Whether it’s locally sourced or freshly foraged, here’s how to turn a humble, roadside vegetable into an elegant asparagus tart. Dive in for the full On The Table recipe by Stacey Brugeman, featured in this month’s issue of Traverse.

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Asparagus is notoriously tricky to grow. Like many plants it is susceptible to weeds and weather, but it’s the fact that this perennial takes a few years to establish that causes many professional farmers to skip the May vegetable.

“You’ve got to baby it along those first two or three years,” says Harry Norconk, the 74-year-old who has been farming the edible spear in Benzie County’s sandy soil since 1978. Much of the asparagus sold in Michigan comes from beyond state, even national, lines—which means those of us Up North are especially lucky to have local options. If you whiz past a roadside stand touting asparagus from Norconk Farm in Honor, Elmcrest Acres in Daggett, Gordon’s Produce in the Soo, or any other farmer who has taken the time to bring this slender spring stalk to our table, turn around and grab a few bunches.

Often, I simply toss trimmed asparagus onto a baking sheet, drizzle it with a smidge of olive oil and roast it under the broiler for a few minutes. If I’m cooking for a crowd, however, this tart is an elegant showpiece that can easily be made in advance. Inspired by Tarte Flambée, a caramelized onion classic from Alsace, I slather puff pastry with crème fraîche before layering local asparagus atop it. The dish tolerates resting for a few hours and can be cut into as many pieces as you have guests.

Asparagus Tart

Photo by Dave Weidner

Asparagus Tart Recipe

Makes 8 generous pieces

  • butter, for greasing the pan parchment paper
  • 3 garlic cloves still in their paper coats
  • 1 8-ounce container of crème fraîche
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard scant
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • zest from one lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Maldon flake salt to taste
Asparagus Tart

Photo by Dave Weidner

Asparagus Tart Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter the bottom of an 11 1⁄2 by 8-inch tart pan. Place a piece of parchment paper that has been folded to fit on top of the buttered surface, then butter the top of the parchment paper.

2. Set a small skillet over medium-high heat. Place unpeeled garlic cloves in the pan and toast, turning from time to time, until all sides have had a chance to develop some blackened spots, about 8 minutes. Place garlic on a cutting board to cool, remove the paper from each clove and smash the roasted garlic with the back of a knife, forming a paste. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, crème fraîche, mustard and scant 1⁄4 teaspoon salt until thoroughly combined.

3. Place clean, trimmed asparagus on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and shake the platter to thoroughly coat.

4. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the puff pastry and roll it out with a rolling pin just until large enough to drape over the pan with enough dough to line the sides. Fold any extra dough over, pressing it into the fluted sides of the pan.

5. Using a spatula, evenly spread the crème fraîche mixture onto the dough, being careful to stop just short of the sides. Artfully place each asparagus spear onto the tart and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until the dough has puffed up like a parachute in gym class and the corners are golden.

6. Remove the tart from the oven and al- low the dough to relax. Sprinkle with lemon zest, several grindings of fresh black pepper, a few pinches of flake salt, and let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into pieces to serve.

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner