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seasonal recipe

Recipe for asparagus strata

Sally Pasley Vargas for the Boston Globe

Serves 6

With its layers of egg custard, cheese, and spring vegetables, this savory bread pudding, with a golden, crusty top, is an appealing brunch or light supper dish. Assemble and refrigerate it for up to a day.

Butter (for the dish)
2tablespoons unsalted butter
1medium leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1bunch slender asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
2tablespoons water
1cup frozen peas
5ounces fresh spinach, stemmed
cups half-and-half
1loaf (1 pound) firm white bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
8ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
¼cup chopped fresh parsley
2tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

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2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leek, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and water and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes more, or until the asparagus is almost tender. Add the frozen peas and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Stir in the half-and-half and a generous pinch of salt. Add the bread, cheese, parsley, chives, and asparagus mixture. Blend thoroughly. Transfer to the baking dish.

4. Bake the strata for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is golden. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces. Sally Pasley Vargas

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