A friend of mine, Jean Marie Kennedy and fellow student from the University of Richmond Cooking School, made her TV debut on NBC12 with this recipe. It looked so good; I had to try it. I’ve made puff pastry a few times for Palmier Cookies but had never used it in a savory recipe. You can quickly make puff pastry or find it in your grocers freezer section. Pillsbury is the best brand.
When we have people over for dinner, I usually try to have many menu items completed in advance so I can enjoy time with our friends. Ninety percent of the time I end up making asparagus in the oven as our side dish for this reason. It’s so forgiving with just a light squeeze of a lemon, sea salt and pepper! But when I saw Jean Marie on TV going through the list of ingredients for this recipe, (cheese, puff pastry, asparagus, cheese … did I already mention cheese?) I knew I had to try this as an alternative to plain asparagus! This recipe proved to withstand sitting for several hours (refrigerated) before baking. That is huge for me when I am planning a dinner for friends.
Mise En Place:
I gather the measured ingredients and set them on my island. I have store-bought puff pastry in the freezer, so I take it out to defrost for about 20 minutes. As I didn’t have fresh thyme, I used fresh dill from my garden. I like that you can substitute herbs without losing the integrity of the recipe.
Let’s get started! I begin by mixing in a large bowl the softened cream cheese, butter, grated parmesan, dill, sea salt and nutritional yeast (it doesn’t really taste like much but apparently is good for me). I should soften my cream cheese a bit more as it is pretty dense.
Next I wash the asparagus and cut them into 3 inch pieces, only using the tips. Set aside.
I unfold my thawed puff pastry onto my lightly floured silpat. I roll it out a few times and then cut the large rectangle into smaller rectangles … about 4 x 3 inches.
The next step is to spread out the cream cheese mixture onto the puff pastry rectangles, leaving a border of about a 1/2 inch. This is a bit difficult because my cream cheese is still rather cold and not as spreadable as I would like. But this doesn’t have to be perfect as it will melt and spread when cooked.
Then I place the asparagus on top of the cream cheese mixture. Lifting each pastry with a large spatula, I arrange them on a lined baking sheet.
I now only line my baking sheets with parchment paper. About a year ago, I asked my mom to special order parchment sheets for my birthday, I used them sparingly since I knew they were expensive. Two months ago, I found a HUGE roll of it at Costco and now I use it for EVERYTHING!
Next up, I sprinkle each rectangle with the remaining parmesan. (Okay, I should mention that I ate the leftover parmesan. So, I had to grate more. This may also be a good time to confess that I am a member of an organic cheese of the month club!) Also, in looking at the picture below, you may notice that my rectangles aren’t perfect … big surprise that I cut them wrong the first time … as in the shape was more like bread sticks! lol So, I had to piece them together after a quick consult with Jean Marie. 🙂
I pop them in the oven for about 20 mins and VOILA! They puff up and look so cool.
Most of you know that I am a vegetarian … so these were MY dinner but side dishes for my boys! I can’t wait to make these again the next time we have friends over. Although, now that I have blogged about them, they will know how easy they were to make. Isn’t that the trick of a great dinner party? Serving something that looks amazing but only took you a few minutes to make! LOVE IT! If you are looking for an easy vegetarian appetizer, you could make mini versions of this!
Jean Marie, thank you so much for letting me share this recipe with my family and friends. I look forward to learning more from you! You can find more information about what Jean Marie is up to on Facebook or her website, Simply Savory. If you live in RVA, you can find Jean Marie selling her goods at the Forest Hill Farmers Market each week.
PS: I had some puff pastry and cream cheese mixture left so I decided to make another batch. This time I used small pieces of fresh broccoli. YUM!
Asparagus Cheese Tarts
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
- 16 thin spears of asparagus (or 8 thick ones, halved lengthwise)
- 6 oz cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shaved
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove pastry dough from freezer and let thaw for 20 minutes.
- In medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, grated Parmesan, garlic, chives, thyme and salt; set aside.
- Wash and trim asparagus, cut in half cross-wise.
- Unfold dough onto a floured surface, roll out enough to flatten, cut into 8 rectangles.
- Transfer the rectangles to a parchment covered half sheet pan.
- Spread cream cheese mixture onto each of the pastry rectangles, leaving ½ inch border all the way around.
- Press four asparagus spears onto each rectangle, alternating direction (you will have to fiddle with the length of the asparagus a bit).
- Sprinkle with the reserved parmesan cheese – about ½ tablespoon for each tart.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes until pastries are golden brown.
- Remove from oven, and transfer to serving platter.