Nicoise Salad

Spring Nicoise Salad features boiled and marinated new potatoes, roasted asparagus, canned tuna and olives. Or place rows of roasted asparagus, cooked potato quarters, canned tuna, olives, grape tomatoes and chopped baby corn on a platter. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette or creamy dill dressing. 

Yes, you can make your own vinaigrette, but you can actually purchase some very tasty Green or Italian dressings to drizzle over the entire range of veggies.   Of course, you can make this salad anytime with Salmon, Green Beans, Tomato and/or Hard Boiled Tomato Slices.  

Smart Tart— It may be long on Instructions, but once you get the hang of this puff pastry crust that does not require a tart pan,  you will whiz right through this Pretty-Quick-Fix Roasted Asparagus GruyereTart. 

Frozen puff pastry makes a very convenient and elegant crust.  It stores for a month in the freezer and defrosts quickly when needed.  This crust recipe can easily be scaled up or down according to your needs by using 1/2 sheet of puff pastry (1 tart shell), one sheet of puff pastry (2 tarts shells), or the entire package of 2 sheets (4 tart shells). 

The beauty of this tart also lays in the fact that NO tart pan is required.  Simply unroll the single puff pastry sheet, cut in half long ways (refrigerate or freeze other half if not needed), roll and bake on a cookie sheet. (Keep the pastry refrigerated until ready to roll.)

Then, simply roast the asparagus. Turn the oven down, bake the pastry shell, sprinkle it with cheese, top with the asparagus, sprinkle with a little more cheese, and bake a few more minutes to finish. That’s about 30 minutes from start to finish for a glorious and pretty-quick-fix appetizer. Serve as a handheld appetizer or as a salad accompaniment.

Makes 8-10 slices.

1 pound fresh asparagus, about 25 thin or 15 medium spears

Olive oil spray

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator

1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of flour for rolling dough

1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

2 tablespoons roasted red pepper or thin julienne lemon zest strips, for garnish

Chopped spinach leaves, for presentation, optional

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

To prepare asparagus, break off tough ends.  Place on baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil spray.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Bake for 5 minutes or until the asparagus is still bright green and fork crisp. Remove from oven and place on a cutting board.

Reduce oven to 400ºF.

Sprinkle a clean rolling surface with Parmesan cheese and flour.   (Roll the rolling pin in the flour cheese mix before starting.)  Working quickly (when warm, puff pastry gets sticky), unfold the pastry and roll the 1/2 sheet into a rectangle approximately 5” x 12” turning once so that Parmesan cheese rolls into both sides.  Place the pastry on the baking sheet used for the asparagus.

Roll the edges over about ¼ inch toward the middle, pressing well to adhere with the tines of a fork.  This will provide a nice edge.  Pierce the dough center area with a fork at half-inch intervals.  Freeze about 5 minutes. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Check to see if the bottom is browned.  If not, turn over and bake an additional 2 minutes to crisp the bottom.  Remove from the oven. If the middle is puffed, simply push down with a spatula.

Sprinkle the middle section with all but 2 tablespoons Gruyère.  Trim the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell.  Arrange in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips. Sprinkle with remaining Gruyère and any additional garnish. 

Slice into 8-10 rectangles, cutting between every 3 asparagus spears.  Slide onto a small rectangular platter scattered with chopped spinach leaves, if desired.

If not serving right away, place filled pastry back in oven and bake an additional 5 minutes, to melt cheese and reheat.

Please try this wonderful salad and smart tart, please send me your feedback!

Foodly Yours,Pat Dugan


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