Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Asparagus Gratin with Parmigiano Cheese

asparagus-spears.JPGHere’s the thing about making a vegetable side dish ‘recipe.’ It takes time and if you’re using a recipe which means there are ingredients added to the veg. The added ingredients are almost always butter, cheese and/or olive oil which while tasty significantly detract from overall healthfulness. That being said, I bought some nice tender asparagus from Costco and we have enjoyed it for the last two nights.

I’ve been trying to be better about thinking through a week’s worth of dinners to minimize stress during the week. I’ve also been trying to coordinate this effort with using what’s on hand which makes it just that much trickier but this week was pretty successful. I attribute that in large part to a trip to trader joe’s earlier this week. I picked up some frozen items that we can just pop in the oven when needed and that helps to ease anxiety over getting dinner on the table when fatigue sets in. Thursdays are usually long for me and are prime candidates for frozen pizza type dinners. However, I picked up a ham steak at trader joe’s earlier this week so getting dinner on the table only took as long as it took to make mashed potatoes and to prep the asparagus. I prepped the potatoes before I left for class and got the veg ready while they were coming to a boil.

I’ve been trying to keep zest and breadcrumbs on hand in the freezer adding to my reserves as I have extra for a given recipe. I had zest on hand but was out of breadcrumbs. I had panko and plain old store crumbs that you might use for making meatballs. I opted for the store crumbs but had to use 4 tablespoons to make the recipe viable. I think this dish would be super yummy with homemade crumbs but was plenty tasty with the store bought ones. The good news? Asparagus will be in season locally in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Here’s the recipe:

3 quarts salted water
24 medium-size asparagus spears (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons fine plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Bring the salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus stalks. With a vegetable peeler, peel the bottom half of the stalks. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until tender but still crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss the cheese, bread crumbs and lemon zest together until blended.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the asparagus stalks in a single layer in an 8-inch square or similar-size flameproof baking dish. Drizzle the asparagus with the melted butter and sprinkle an even layer of the bread crumb mixture over it. Broil about 4 inches from the heat until the bread crumb mixture is golden brown, about3 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 5 or 6 servings.

“Lidia’s Italian Table”

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