Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Bouquet

Yesterday, my family treated me to lunch at The North Fork Table. And because it is normal for us to think several meals ahead, we stopped at a farm stand on the Main Road to pick up dinner supplies before arriving at the restaurant. We bought some asparagus, some garlic, and some arugula, but back in Sag Harbor we were too full from lunch to cook dinner (we also had this crazy idea that after lunch we would pick up sandwiches at the "lunch truck" for later, but we were way too full to do that either; the artisan frankfurter and wild-caught lobster roll will have to wait). When I got home, I put my asparagus in a vase with a little bit of water, and put the vase in the refrigerator, so they'd stay crisp overnight. This afternoon I made a savory asparagus and Gruyere cake, which I'm planning on serving with intensely garlicky chicken brochettes and an arugula salad. Here is the cake recipe:

Polenta Loaf with Roasted Asparagus and Gruyere
Makes 1 loaf, about 12 generous slices

Roasting the asparagus before adding them to the cake batter intensifies their flavor and gets rid of unwanted moisture.

3/4 pounds asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) grated Gruyere cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together flour, corn meal, baking powder, black pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in a large measuring cup.
3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in 1 cup cheese and asparagus.
4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until loaf is golden and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, invert onto wire rack, re-invert, and let cool completely before slicing and serving.

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