may 20, 2016
You can craft a savory tart with any number of crusts. Bubbly yeasted pizza dough, flaky pastry crust and crispy semolina flatbread to name a few; or you can make a crustless tart and make lots of folks happy. One of the current trends is to go paleo with crusts made from cauliflower, with or without cheese.
Spoon bread is one of my favorite Southern comfort foods, perfect for accompanying entrees at dinner or as a creamy, puffy breakfast bread. If you are wondering if spoon bread would make a sturdy crust for a savory tart, the answer is yes because this spoon bread tart crust is made to support a medley of spring vegetables and a nice smattering of goat cheese to boot.
I knew my hankering for spoon bread would lead to this lovely pie, but inspiration for the toppings came during a Saturday stroll through the South of the James Farmers Market in Richmond. Steve Haas of Steve Haas Mushrooms had some glossy brown shiitake mushroom parasols, Walnut Hill Farm had gorgeous lavender-tipped spears of asparagus and Sullivan’s Pond Farm had a good selection of their Bonnyclabber cheeses. Although “Tidewater” (a garlicky herbed chèvre) is my favorite of all time, I chose the plain “Moonshine” for this tart. There is nothing plain about this goat cheese, mind you. Tart, creamy, crumbly and perfectly goaty, this cheese barely lasted for the recipe testing. My first attempt at making the tart had lovely green peas scattered across the top with the other vegetables, but they rolled off at serving time, so further testing found them mixed into the spoonbread, where they lent a nice chewy texture and color to the crust.
This vegetable tart is best on the day it is prepared; it will settle nicely at room temperature for a few hours, since it tastes great that way in addition to warm from the oven. You can make it in the early morning hours and serve it at brunch or lunch, or offer it as a light dinner. Great soup companions would be Gingered Carrot Soup or Tomato Orange Soup. Roasted Baby Carrots with Dill and Chipotle would look pretty on the plate beside a nice hearty wedge of this tart. If salad is your preference, give these a try : Ginger Sesame Brussels Sprout Salad, or Roasted Radish and Arugula Salad. The latter is my favorite choice for you farmer’s market fans, since radish and arugula are seasonal partners with asparagus, peas, spring onion and shiitakes.
Spring Vegetable Spoon Bread Tart
makes 6-8 servings
2 cups asparagus cut diagonally (about one bunch)
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms: tops only, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
fine sea salt (I like La Baleine for its clean taste) and finely ground white pepper
¾ cup buttermilk
2 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 large eggs plus one large egg yolk, at room temperature, whisked well
one cup green peas, blanched if fresh and defrosted if frozen
½ cup thinly sliced spring onion (scallion), green parts only
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- medium sauté pan
- heavy 2 quart saucepan
- oven proof 10 inch skillet (cast iron best)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and place in oven while vegetables and crust are cooking.
- Over medium high heat, add ½ tablespoon olive oil to sauté pan; when it begins to shimmer, add asparagus and shiitake slices with a scant ¼ teaspoon sea salt and stir-fry for one minute just to wilt vegetables; set aside to cool while you make the crust.
- Add buttermilk, butter, water, a good pinch of white pepper and 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt to saucepan, stirring occasionally over medium high heat so that butter melts.
- Just as mixture comes to simmer, turn heat to low, gradually whisk in the cornmeal, then cook until thickened, whisking frequently, about 4 minutes.
- Off heat, vigorously whisk in the beaten egg, a little at a time, until mixed well.
- Add peas and stir to combine, then add crust to preheated oiled skillet.
- Pat asparagus and shiitake mushrooms into the crust so they will adhere, then bake the tart for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and scatter spring onion slices and goat cheese atop tart.
- Serve immediately or allow to settle to room temperature before serving.