Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Travel the world without passport or plane ticket: just fresh spinach

Popeye would be proud that just about every culture eats their spinach. The green grows in moderate and cool climates-- quickly. Best of all it's a nutrition jackpot, rich in vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K. To boot it's full of iron, calcium, zinc and lutein that strengthens eyes. Its antioxidants are thought to vanquish incipient cancer cells and have been known to shrink lung tumors. That's why everybody eats it. 

And here's' how, 8 ways for right now:

Turkish Spinach with Poached Eggs
This perfect brunch, lunch or midnight snack dish is related to the better known shakshuka: tomato/peppers with poached eggs.
  for 2  (just double it for 4)

3/4 lb fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp fresh grated or powdered nutmeg 
1 tbsp thick plain yogurt
2 large or extra large eggs
pinch of chili powder and pinch of paprila
salt and freshly ground black pepper to your taste

Steam spinach just until it wilts. (If you don't have a steamer put it in a colander that fits in your pot.)
Refresh under running water, drain well and dry. Chop roughly.
In a medium sauté pan, over low heat oil and butter til butter melts. Stir in onion and garlic, cooking til onion is soft. (do not burn) Toss in spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix everything. Stir in yogurt.
Make two hollows in the spinach and drop in the eggs. Cover the pan and let the eggs poach.
Sprinkle chili powder and paprika over the eggs and serve immediately with more yogurt and crusty bread.

Japanese Goma-e
Serves 4 
1 lb spinach leaves, washed (or 12 oz green beans, cut into 1” pieces)
4 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp Japanese cooking wine, Mirin, or Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp tamari (wheat-free Japanese soy sauce) or any soy sauce
½ tsp rice wine vinegar

Blanch the spinach leaves in heavily salted boiling water for one minute. Drain well. Form the wet leaves into a ball and squeeze out as must moisture as you can. Then put inside a towel and do the same. Once the spinach is try, chop it coarsely.

In a dry skillet or frying pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 2 minutes or until they start to become golden brown. This can happen very fast so stay focused on this.

Grind or smash the sesame seeds into a paste. Stir in the cooking wine, tamari, sugar, rice wine and water to thin the paste into a dressing.

Put the chopped spinach into a serving bowl and stir in the sesame dressing to serve. Serve at room temperature.

Spicy Ghanian Spinach

1/2 c vegetable oil
1 med red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 oz (3 tbsp) fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 habanero chili, seeded and minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 lbs plum tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c raw pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 tsps smoked paprika
dash of fish sauce
 1 1/4 lbs. fresh spinach, washed, dried and chopped
3 plaintains, peeled and boiled in salt water until just tender
sea salt to your taste

In a Dutch oven, warm oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, chile and pinches of salt to your taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelizing, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer and partly cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes until the sauce has cooked to a rich tomato soup. 

Grind pumpkin seeds in a food processor to a fine powder starting to get clumpy. (Do not overprocess into a butter.) Save in a bowl.  

Stir in smoked paprika and fish sauce, simmer 2 minutes. Stir a tbsp of water, into the pumpkin seed powder, adding one more at a time to make it a loose paste. Spread this on top of the tomato sauce. Cover the pot, and cook 5 minutes.  

Stir the sauce into a thick porridge. Add a few splashes of water, increase heat to make it boil. Stir in the spinach, and cook until wilted and tender. Serve with boiled sweet plantains. 

 Indian Saag Paneer

Image result for saag paneer(serves 4 as a side)
500g fresh spinach, well washed

2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
150g paneer or feta, cubed 
1 small onion, very thinly sliced (a mandolin is helpful) 4 fat garlic cloves, very thinly sliced 1 1/2" fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 fresh small green chilli, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tsp garam masala ½ tsp turmeric ½ tsp salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Drop in the washed spinach, blanch for 10 seconds, then drain and cool in iced water. Squeeze out well and finely chop the stalks and roughly chop the leaves. Squeeze again and again until no more water comes out – it should be as dry as possible. Roughly chop it.

 Heat ghee or butter in a large heavy frying pan on a medium-high heat and fry the cheese cubes until golden and crusted. Use a slotted spoon to remover and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. 
Heat remaining ghee/butter until it starts to smoke slightly.

Add onion, garlic, ginger and chilli with the spices and salt. Fry, stirring vigorously, until well brown, not burnt.

