Consider asparagus for a light and satisfying quiche

By on April 29, 2019

In the Spring, this not-so-young cook’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … asparagus.

I always look forward to the first spears of asparagus in my garden and I’ve earmarked them for a light and simple, yet filling and satisfying, quiche.

In addition, I have a couple of spring side dishes using fresh herbs which will nicely complement any meal — wild rice with asparagus and mint and a potato salad with fresh dill.

For dessert, I have an effortless citrus pie that’s as easy as … well, pie.

Quiche can be enjoyed warm, cold, or at room-temperature. This recipe calls for a deep dish pie dish, but if all you have is a regular pie dish, reduce skim milk to 1 cup, heavy cream to ½ cup, use 4 eggs, slightly reduce the additions, and cut baking time to 60 minutes. It’ll work.

Asparagus Quiche
1 pie crust
1 ½ cups skim milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 eggs, room temperature
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 dozen asparagus spears
1 TB unsalted butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups spinach, stemmed and chopped
6 strips bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (optional)
3 oz. diced Swiss cheese
2 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese
Parmesan cheese, grated

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add in the mushroom slices and sauté about 2 minutes, then add the onion and cook another minute, stirring. Add in the spinach leaves, stir, and remove from heat, letting spinach wilt.

Beat eggs until frothy, then beat in milk and cream. (You could use whole milk, but I never have that on hand, so I always use what I do have – a combination of skim and cream.) Stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

For the pie crust, you can make your own, but I like quick and easy, so I’m using a rolled-up refrigerated crust. (I don’t recommend the frozen crusts.) Place crust in a 9-inch deep dish pie dish and crimp pastry around the edges. Place diced Swiss on the bottom and then spoon in mushroom/onion/spinach mixture. If you like, you could add in the optional bacon crumbles here. Pour in the custard mixture and sprinkle the Monterey Jack cheese on top. Prepare the asparagus spears by snapping the spear where it naturally breaks off, then halve each spear. Arrange spears on the quiche and grate a light covering of Parmesan cheese over top.

Bake in a 350° oven for about 70 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and cover edges if they’re starting to brown too much. Remove from oven and let quiche sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

For my rice dish, I like to use a nutty-flavored wild rice tossed with a zesty vinaigrette. Fresh mint, blanched asparagus, and toasted pistachios add another level of goodness.

Spring Rice With Asparagus And Mint
1 ½ – 2 cups cooked wild rice
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 TB rice vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 scallions, sliced
½ cup pistachios, toasted
6 asparagus spears
1 TB mint, finely chopped

For the vinaigrette, whisk lemon zest and juice, vinegar, mustard, and honey. Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly. I used a Greek Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cut asparagus spears into ½ inch pieces. Blanch for one minute, remove from heat, and drain in colander. Throw on some ice to stop the cooking process.

In a medium bowl, pour vinaigrette over rice and toss to combine. Stir in asparagus, pistachios, scallions, and mint.

Everybody has a favorite potato salad recipe, and I’ll bet that this one will become one of yours. I happen to have a big pot of fresh dill on my deck that over-wintered nicely during our relatively mild winter so I used that, along with a Dijon dressing, with small red potatoes for this memorable salad.

Dijon And Dill Potato Salad
2 cups small red potatoes, sliced in half
2 TB white vinegar
4 tsps Gray Poupon Dijon mustard
4 TB neutral olive oil (Recommended: Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil.)
½ cup chopped fresh dill

Cook halved potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain in colander and immediately sprinkle 1 TB vinegar over potatoes. Transfer to medium bowl.

For the dressing: Whisk 1 TB vinegar with Dijon. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking constantly to create an emulsion. I prefer a neutral oil here so as not to interfere with the fresh herbal flavor. Pour dressing over the potatoes, tossing to coat. Add dill.

Sometimes, you just want pie.
And I’ve got just the pie for you.

This pie, or some form of it, has been floating around coastal areas for years now. It’s sort of a mix between a lemon meringue pie and a key lime pie and is adapted from Chef Bill Smith, of famed Crook’s Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC.

Not overly sweet, and with an abundance of lemon flavor, this pie is distinguished by its salty cracker crust. The crust is not a traditional sweet pastry crust. I used a combination of both Saltines and Ritz crackers. Some versions of the pie call for whipped cream on top, but I wanted to use up some of the leftover egg whites, so I opted for meringue. As for the citrus flavors, I used a combination of both lemon and lime juice, along with lime zest.

Citrus Pie
1 sleeve saltine crackers
½ sleeve Ritz crackers
1 stick unsalted butter
3 TB sugar
Heat oven to 350°.
Crush crackers in a processor. Stir in sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs just hold together. Press into an 8-inch pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until crust starts to color. Let crust cool a bit.

1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
Zest of one lime
½ cup lemon and lime juice (I used 3 lemons and 1 lime for the juice.)
Beat yolks one at a time into condensed milk, then beat in citrus juices and zest. Pour into prepared shell and bake 12 minutes.

For the meringue:
2 egg whites, room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB sugar

While the pie is baking, beat whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form. After 12 minutes of baking, remove pie from oven and decoratively swirl meringue over top, spreading to edges. Return to oven and bake 6-8 more minutes so filling will set and meringue will brown. Remove from oven. If meringue needs more browning, run pie under a 450° broiler for a couple of minutes (Be vigilant!) or use a cooking torch to finish it off.

Chill pie before slicing.

If you like, add some sliced strawberries.

Enjoy!

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