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24 April 2010

ASPARAGUS!

It’s asparagus season, and we’re eating a lot of it. Steamed, baked, roasted. It’s everywhere. Green, white, tiny, enormous, baked, grilled, roasted, in soups and salads. In Germany it’s called Spargel. I love that word--it sounds like sparkle, and that’s what happens when the asparagus hits the market. It’s the official signal that Spring is here.


In our markets there are mostly white asparagus, often bigger around than my thumb. Its flavor is more delicate than the green kind, and it’s highly prized. I confess that I prefer my asparagus green, though. It has more flavor, and I like its slightly bitter tang. However you buy it, there are many ways to eat it. We’ve had most of them this week, and I finally used the last of it in a tart.


Well, ok, in truth it’s a quiche. Or, as a friend of mine once called it, a 'quickie'. Waaay back when I was in grad school, quiche wasn’t really well known in the Southern part of the US. I went with a friend to a restaurant much prized by poor students. This restaurant was a favorite because it was sort of ferny and bright inside, and it served cheap but ‘cheffy’ food (or at least our idea of cheffy food). We went there for special occasions. I’ve forgotten what this occasion was, but I remember that my friend took one look at the menu and said to the waiter, “bring me some of that quickie Lorraine”. He never lived that one down.


When I made the crust for this I used some of the duck fat I had left from the cuisses de canard. I wanted the flavor of the duck in the crust. If you leave that out, this dish is vegetarian. I used half butter and half duck fat. When I do this the next time I think I’ll use less duck fat--the flavor was good, but a little too strong for this. Next time I’ll use 2 tablespoons duck fat and 1/2 cup butter. Since I think you may not have duck fat sitting around in your fridge, I’ve written the recipe using only butter.


My tart pan is 27 cm / 10 1/2 inches wide, and shallow. The baking time wasn’t very long, and the crust wasn’t as brown as I’d like it. Next time I’ll blind bake the crust so that it will be browner. I’ve adjusted the recipe for that as well.


Asparagus Tart


Crust:

350 g / 2 cups flour

2/3 cup butter, chilled

1/2 tsp salt

4-5 tablespoons ice water


Filling:

100 g / 4 oz gruyere cheese, grated

4 eggs

a good pinch of cayenne pepper

fresh ground pepper

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup cream

5 cherry tomatoes

8 spears broccoli, crisp-steamed


Preheat oven to 160 C / 375 F.


  • First, make the crust. In a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt well. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. With your fingers, crumble the butter pieces until they resemble fine sand. You can also do this with a fork, but it’s not as much fun. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until you can make a loose ball of the dough.
  • Form the dough into a ball, and roll it out to fit your tart pan. (Unless you have a pan as large as mine, you’ll probably have some left over.) If there are holes, be sure that you patch them well.
  • Put a piece of baking paper in the pan and fill with beans or pastry weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the weights and the paper. Let it cool.
  • Put the grated cheese in the bottom of the pan.
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs and add the cayenne, the milk, cream, and the pepper.
  • Arrange the broccoli spears in the pan on top of the cheese.
  • Carefully pour the egg mixture over the broccoli spears. I used a funnel to pour it into the center of the tart so as not to disturb the broccoli or cover it with the egg mixture.
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and arrange the halves between the asparagus spears. I also used pieces cut from the spears to decorate the spaces.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t.



NOTES:

  • If you don’t have gruyere, cheese, you can use any mild hard cheese: swiss/ementhal, gouda, cheddar...
  • I don’t peel my broccoli--it seems like such a waste. I break off the hard part at the bottom and eat the rest. Sometimes the result is that it’s hard to cut with a fork...
  • Because of the duck fat that I used, this crust is very short, and was sticky to roll out. I rolled it between two sheets of plastic wrap, but next time I’ll chill it first.






22 comments:

My Carolina Kitchen said...

We love asparagus too and find it such a versatile vegetable. Your quiche is gorgeous. You're right, quiche was somewhat of an unknown in the souther part of the US where I grew up.

The first time I age quiche I fell madly in love. It was at a little French bakery in Houston where "ladies lunched." I took my husband there one day and, although he loved the quiche, he felt out of place.