Add chopped spinach and cheese, stirring vigorously until hot. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Greek Spinach Pie without Phyllo
(my invention. recipe in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking)
Serves 8 (hot or room temp)

10-12 oz fresh spinach leaves (2 bunches), stemmed, washed and dried
½ lb feta cheese 
2 bunches scallions (12-14)
1 bunch dill, stems off 
¼-1/2 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground or cracked black pepper
6 extra large or 7 large eggs

1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp flour or fine bread crumbs

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 º.
In a food processor, chop a mixture of spinach, feta, scallions and dill into fine pieces. You will probably have to do this in batches. Combine all batches in a large mixing bowl.
Add salt (less if the feta is already salty) and pepper. Add eggs, carefully blending. Everything should appear to be wet.

Coat a 10” pie plate or other baking dish with olive oil. Sprinkle flour around the bottom to absorb any juices. Pour in the spinach mixture and spread evenly, leveling the top. This should be even with the top of the pan. If there is extra, pack it into a small (3½”) Pyrex bowl coated with olive oil. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg. 
Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until the top is firm. (The mini will cook in 16-20 minutes.) Cool slightly before serving. You can also serve this at room temperature. Either way, cut in wedges. (Invert the mini and serve as an individual timbale, if you’d like.) 

Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang Spinach with Yogurt
serves 6 as a pita or naan sandwich

1 lb fresh spinach, stems off and washed
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns or good quality black peppercorns
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne (to your taste for heat)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, cleaned
16 oz very thick plain yogurt

Put spinach in a large bowl and pour 2 c boiling water over it. Cover bowl and let sit 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and dry spinach. Squeeze it in a ball, wrap in a towel and squeeze dry again.

Make a paste of the peppercorns, salt, cayenne and cilantro. Blend this into the yogurt. Taste and adjust for salt.

Chop the spinach as finely as you can and stir it into the yogurt. Serve immediately as a dip or sandwich filling. It will store overnight in the refrigerator if tightly sealed. 

Catalan Spinach

This comes from the northeastern corner of Spain centered on Barcelona. It's one of the most common and traditional dishes. Once made, it's put on top of flatbread for a cold pizza, in omelets, under chicken and mixed with scraps of meat or fish to make croquettes. It's also a beloved tapa all by itself-- sometimes with chickpeas added.
Image result for Catalan spinach photoFor 4
1/3 cup golden or dark raisins
1/4 c fragrant olive oil
1 1/2 lbs spinach, washed and drained (but not totally dry)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 c (go over not under) pine nuts
1 sm onion, diced (this is in some recipes and not in others so it's optional)
Sea salt and Freshly ground black pepper to taste 
Plump the raisins with hot water or white wine or even rose water for 10-15 minutes, then drain.
Put the slightly damp spinach in a large saucepan over medium heat, cover and cook until spinach wilts, 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Drain the spinach in a colander by pressing the water out with the back of a spoon. Chop it coarsely.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add garlic, pine nuts, onion and raisins. Sauté on low until everything is lightly brown, 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn anything. Raise heat to medium, add spinach, stir and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
 Simplest Spinach, Italian style 
serves 4
2 lb washed young spinach

Best quality grated Parmesan or Locatelli (saltier) cheese

4 garlic cloves, minced

Best quality olive oil to drizzle


Layer ingredients in a rectangular baking dish, like a 10” x 13/4” lasagna pan, starting with 1/3 of the spinach. Drizzle olive oil over spinach, sprinkle on 1/3 minced garlic, then 1/3 grated cheese and repeat the process to the top of pan ending with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 400º.

P.S. Photos not mine.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Seasonal Colors

Just a quick afterthought on the Feng Shui of food, or a way to remember to eat seasonal, local food.
Mother Nature has definite palette preferences. 

Spring is green: spinach, green onion, green garlic, artichoke, pea shoots, peas, fiddleheads, broccoli rabe and broccolini, dandelion greens, beet greens, bok choy, chard... 

Summer is red: strawberries, tomatoes, raspberries, watermelon, hot peppers, new red potatoes, radishes, beets, cranberry beans, cabbage, cherry peppers, plums...

And yellow too: corn, summer squash, peaches and nectarines, bell peppers, lemons... 

Autumn is white: onions, fennel bulbs, celeriac, leeks, cauliflower, daikon, pears, shell beans, garlic, turnips, cabbages, parsnips, salsify, horseradish, sunchokes, potatoes...

