Pistachio and tarragon tart with castelvetrano olives and asparagus

Asparagus, pistachio, castelvetrano tart

Asparagus, pistachio, castelvetrano tart

If The Ordinary was a TV program, (and it’s only a matter of time, really, when you think about it) this would be the moment when we’d saunter, smiling and chatting, over to a book so large it’s printed in dozens of volumes. Everyone in the audience would jump from their seats, screaming, “The OED! Yay! Tell us how some random word was used in the 13th century! And the 15th century and the 18th, and, if possible, give us an example from only a few years ago!! Yay!!” Yes, it’s OED time! Your word for today is “sigh.” Why? Because for some reason I found myself sighing a lot this weekend. And sometimes I would just say, “sigh,” instead of sighing. And then I wrote a story about a ghost who always has a sigh in his voice, and who can shake the whole room with his sigh. Strange, very strange. So on Monday I did the obvious thing and looked the word up in the OED. Turns out its meaning hasn’t changed dramatically over the years. It’s always meant something close to “A sudden, prolonged, deep and more or less audible respiration, following on a deep-drawn breath, and esp. indicating or expressing dejection, weariness, longing, pain, or relief.” It was oft used, ere this, by the supersensitive overwrought poets and lady novelists. And yet, I find it a very fascinating word! Because it’s not a word at all. It’s a space between words. Like the grunts I found so remarkable in Ozu’s Tokyo story, which rise or fall and contain a million different easily readable meanings in one small sound, it’s almost more expressive than any actual word. And a sigh is so full of variations and possibilities! A sigh can indicate exasperation, sadness, fatigue, resignation, comfort, satisfaction. One small sound, barely a sound! Just a breath, quieter than a whisper. And everybody sighs, often without meaning to or even being aware of it. It’s a universal language. My favorite sigher at the moment is Clio. She’ll make herself perfectly comfortable, and then she’ll settle her head on her paws and heave a great sigh, as though she’s just taken care of some very important business and now she can rest for a moment. Even the leaves and the grass and the wind sigh, especially in poems. “Whenever a March-wind sighs He sets the jewel-print of your feet In violets.” A sigh can express longing, you can sigh for something or someone. You can sigh something away…even your life, “Sapores..sighed out his affrighted ghost, at the age..of seventy one,” or your soul, “Hundreds of martyrs sighed away their souls amid the flames.” Maybe your sadnesse is sigh-swolne, your age is sigh-blown, or your tone is sigh-deepened. I love the idea of communicating without words, with something only slightly more audible than a gesture or an expression, with something as vital and intimate as our breath. I love the fact that “Some sighes out their woordes. Some synges their sentences.”

Asparagus pistachio castelvetrano tart

Asparagus pistachio castelvetrano tart

I think of this as my splurge tart. I spent more money than I should on castelvetrano olives and pistachio kernels, (yes, I’m a lazy spendthrift) and asparagus, which doesn’t seem to be getting any cheaper no matter how far into spring we get. So I decided to put them all together in one tart. I made a sort of frangipane of pistachio kernels, but I added asparagus and spinach, too. I wanted it to taste very green. And asparagus and castelvetrano olives are lovely together, juicy and fresh.

Here’s Dolcissimo Sospiro (I think it means “sweet sighs”) sung by the remarkable Montserrat Figueras


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 stick unsalted butter, frozen

Combine the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Grate in the butter, mixing with a fork as you go along, till you have coarse crumbs. Add just enough ice water to form a workable dough. Knead for about 1 minute so that everything is incorporated. Form into a flat disc, wrap in foil, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.


1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch asparagus, woody ends chopped off
1 cup spinach, washed and chopped
3/4 cup pistachio kernals
3 eggs
2 T fresh tarragon
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
large handful of castelvetrano olives, halved and pitted

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, and cook until it just starts to brown. Add the asparagus and spinach and a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook until the asparagus is tender and the spinach is wilted. Uncover and cook until the pan is dry. Cut the thin top half of the asparagus spears and set them aside. Chop the rest.

In a food processor, process the pistachios until they’re roughly chopped. Take out 2 tablespoons, and process the rest until quite fine. Add the eggs, and continue to process. Add the spinach, chopped asparagus, tarragon and cheddar, and process until quite smooth.

Preheat the oven to 425. Roll the tart dough to fit your (buttered and floured) tart pan. Place in the oven to pre-bake for about ten minutes, until it loses its shine. If the edges fall, press them up carefully with your fingers or a spoon.

Pour the filling into the tart shell. Arrange the tops of the asparagus spears and the olives in a pretty pattern on top. Sprinkle the reserved pistachios over.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is puffed and golden and firm to the touch. Let cool slightly, then remove from the tart pan, slice, and eat!


2 thoughts on “Pistachio and tarragon tart with castelvetrano olives and asparagus

    • Oh, we could do sigh songs! Or songs that sound as if they’re sung with a sigh in the singer’s voice. Songs that are “sighed out.”

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