Thank God for the weekend. Lately work has kept me so busy that have barely had time for regular everyday life. But rest assured, when I have had some extra time I have been spending it in the kitchen creating delicious dishes with the bounty of spring produce I have been getting from the farmers market. These days the market seems to be a sea of lush green - baby lettuce, fresh herbs, shelling peas, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, spinach - and lucky for us, all those vibrant vegetables are extremely healthy.
So to celebrate spring (and that wonderful fleeting time known as the weekend), I decided to whip up an easy Spring Quiche. I decided to go sans crust to make it lighter and more airy, and also take out some of the work. But most importantly, since I was focusing on using in-season, fresh produce, I wanted to make the most of the ingredients. I used asparagus, green garlic, leeks, dill, Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese, and free-range brown eggs. All the components harmonized perfectly, with the farmers market vegetables accented by the exceptional Humboldt Fog.
Since this quiche is all about components, lets talk ingredients.
Asparagus. In most areas in the U.S., you can get asparagus year-round, but fresh, springtime asparagus is markedly different. Asparagus always has bright green color with beautiful purple tips, but the major difference is in the texture and taste - the younger shoots of asparagus are sweeter, and more grassy in taste, and have far more moisture than the drier, more 'woody' asparagus found during other times of the year, making the texture more tender.
When shopping for asparagus, look for stems that are medium diameter (not pencil-thin), buds that are fresh and tightly closed, and stems that are green and fresh (no dark soft spots). If you break off the bottom of the asparagus or slice into it, it should be moist and not porous.
Fresh asparagus bundles.
The tougher, 'woody' bottom part of the asparagus will easily snap off. This part is not pleasant to eat.
After snapping off the tough bottoms or slicing the asparagus, it should have visible moisture and a non-porous green center.
Green Garlic. Also known as Young Garlic, green garlic is just what it sounds like - the younger, less mature form of garlic before it starts to form cloves . It is available only in the springtime, and most often only in well-stocked supermarkets or at farmers markets. Visually, it can look a lot like a green onion (scallion) or a baby leek, but older or larger bulbs may have streaks of red. Green garlic also has darker leafy tops that are more branched. In case you are still confused, all you have to do is take a whiff - right away you will detect a lovely garlic fragrance. You can use young garlic in any recipes calling for regular garlic, but it will have a more mild, delicate, and sweeter flavor.
To shop for green garlic, get yourself to a farmers market quickly because the season is short! Once you find it, grab as much as you can (it is super versatile and can be used in tons of other recipes). Look for younger, smaller plants if possible, and very fragrant bulbs where you can smell the garlic right away - if after you touch it your hands smell like garlic, then you know you have found a good one.
Both large and small bulbs of green garlic, with hints of crimson in the more mature plant.
In my experience, the smaller and younger bulbs are more flavorful than the large ones.
Leeks. Although leeks are another vegetable that is available year-round, they are most plentiful at farmers markets and better tasting in the spring. Leeks are related to both garlic and onion and look a lot like a giant green onion. They are used in many gourmet dishes, because leeks have a subtle onion flavor and can be cooked to be almost creamy in texture.
When shopping for leeks, look for those that have bright green leaves and unblemished white bottoms. With leeks, size really does make a difference since the smaller ones are more tender and the larger ones are tougher - however, small and large leeks tend to be the same price so with a bigger one you are getting more bang for your buck. One very important tip when working with leeks: The leaves trap a lot of dirt so be sure to slice them and wash throughly before eating!
Dill. Ok, we all know what dill is.
When shopping for dill, look for bunches that are not too limp (although dill doesn't naturally have strong stems) and dark green in color. (And not to rub it in or anything, but I got this gigantic bunch of fresh dill from Vang Farms at the farmers market last weekend for only $1. Considering supermarkets usually charge twice that much and only give you one-fourth that amount of herbs (often with questionable freshness) I think the obvious choice is to get yourself to your local market. Go now.)
HUGE bunch of fresh dill from the farmers market.
All the seasonal vegetables and herbs cooked together to form the quiche filling.
Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese. Humboldt Fog is a goat cheese produced by Cypress Grove Chevre in California that is named after the famous fog that rolls in off the coast in Humboldt County. This goat cheese is particularly special because it is mold-ripened (also know as surface-ripened) and has a layer of edible ash through the center and around the exterior. The area closest to the rind (which is edible) is more creamy and soft, while the center is more crumbly. If you enjoy regular goat cheese, you will probably love Humboldt Fog.
