Five things to do before Sunday (which happens to be both my birthday and Mother’s Day):
1. Watch the 1966 film Blow-up by Michelangelo Antonioni (for its stunning photography and because it’s due back to the video store—yes, we still rent from the store, sometimes) about a British photographer who accidentally captures the commission of a murder on film. Renessa Redgrave, David Hemmings, and Sarah Miles star in the film which takes an insider’s look at London’s fashion scene and mid-sixties mod society. The film was inspired by Julio Cortazar’s 1959 short story titled Las babas del diablo translated as “The Devil’s Drool” or “Blow-up.”
2. Meet a friend for coffee.
3. Make a 2-minute film.
4. Pick hyacinths from the flower bed outside our dining room window.
5. Make this asparagus and red onion tart flecked with Meyer lemon and orange zest and nutty-hued Gruyere cheese with a yeasted pastry tart shell (you’ll want to join me on this one…).
Asparagus and Red Onion Tart
adapted from Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville
Yield one 9-inch tart; serves six
1 recipe Yeasted Tart Dough (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound asparagus, tough ends discarded, sliced into 1-inch lengths on a diagonal, about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
zest of 1 orange, minced
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated, about 1 scant cup
Prepare the yeasted tart dough.
Yeasted Tart Dough
Yield one 9-inch tart shell
1 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1/2 package
pinch of natural cane sugar
1/4 cup warm (110F) water
about 1/2 cup white spelt flour and 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest, minced
1 large egg at room temperature
3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
unbleached white flour for shaping
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and set it in a warm place while you gather the other ingredients. Combine 1 cup flour, the salt, and the minced lemon zest in a bowl and make a well. Break the egg into the middle of it; add the butter and pour in the yeast mixture, which should be foamy with bubbles. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a soft, smooth dough. Dust it with flour and gather into a ball; set it in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it is doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If you are not ready to shape the dough at this time, knead it down and let it rise again.
Line a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with parchment paper; place a dab of butter between the paper and pan to hold it in place, then butter and lightly dust the pan with flour, shake out any excess flour. Flatten the dough, place it in the center of the pan, and press it out to the edge using either your knuckles or the heel of your hand. Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. If the dough shrinks back while you’re shaping it, cover with a towel and let it relax for 20 minutes before you finish pressing it out. It should be thin on the bottom and thicker at the sides, about 1/4 inch higher that the rim of the pan. Refrigerate until needed.
(Make-ahead: The tart dough can be filled immediately or refrigerated until needed. It can also be made a day in advance and held in the refrigerator. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and allow it to return to room temperature before forming it. The dough can also be frozen, wrapped in foil).
Prepare the asparagus and red onion tart filling.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the asparagus, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper and cook until the asparagus is tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, toss them with the herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the half-and-half, orange zest, a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.
Sprinkle the cheese on the bottom of the prepared tart dough and spread the asparagus and onions over it. Pour the custard over and bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, until the custard is golden and set.