Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asparagus and Broccolini "Lasagne"

One of the many things I share with my Dad is an ardent love of asparagus.  A few years ago, he stumbled upon wild asparagus on the side of a path while out riding his bike, and it was his personal equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.  He picked as much as he could fit into the small biking pouch he was carrying, and as soon as he got home he steamed and ate what he still describes as the best asparagus he’s ever tasted. 
(Side note: he was so excited that he told me the story of finding said asparagus at least 5 times, if not more, over the course of two weeks.  To this day, when he forgets that he's told me about something twice already, I'll bust out a "Hey Dad, tell me again about the time you found wild asparagus on the bike path!"  Let's just say it's a good thing I'm an adult now, because I would've been in serious hot water for such wiseassery as a kid.)
In any case, living in Northern Virginia doesn’t lend itself to finding anything growing by the side of the road (unless that thing is a Capitol Hill intern’s political ambitions or an elected official’s ego).  So, failing that, I buy asparagus either at our local farmer’s market or at the grocery store.   It ain’t fresh-picked wild asparagus, but it’s still darn good.
For this asparagus dish I was, once again, inspired by Martha Rose Shulman’s Recipes for Health column in the New York Times.  She comes up with some truly fabulous ideas, and I’m always impressed by how creative she is.  This "lasagne" is, well, not really lasagne.  (Hence the "quotations" around the "word" "lasagne."  Am I the only one who thinks of Dr. Evil when I see too many words in quotation marks?)  It involves lasagne noodles, yes, and ricotta is a heavy hitter in this recipe -- but it's a loosely-defined lasagne.  Or a loose lasagne, but that just makes it sound like a pasta dish that has no standards or self-respect.
Anyways, I altered this recipe a bit to suit my tastes/dietary needs: the no-boil lasagna noodles have been replaced by GF brown rice lasagna noodles, I added sauteed garlic instead of raw, I included broccolini and sauteed onions for some extra nutritional oomph, and I substituted the pecorino/romano for Parmesan and Robusto cheese (which is available at Whole Foods and worth every penny).

Asparagus and Broccolini “Lasagne”
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s Lasagna with Asparagus and Chives
½ lb. asparagus, trimmed
1 head C broccolini, chopped
½ C low-fat ricotta
6 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, chopped thin 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ C marinara sauce
½ lb. Tinkyada Gluten-Free lasagna noodles
¼ Cup ground Parmesan and Robusto cheeses
Salt and pepper to taste
The masses beginning to assemble on the counter (of their own doing, obviously)
 Heat water in a large stock pot until boiling.  Once it's at a rolling boil, snap the lasagna noodles in half and immerse in the water.  While the noodles are a-cookin', saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Cook until caramelized.
(Read in Eric Cartman voice): Oh hey, guys...
While that's getting itself caramelized, trim and wash the broccolini and asparagus. 
Before washing, cut the bottoms off the asparagus and then slice the stack in half.

They're cute little broccolini now, but they had loooong stems and lots of leaves before.
Knives are good for relieving broccolini of such encumbering accessories.

Once caramelized, remove the garlic and onions from the pan.  Return the pan to the stovetop, drizzle a bit of olive oil, and add the asparagus and broccolini.  Saute until bright green and tender.
I'm on a Cartman kick, sooo...the veggies say "Respect our authoritah!"
Drain the lasagne noodles once they're nice and al dente.  In a separate bowl (or, if you're me and you blanch at the thought of adding one more thing to the already Everest-like pile of dirty dishes, you use the recently-vacated stock pot the lasagne noodles were cooked in), combine the garlic and onions, fresh basil, oregano, ricotta, marinara sauce, salt, and pepper and mix well.

Layer a bowl with the lasagne noodles, sauteed veggies, then the ricotta sauce.  Sprinkle with the Parm-Robusto mixture, top with fresh cracked pepper, and be thankful that there are parts of the country where asparagus, not political ambition, grows wild.
Commencing Operation FEEEEEED MEEEEEE in 3...2...1...

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