Spring Greens and Cream Cheese Penne

Greens and Cream Cheese PenneThis beautiful white and green pasta dish will hit the spot for Shavout lunch! The bright green of the spring vegetables and herbs, mixed with the creamy cheese will comfort those who have been up all night learning. This dish will serve 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds penne rigate (or other short cut pasta)
2 tablespoons butter
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 bunches green onions, cut into 1” lengths*
2 bunches asparagus, cut into 2” lengths*
2 cups frozen green peas
500g cream cheese (equal to two tubs or bars)
2 shallots, diced*
4 tablespoons chives, chopped*
2 tablespoons lemon zest**
Salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to clean these vegetables and herbs.
** Click here for tips on zesting citrus.

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, when it is done, drain the pasta, but keep about 3 cups of the cooking water (the starchy water will help the sauce cling to the pasta).

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and cook the garlic with the green onions, shallots and asparagus for 5 minutes. Add the chives and peas and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour 3 cups of pasta cooking water into the saucepan and add the cream cheese. Keep over a low heat to let the cheese melt and stir until smooth. Add the drained pasta to the pan, along with the lemon zest, and mix together to combine. Serve hot.

Asparagus and Brie Tartlets

Asparagus & Brie TartletsThis is lovely as an hors d’oeuvre, or two per person as an appetizer. You can par-bake the wonton wrappers ahead of time, just make sure to weigh them down with something so that you retain the cup shape. I suggest dried beans or pie weights. This recipe will make 12 tartlets, but can easily be doubled. You can even make this into one large tart by layering the wrappers on the bottom of a tart pan, and then just topping with all of the filling and brie. I would suggest slightly cooking the tart first though, before adding the filling, so that it can crisp up a bit.

Ingredients:

24 wonton wrappers, thawed
2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
24 asparagus spears, cut into 1” lengths (about 2 bunches)*
1 shallot, diced*
¼ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
4 oz. (120g) brie, sliced into 12 pieces/wedges
salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to check these vegetables.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt about 1 ½ tablespoons of butter in a microwave or small saucepan. Brush each wonton wrapper with the melted butter and press two wrappers into each mould of a muffin tin. When placing the wrappers I find it easier to align them first out of the tin, then press them in. You should have one wrapper square in front of you, with the flat edge facing you, and then another wrapper on top, but turned 90 degrees, so that the point is in front of you.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter on medium heat and cook asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a fork or slotted spoon to keep the melted butter in the pan. In the same saucepan, cook the shallot for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, and let it simmer until it has reduced by half. Add vinegar and reduce once again by half.

Pour the shallot/wine/vinegar mixture over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Divide asparagus and Brie among the muffin moulds lined with wonton wrappers. Bake on the bottom oven rack for 15 minutes or until wonton wrappers are golden brown. Serve warm.

Savoury Spring Vegetable and Goat Cheese Tart

Spring Vegetable & Goat Cheese TartThis savoury tart is filled with wonderful bits of green from the asparagus and onions, contrasting with the bright yellow from the eggs. The cheese adds a creamy tart note that definitely satisfies, even those of you who might not normally go for a tart. If you don’t have a tart pan (kinda like a shallow spring form pan) then you can always just use a regular pie dish or even the disposable tin ones that the pie crusts come in (that’s what I do). With regards to asparagus, please follow the link below to learn how to clean them properly. Alternatively though, you could use frozen pre-checked asparagus, from a brand such as Bodek. If you can’t find crème fraiche, you can substitute with sour cream or Greek yogourt. If you’re not crazy about tarragon (like me), you can omit this herb or use basil in its place. This tart will serve 8.

Ingredients:

1 store-bought pie crust
All-purpose flour (for surface)
2 bunches asparagus (about 1 ¼ pounds total), trimmed, peeled if thick*
5 spring onions or 12 scallions/green onions*
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
¼ cup crème fraiche
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley*
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives*
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon*
3 large eggs

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these ingredients.

Directions:

Roll out pie crust on a lightly floured surface to a 12″ round. Transfer to tart pan and press onto bottom and up sides. Bake crust according to package instructions. Let cool in pan on a wire rack.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut off top 1½” of asparagus tips; reserve. Slice stalks into ¼” rounds. Cut white bulbs from spring onions; trim and quarter (halve if using scallions/green onions). Slice pale-green parts into ¼” pieces. Toss asparagus tips and spring onion bulbs in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on prepared sheet; roast, turning once, until onions begin to brown and asparagus is bright green and tender, 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add sliced asparagus and pale-green parts of spring onions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and asparagus is bright green and tender, 6–8 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan. Spread evenly over bottom of tart crust.