When I headed to Green City's grand opening, I knew I had to have a recipe in hand or I'd buy more produce than I needed (as if overloading my fridge could hasten spring's arrival). I settled on a cozy asparagus-mushroom bread pudding. A serving of this rustic dish - with asparagus buried in cushions of custard and mushrooms nestled under crusty bread - helped me tide the chilly weather that had Windy City residents bundled up...in May.
TIP: Asparagus spears have woody ends that many cooks snap off and discard. However, you can peel away the strawy outside layer. The flesh beneath it is tender and delicious.
ASPARAGUS BREAD PUDDING
1/2 pound crusty bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup green garlic, finely chopped
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups whole milk
3 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 ounce feta cheese
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bread loaf in two and place each half on a baking sheet, crust down. Cook until the surface browns.
2) Remove from oven and tear bread into 2-inch pieces.
3) Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-low. Add green garlic and saute until it becomes tender.
4) Add asparagus and mushrooms. Cook until asparagus becomes tender. Set aside.
5) Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, basil, black pepper, and salt. Set aside.
6) Coat a 9-x-13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer half of the bread in the bottom of the dish. Cover with asparagus mixture. Cover with the remaining bread and sprinkle with feta cheese.
7) Pour in egg mixture. Cover and chill for 2 hours, or overnight.
8) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread pudding for 25 minutes or until the center is set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.