Winter is orange: carrots, squashes, beets, pumpkin, rutabaga, oranges, mandarins...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Clean Energy: The Real Reason to Eat Seasonal and Local

If you let her, Mother Nature can table train you. She’ll teach you that the wisdom of being in the moment is as vital for your body as it is for your mind. So forget the calorie count and nutrition percentages. Ignore what some diet guru and the Federal Government say every other week, and put down those fruits from Chili and Ecuador. What matters most when you eat or plan a meal is GPS: where you are right now. The food that fuels your body should sync it to your time and place on Earth. Otherwise it gets off kilter, which invites dis-ease

Tablecloths, TV shows and touts can cover up but cannot change the true meaning of food. Eating is the act of fueling your body to produce energy. Being table trained—or intelligent, means every time you “fill ‘er up”, you calibrate that fuel to produce clean energy: qi or chi that flows through you unimpeded by dams, deluges or deficits.  It’s not rocket science. It’s just acclimation: letting your body “friend” its surroundings by eating local, seasonal foods that match it to the air, water, soil and bacteria pervading it.

Feng shui, the Chinese science of positioning, literally means wind/water. The motion of those two elements controls all energy on Earth, including what creates the climate and the resulting food supply, which controls the qi of human beings. Feng Shui is supposed to create a friction-free intersection of the physical with the invisible all around it, breaking barriers to harmonious energy. Its mantra, location location location, is typically applied to design, but Feng Shui applies to eating habits as well because food is the energy exchange from the outer world to your inner one. Eating is its intersection, which is frictionless when your body blends with its environment by ingesting edibles from it. That’s the secret behind eating local yogurt to protect your gut in foreign lands, and why ingesting farmers’ market food produced by local soil, water and air actually strengthens your immunity.

Like feng shui, Chinese medicine comes from Taoism, particularly its insistence that intuitive wisdom, the invisible voice that prompts us to do the right thing, rises from where we digest things: the stomach. It’s hard to argue against this when you instinctively reach for coffee to wake up and hot chicken soup to fight a cold, when you reflexively counter summer heat by eating lots of cold food and react to the chill of winter by turning on the oven to make slow-cooked, rich and fatty stews.

We just know these things like we know sun shines. And Mother Nature is forever cluing us to change our diet as the seasons change. Right now when sunlight has lengthened and the air warmed, she delivers asparagus, dandelion greens, fiddleheads, green garlic, mushrooms, nettles, pea shoots, ramps, rhubarb, and scallions for us to indulge in. These first responders to the reboot of solar power transfer the go-go energy that propels them to burst through thawing soil to you just when you need it most: to spring out of the cold, dark lethargy of winter. That’s why we speak of “spring tonic”, foods that fill our body with sunshine so that force is with us. This is science not poetry: their green color comes from chlorophyll, a medicinal marvel molecule that soaks up, stores then releases solar energy.

When we get too much of it, when summer’s heat bakes the body and sweating dries it up, Earth delivers watery foods: berries, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes to rehydrate the body. But even that cornucopia is not enough. Our sun-roasted joints and muscles need a lube job, so Nature increases enrollment in her schools of oily fish like salmon, bass, bluefish, mackerel and sardines. Don’t you somehow find you prefer fish to roast beef in August?

What’s more, almost every country on the sun-baked Mediterranean beats the searing heat with a tasty repertoire of what Turks call zeytinağlı, "olive oil food": summer vegetables steeped in oil and served hot or cold as a side dish, appetizer, snack, even meal. The best known is probably the Turkish imam bayildi, the eggplant dish famed for that name: “the priest fainted”, because, it’s said, he was overwhelmed by how costly all its olive oil must’ve been. Stuffed grape leaves (dolmades), ratatouille, bean plaki, that oily “salad” of green beans with tomatoes and dill known as fasolakia, even hummus, these are all deliberately intended for summer eating.

The chill of winter requires food that warms the heart. Yearning for heavy meats and their fat that heats the body as it metabolizes, we keep the fire going to slow cook by braising or roasting. We absorb the Earth’s minerals stored in all those root vegetables that grew slowly as they soaked them up. We help others keep their body heat by offering cookies and cakes made with spices known to warm the stomach: cinnamon, ginger, clove.  We indulge in foods that have been fermented, which miraculously adds vitamins they didn’t inherently possess: relishes, pickles, sauerkraut, aged cheeses, and the cacao bean turned into chocolate, the gift of choice to fire up the heart on mid-winter Valentine’s day.

