Last weekend I found myself in Blacksburg, VA on Saturday morning, with a long drive ahead of me back to West Point. I decided to check out their farmers’ market so I wouldn’t miss out on a week of local shopping. It was quite possibly the best market I have been to. After making the rounds at the Blacksburg Farmers Market, I ended up with a huge bounty of beautiful produce to take home, and we only went $2 over our $20 spending limit! (I have to impose spending limits at the market, or else I will buy more food than we can eat before it spoils). Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, rhubarb, butter lettuce, asparagus, garlic scapes, radishes, herbs– I couldn’t believe what I came away with. I knew I would use these foods to concoct a meal for this year’s One Local Summer challenge.
Now, I have to admit I cheated a bit with the meal. Generally, the meals are restricted to only local foods with spices, oils, vinegars, and things of that nature also allowed. I am a little fuzzy on the rules for dry goods, but as I had them filling my pantry, I decided I would go ahead and use them. After my Anadama Bread, I have a lot of polenta left, so I wanted to use it. You can use any polenta recipe you like to make this tart crust. The polenta is full of flavor and adds texture to the recipe, bringing a richness to the tart. This plays off the green flavors of the asparagus and garlic scapes, which are slowly roasted in the oven as the tart cooks. This tart is a simple concotion, but it bursts with spring flavors. It’s a great way to show off new produce!
Asparagus and Garlic Scape Tart with Polenta Crust
for the polenta crust:
- 1 C polenta
- 1/2 C chicken stock (veggie stock to make it vegan)
- 2 1/2 C water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning (or a blend of rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage, and oregano)
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes
for the tart filling
- 1/2 lbs of fresh asparagus
- 1/2 lbs of garlic scapes
- 1 onion
- extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Start by cooking the polenta. Bring the water and stock to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta while whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Season the polenta with the salt, Italian seasoning, and peppers. Reduce the temperature on the polenta so that it is barely simmering. Cook, stirring very frequently for one hour. Be careful, as the polenta will have a tendency to bubble and pop, and it will be very hot and sticky! After an hour, remove the polenta from the heat and let it cool a bit. You may drizzle in some olive oil or add some butter if you’d like. Spray a tart pan with spray oil. When the polenta is cool enough to handle, spread it about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom of a tart pan with a removable bottom. Press polenta up the sides of the pan, as well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the crust until you are ready to bake the tart– up to one day. You can also double the polenta recipe and use half for the tart crust and the rest for another recipe.
When you are ready to begin preparing the tart, preheat your oven to 425º. Remove the crust from the refrigerator, dock the bottom with a fork, and lightly drizzle olive oil on the crust. Bake until the crust is golden and crispy– about 25 minutes.
While the tart crust bakes, trim the tough ends from the asparagus. Cut all asparagus to roughly the same length. Then, cut the garlic scapes to match. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Slice the onion into thin half moons. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet, and saute the onion until it is very clear and translucent, and just beginning to caramelize– about 10 minutes. Remove the onion from the heat.
After you remove the tart crust from the oven, fill the tart with the onion. Arrange the garlic scapes on top of the of onion in a circle. Then, layer the asparagus on top of that with the tips facing the same direction. Bake the tart at 425º for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350º and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. The tart will be a little tricky to slice, so use a sharp knife and have something to lift it out of the pan.
Serves 6 as part of a meal, or 2-3 as a standalone dish.