Houseguests can be ingrates. Once, I invited an asparagus family to the garden, and the whole clan stalked away. Perhaps my hostess skills need some work.
Apparently to make asparagus feel at home, you have to cultivate loose soil, deep trenches and patience. So this summer, years after my first fail, I fluffed a comfy bed and opened a sack of “crowns,” which is to say roots. Each looks like a small, dehydrated octopus. I spread the tentacles, sprinkled dirt and practiced patience.
Which was unnecessary. Days later, a row of slim, green aliens stood at attention. I offered drinks, snacks and encouragement. The stalks swayed, silent in their pointed hats. I hope that means they like it here.
If so, I'll harvest an edible crop – in three years. Until then, I’m picking zucchini.
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Savory zucchini clafouti
Prep: 45 minutes; bake: 25 minutes; makes: 6 servings
3 pounds young zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick discs (the mandoline makes quick work of this job)
2 large shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 tablespoon butter, for pan
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Roast: Toss zucchini and shallots with olive oil. Spread out in a single layer on two large rimmed baking sheets. Slide sheets onto the lowest racks of a 425-degree oven. Roast, turning zucchini once and switching position of pans once, until zucchini turn tender and golden brown, about 35 minutes.
Grease: Meanwhile, butter a 9-inch round baking pan. (An idle pie plate will do.) Sprinkle with half the cheese. Set aside.
Mix: Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, flour, vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.
Season: When vegetables are roasted, toss with thyme, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Let cool a few minutes.
Bake: Scrape vegetables into the prepared pan. Pour in egg mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Set on a rimmed baking sheet and slide onto the center rack of a 425-degree oven. Bake until clafouti is brown, slightly puffed and set (a knife stabbed in the center should come out clean), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.