Baked Goat Cheese with Spring Vegetables
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped leek (use white and light green section only)
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I recommend Cabot)
Freshly ground pepper
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen/thawed
2 tablespoons each chopped fresh parsley, chives and basil (and feel free to substitute any other fresh herbs that catch your fancy!)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese, divided in half
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 2 minutes and drain. Let cool and separate out the tips.
3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the leeks and cook until they are tender, about 6-7 minutes, stirring regularly, Stir in flour until the leeks are well coated, and then slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is a bit thickened, about 5-10 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and add the cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted, and then add a couple grindings of fresh pepper, all the veggies except for the asparagus tips, the herbs, the lemon zest and two ounces of the goat cheese and stir gently.
5. Pour the mixture into a 4-5 cup shallow baking dish. Arrange the asparagus tips on top, pushing them down slightly into the cheese mixture, and scatter the remaining goat cheese over the top.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden in spots and bubbling. Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then serve with french bread, crackers or whatever you like. If you have any leftovers (ha!) they will be great reheated and tossed with pasta.