Now for the duck fat.....I'm super jealous that you had left over duck fat. Duck fat is food for the gods. Your crust must have been incredible. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Sam

Sophie said...

I so love the green but rather the delicate white asparagus!!

They are becoming less expensive now so I will surely make this tarte combining the 2 types of asparagus in it!!

Your quiche looks quite fabulous!!!

Barbara said...

I bet I eat asparagus twice a week..and often in a salad for lunch. You've done such a lovely job of presentation with your quiche, Kate. Picture perfect and knowing you, taste perfect too. Especially with gruyere.

I got my duck legs from D'Artagnan and will be making your lentil tart in the the next week or so. But I envy you your duck fat! (Perhaps I can steal a little from the legs?) On the other hand, my grandmother used lard in her crusts and they were sheer heaven.

Carol at Serendipity said...

Yum. Kate, it's my favorite. Twice a week at least.

Carol

Stella said...

Hey Kate, I was thinking about you the other day and your trip.

This looks very tempting by the way. I can't believe you used duck fat-that's nice! I just told another blogger that I was going to try her tart, but needed to get a tart pan. Maybe I will make this too-Cauldron Boy would love it!

Linda said...

Gorgeous Kate!
When I lived in Germany "Spargel" time was such a huge deal...that and
Feldsalat(mache)...it really meant that Spring has Sprung!
Your tart looks so delicious!
L~xo

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I've been tempted to try growing asparagus I love it so much! What a beautiful tart you made with the asparagus and tomatoes so artfully arranged.

tasteofbeirut said...

Your quiche looks and must taste magnificent! I am sorry I can't get a hold of duck fat here! (or maybe I need to search better!)
You did a professional job.

Susan@The Spice Garden said...

Kate! I'm in Germany right now and enjoying the Spargelfest in Weinheim. Last night Cremesuppe mit Spargel und Sahne ... today Spargel und Lachs in Cremesauce. Heavenly!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

I'm loving the asparagus season here also and enjoyed a great asparagus pesto last week on pizza. Your quiche is very beautiful - it's been a while since I made a quiche so might have to copy yours soon. Beautiful spring fare!

Kate said...

This is a beautiful dish. I love asparagus and spring! The Kitchen Gnome would love it.

Kim said...

I love your tart pan. It looks like it is quite a bit larger than the normal ones I see. The asparagus tart is gorgeous - so pretty. It just sings spring to me:D

nightowlchef said...

Hello Kate! (Yes, loooong time, no post - but long time, no cooking on my end, sadly.) This looks delicious! I ate plenty of delicious spargel when I was in Germany for a few weeks this/last month, and was SO surprised how nuts they go for it, especially the white variety! It was quite delicious - they cook it perfectly there. I never had a spargel quiche, though, but this one is really picture perfect. And yum to the duck fat!

The Gypsy Chef said...

Love asparagus! Asparagus, Lilacs and rhubarb spell spring for me. Believe it or not, I have duck fat in the fridge, leftover from my last can of Duck Confit. Whatever shall I do? I usually use it for sauteed potatoes, but you sold me on the pastry idea. Brilliant!
Pam

The Rowdy Chowgirl said...

Your quiche is so pretty! Or should I call it your "quickie"? Really enjoyable post!

Amanda said...

This is gorgeous! I love asparagus too, one of my favorite things about spring!

Cheri said...

This quiche is so gorgeous! I love how you put it together. Sounds delicious too!

Hungry Dog said...

Are you sure you're not a professional food stylist? This quiche looks great. Excuse me, quickie. That's awesome.

Juliana said...

Kate, what a nice dish with asparagus...love the way you prepared/decorated the tart...sure it makes a nice meal :-)

grace said...

what a picturesque tart, kate! it really is stunning--i love the pattern and colors. we got some gargantuan asparagus from our garden the other day--it was the biggest i've ever seen, but surprisingly tender. good stuff, that. :)

The Domestic Adventurer said...

Oh my, your tart could be art! Fabulous! Asparagus is being harvested here in Virginia as well. I love it.

Wonderful presentation of your food!

Junglefrog said...

I actually prefer the green asparagus too. I mean the white ones are nice and tasty but the green ones to me are the better ones (and no peeling required which is a bonus too!) Love the quiche!