Because historically dis-ease indicates a body alienated from its surround, Ayurvedic, Chinese and Greek medical systems consider time, place and age crucial to accurate diagnosis. Their pharmacy is ordinary food prescribed or prohibited according to yin/yang, “humors” (hot, wet, cold, dry) or body (small/cold, muscular/fiery, big-boned/phlegmatic)—all principles of balance, inside with out. Before the famous part of his oath, “Do No Harm”, Hippocrates said: “I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment… .”  Mother Nature tries to train us to apply beneficial dietetic measures too, by providing lots of option for local seasonal eating—if only we’d notice.


Here's pasta of the moment, spring green: green garlic asparagus, fresh flat leaf parsley, garden peas and mint, created two hours after a visit to the farmers' market.

Monday, March 9, 2015

More About Garbage Rescue or: How to Save Mother Earth and Your Own Money

Sticking with the hot trend toward all consuming kitchens, here are a few tips for making the most of leftover lemons, wine, cider, yogurt, marshmallows, even avocado skin and tea bags.

Lemons that got lost in the back of the crisper and stayed too long can have a brilliant afterlife. Cut the skin into tiny pieces and dry them out in a toaster oven. Then save them on your spice rack in a jar or plastic bag. Now, like the Persians who are renown for mellifluous dishes, you can toss some into your pots of chicken whatever or a lamb stew or risotto or vegetable braise where they will up the flavor ante with a definitive taste of lemon.

Even better, the juice of a rotting lemon works just as well as the juice of a fresh one or any of those chemically comprised polishes you can buy to make your brass objects sparkle. I follow monastery tradition and use lemon juice to make my Buddhist altar statues shine brightly. I use it on antique candle sticks too.

And finally, once you've squeezed a piece of lemon or lime, don't rush to trash it. Stick it in a glass of water, or toss one at a time and soak the lot in a pitcher of plain or bubbly water to make a delightfully light lemonade.  You can keep the pitcher in the fridge and keep throwing lemon/lime pieces in it.

Moving on to wine...did you know French housewives make their own vinegar simply by pouring into a corked bottle all the red wine leftover in glasses or the bottle at the end of the day? Well, you can too-- without much effort. And it will be better than any you buy.

All you need is patience, a wide-mouth bottle or earthenware crock, some cheesecloth and wine. You will end up with useable vinegar much faster if you start with what's called "the mother", a gelatinous blob of acid that launches the necessary ferment. You can buy one in a beer/wine making store, get one from someone already making their own vinegar (many restaurants do) or wait around for your own "mother" to be born (three weeks to two months). To get your own mother starter, pour a bottle of red wine--sulfite free is best, into a wide mouth glass or ceramic container, add 1 cup water and cover with cheese cloth. Put it in a warm, dark place and forget about it for a few weeks.  You should then start to see something forming on top. Once it literally gels, it will fall to the bottom. You have vinegar! Now all you do is pour out vinegar when you need it and pour in leftover wine you don't need.

If you get a starter, put it in with a bottle of wine and cup of water, cover with cheesecloth and wait about two weeks. Think of this as Chemistry 101, historical traditional 102 or just an excellent science project for your kids.

If your apple cider has "turned", it's heading toward vinegar-- the apple cider vinegar much touted for its medicinal wonders. Just leave it topless with a towel to keep dirt out and it will eventually morph. You can also make yogurt from milk that's soured but only if that milk hasn't been pasteurized.

While we're on liquids, you do know, right?, that you can juice all those ugly vegetables that stayed too long just as I said in the first post on this topic, you can boil them and puree them into a lovely French potage.

Last week someone thrust a container of leftover bean and corn salad at me and said: "Now what? I don't want to eat this anymore."  I pureed it with olive oil and cilantro into a spread that I smeared on slices of garlic bread, topped with shredded cheddar and stuck into a hot oven to turn that bean salad into what proved to be very popular party bruschettas.

Last night's rice can be warmed for breakfast and served with poached or soft boiled eggs on top--a treat without toast! With herbs, spice and a few leftover veggies, it can be turned into fried rice for dinner --also served with eggs on top. Or you can put it back in a pot, cover with water and cook it into porridge--traditional Chinese congee or jook. Jook often has pieces of chicken and scallions thrown in--very very tasty.

