Springtime is the season of the egg and asparagus, and this timeless combo works wonders at the table. Think asparagus quiche.
With this egg dish, you really need a good crust, otherwise you may as well make scrambled eggs.
To make this quiche a bit more special, I made an all-butter, whole-wheat crust. If you’re used to standard white flour pastry, you may find this surprising, but stay with me. The flour in the bag labeled “whole wheat” is a hard wheat flour, and the best to use for bread making.
What makes a tender, delicious pastry crust is pastry flour, which is made from softer, lower-gluten wheat, finely ground for a smoother texture. You can find small, 1 ½-pound bags of Bob’s Red Mill whole-wheat pastry flour in many grocery stores.
But whole-wheat pastry flour is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to good whole-grain flours for pie crusts. The current resurgence in “ancient” and “heritage” wheats has brought us a bounty of flavorful wheat flours to try, many of which are lower in gluten than standard whole-wheat flour.
Kamut, spelt and einkorn are ancient grains, and work well with pastry. Red Fife, Red Turkey and other wheats referred to as heritage grains are those that traditionally were grown before 1850. Like heirloom tomatoes, these varieties of wheat have nuanced flavors that many cooks have come to love.
I used soft white-wheat flour from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, which is sold as All-Purpose Flour at a few Twin Cities locations, and it was delicate and delicious for the crust of this asparagus quiche. (Find it at Bakersfieldflour.com.)
To accompany this flavorful, flaky crust, I sautéed onions, then added the asparagus stems and fresh spinach, saving the asparagus tips to top the quiche. Instead of the usual milk, I used sour cream for a pleasant tanginess.
I picked a flavorful aged Gouda for the cheese, and put half in the pie and half on top, for a golden-brown cheesy top. Use any flavorful cheese you prefer, such as Gruyère, sharp Cheddar or Asiago.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.
Asparagus Quiche With Whole-Wheat Pie Crust
Serves 6 to 8.
Note: The trick with pie pastry is to add just enough water to have the dough hold together, and don’t over-handle it. For whole-wheat pastry, it is best to chill the crust after rolling it out, not before. Grating the butter gives you nice even pieces of butter to create a flaky texture. From Robin Asbell.
• 1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 6 tbsp. butter, frozen
• 1 tsp. vinegar
• 1/4 c. ice water, more if needed
• Flour, for counter
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 16 spears asparagus, trimmed
• 2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
• 6 eggs
• 1/2 c. sour cream
• 1 c. (2 oz.) shredded aged Gouda or Gruyère cheese, divided
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
To make crust: In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt. Using the large holes on a grater, grate the butter into the mix, tossing every few strokes to coat the bits of butter with flour.
In a measuring cup, whisk the vinegar and 1/4 cup ice water. Stir gently into the flour mixture and use your hands to mix and form into a ball. If needed, add a little more water. Form into a disk and roll out on a counter sprinkled with flour. Put in a 9-inch pie pan and press the edge of rim with a fork. Cover with foil and chill until ready to use.
To make filling: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions. When sizzling, lower heat to medium-low. Slice off the top 3 inches of asparagus and reserve, cut off the tough bottoms and discard, then chop the remaining tender stems and add to the onions. When onions are very soft, stir in the chopped spinach and stir until bright green and wilted. Take off the heat to cool.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill the chilled pie crust with dried beans or pie weights on top of the foil (to keep from bubbling up), and bake for 15 minutes. Remove crust from oven and lower the heat to 375 degrees. Remove foil and beans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, half of the shredded cheese, and salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled onion mixture, then pour into the pie crust. Top with remaining cheese, then arrange asparagus tips in a spoke design. Bake for about 50 minutes. When the cheese is golden and the middle is slightly puffed, take out to cool on a rack. Cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing, or completely before covering and refrigerating.