Ontario Asparagus has finally arrived, and the twitter-verse is alive; my feed has been screaming at me all week: “about to enjoy asparagus wrapped in yellow blankets of sunshine”, “Ontario rhubarb and asparagus are out in full force”; “I picked our first spears of asparagus from the garden yesterday–watch for, and ask for Ontario asparagus–it’s ready!!!” Author Barbara Kingsolver writes, “the most difficult requirements of the [local food culture] are patience and a pinch of restraint.” I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t scurried over to my local farmers’ market every Saturday for the last month, feigning interest in one farmer’s mushrooms and anothers’ beets, secretly hoping to find these crispy green spears. Apparently I’m not the only one; Kingsolver devotes an entire chapter to “waiting for asparagus” in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I mean, it is kind of a miracle, after all. Months of crisp winters and slippery sidewalks, and almost miraculously, green fingertips sprout from the earth, offering up nutritious sustenance to our bellies, a sure sign of spring, and a definitive announcement of summer’s bounty ahead.
Apparently asparagus lost favor in the middle ages, but Julius Caesar, Louis XIV and Thomas Jefferson were all major fans of the plant. Don’t be put off by asparagus’ odorous side effects; French novelist Marcel Proust apparently claimed asparagus “changer mon pot de chambre en un vase de parfum” (translation: transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume). Asparagus is an excellent source of folacin, glutathione, protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamins C and A. It’s oh so tasty and versatile - you can steam it, boil it, barbecue it, oven-roast it, or stir fry it. I initially planned on making an asparagus omelet for mother’s day, but then I decided to twist momma Friedman’s classic lasagna specialty as an homage to her - it’s easy and your mommy will thank you for it. It’s also low fat! Cottage cheese could easily be replaced by a concoction of ricotta cheese and milk, I imagine, but I used what I had on hand and it worked out just fine.
Asparagus and White Sauce Lasagna
A bundle of asparagus
9 lasagna noodles
6-8 Cloves garlic
2 cups low fat cottage cheese
1/3 cup goat cheese
½ cup shredded light mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt. When water begins to boil, drop in lasagna noodles. Cook until soft, then drain and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. While preheating, peel garlic and toss in olive oil and salt, then place on a flat pan in the oven. After about 10 minutes, when softened and browned, set aside.
3. Measure out 2 cups of cottage cheese, and blend in a blender until smooth. Add roasted garlic, lots of pepper, and goat cheese to blender and continue to blend until you have a smooth creamy sauce.
4. Using a knife, remove the woody stalks from the asparagus.
5. Butter a glass dish. In vertical strips, lay out 3 cooked lasagna noodles. Next, spoon 1/3 of sauce on noodles. On top of sauce, place asparagus. I laid out the full stalks, but it might be easier later on to cut the lasagna, if you cut the asparagus in halves and lay them out that way. Cover the asparagus layer with mozzarella cheese.
6. Repeat step 5 two more times. When you get to the final layer, lay the noodles, top with asparagus and cheese, and then drizzle a bit of olive oil and pepper over top of the asparagus. Place on the top shelf of the oven and cook for approximately one hour, or until corners are slightly browned. Eat while it’s hot!