Bunches of fresh asparagus eagerly standing upright at the farmers market are a telltale sign that winter is over. Home cooks and restaurants go HAM for asparagus this time of year, but I typically couldn’t be bothered – its bitterness and faintly sulfuric taste have always turned me off. However, I recently tried it raw, thinly sliced in a fresh salad – and this, I liked. Rather than being like, bam, here’s a whole lot of asparagus in your face, the salad was just a touch asparagus-y. It tasted fresh and green and wonderfully spring-like, and it got my brain thinking about what other dishes might benefit from this treatment.
I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious: this asparagus quiche is freakin’ gorgeous. With flecks of green veg and dollops of creamy ricotta, it screams “spring is here.” And happily, its outer beauty matches what’s on the inside: the fluffy eggs contained within a buttery, flaky crust make this dish equally rich and light.
It seems like quiches had their heyday back in the ‘60s and ‘70s when classic French cuisine was still de rigueur. Then somewhere en route to the present day, their beauty and versatility got overshadowed by things-on-toast and things-in-grain-bowls, and I suppose today’s focus on health-supportive eating probably had something to do with it. But I think quiches are due for a comeback, albeit a healthier one.
For this recipe, I lightened things up by using whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular white, replacing the typical heavy cream with whole milk, and adding a lot of green vegetables. Yes, the dough does call for 6 tablespoons of butter, but that still only lands at 1 tablespoon per serving and that is a-okay in my book.
Cube and freeze the butter for 5-10 minutes to get it appropriately cold for the dough. The dough can be made up to several days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Can’t find whole wheat pastry flour? Use a combo of regular whole wheat and all-purpose flours, or all all-purpose. *If you’ve never used “baking beans” before, don’t fret – just use about 2 cups of any dried beans you have on hand for blind-baking the crust (step 5); you may reuse these as baking beans in the future but they may not be cooked as they’ll become too dried out in the oven.
For the Crust:
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, plus more for dusting
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 6 tablespoons really cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- About ¼ cup ice water
- *Baking beans
For the Filling:
- 2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup organic whole milk
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound (about ½ bunch) asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced widthwise
- 3 tablespoons full-fat ricotta
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- Make the crust. In a food processor, combine the flour and sea salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10-12 times, until the butter turns into small pea-sized pieces but is not fully incorporated into the flour. With the motor running, slowly stream in the ice water, just until the dough forms into a ball against the side of the processor.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it once or twice to gather it into a disc – do not overwork the dough. Wrap the disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to several days.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to a pie pan and trim the edges if needed. Pinch the edges to make a scalloped pattern if desired. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
- Place a sheet of parchment on the dough leaving a generous overhang and fill the pan with baking beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is lightly golden.
- When the shell is almost done baking, make the filling. In a blender, combine the spinach, eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Blend for just a few seconds until the spinach turns into small green specks. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the asparagus.
- Remove the parchment paper and baking beans from the shell, and pour in the egg filling. Top with teaspoon-full dollops of ricotta. Turn the oven down to 350°F and bake until the filling is almost set, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake until completely set, about 5 more minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. May be served warm or at room temperature.