Spring has Sprung

After a busy start to this season, I'm finally sitting in my living room. The sun is streaming though my window and the weather outside is warm and shaking off the last of the snow from Friday. In the world of me, spring means a few things: some delicious fresh produce, bright new flowers, and summer right around the corner! Not only have my raised beds gotten a serious makeover but my patio has also been getting a good scrubbing and some bright new plants are just opening their buds in my garden. On top of that, I have completed my studies and earned an AAS degree in Culinary Arts! It’s been a long road, and I'm so happy and relieved that I can finally put that on my resume.

As part of my culinary training we all had to enter a contest based around a tasty cheese. For this contest I put together a very spring-y recipe for asparagus Gruyere tarts.

Also, my family and I went on our annual trip to the Seattle Flower and Garden Show, which was fantastic! I am always impressed every year I go by the beautiful flowers and creativity in the gardens on display. I made a couple of purchases, including a large rotting stump that now sits in my kitchen growing a lovely bunch of shiitake mushrooms. Unfortunately, my roommates don't appreciate it as much as I do.
Just a small sample of what kind of flora made an appearance at the garden show.

This wonderful garden featured all things New Zealand - including its very own hobbit hole and a variety of local plants from that region. Northern New Zealand actually has a very similar climate to the Northwest this time of year.

Savory Gruyere and Asparagus Tarts


·         2 9”rounds of pie dough

·         A dozen asparagus stalks
·         1 cup whipping cream
·         1 Tbls unsalted butter
·         1Tbl flour
·         1 tsp minced garlic
·         2oz gruyere, grated with extra for garnish
·         1 tsp salt
·         ½ tsp ground white pepper
·         ½ tsp dried thyme
·         ½ tsp dried dill

1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees and start a pot of water boiling.
2.       Grease a dozen mini tart tins with either butter or pan spray. Once that is done, use the tart tins to cut out several circles of pie dough, and mold to the inside of the tins.
3.       Using a fork, pierce the bottom of the dough in each tin to prevent it from rising in the oven. Once that is done, place the tins on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until dough is light golden brown in color. (Once the dough is cooked, it is easier to remove from the tins before adding the other ingredients.)
4.       While the dough is cooking, trim your asparagus spears and prepare an ice bath. Once that is complete, blanche your asparagus in the boiling water. After a minute, the stalks should turn a bright green color, and need to be quickly removed from the water and placed in the ice bath. Allow them to cool there while you prepare your sauce.
5.       To make the gruyere sauce, first set a small saucepan with your heavy cream on a burner at low heat, to allow it to simmer. In a separate pan, prepare your roux by first melting butter at medium heat. Once your butter is melted add your garlic and sweat it for a few moments until fragrant. Slowly add your flour and combine with the butter in the pan, until it resembles wet sand.
6.       At this point, slowly mix your roux with the whipping cream and stir continuously. Once the roux is thoroughly incorporated your cream should be thick. At this point, add the gruyere, salt, pepper, dill and thyme. Be sure to taste and add more salt and pepper as needed to the sauce.
7.       Spoon your cheese sauce into the bottom of your tarts, about ½ a tablespoon in each one.
8.       Remove your asparagus spears from the ice bath, and chop on a bias into ¼ inch chunks. Place about 4 of these pieces on each tart, then garnish with a sprinkle of salt and more grated gruyere.
9.       Place the tarts back in the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is melted then serve warm.


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