Whether filled with something sweet for dessert or topped with savory ingredients to make a main course or appetizer, tarts rank among my favorite things to make and eat. But while I love making pastry, the mixing, chilling, and rolling required can stretch the time needed to make dinner well beyond my limits on a weeknight. That’s when I turn to ready-made puff pastry.
Many bakeries sell excellent puff pastry, and high-quality versions can be found in the supermarket’s freezer section. And frozen puff pastry takes less than an hour to defrost, so you can buy it and make it for dinner tonight.
Once the pastry is taken care of, take stock of the refrigerator and look through the pantry. You won’t find much that couldn’t go on top of a tart. But drain or dry very moist ingredients, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, or they’ll make the puff pastry quite soggy.
This asparagus tart seems just right for spring, but the following are some of my other favorite combinations.
• Thin slices of boiled potatoes brushed lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with finely chopped fresh rosemary and grated Gruyère.
• Steamed clams (out of their shells), sautéed pancetta, and chopped marinated artichokes. (Brush the pastry with olive oil before adding the toppings.)
• Cooked greens and bacon. (Spread a bit of mustard on the pastry before adding the toppings.)
• Grilled radicchio with anchovies and hot pepper flakes.
• Tomato paste thinned with a bit of olive oil and spread over the pastry. Top with cooked, well-drained Italian sausage.