Baked asparagus custard with arugula and tarragon

baked asparagus custard

Yesterday morning I was feeling a little tired and discouraged. I decided to tag along with David on a bike ride up the towpath that runs between the river and the canal. I pedaled along, looking at the pebbly path, because going over the big ruts makes my back hurt. Which makes me feel old. Then I looked up. The late morning light glowed in the early spring leaves so beautifully it almost hurt. Against the dark tangle of branches, the small leaves hummed with a bright hopeful light. A light that’s only there this time of year, and doesn’t last very long. Well!

I think asparagus is a little like that. It’s so vivid and slender and pretty. It tastes like early spring. You wouldn’t want to eat it all summer, but you do want to eat it now. I like it best lightly steamed with butter and lemon, but you can’t eat it that way every time! So I try different things. I’m not sure what made me think of this, and I’m not sure what it should be called. It’s not a custard, exactly. It reminds me of Stouffer’s Spinach soufflé. When I was a child, that was the special thing to have with our steak. It’s not a soufflé, because there’s no bechamel, and the eggwhites aren’t whipped. But it does feel special. It’s quite light, but substantial enough to serve in slices. It would be nice with a light tomato sauce or red pepper coulis, but it’s flavorful enough to serve as it is. And it’s quick to make!

In Blackalicious’ Green Light – Now Begin, they say,

No more of that sittin’ in a slump and uh
No more of that coulda-woulda-shoulda junk
No more of that waiting for the inspiration, innovation

Or a green light–now begin

That’s right!!

1 bunch of asparagus
2 cups arugula leaves, washed and roughly chopped
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t fresh thyme (1 t dried)
1 T fresh tarragon, loosely packed, chopped (this is a lot, I know, it will be distinctly tarragon-y with this amount, and the flavor gets stronger when it’s baked, so feel free to cut down on the quantity!!)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 T flour
1/3 cup goat cheese
3 eggs
salt and plenty of pepper

preheat oven to 400

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and fry for a minute, then add the thyme and arugula. Cook till wilted, and set aside.

Chop the rough ends off the bottom of the asparagus and compost them. Cut the tips off at about an inch and save them. Roughly chop the stems. Boil a pot of salted water, drop the stems in, and boil them for about 8-10 minutes till they’re bright green and very soft. Remove with a slotted spoon, and let them drain. Drop the tips into the boiling water, and boil for a couple of minutes, till they’re bright green and still a bit crunchy. Set aside.

In a blender, combine the almonds and flour. Process till fairly well ground. Add the asparagus stems, arugula, tarragon, goat cheese and eggs, and process till light green and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter and flour a loaf pan. Pour the asparagus mixture in. Arrange the asparagus tips in a pretty pattern on top.

Bake for about 40 minutes, till the top is starting to brown and crack, and the whole thing is puffed.

Leave it to set and cool for 10-15 minutes. Then turn it out of the pan and serve in slices.

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6 thoughts on “Baked asparagus custard with arugula and tarragon

  1. Hiya, I just stumbled across your blog in my Internet food wanderings. Love it all, especially the music accompaniments! Are you by chance along the Delaware River? I recently lived by the towpath in Stockton. So much good food up that way :)

    • Hello! Thanks for your kind words!

      I’m in Lambertville. We cycle to Stockton. This time of year this area feels like the most beautiful in the world, but I suppose everywhere feels like that in spring.

    • Hello, Jane!

      You could definitely substitute rice flour or chickpea flour. I think it might be a bit denser, but would have a more interesting flavor. I’m not sure…let me know if you try! You could also leave the flour out altogether…maybe add an extra handful of almonds. I think that would work, too.

      Leftovers seem to keep well. I’ve been eating it at room temperature the last couple of days, and it’s been fine!

  2. Claire: We’re eating a lot of asparagus just now, here’s how Gina cooks it, it’s wonderful!

    Trim ends and cut asparagus spears in half
    Saute asparagus in a hot skillet of olive oil and a small pat of butter–about 2 minutes
    Add about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
    After another two/three minutes add 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce (or more depending on the amount of asparagus and the desired saltiness)
    Saute asparagus another two/three minutes
    Serve hot!

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