To purchase Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese, you can go to your nearest specialty cheese shop, look for it at well-stocked supermarkets (I think I have seen it at Whole Foods), or order it online. Compared to the price of a regular log of goat cheese - usually between $4 - 8 for 4 ounces - Humboldt Fog is almost the exact same price, but you get seriously superior taste. I got mine locally from Venissimo Cheese, and I paid about $5.50 for 3.5 ounces.
Large Eggs. Not much to say about these, except the obvious: Make sure your eggs are fresh. If you like (and I do), make sure your eggs are free-range. Take it a step further and get your free-range eggs from the market to be sure they are local. You might think all eggs are created equal, but once you try eggs from a local farmer you will never think that again. Plus you can take a big bite of your luscious quiche and rest easy knowing the chickens that gave you those eggs were well-treated.
All those ingredients combined make a beautiful blonde bombshell also known as the Spring Quiche. Since this beauty is watching her girlish figure and going sans crust (*gasp!* a naked quiche!), all that needs to be done is to cook the vegetables, crumble the cheese, and top the filling with the beaten egg mixture. It really couldn't be more simple.
Quiche before baking.
Puffed egg and golden crust, topped with a little dill for garnish.
I can't remember the last time I was so impatient while something was baking in my oven - the smell of this quiche was intoxicating, and I could barely wait for it to cook fully before I grabbed it out of the oven. Cooked egg is pretty hot, so it is a wonder that I didn't burn my mouth when I cut the first slice while it was still piping hot. (Kids, don't do this at home.) But oh... OH... the quiche was good.
It was really exceptional, with an airy texture, tender vegetables, and a deep cheese flavor that was out of this world. Honestly, I will have a hard time eating a quiche without gourmet cheese in the future - the Humboldt Fog surprised the heck out of me by taking already fantastic ingredients and elevating them to something so much more. The cheese provided a natural tart, acidic balance (almost with a lemon flavor) and the edible ash made it taste earthy in the best possible way. Please, please, please try the Humboldt Fog.
Celebrate spring, celebrate the weekend, or celebrate Easter with this lovely Spring Quiche. It is perfect for brunch with friends or a family breakfast... or you might just be tempted to devour it all on your own. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Oh and one last thing - nominations for Saveur's Best Food Blog Awards are open! If you love this site, love my recipes, or love my photography, I would be honored if you would nominate me for Best Cooking Blog, Best Food Photography, or wherever you see fit. As always, I appreciate all your support!
One year ago: Citrus Layer PieYou might also like: Bacon and Blue Cheese Bread
Since I have been obsessed with Green Garlic lately, here are other recipes from friends and favorite sites:
-Green Garlic Butter, from In Erika's Kitchen
-Green Garlic Pesto, from Dula Notes
-Shrimp Stir Fry with Green Garlic, from Chez Pim
-Roasted Veal Chops with Young Garlic Vinaigrette, from Food and Wine
-BLTs with Green Garlic Aioli, from Love and Olive Oil via Saveur
Spring Quiche: Asparagus, Green Garlic, and Humboldt Fog
1 cup asparagus, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1 cup leeks, sliced length-wise, then across the width into 1/2-inch slices
1/4-1/2 cup green garlic, finely chopped*
3-4 tbsp chopped dill
4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
3/4 cup crumbled Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese, including the rind (about 0.25 lb)
3 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate by using part of the unsalted butter to butter the pie dish.
Add the remaining butter to a large skillet, melt over medium heat, then add the asparagus to the skillet and stir to coat. Cover the skillet, and cook asparagus for about 2-3 minutes. Add the leeks, young garlic, and 2 tablespoons water to the skillet; stir to mix, then cover and let cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring once or twice. After the leeks are tender and soft, remove the cover, add the dill, and cook uncovered until all the excess moisture has evaporated. (This is important so you don't end up with a watery quiche.)
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. To prepare quiche, add the leek and asparagus filling to the prepared pie dish, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese evenly over the filling, and then pour the egg mixture over the top of it all.
Bake the quiche in a preheated oven until puffy and golden brown, about 27-30 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack, then serve warm or at room temperature.
*If you can't find green garlic, substitute either 1-2 tsp minced garlic, depending on your taste preference.