Monday, April 19, 2010


Dash and Bella crave very different kinds of food. Dash spoons salad dressing right into his mouth, gnaws on fennel fronds, sucks down anchovy fillets (just like his mama), and eats any kind of egg you offer him.
 Bella, on the other hand, is happiest when cracked out on sugar.
She came up with a recipe the other day that went like this:

- roll a ball of chocolate chip cookie dough in chocolate shavings
- coat the ball with caramel sauce
- roll the ball in sugar
- bake for a bit

She tried the recipe. It was a SUGAR EXPLOSION and she ate every burnt scrap.

But I've noticed a change in Bella. I haven't heard these words in a while (usually followed by a very dramatic gag): "Eww, those vegetables make me want to BARF!" Now she will eat most vegetables when they're in the form of a tart, soup, gratin, or salad. But she needs TOPPINGS (just like her mama). We've been thinly slicing cippolini onions, green garlic, or shallots and frying them in olive oil. We call them "crispies" and we sprinkle them on everything. The remaining oil can be used all week for salad dressings or marinades. These are the cippolini crispies that we put on our asparagus and potato soup.
Over the past month we've been making an asparagus and potato gratin two ways. Bella LOVES both versions. The simple one is just potato slices drizzled with olive oil and salt, topped with peeled asparagus, bread crumbs, and cheese. Dash and Bella insisted on layering the potato slices one at a time. A lovely process to watch the two of them do, but not necessary. You can just dump in the slices and smooth them out. After it's cooked, you can pop it out of the tart pan and slice it up like a pizza.

The other version is a bit more fancy-pants. You mix the potato slices with egg, cream, and crispy green garlic. Then you top it with peeled asparagus, more crunchy green garlic, balsamic-marinated green garlic, bread crumbs, parmesan, and pecorino.
To prep for the gratin, Dash snipped the ends off of the asparagus.
We went all out and made green garlic AND cippolini onion crispies. Dash used the onions to scratch his back.
My husband said this was one of the best things I've ever made. He had consumed only 3 glasses of wine so I think he can be trusted.
For even  more asparagus inspiration, go over to Yummy Supper for a tasty (I've tried it!) Spring Vegetable Tart and an Asparagus/Lemon Risotto. And Crumpets and Cakes has a lovely Asparagus and Potato Tart. Work it, you Bay Area food bloggers.

-You can make this tart in a round or rectangular tart pan. I used a 9" round.
-You can keep this very simple by just slicing potatoes, coating them with a bit of olive oil and lots of salt, spreading them in the pan, topping them with peeled asparagus/bread crumbs/cheese, and baking until cooked through and browned. Or, check out this version with a few more ingredients and steps.
- Instead of green garlic (or in addition to) you can use cippolini onions, baby onions, leeks, or shallots.
 serves 2-4 
-olive oil or butter for greasing tart pan
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-4 tablespoons olive oil
-3 stalks green garlic, roots removed and most of the soft green part trimmed off
-1/3 cup heavy cream
-1 egg
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-a few turns of pepper
-8 medium-sized potatoes (don't use Idaho, yukon gold work really well), peeled and placed in a bowl of water until ready to slice 
-14-18 spears of asparagus, ends trimmed off and peeled up to the base of the tip
-1/2 cup bread crumbs
-1/4 cup pecorino cheese
-1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease tart pan or baking dish with olive oil or butter.

In a small bowl, pour balsamic vinegar over 1/3 of the sliced green garlic. Set aside until you assemble the tart.

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil for a minute. Add sliced green garlic. They will cook really fast. With a slotted spoon, remove them when they are crispy and brown (not black) and place on a paper towel. Set aside the green garlic oil to cool.

Whisk together the egg, cream, 2 tablespoons of the cooled garlic oil, 1/2 the crispy green garlic, salt, and pepper. Slice the potatoes paper thin and place in a mixing bowl. Pour egg mixture over the sliced potatoes. Use your hands to evenly coat all the potato slices. Spread coated potato slices in the bottom of the greased tart pan. Place the asparagus on top of the potatoes in any pattern you like. If you have the stalks alternating directions then people are more likely to get an asparagus tip in their slice, but you don't have to slice this tart in the conventional way.

Sprinkle top with bread crumbs and both grated cheeses. Finally, sprinkle on the remaining crispy green garlic. Strain the green garlic that's been soaking in the balsamic and sprinkle them over the gratin. Save the vinegar for salad dressing (if it's not too bitter).
Bake until potatoes are fully cooked. Undercooked potatoes do not taste good. Check the gratin after an hour, but it could take up to an hour and a half depending on the potatoes. Test the potatoes by pressing a the tip of a knife into the middle of the gratin. If there's any resistance, the potatoes aren't done. If the asparagus and toppings start to brown too much you can cover the gratin with tin foil until the potatoes are done.

Serve warm with a salad. You can make some salad dressing with the leftover green garlic oil and balsamic vinegar.


  1. i know what i'm making this weekend! yum.

  2. It must be fun to cook with theses two little helpers :)
    your asparagus gratins look absolutely amazing, I love the fact that you have two versions of it
    I feel like I'm staying behind you guys and now it's my turn to come up with some new asparagus dish.

  3. Those gorgeous photos are making me so so hungry. I want your asparagus tart right now!
    Love the shot of Dash eating fennel at my house. Makes me smile.

  4. M: yes, my little helpers are amazing. can't wait to see what asparagus dish you come up with...

    E: i've been meaning to send you that photo of dash for a long time but i decided to post it instead! he was in hog heaven in your garden that day.

  5. Yes, I would like servings of both, please! :)

  6. This is a great idea! I just saw your submission on tastespotting. I keep seeing the garlic at our farmers market here but I wasn't sure what to do with it - can't wait to try your recipe!

  7. "the best thing [you] ever made" is quite the commendation. certainly enough for me to put it into the menu for next week! of course the asparagus, green garlic, crispy crumbs and pecorino don't hurt either. adore your blog!

    cheers and thanks for the recipe,


  8. Why not use Idaho potatoes? Something different with the starch content, or how they cook?

  9. circeo,
    yes. high starch content. idaho potatoes are a little drier than some others. for a tart i like a creamier potato like yukon gold or german butterball.

  10. I make a brussell sprout gratin for thanksgiving, and its requested for Easter, but Im partial to asparagus, so Im thinking this sounds like the perfect solution! When i cook my gratin I cook potatoes in the cream for a while (which cuts down on baking time) and add cheese to simmering cream mixture and then layer in dish with sauteed brussell sprouts. My thought is I can do something similar with this recipe. I will try this week as a test then make for Easter if all goes well!!

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