Mother's Day Brunch: Asparagus, Feta, Ricotta and Tomato Rustic Tart; Cucumber Cocktails

A rustic tart made with fresh local Asparagus, Tomatoes and Cheese from a local farm
Now that the 20th Season of the Collingswood Farmers' Market is open, I feel like life can begin anew!  I made it out bright and early to the opening morning of the market this past Saturday, May 4th (May the Fourth Be With You!)  Snagged local asparagus from Viereck Farms; a Hot House Tomato from one of the many produce stands; Feta and Ricotta Cheeses from Hillacre Pride.  When I got home, I was inspired to make a luscious spring meal.  A rustic tart is on the menu, pair it with a side salad and you have yourself a meal for Meatless Mondays or something special for Mother's Day Brunch. 



Cool Cucumber Garden Cocktail - a meal in a drink!
I'm adding in a bonus cocktail that I recently concocted, a riff on a Bloody Mary, made with cucumber juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, picked veggies and cucumber infused vodka.  If you don't drink or don't like vodka, omit it; the drink as a "mock-tail" is truly a healthy elixir.  

The steps and fixings for the Rustic Asparagus and Tomato Tart

Asparagus and Tomato Tart Ingredients:
  • 1 - Pie Crust - Homemade or Ready Made
  • 1 Bunch of Asparagus - washed; woody stems cut away, and thick stems cut into half
  • 1 Large Tomato - washed, cored and cut into thin round slices
  • 1 Cup Fresh Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Feta Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Herbs such as a combination of Mint, Chives and Tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon each of dried herbs).  Mince and chiffonade the herbs
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Set aside.
  2. Prepare the vegetables.  If the asparagus you purchased is thick, cut the spears in half lengthwise. If the spears are thin, leave them as the are.  Slice the tomato into thin rounds and then cut the rounds into half moons.  Set the vegetables aside.
  3. Put the ricotta and feta cheeses into a small mixing bowl.  Add to the cheese mixture the bowl and add in the chopped fresh herbs or dried herb mixture.  Add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Stir the mixture to combine thoroughly.  
  4. Roll out the pie dough to increase its diameter a few inches, you want to take a 9-inch pie dough and roll it out to about 12 inches.  Place the pie dough onto the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the inside of the dough with some olive oil.
  5. Spread HALF of the cheese and herb mixture onto pie dough - spreading it close enough to the edge of the pie dough.  
  6. Next, about an inch or inch and a half from the edge of the dough, lay out the half moon slices of the tomatoes in a circle, forming a ring.  Then lay into the center of the tart the asparagus, overlapping onto the tomatoes.  Fold up the edge of the pie dough onto and over the tomatoes.  Season with some salt and pepper then brush the edge of the dough with the remaining olive oil.  Lastly, dot the center of the tart with the remaining cheese mixture.
  7. Place the baking sheet into the center of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes.  Check to see if the tart is golden brown and the crust is puffy.  Turn the oven off after 40 minutes if the tart appears to be done, and open the door slightly.  Keep the tart in the oven an additional 5 minutes to cool and settle.
  8. Remove tart from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Pair it with with a side vegetable salad.  Serves 8.  Can be eaten and enjoyed hot, warm or at room temperature.  Refrigerate and eat within 3 days.
A healthy cocktail? You betcha! Homemade pickles
and house made cucumber juice make this
a garden of delights Elixir!

Note - I made my own pickled vegetables as well as boozy cherry tomatoes (tomatoes soaked in vodka).  You can use whatever pickled veggies you like, but use a good quality.  Green Aisle Grocers, one of our market vendors has a fantastic selection of pickles and picked vegetables.  Now you can grab a jar from Andrew Erace and you'll have the perfect use for them!  You can find cucumber juice at a juice bar, at Whole Foods, Wegmans, etc.
I pureed my own cucumber juice using small, Persian or baby cucumbers which did not need to be peeled or seeded.  I pureed them in a blender then strained away the solids using a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Two bags of cucumbers, about 6-7 per bag, yielded about a quart of cucumber juice.  If you use conventional cucumbers, peel the skin and seed them.  If you use English cucumbers, they don't need to be seeded or peeled.  Should you not have a blender, a juicer, food processor or "Magic Bullet" smoothie maker will work too.

Keep all the ingredients cold and refrigerated.  This drink can be made to order but it will be easier to make in advance, adding the vodka last if you're concerned about friends or family who don't imbibe.  If you want to make the drink indivdiulay per order, the ratio is 2 parts cucumber juice to one part vodka - 2 ounces juice per 1 ounce vodka per drink.


The  Cool Cucumber Garden Cocktail Ingredients:
  • 20 ounces Cucumber Juice - puree your own and strain the solids through cheese cloth and a fine mesh strainer, or buy a fresh top quality cucumber juice.
  • 10 Ounces Cucumber Infused Vodka (I found one by Three Olives that is Cucumber/Lime)
  • 1 Jar of Pickled Vegetables and Brine
  • Juice of 2 Lemons
  • 5 or more Dashes Hot Sauce
  • 4-6 Dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Celery Seed or 1/2 Tablespoon Salt-free seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash
  • 10 Cherry Tomatoes - optional for garnish
  • 10 Cocktail Olives - stuffed or plain, but Bleu Cheese Olives are smashing - optional!
  • 10 Celery Stalks - cleaned - for garnish
Directions:
  1. Fill a large pitcher with ice, then pour in the cucumber juice, vodka, juice of 1 lemon, hot and Worcestershire sauces, celery seed or seasoning blend and stir to combine.  Add in 3-4 piece of the pickled vegetable along with 3-4 tablespoons of the pickle brine. Stir again.
  2. If making these alcohol free, omit the vodka.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning, lemon, and/or pickle brine as needed.  
  3. Pour drinks into a tall glass filled with ice and use a celery stalk as the stirrer.  Garnish with a cherry tomato and olive, as well as additional pickled vegetables. If you don't have tall glasses, a stemless wine glass or small rocks tumbler will work too.
  4. Makes 8-10, four or five ounce cocktails.  Keep well chilled.

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