1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
6 oz. country ham, or 4 oz. Prosciutto, finely chopped or ground in food processor
10 oz. French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices, grilled or toasted
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat broiler. Bring a large sauté pan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a colander, refresh under cold running water to stop the cooking, and drain well. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the cheese and ham; toss to mix. Set aside. Using your fingers to hold the garlic, rub the clove against one side of the toasted bread to flavor the entire surface. Drizzle or brush with a bit of the olive oil. Arrange the blanched asparagus on the toasts, then divide the cheese and ham topping evenly over the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Place bruschetta on a baking sheet and broil just until the cheese melts and begins to brown, about 1–2 minutes. Keep a careful watch so as not to burn. Serve immediately. Serves 12 (3 pieces per serving).