Want to get rid of marshmallows?  They work great as packing peanuts! Send them on. Too much trail mix? Stir it into yogurt or put it atop oatmeal for breakfast. Did the tortilla or potato chips go stale? Put them in a plastic bag, crush them to bits by passing a rolling pin back and forth over the bag, then use them as breading to make very tasty oven fried chicken or fish.

And although this won't make the garbage disappear, it will give it a second chance to do some good for you--as a beauty enhancer!  Yogurt past its due date makes marvelous face cream because its bacteria eat away blotches and red streaks while its milkiness soothes dryness. You can leave it on so it sinks into your skin, disappearing that way.

Used tea bags and the peel of your avocado won't totally vanish like that but before you trash them, rub that avocado skin on your face: the oil is a perfect astringent and remedy for dryness. Leave it on about 10 minutes, then rinse it off.  The tannin in used teabags will brighten your sore eyes if you close your eyes and put a damp teabag on each lid for 10 minutes.  Not longer. This removes any redness.

And finally, those coffee grounds. Think "grounds." If you have a garden and it has acid loving plants feed 'em your grounds. That'll wake 'em right up.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Egging Us On: a quickie

I'm going to a sugar free tea party for a 90-year-old.
So I made a batch of Tea Eggs, aka 1000-year-old Eggs.
Recipe is in How to Fix a Leek....
Easy, tasty, healthy and inexpensive pzazz.

More Stomachfill instead of Landfill: Breadcrumbs Can be Sexy

Recycling food is a hot topic right now. Everyone is learning to love leftovers.
I've been offering ideas all along, a whole pile of them two weeks ago. But we're at spring cleaning time so here are more tasty hints for how to clean up the kitchen, save money and eat well. Win Win.

I've talked forever about making garlic croutons and the ingenious ways Italians recycle day-old bread as Panzanella (bread salad) and Ribollita (cabbage bread soup recipe given two posts back). I've given a recipe for the equally ingenious Middle Eastern Fattoush, a salad built around yesterday's pita as today's fried bread.

So now let's talk about the finer points of bread recycling: breadcrumbs!  All you have to do is blitz your bread in a food processor. You can make coarse or fine crumbs and freeze them until you need them. And you will need them!  Here's where: leek fritters (fine), brandade. French style salt cod with mashed potatoes and garlic--yummmmmmmmm....(coarse),  carrot cigars with lemon yogurt sauce (in Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking), French gateau au chou-fleur (cauliflower presented like a cake) and bread puddings (using crumbs gets you a true pudding as you will see below in both the asparagus and chocolate bread puddings). They also make perfect coating, combined with cornmeal or chickpea flour, for what you want to deep fry to a crunch.

I've posted the wonderful leek fritter and brandade recipes before, but here's Leek Fritters again because everybody loves them and because they're perfect for this inbetween season. They're an easy and tasty vegetarian meal you can serve hot or room temp. More great recipes follow.

Leek Patties

Makes 12, serves 4-6

6 lg leeks, white and light green parts only

1 tbsp fresh chives, minced
1 tbsp fresh dill, minced

2 eggs, beaten

½-2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 tsp coarse sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp corn or canola oil for frying

1 lemon

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and crosswise and rinse to clean.

Put leeks in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil.

Lower heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 25 minutes, until leeks are soft.

Drain well. Wrap leeks in a heavy towel to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

Coarsely chop the leeks. Put in a bowl with the chives, dill, salt and pepper. Stir in the breadcrumbs. (Enough to take up any remaining moisture in the leeks.) Blend in the eggs. 

Make 8 patties that are about ½ inch thick.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Arrange the patties in the pan so they don’t touch (you may have to do this in two batches) and cook until brown on the bottom side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes so both sides are evenly browned. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a wedge of lemon.

Optionally sprinkle minced fresh flat leaf parsley on the plate.

Can be served warm or cold.
Gateau au Chou-fleur
for 6 people

1 large cauliflower

1-2 tbsp vinegar

½ lb fromage blanc or ricotta in a pinch

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp flour

3 oz gruyere cheese, grated

¼ cup chopped chives

4 egg yolks

½ tsp ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to your taste

Butter to grease the baking dish

1/3 cup bread crumbs

Remove the greens and thick stem and separate the cauliflower florets.

Soak them for 15-20 minutes in a large bowl of water with the vinegar added to it.

