As each season rolls around, I wrap it around me like a blanket, thinking: ‘this is my favorite season’.
Summer with overflowing abundance and sunshine.
Fall with the smell of harvest in the air, a promise fulfilled.
Winter, a time to pull back and quietly replenish.
And now spring. From the unfurling of tender new leaves on stiff branches, to daffodils poking sunny heads up through the snow to greet the return of longer days, spring sings new growth, hope, and possibilities. The transition to spring is startling in our back yard, which sleeps in the shadow of a steep hill for most of the winter. As our gardens feel warm sunshine slip across them for the first time in months, they wake up and stretch out new tendrils of growth with wild abandon. Except, notably, two large, stubborn plants in raised beds.
A few years ago, I planted two adolescent artichoke plants I’d found at a local nursery. I’d had a hankering to plant artichokes for a few years, knew they grew well in fog belts south of us, and was convinced they would thrive in our backyard. I watched as they grew long silvery-green leaves, capturing new territory in the garden each year, but searched in vain every month for signs of any actual artichokes. Finally, after much thought last fall, we put them on probation. The plants were large, and will ultimately take up significant real estate; the rent would be due in the spring or face eviction.
Last week, I tramped up the stone stairs leading to the garden for the bazillionth time to check on the recalcitrant artichoke plants. I bent over the larger of the two, figuring it my best bet, and there at its base, nestled in a soft cocoon of foliage, was a tiny artichoke globe. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I raced back down the stairs to call to Myles. Whatever he was doing couldn’t possibly be more important than this. Then over the weekend, more good news: we’re having twins. The second artichoke plant is starting to produce a tiny globe of its own.
It’s such a small thing, I know, but I’m just ridiculously over the moon about these little artichokes finally appearing after all these years. Spring is the season of hope indeed; this is my favorite season.
I’ll post some artichoke recipes soon, but I wanted to open the spring with a vegetable that for me is synonymous with spring at my local farmer’s markets: asparagus.
Spring Asparagus Quiche
Quiche Pie Shell
- 5 ounces all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, very cold, sliced into 1/4″ sections
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons ice water, or more for the dough to come together
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced horizontally (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoon shallots, minced
- 1 cup chopped asparagus (about 3 asparagus)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup chevre
- 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon)
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon chives, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 – 4 grinds of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 5 asparagus whole, sliced in half lengthwise
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times.
Add the butter all at once and pulse about 10 times until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water and pulse a few times. Test the dough by pinching it. If it sticks together well when pinched, you’ve added enough water. If not, add additional water.
Dump the dough mixture, including loose flour, onto a work area. Fraisage, or smear the dough with the palm of one hand. Do this three times. This helps to create the layers of a buttery crust.
Form into a disk, wrap in wax paper or plastic, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Roll out to 1/8″ thickness between two pieces of wax paper. Place in a quiche dish or pie plate. Chill until you’re ready to bake.
See photos and a more detailed explanation in my post on making a fool-proof crust, also found in the Pantry Section of the this blog.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. ‘Dock’ the shell by pricking the bottom of the shell with a fork numerous times. This helps prevent the shell from billowing upwards off the dish/plate in the oven. Bake the shell for 10 minutes. It will be very lightly browned. If the pastry starts to billow up, just poke it a few more times with the fork, and press it down with a towel. Another option is to ‘blind bake’ it by filling it with pie weights or dried beans to weight it down.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallot, and chopped asparagus to the pan and saute until the leeks begin to soften. The asparagus will be only slightly tender at best. Spread on the base of the quiche shell.
Combine the eggs, cheeses, milk, mustard, lemon zest, chives, salt, pepper and thyme in a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Pour over the sauteed vegetables.
Toss the asparagus spears that have been sliced in half lengthwise in a little olive oil and lemon juice and arrange across the top of the quiche.
Bake for 40 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. This additional sitting time helps the eggs to set up.