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Asparagus, Pea, Spinach Lasagna

By this point in the season we’re all anxious for something that comes out of the ground, preferably in our own backyards. Any green sprout, edible or not ,is a welcome sight.

Today I took the fir boughs off my asparagus and raked out the bed in hopes of a sighting. Nothing yet, there’s still frost in the ground. But very soon there will be a thrilling crop of my very own asparagus…….and it took four years to reach this moment!

This is what I will make:

ASPARAGUS, PEA, SPINACH LASAGNA serves 8 -10

INGREDIENTS
4 # trimmed and quickly steamed asparagus, cut into one inch pieces
1 large white onion, peeled and diced, sauteed in a generous amount of.olive oil
3 cups cooked, well drained spinach, chopped
1 cup of stemmed and finely chopped parsley
2 cups of goat cheese crumble OR FRESH RICOTTA, IF YOU PREFER ( Lakins’ Gorges Cheese in Rockport ME makes a fantastic fresh handmade ricotta!)
2 cups or good Parmesan
2 cups of shredded mozzerella
1 quart of your favorite Bechemel recipe, or you may use a jarred white sauce, add a pinch of nutmeg to it.
A cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper
12 or more no boil lasagna noodles

PREPARATION
Combine all the vegetables, spinach asparagus, onion and peas, with a bit of white sauce and season with salt and pepper

In a greased deep lasagna pan, cover the bottom with white sauce thinned with heavy cream.

Layer in noodles, vegetables, cheeses and sauce until you’ve used everything up OR reached the top of the pan. Finish with a layer of noodles and white sauce, sprinkle on more cheese.

Using your best judgement, add a little more heavy cream in the layering process if you think the lasagna needs it, you don’t want it to be dry.

Cover tightly with parchment lined foil and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees.

Let it rest for 20 minutes, covered ,before cutting. Enjoy with a big spring salad!

Grilled Duck Breasts with Savory Rhubarb Sauce

One of my favorite company “go to” meals in the summer is duck breasts on the grill. I purchase the frozen (fat on) breasts of duck at Curtis Meats or other quality purveyor and simply defrost them overnight in the fridge. I trim the fat but leave a generous pad in the center to protect the meat, which I score. This helps keep the meat moist. I love duck rather rare and generously salted and peppered. Otherwise, leave it alone and focus on the show stopping rhubarb sauce, flavored with lemon and star anise.

While my rhubarb is in its prime, I make plenty of this sauce, which cans nicely, so it may be enjoyed year round. I have noticed that I get better visual results if I make the pieces of rhubarb slightly larger, maybe 2 inches long rather then one.

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Using Sorrel: Soup of Mixed Spring Greens

What’s the first weed you can remember eating as a child?

For me it was sorrel or “sour grass” as we called it. I am speaking about oxalis or wood sorrel. Remember the one that looked like lime green clover with a little yellow flower that turned into something (now I know it was a seed pod) resembling a tiny green banana? It was puckery. But there is garden sorrel too, beloved by the French and originating in France’s southern highlands. It’s in the garden now and widely available year round at specialty markets.

A relative of buckwheat and with broad leaves that remind one of spinach, but more lemony, sorrel’s acidic finish is due to its high oxalic acid content, the same as rhubarb. That makes sorrel a natural pairing with rich or fatty fishes and meats as a sauce. It also makes a nice purée or soup.

In preparation, be sure to use a stainless knife or tear the leaves by hand. Sorrel will discolor a traditional French iron cooking knife as well as erode pots and pans, so use a stainless knife and enamel pot when cooking it.

I like to use an array of spring greens in my spring greens and sorrel soup. Try mixing fresh spinach, sorrel, and arugula with a handful of green garlic leaves for this energy boosting and easy soup. I am making this version a little bit leaner than a traditional French style sorrel soup. Sorrel is famous for turning an off-putting sludgy green color when cooked on its own. That’s why I like to mix in brighter greens like spinach for the soup. Much more appealing!

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