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Originally published Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

3 courses for $30 at 49 standout restaurants

Eat well, save money and support local restaurants. Urban Eats offers you three-course dinners for only $30 from 49 of the area's most admired restaurants. Visit them May 3-31, 2009, Sunday-Thursday nights excluding Mother's Day, May 10. View all 49 restaurants

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Recipes: Asparagus, Leek and Gruyere Quiche, and more

Now is the time to take advantage of asparagus, when it is at its best. Its subtle, grassy taste goes well with eggs, ham and cheese, but...

From Everyday Food

Now is the time to take advantage of asparagus, when it is at its best. Its subtle, grassy taste goes well with eggs, ham and cheese, but asparagus is also flavorful enough to stand up to more intense ingredients, such as soy sauce and ginger.

Asparagus is an excellent source of antioxidants such as vitamins A and C. It's high in fiber and potassium but low in calories. Steaming retains the most nutrients, but asparagus is also delicious when sauteed or roasted.

Look for bunches with firm stalks and tightly closed tips. Store them in the refrigerator with the stem ends wrapped in moist paper towels for up to 3 days. To trim, cut off the woody stem ends, or snap them off (they'll break naturally at the right place).

ASPARAGUS, LEEK AND GRUYERE QUICHE

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon butter

1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved and thinly sliced, then well washed

1 bunch (1 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups half-and-half

Ground nutmeg

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1 pie crust (see below), fitted into a 9-inch pie plate, well chilled

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add leek and asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes to 8 minutes; let cool.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Place pie crust in rimmed pie plate.Sprinkle with cheese; top with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top.

3. Bake until center of quiche is just set, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes, rotatingpie plate halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. (To store, let cool, then refrigerate up to 1 day. Reheat at 350 degrees until warm in center, about 30 minutes.)

Nutritional information per serving: 462 calories; 32.3 grams fat (18.9 grams saturated fat); 15.8 grams protein; 27.7 grams carbohydrates; 2.5 grams fiber

OUR FAVORITE PIE CRUST

Makes 1 crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

1. In a large bowl, using a pastry blender, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with just a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.

2. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water and continue to work dough with pastry blender until it's crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers (if needed, add up to 2 tablespoons more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time). Do not overwork.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; form into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (Or wrap in plastic, place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling.)

SPAGHETTI WITH SHAVED ASPARAGUS

Makes 4 servings

Coarse salt and ground pepper

12 ounces spaghetti

1 bunch (1 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, shaved with a vegetable peeler, cut in pieces

4 strips lemon zest, thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons butter

1 ounce Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Add asparagus and lemon zest to pot; immediately drain pasta mixture and return to pot.

2. Add butter and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, and toss, adding enough pasta water to create a thin sauce. Top with Parmesan.

Nutritional information per serving: 476 calories; 14.7 grams fat (8.7 grams saturated fat); 16.5 grams protein; 69 grams carbohydrates; 5.4 grams fiber

2 FAST IDEAS FOR ASPARAGUS

To start, make Steamed Asparagus: Place a steamer basket in a large pot filled with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 pound trimmed asparagus, cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes to 6 minutes. (To chill, immediately plunge in an ice bath; pat dry with paper towels.)

PROSCIUTTO-WRAPPED ASPARAGUS

Makes 4 servings

Dividing evenly, wrap 1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto around chilled Steamed Asparagus (use 1 slice prosciutto per spear).

Nutritional information per serving: 89 calories; 3.2 grams fat (1.1 grams saturated fat); 10.6 grams protein; 5.4 grams carbohydrates; 2.4 grams fiber

STEAMED ASPARAGUS WITH WARM GOAT CHEESE

Makes 4 servings

1. Slice a 5-ounce fresh goat cheese log into 4 disks; dredge in flour, then in 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). Freeze for 15 minutes.

2. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add cheese disks; cook until browned, about 1 minute per side. Season Steamed Asparagus with salt and serve with cheese disks and lemon wedges.

Nutritional information per serving: 211 calories; 14.5 grams fat (6.2 grams saturated fat); 10 grams protein; 10.2 grams carbohydrates; 2.6 grams fiber

From Everyday Food

c.2009 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia LLC

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Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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