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Overnight Asparagus Strata

By Kathy Little

Fri, May 17th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Asparagus is such a sexy vegetable. Its most delicate taste is in the tips. The French called them “love tips” and served them to the mistress of the king. She was called Madame de Pompadour.

A recipe for asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes from the third century A.D. It supposedly counteracted fatigue and was considered an aphrodisiac. Serve large amounts of this vegetable with caution!

Asparagus is healthy, too! It is low in calories and sodium and high in fiber. Of course because of its “powers” and taste it costs more than carrots. My mother served it at Easter as a sign of spring. Unfortunately, because of the price and the fact that everyone loved it (even my brother Larry who wouldn’t eat pizza as a kid), we each got about 3 spears.

Later in life I learned that even parts of the stem could be served raw with dip. It could also enhance the flavor of many other dishes.

When I started working, I would buy 2 or 3 pounds of asparagus at a time. My husband also loves it, so the “asparagus fights” continue. Sharing doesn’t come naturally to me so I eat some on-the-sly in the kitchen before I serve it. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt me.

I tried growing asparagus but because it takes time, patience and weeding; I wasn’t successful. That was sad because eventually people hide when you bring them zucchini but not asparagus.

The birds planted raspberries for me in my garden patch. The berries were a cross between black caps and red raspberries and, they thived. Soon I had a raspberry bramble which my mother and my sister, Barbie, would invade to pick berries. First, we would suit up in long pants and shirts with long sleeves and sturdy shoes and socks. Raspberry branches have thorns. Raspberries attract bees. We needed to be prepared. It was worth it to eat fresh raspberries and cream. Also the jelly was superb. My finicky brother said it was the best jelly he had ever tasted!

I am a “low maintenance” woman when it comes to clothes and make-up but a “high maintenance” woman when it comes to food. My favorite foods include asparagus, raspberries, shrimp, lobster and steak. (You get the picture) My husband complains about me being fussy about food. Fortunately, his mother taught him to eat everything. He even loves leftovers!

O.K. I admit I love labor intensive, short shelf-life fruits and vegetables. Anybody ever had raspberries, strawberries or blueberries mold? It is best to gorge or share.

I am learning to share asparagus in a most luxurious way. A week-end brunch is my favorite meal. People eat and visit in a relaxed, casual way. As a hostess I can be more relaxed with an overnight brunch strata, made ahead and frozen apple muffins and mimosas (champagne and orange juice) served in stemware. It may sound fancy, but I still use my favorite 9x13 aluminum cake pan. Actually, I have three of them.

Would the lady who called me about a recipe, please call me again. I couldn’t make out your name. Please leave a number. I love sharing recipes just like cooks have forever.

Overnight Asparagus Strata

1 lb. fresh asparagus,trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 English muffins, split and toasted

2 cups (8oz.) shredded Colby-Monteray Jack cheese (divided)

1 cup diced fully cooked ham

1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper

8 eggs

2 cups milk

1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. ground mustard

1/4 tsp. pepper

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. Add asparagus; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately place aspargus in ice water. Drain and pat dry.

Arrange six English muffin halves, cut side up, in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Fill in spaces with remaining muffin halves. Sprinkle with one cup cheese, asparagus, ham and red pepper. In a bowl whisk the eggs, milk salt, mustard and pepper; pour over muffins. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the edge comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting. Yield: 6-8 servings.

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