at that point it is pre-cooked enough and can be set aside to cool.

Whilst the asparagus was cooling, I cracked the eggs into a bowl, added about 12 tablespoon of salted ricotta and added the finely chopped tarragon and mint.

I seasoned them with plenty of freshly ground mixed pepper, a little salt (remember that the salted ricotta cheese is rather intensely salty!) and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg.

Now that the frying pan was empty again, I carried on by quickly tossing the very finely chopped shallot with a little olive oil, just a tiny drop, at a high heat until it became transparent and indeed began to brown a little- all good flavor and added sweetness when shallots or onions begin to caramelize... mmm!

I added the asparagus to the beaten eggs now that it was cool, along with the soft and delicious shallot- and my simple little filling was done! All I needed to do now was to organize a great pastry casing for it!

And of course I did that by using my favorite method... baking it in a frying pan!

I cut a circle pastry to size to make the base of the tarts, then laid out 3 strips of extra pastry around the outside in order to get a really wonderful, flaky edge. And as I said, I managed to get 2 of these lovely little pies made with just a few ingredients and just one roll of store-bought puff-pastry. And I would call that a good thing!

I poured in half of the egg/asparagus/herb mixture, then quickly tossed the asparagus tips with just a touch of olive oil to give them a light glaze and added half of them to the center of each little tart.

Last but not least came a final sprinkle of grated, salted Ricotta and then onto the stove top it went for 3-4 minutes to pre-bake from below. Before transferring them to the oven I waited for the egg began to bubble a little which meant that the  tarts were almost already half-done.

Around 10 minutes later, the pastry was nice and puffy and the egg was nearly set... so I turned on the broiler for 3-4 minutes to give both an extra blast of intense heat from above. This made sure that the egg set properly, that the ricotta turned nice and brown and that the pastry ABSOLUTELY puffed! 

Just look at that for a beautiful finish! Are you all drooling? Good! Now I don't feel so alone! Haha- I could eat one of these little beauties all over again!

After cooling off for 5-6 minutes, the pastry became nice and firm and was easy to lift out of the little pan and to set out onto a serving dish. You will probably be as impatient as I was, smelling that delicate herb perfume of the mint and tarragon... but if you can manage to be patient the filling will stand up better to slicing- as you can see... these turned out to be more than perfect!

So- again a slightly different little recipe with asparagus, paired wonderfully (even if I DO say so myself!) with the tarragon, mint and salted ricotta- what's not to love?!?

They tasted perfect served nice and hot, but I am sure they would have been just as wonderful served cold in the morning... if only they had been around for that long! Hope you try and enjoy them too!

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