Basic Single Pastry Crust:
2. Sauté the asparagus (except for the reserved tips) in a tablespoon of the olive oil for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. While the asparagus is cooking, place the walnuts, the 1/4 cup of tarragon, and the nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse into crumbs, so that no whole walnuts are left.
4. Remove the asparagus from the pan and transfer to a shallow bowl to cool a bit. Sauté the shallots in another tablespoon of the olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 3 more minutes, being careful not to burn it. Transfer the shallots and garlic to the asparagus and let cool for a few more minutes.
5. When the vegetables have stopped steaming, add them to the food processor. Pulse a few times and scrape down the sides. Add the beans and puree until relatively smooth, although the walnuts will still be grainy. Add the cornstarch (sift first, if very clumpy) and pulse until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to a bowl (use the bowl the veggies were cooling in, to cut down on dish duties), cover, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
7. Roll out the pastry dough to fit an 8-inch glass pie plate. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
8. Remove the baked crust from the oven. Spoon the asparagus filling into the crust and smooth out evenly. Sprinkle the top with half the bread crumbs and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Then, place the tomato slices on top of the bread crumbs with an asparagus tip between each tomato. Sprinkle on the remaining bread crumbs, some freshly ground black pepper, a few pinches of salt, and the chopped tarragon. Drizzle again with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
9. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Basic Single Pastry Crust
Makes 1 pastry crust
This recipe produces a flaky, all-purpose, unsweetened pie crust. We used to get incredibly frustrated with pastry crusts because they are so temperamental—but now we know the secret. Make sure all of your ingredients are cold as can be—you should even refrigerate the flour. This way, the pockets of fat will stay pockets of fat and provide you with the flakiness you so desire. Baking powder and a touch of vinegar tenderize the flour for even more flakiness. Finally, a humble piece of baking parchment keeps the pastry from sticking and also makes a handy vehicle for flipping your pastry into the pie plate.
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the shortening by the teaspoon, but you don't need to be precise about this. You just want to add it in small chunks in three batches and then cut it into flour with each addition. Cut the shortening in until the dough is crumbly and pebbly.
2. Combine the vinegar with 1/4 cup of the water. Add the mixture to the dough in three batches, gently mixing it into the dough with a fork, until the dough holds together when pinched. If need be, add up to 2 tablespoons more water.
3. Gather the dough into a ball and knead gently a few times, just until it holds together. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour, then flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.
4. When ready to roll out the crust, place a large piece of baking parchment on your work surface. Unwrap the dough and place it on the parchment. Sprinkle your rolling pin with flour and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. It may slip around a bit from the parchment, but that's okay, just work steadily and gently. Your crust is now ready to use.
5. If using as a bottom crust, lift the parchment and flip the crust into the pie plate. Tuck in and trim the edges.
6. If using as a top crust, lift the parchment and flip the crust onto the filling. Trim the edges and press with the tines of a fork to get pretty edges, or pinch the circumference with your thumb and forefinger.
Andrea Reusing is the creator of the restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill, N.C., and author of the book Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. In this installment of The Key 3, she shares with Lynne Rossetto Kasper the techniques behind three of her favorite recipes: Turnip Soup, Overnight Braised Short Ribs and Tomato Salad.