Living in the suburbs, there isn’t much opportunity for buying market fresh ingredients on a weekly basis. While the nicest and largest (being in size and food choices) farmer’s market is only thirty minutes away, it takes a few hours out of the day that I just don’t have as a student.
But what I would give to be able to cook like this every day. There was everything at that market- asparagus that was just picked the day before it was sold, for a dollar a pound, every herb imaginable, breads, a rainbow of peppers, and Michigan grown fingerling potatoes.
But as different were the foods, so were the people. There were groups of families, hustling down the rows of vegetables, making sure the youngest ones didn’t get distracted and left behind. Clusters of women walked with their plastic bags, gossiping loudly about their weekly adventures. Farmers in their overalls, a man with a goat, some French women selling breakfast crepes. My favorite had to be this tall, slightly older gentleman with a peppered white beard and long, yellow overcoat (think the boxed fishstick man). While the crowd of people would shuffle on by, he would yell, “It’s spring!”, and let out a robust laugh. And I couldn’t help but smile myself.
As much as it sometimes doesn’t feel like spring in odd weather Michigan, the yellow overcoated man was right. We should be excited for spring, because even if one day it might be 80 degrees and the next 36 and threatening snow (true story), it only gets better. All the trees in the neighborhood are budding with flowers, dabbling the streets with pink and white petals. Distant sounds of people mowing their lawns and the constant construction on the main road, it all screams spring. And even if the weather takes a while before it reaches a constant 75 degrees, there are still other things to look forward to that are related to spring- like the end of high school, graduation, and swimming in the lake.
I had been meaning to make this recipe since I first saw it in the April issue of Bon Appetit. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and I just couldn’t pass it up in a lasagna. Generally when my mother makes her meat lasagna, it’s a lengthy process taking up a good several hours of the day. However, this was one of the quickest lasagnas I’ve ever made, and it was so easy being able to use the same skillet over and over again. The original recipe called for cooking the lasagnas in several individual dishes, but because I didn’t own any, I decided to cook it in a standard baking dish. A little bit harder to cut since it was a bit looser than most lasagnas, but that’s okay. It didn’t loose any points in flavor.
Asparagus and Leek Lasagna
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 9-ounce package no-cook lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
1 1/4 cups (about) finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook until wilted, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet. Add asparagus, mushrooms, and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until asparagus is crisp-tender, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add to bowl with leeks and toss to distribute evenly. Add broth, cream, and bay leaf to same skillet and boil over high heat until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and whisk to blend. Boil until sauce thickens, about 1 minute, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in nutmeg; discard bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Vegetables and sauce can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Spoon 3/4 cup sauce into pan. Place 4 noodles atop sauce. Scatter 1/2 cup vegetable mixture over, spreading in even layer. Drizzle 1/4 cup sauce over. Sprinkle handful of cheese over top. Repeat layering 2 more times with noodles, vegetables, sauce, and cheese. Drizzle remaining sauce over lasagna.
Cover tightly with foil. Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake until noodles are tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes before serving.