Now that The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook has been released (buy your copy today!), we’ll be cooking some of the recipes that showcase seasonal picks from the farmers’ market each week.
Because lo and behold, the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market was able to open on May 16th in the usual Church Street location, albeit with a much different environment. There were so many familiar faces and, despite the social distancing protocol, the feeling of community coming together was palpable. (Next up: The West Stockbridge Farmers’ Market, opening for the season on Thursday, May 28 from 3 to 6 pm.)
A highlight of our haul was purple-tinged asparagus from Samascott Orchard in Kinderhook, NY. There was also ample rhubarb and other just-picked produce.
Besides having booths at other regional (Hudson and Albany) and NYC markets, the orchard has an online store where you can order its own products—including homemade ice cream and baked goods—as well as grocery staples for curbside pick-up or delivery within five miles of the farm. During normal times you can visit the farm for U-pick fruit and vegetables from June through October, when they also press and sell their own cider. And you can rent one of their surrey bikes to pedal through the 200-acre orchard with panoramic views.
Cooking from the book
So of course the asparagus got us thinking of a recipe from the cookbook for simple yet scrumptious tartines (aka toasts), topped with a creamy ricotta spread, roasted asparagus, and grated Parmesan. All of which is baked until warmed through and melty and just indulgent enough. Think of it as an ideal sheltering-in-place lunch or pre-dinner nibble with a drink—a crisp Sancerre or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, or an Austrian Gruner Veltliner all pair well with the asparagus and offset the richness of the spread. Or just serve the tartines with a vibrant green salad for a light spring supper. In other words, you have options.
The recipe, developed by our collaborator on the cookbook, chef Brian Alberg (of Main Street Hospitality and Tap House at Shaker Mill), was inspired by Wolfe Spring Farm in Sheffield, MA. Owners June and Jim Wolfe are known for growing asparagus, mostly for local restaurants. They had also begun opening their lovely property for organic farm stays before the disruption. It’s a beautiful spot for weddings and other events too.
A few test-kitchen tips
You may know this already, but the best way to trim asparagus is to snap the stem end—it will naturally break at the point where it goes from tough to tender. In this recipe, try and use asparagus that’s the same thickness, or group similar stalks together on the baking sheet so you can pull off thinner ones as soon as they are ready and let the thicker ones finish roasting. And roast extra asparagus while you are at it—it will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, covered. Then you can cut it into bite-size pieces and add to salads, pasta dishes, and pizzas.
Or leave as whole stalks and use as an omelet filling, with the leftover ricotta or some fresh goat cheese, (Our favorite is the Monterey Chèvre from Rawson Brook Farm, also profiled in the book. They have a tent where you can buy cheese on the spot or by pre-order.)
And when possible, buy fresh ricotta for the tartines; it is creamier and richer than the mass-produced kind, though the lemon zest and juice and basil that goes into the spread will make even the supermarket variety of ricotta taste amazing.
Roasted Asparagus and Lemon Ricotta Tartines
Inspired by Wolfe Spring Farm
Fresh asparagus is a welcome springtime delicacy after a long winter, showcased here in a tartine, a French open-faced sandwich. Serve accompanied by a small soup or a salad of dressed greens, or as a starter course for a larger meal. A mini version makes an enticing hors d’oeuvre.
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough stem ends trimmed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups ricotta
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup tightly packed finely ribboned fresh basil leaves
2 ounces Parmesan, grated finely (about 1 cup)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a rimmed sheet pan, toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to coat. Roast in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. Thicker asparagus stalks will take longer than thin ones.
2. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the basil in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Cut the baguette lengthwise into two halves. Cut each half into four equal pieces. Place, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place in the oven to toast lightly for 5 minutes.
4. Remove the bread from the oven. Divide the ricotta mix equally among each of the bread slices, spreading a thick layer to cover the cut surfaces of the bread. Lay the asparagus pieces on top, cutting the stalks to fit neatly onto the top of the bread, if desired, or left to drape over the edges. Sprinkle each tartine with Parmesan and place back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the Parmesan has melted. Serve warm, drizzled with more olive oil.