Drain and put the florets into a large pot of salted water. Cook over medium heat 25 minutes or until cauliflower is soft.

Drain the florets well and finely chop them almost to puree in a food processor.

Heat oven to 350º.

In a small heavy bottom casserole over medium heat, melt the butter. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, stirring fast to blend it in. Lower heat and cook until the flour/butter roux begins to color and bubble. Bit by bit stir in the fromage blanc. Immediately remove from the heat.

Add salt and pepper. Stir in the cauliflower and chives. Add the gruyere, egg yolks and nutmeg. Stir to blend everything.  Return to low heat and cook 2-3 minutes to warm the mixture.

Butter a soufflé or high-sided baking dish. Fill it with the cauliflower batter.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top with a handful of shredded parmesan cheese.

Put the baking dish in a larger oven pan and fill that pan with water halfway up the sides of the baking dish. (A bain-marie). Put in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Serve immediately in the baking dish.

Asparagus Bread Pudding
(from Veggiyana, the Dharma of Cooking)

Serves 8-10

1 ½ lbs fresh asparagus
1 tsp olive oil 
1 medium leek, cleaned
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 oz Gruyere cheese
1 ½ cups half and half
3 extra large or jumbo eggs, separated
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper (more to your taste)
2 cups freshly made breadcrumbs (from 3-4 slices firm white bread ground in a food processor)
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest

 Preheat oven to 450º.
Cut the bottom inch off the asparagus stalks and cut the remaining stalks in four equal pieces. Line a shallow roasting dish, or large toaster pan tray with foil and put the asparagus pieces on it.  Coat with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 10 minutes at 450. Remove from oven.
 Reduce oven heat to 350º.  Butter an 8” square baking pan or round cake pan, whatever you have.
Dice the leek.  Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat and add the leek and thyme.  Sauté on medium low heat until leeks are soft, 3-5 minutes.
Pour half and half into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer (bubbles at the pot edge).  While waiting, put the cheese into a food processor bowl and chop it.

Add the roasted asparagus to the bowl. With the machine running, pour in the warm half and half. Do not overprocess. Add the remaining butter and one egg yolk at a time, processing with the pulse but to  to incorporate the three.
Add the leeks from the sauté pan and salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs and quickly process just to blend. 
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold them and the lemon zest into the asparagus mixture.  Optionally: sprinkle on top 1/8 tsp smoked paprika and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg.
Pour into the baking pan.  Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour into that pan enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the pudding pan.
Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, depending on whether you use convection or not, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Remove from heat and cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Invert onto a serving platter and serve warm.
TA DA TA DA! And finally to reward you for reading this far, and wanting to clean up waste, here is my most precious, everybody's favorite desert recipe. I have never shared it before, with anyone.

Chocolate Bread Pudding  
for 12 lucky people

2/3 c sugar
1 c heavy cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 eggs, separated
1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (5-6 slices firm white bread)

Preheat oven to 350º and butter an 8" square or 8"x3" round cake pan.
Bring cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
Put chocolate in a food processor and cut it into smaller and smaller pieces while pouring in the hot cream.   When mixture is smooth, add 1/3 c sugar and one by one the egg yolks. Add butter and vanilla and process until the mix is very smooth.

Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and pour the chocolate mixture in, stirring to blend.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites til soft peaks form. Continue beating in the remaining 2/3 c sugar until peaks stiffen and are glossy.

Slowly combine the egg whites with the chocolate mixture, trying not to loose their fluff.  Blend everything well. Pour into buttered pan evenly and level.

Put pan into a larger roasting pan and fill that with water halfway up the side of the pudding pan. Put in center of oven and bake at 350º 45-50 minutes or until pudding is set. (A cake tester should come out clean.) Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes and invert onto your serving platter.

Custard to top your Bread Pudding 
6 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
2 1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp brandy

Combine yolks and 1/3 c sugar in a large bowl and beat until totally blended. Egg color should be lighter.
Combine remaining sugar and milk in a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and very gradually, in a thin stream, whisk in the egg yolks.
Return to low heat and stir constantly until custard gets thick enough to stick to the back of your spoon. Do not let this boil or it will curdle. Stay low.
Add vanilla and brandy. Remove from heat.
Cool and pour over the bread pudding.

To go all out, top with fresh raspberries!

More Stomachfill next time.
Then Spring Tonics to get you going.