asparagus and herb lasagna

prep time:  tbd
cook time: 40 minutes
servings:  6

olive oil bechamel ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or onion
2 tablespoons flour

lasagna ingredients:
2 large garlic cloves - peeled
2 pounds asparagus
olive oil bechamel
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (tarragon, chervil, parsley, chives, basil, arugula, etc.)
1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil

olive oil bechamel steps:
1.  heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan.  add the shallot and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes.  sitr in flour, and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned.  the paste should have the texture of wet sand. 

2.  whisk in the milk all at once, and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken.  turn the heat to very low, and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom of the edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 mintues, until the sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste.  season with salt and pepper to taste.  strain while hot into a heatproof bowl.

lasagna steps:
1.  fill a pasta pot with water and add garlic cloves.  bring to a boil while you trim the asparatus by breaking off the woody ends.  when the water comes to a boil, add salt to taste and the asparagus ends.  reduce heat to medium low, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes.  remove asparagus ends and garlic from water and discard.  bring water back to a boil and add the asparagus stalks.  boil thick asparagus stalks for 5 minutes, medium and thing stalks for 3 minutes.  transfer them, using tongs, to bolw of ice water.  do not drain the cooking water.  allow the asparagus to cool for a few minutes, then drain and dry on a clean towel.  if the asparagus stalks are thick, cut in half lengthwise first, then cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths.  set aside.

2.  whisk 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the cooking water from teh asparagus into the bechamel, along with 1/4 cup of the parmesan and the herbs.  add pepper to taste and adjust salt.

3.  oil or butter a 3-quart baking dish.  bring the water back to a rolling boil, and drop in enough lasagna noodles to cover the surface of the baking dish (usually 3).  boil just until the pasta is flexible, about 3 minutes.  using tongs, transfer the pasta to a bowl of cold water, then drain on a clean towel.

4.  spread a very thin layer of bechamel over the bottom of the dish.  cover with a layer of pasta.  stir in teh asparagus into the remaining bechamel and spread a layer over the noddles.  sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of parmesan.  parboil another layer's worth of pasta, and repeat process.  end with a layer of pasta and if there is any bechamel left, spread itover the top and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. 

5.  preheat oven to 350 degrees.  drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the lasagna and cover tightly with foil.  bake for 30 minutes until bubbling.  uncover, and continue to bake until the top just begins to color, about 10 minutes.  remove from heat and allow to sit 5- 10 minutes.  serve.

- new york times, june 28, 2010

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