From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Asparagus is still plentiful in our local farmer's markets and I have two final recipes that I want to share with you as its season draws to a close. I'll feature one tonight and another tomorrow. I want to warn you up front that tonight's recipe is neither quick nor easy to prepare and patience is required to work through it. I can also tell you that it is over-the-top delicious and the dish is one that foodies and others with sophisticated palates will enjoy. The recipe was develop by Martha Rose Shulman for the New York Times. You can find her original recipe here. I want to point out that this recipe uses an olive oil bechamel. I've included a recipe for it at the end of this post so you don't have to go searching for one. I'd also like to suggest you make three cups of the sauce to use with the lasagna. My only criticism of this dish was that I though the edges and the top were a bit too dry. The extra sauce will solve that problem and allow you to really enjoy this light and luscious main course. The lasagna can be assembled well-ahead of serving, so this is a marvelous dish to prepare for guests. You'll get to serve them a really special meal and yet have time to enjoy their company. I think those of you who try the lasagna will really be pleased. Here's how it is made.
Asparagus Lasagna...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman and The New York Times
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 pounds asparagus
1 recipe olive oil béchamel (see below)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, chervil, parsley, chives, basil, arugula
1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
1) Fill a pasta pot with water, and add garlic cloves. Bring to a boil while trimming asparagus by breaking off woody ends. When water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and asparagus ends. Reduce heat to medium low, cover partially and simmer asparagus ends for 30 minutes. Remove asparagus ends and garlic cloves from water and discard. Bring water back to a boil, and add asparagus stalks. Boil thick asparagus stalks for five minutes, medium and thin stalks for three minutes. Transfer them, using a spider or tongs, to a bowl of ice water. Do not drain cooking water. Allow asparagus to cool for a few minutes, then drain and dry on a clean kitchen towel. If the asparagus stalks are thick, cut in half lengthwise first, then cut all asparagus (thick or thin) into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.
2) Whisk 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooking water from asparagus into béchamel, along with 1/4 cup of Parmesan and herbs. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and adjust salt.
3) Oil or butter a 3-quart baking dish or lasagna dish. Bring water back to a rolling boil, and drop in enough lasagna noodles to cover surface of the baking dish (for my rectangular dish, that’s three lasagna noodles). Boil just until pasta is flexible (about three minutes for no-boil lasagna). Using tongs, transfer pasta to a bowl of cold water, then drain on a clean dish towel.
4)Spread a very thin layer of béchamel over bottom of baking dish. Cover with a layer of pasta. Stir asparagus into remaining béchamel, and spread a layer over noodles. Sprinkle on 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Parboil another layer’s worth of pasta, and top with asparagus béchamel, then with another 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Repeat with one more layer. End with a layer of pasta, and if you have any béchamel left, spread it over the top and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan. Cover tightly with plastic if storing in the refrigerator.
5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over lasagna, and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, and continue to bake until top just begins to color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to sit five to 10 minutes, and serve. Yield: 6 servings.
Olive Oil Bechamel
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or onion (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white or black pepper
Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add shallot or onion, and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour, and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. The paste should have texture of wet sand. Whisk in milk all at once, and bring to a simmer, whisking until mixture begins to thicken. Turn heat to very low, and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping bottom and edges of pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste. Season with salt and pepper. Strain while hot into a heatproof bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup.
One Year Ago Today: Crusty Farm-Style Fried Chicken
Two Years Ago Today: Lemon Coleslaw
Three Years Ago Today: Red Cooked Chicken