When this time of year arrives – that first week when the trees have those few, glorious days of pale greenness, and all of the spring flowers that have been patiently waiting their turn through the cold spring bloom at the same time; when we shed our layers and revel in the feeling of fresh air on our bare legs and everyone lights their grills for their first time in months so that whole neighborhoods smell of smoky charcoal – I feel as though something that I’ve been waiting for, without even realizing how desperately I was waiting, has finally arrived. It feels as though things should change, routines should fly out the window, evenings should be reserved exclusively for long conversations on the porch with old friends and cold beers, and the biggest decision to be made during the day should be whether to spend it at the beach, hiking somewhere densely green, or simply sipping lemonade in the backyard. Of course, for most of us, routines don’t change just because it’s almost summer, as much as years and years of summer vacations may have conditioned us to feel like they should. But we can certainly try to do a little more to embrace the season, and let some of our responsibilities slide, just for a while.
I took yesterday off, partly to get my life organized between trips, and partly just to savor the day. I woke up early to long morning shadows, a cool breeze on my face, cool clean sheets, and the first chirps of birds. Waking up early is such a pleasure when it’s a choice and not a necessity. I spent the day doing a mix of chores and treating myself to small breaks, like a trip to the bookstore to pick up a stack of new paperbacks for the summer and an invigorating workout. I walked everywhere. Something about the day kickstarted my creativity again. By the end of the day I’d jotted 5 or 6 new recipe ideas in my notebook, something I haven’t done in months. It’s a good reminder of how important it is to rest – and that even days with chores and errands can be restful if you approach them with the right mindset. After a winter spent in a melancholy fog and a hectic spring, I need more days like this. Days that open me up to hope and possibility and peace again. Almost summer days.
I wanted to make something to celebrate this time – something light and effervescent, that would capture this fleeting, pale green moment. Perhaps it’s a bit literal, but asparagus souffles – pale green, quickly deflating – are what came to mind. With blanched asparagus, butter-sauteed leeks, and fresh tangy goat cheese pureed into the batter, these souffles are light, savory, and just slightly vegetal. They would be the perfect addition to a brunch or as a light lunch all on their own. Souffles can be intimidating but really, does it matter if they fall? They will still be just as airy and delicious. I promise you no one will complain.
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Asparagus, Leek, and Goat Cheese Souffles
- 1/2 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 small leek, washed and sliced into half-moons
- 4 TBS butter, divided, plus more for buttering the ramekins
- 3 TBS cake flour (AP flour is a fine substitute)
- 1 1/4 c. whole milk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
- 6 egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter eight 6-0z. ramekins and set aside on a baking tray.
- Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus pieces and cook for 2-3 minutes, until bright green and just tender. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water two to three times, until asparagus is room temperature. Drain thoroughly and place in a blender.
- Return the small pot to the stove, over medium-low heat. Melt 1 TBS of the butter in the pot and add the leeks. Saute leeks until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add to the blender with the asparagus.
- In a large pot, melt the remaining 3 TBS of butter over medium heat. Add the cake flour and stir into the butter, cooking until golden brown and nutty smelling, about 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking to make a smooth batter between additions. Once all the milk is added and the batter is smooth, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook for 2-3 minutes longer over medium-low heat, then remove from the heat. Pour into the blender with the asparagus. Blend the mixture on high until smooth, then add the egg yolks and blend again. Pour the batter back into the pot (no longer over the heat), and stir the goat cheese into the warm batter until melted. Set batter aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter until incorporated. Very lightly fold the second 1/2 of the egg whites into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins, filling 3/4 of the way to the top. Bake the souffles for 15-20 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.