Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart

Serves 4 or 5

1 1/2 pounds medium-thick asparagus

8-inch square unbaked puff pastry, rolled 1/8-inch thick

1 packed cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere

1. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring it to a boil. Place a colander in the sink, and have ready a bed of absorbent kitchen towels.

2. Trim the tough asparagus bottoms, then use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the base about halfway up. (Peeling is optional; best to lay each spear flat and work horizontally.)

3. When the water boils, turn the heat down to a simmer. Add asparagus and cook 1 minute. Drain and immediately refresh under cold running water until asparagus cools. Shake off excess water. Transfer to towels to dry thoroughly.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the pastry on an ungreased baking sheet. Distribute a little more than half the cheese evenly over the entire pastry square, leaving no margin.

5. Lay the asparagus evenly over the pastry in a tight row, touching. Patch any spaces with pieces of asparagus, cut to fit. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

6. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Cut into pieces with scissors and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

-- Mollie Katzen, "The Heart of the Plate" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $34.99, 464 pages)