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Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 pounds young asparagus

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 garlic cloves, peeled

12 almonds, blanched, see note

1 (2-inch) slice crusty country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon very good quality sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon sea salt

Note: To blanch almonds, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately add raw almonds. Let almonds sit in hot water for 45 seconds to 1 minute, but no longer. Drain immediately and briefly run under cold water to stop cooking. Remove peels; they should easily slide off with a pinch.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove and discard the bottom few inches from each spear of asparagus, rinse the remainder and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, almonds and bread, and sauté, stirring constantly, until all the ingredients are nicely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not allow them to burn. Transfer the almonds, garlic and bread cubes (use a slotted spoon if oil remains in the pan) to a food processor or blender. Add the vinegar and salt and process briefly until the mixture is a coarse meal.

3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan, if necessary, and sauté the asparagus over medium-low heat until the stalks change color and start to become tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Remove the asparagus and place in an ovenproof gratin dish. Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour it over the asparagus. Then sprinkle the almond-bread mixture over the top. Bake for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid has boiled away. Serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 6): 183 calories; 12g fat; 2g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 5g protein; 15g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; 3g fiber; 111mg sodium; 50mg calcium

Recipe from “The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook,” by Nancy Harmon-Jenkins

Daniel Neman is a food writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.