Asparagus season is here! I am so thrilled, and this year I’ve discovered a local source (Milberger Farms in Pueblo, CO) that is selling their freshly picked spears to grocery stores here in the Springs. I knew something was different a couple of weeks ago when I started snapping the ends off a bundle and caught a whiff of that GREEN and tangy fragrance that can only be from very fresh asparagus. It reminded me of my childhood and the wild asparagus we picked every spring from our country road in Palisade. Heavenly, familiar, and now — exciting, because it really puts me in the mood to enjoy asparagus like never before.
I always get nostalgic this time of year remembering when we lived in Munich, and how we relished Spargelzeit (if you’ve ever visited in April or May, you will know what I mean). The Germans are so very good at celebrating the four seasons and their offerings, and you can count on every restaurant preparing dishes with asparagus, or my favorite: weiβ Spargelcremesuppe made with white asparagus. Although white asparagus isn’t as familiar in the USA, if you feel like taking an exotic trip right in your own kitchen, try making Nicky’s version of the soup.
As of Monday, I’ve been on a mission to use that fresh cheese I made, so to pair it with some fresh asparagus seemed like just the thing to do. I was headed in the direction of a tart, but the simple cheese seemed to call for something less refined . . . more rustic. I love rustic. So, I decided on a galette made with some buckwheat flour. My only frustration was that this is a particularly busy week for us, and evenings are short and already called for, so making one for dinner was not in the cards. This turned out to be lucky for Dave, who is a huge fan of savory breakfasts.
So, though I am far from anything resembling a morning-person (cue Dave: rolling on the floor, choking with laughter trying to imagine such a thing), I marched myself to the kitchen this morning and got to cooking. I had the sense to make the pastry dough late last night, so that was chilled and waiting in the refrigerator. Everything else was a snap, and in no time, breakfast was ready.
My expectations were met- the pastry was light and flaky, the cheese was creamy and mild, the asparagus so flavorful, and topping it with some freshly shaved proscuitto and lemon zest was nothing short of delcious. If you are searching for vegetarian ideas, just skip the ham. This was wonderful for breakfast, it would be a star at brunch or with a green salad for lunch, and always a treat for dinner. I love the versatility! So, carpe diem! Go out and savor that asparagus, and wishing a very happy Spargelzeit to all, especially the ones we love in Deutschland!
Galette with Fresh Cheese, Asparagus & Proscuitto
by Stephanie Kunstle
serves 4 hungry adults
Ingredients for the pastry crust:
recipe adapted from Gourmet, November 2007 Pastry Dough recipe
- 3/4 cup unbleached flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. iced water
Preparation of pastry crust:
- In a medium mixing bowl, or a food processor, combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into small cubes, and using a pastry cutter, food processor, (or a couple of forks), cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some lumps.
- Slowly add the iced water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring (pulsing on processor) until well incorporated and the dough holds together. If you absolutely need to, add more water one teaspoon at a time.
- Divide the dough into four balls, and smear three or four times on a clean workplace to further incorporate the fat from the butter.
- Gather dough into one ball, and press into a disc that is two inches thick, wrap with plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so (or overnight).
Ingredients for galette:
- approximately 1 cup fresh cheese (you may substitute whole milk ricotta, or fresh goat cheese if you wish)
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus, rinsed with ends snapped off
- sea salt
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-4 slices proscuitto, each piece sliced into quarters
- zest of one lemon
- corn meal for dusting
Preparation for galette:
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Oil a large baking sheet with olive oil and then sprinkle coarse corn meal or polenta over the entire surface.
- In a large sauteé pan, heat about 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, and add asparagus. Salt generously, and sauteé the asparagus for 3-4 minutes until bright green and still firm in the centers. Remove from heat.
- On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to 1/8 inch thickness, and transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
- Leaving a 2-3 inch border, sprinkle the fresh cheese evenly in the center.
- Top the cheese with the cooked asparagus in whatever design you desire (I like my spears pointing to the center), overlapping when necessary to maintain the 2-3 inch border along edges of pastry dough.
- Fold the pastry edges toward the center to form the edge of the galette.
- Bake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes until crust is just beginning to become browned (because of the buckwheat, it will not become golden like a typical pastry dough).
- Transfer galette very carefully to a large cutting board by sliding it gently off the baking sheet.
- Loosely twist the pieces of proscuitto, and arrange on top of the galette.
- Sprinkle the lemon zest over the entire galette, and drizzle with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. Finish with cracks of salt and pepper, if you wish.
- Slice with a pizza cutter, and serve hot or at room temperature with wedges of lemon for anyone who might want that extra tang!