Asparagus and macadamia tart with a lemon-pepper crust

Asparagus and macadamia tart

Asparagus and macadamia tart

I’ve been in a little bit of a blue funk lately, and I couldn’t start to tell you why. It’s inexplicable! The other morning I was lying in bed, trying to think of a good reason to get out of it, and I heard birds singing outside my window. I heard birds whirring and calling and warbling. It wasn’t a particularly nice morning, it was grey and unseasonably cool, but the sun came up a little earlier than it had the day before, as it does this time of year. The birds seemed to recognize that fact and want to sing about it. The birds and bugs and flowers just get on with their work, they go about their business. They wake up and live because that’s what they do in the spring. Maybe they think about time passing. Maybe they’re bewildered by memories and worries, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down any. As the days grow longer and lighter, they work harder and louder, and they seem satisfied with that. They seem happy. It felt like a comfort to me, listening to the birds busy outside my window. It felt like a good reason to get out of bed and get on with my life, and join the cool bright world waking up all around me, at its own irrepressible pace. You can never hold back spring.

This is what we made for easter dinner. It’s modeled on a bakewell tart, so you’ve got your crust, your jammy layer (pureed asparagus and tarragon!), and your baked nut custard layer (with macadamia nuts!). I added lemon zest and pepper to the crust, because both those things go well with asparagus and seemed fresh and springlike. Other than that, we kept it really simple and clean. I thought it was very tasty – bright but comforting.

Here’s Tom Waits with You Can Never Hold Back Spring. Remember everything that spring can bring.

THE CRUST

2 cups flour
zest of one lemon
1/2 t salt
lots of black pepper
1 stick butter, frozen
1/4 cup olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the flour, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Grate in the butter, and mix with a fork till you have a coarse crumb-like texture. Stir in the olive oil. Add just enough ice water to make a workable dough (start with 1/2 cup). Knead for about half a minute to combine everything, then form into a patty, cover in foil, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

THE FILLING

1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed and washed
5 eggs
squeeze of lemon juice
2 t honey
1 T fresh tarragon
1 cup macadamia nuts
2 T flour
2 T milk
1/2 t dried thyme
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
about 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices

Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly butter a roasting pan or shallow tray – maybe 10″ by 14″. Roll out the dough to fit your tray, pressing it up the sides – don’t worry about making it too even. Poke the bottom with a fork in a few places, and cook for about 10 minutes to set. It should lose some of its shine and feel firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, in a pot big enough to fit the asparagus, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover, and cook for a minute or two, until the asparagus is tender and bright green. Drain. Reserve about 1/4 of the asparagus to decorate the top.

Drop the rest of the asparagus into a blender or food processor. Add one egg, the tarragon, the honey, and the lemon juice. Purée until quite smooth. Spread this mixture on the pre-baked crust.

Without cleaning the blender or food processor, add the macadamia nuts, 4 eggs, flour, and milk. Purée until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the fresh mozzarella in a thin layer over the asparagus. Pour the egg & nut mixture over that. Arrange the reserved asparagus in a pretty pattern on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s puffed and golden. Let cool for a few minutes, and then slice and eat.

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