Recipe: Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Yogurt Tart with Rye Crust
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.
I like to think of my progress in the garden as a series of dips and swirls rather than a straight line. That way, when I have a year like this one when I don’t plant a single thing, I only see it as a tiny moment in the greater story of how I’ll work and relate to this little piece of land (or any other I might have the privilege to know in the life ahead of me). Or maybe I’m just giving those hardworking beds a rest. That’s what I tell myself in my more poetic moments, at least.
So yes. The reality of my garden right now is several rectangular patches of sow thistle and lambs’ quarters (both edible, so I’m growing something, right?), with the beginnings of milkweed poking up, soft ground coverings of creeping Charley and the random twine of a wild grape. It’s quite lovely in its own right, really.
In the midst of all the mess are the perennials that I can always count on. The mint, which seems to know it might get the chance to really take over this year. The Jerusalem artichokes, a foot high already. The rhubarb, ever heroic. And the asparagus in year four now, dry, a little buggy, but still shooting up the miraculous crowns that manage, in all their feathered royalty, to calm me, to remind me of the years before and to promise more in the years ahead. I’ve been especially grateful for those few spears a day, and they’ve been the best thing I’ve eaten all spring. Of course I need to find recipes where just a few spears will do, and the all-purpose custard tart has been especially useful. If you have a long rectangular tart pan, it holds your few, precious asparagus perfectly.
Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Yogurt Tart with Rye Crust
For the crust:
4 ounces (a scant cup) rye flour
5 ounces (a heaping cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
¼ cup olive oil
up to ½ cup water
For the filling:
5 to 6 spears asparagus
½ cup yogurt
½ cup heavy cream
freshly ground pepper
2 ounces smoked salmon, torn into bite-sized pieces
handful fresh herbs (parsley or dill are great here)
1. First prepare the crust: Combine the flours, salt, and caraway seeds in a medium mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and combine with a fork. Then add the water a few tablespoons at a time, and gently knead with your hand in the bowl, continuing to add water until the dough holds together. Gently roll out the crust on a floured surface and lift it into a greased 13 ¾ x 4 1/4-inch or equivalent tart pan. Transfer to the refrigerator.
2. Now, roast the asparagus. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the asparagus with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and lay it on a baking sheet. Roast until tender and a bit browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
3. While the asparagus cools, make the custard. Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, and cream, along with a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper.
4. Remove the tart crust from the refrigerator and poke the bottom several times with a fork. Lay the asparagus in the crust. Tuck the smoked salmon around it. Top with the fresh herbs, and finally pour the custard overtop. Put the tart on a baking sheet and bake until firm, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool for at least an hour before serving.