Lasagna With Asparagus and Herbs
Note: Plan ahead as the béchamel is made from asparagus stock that you need to prepare first. (If you don’t want to make asparagus sauce, use 3 cups milk, rather than 2 cups.) You can assemble this a day or two before you bake it; wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until time to bake. From “The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking,” by Martha Rose Shulman.
• 2 lb. asparagus
• 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (or 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. unsalted butter), plus 1 tbsp. olive oil for drizzling, optional
• 2 tbsp. minced shallot or onion
• 2 tbsp. sifted flour
• 2 c. milk (see Note)
• Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
• Freshly ground pepper
• 4 oz. Parmesan, grated (1 c.), divided
• 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, chives
• 1/2 lb. (more or less) no-boil lasagna noodles
To prepare asparagus stock and asparagus: Trim the asparagus by breaking off the woody ends. Place the trimmings and the garlic in a medium saucepan and add 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Discard stems and garlic; reserve liquid.
Fill a bowl with ice and water. Bring the saucepan of cooking liquid back to a boil and add the asparagus stalks. Blanch until tender but not mushy. Thick asparagus stalks will take 4 to 5 minutes, medium and thin asparagus about 3 minutes. Transfer, using tongs, to the bowl of ice water. Do not discard the cooking water.