I spent a long time thinking about what I wanted to make to officially mark the beginning of spring. Eggs always represent spring to me, with their promise of life and their thick, vivid yellow yolks. Sweet leeks and crisp spinach, which both grow nicely here for most of the year, would round out the eggs. And because spring is not summer, it calls for some baking and a bit more fat. A quiche, then, with a butter crust and nutty gruyere and sips of heavy cream. And the day that I baked this quiche, this celebration of spring, I was rewarded with a fat flurry of snowflakes. As Anne Lamott says, if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
The beginnings of spring in Minnesota resembles playing tug of war. You step forward into the sun, and then are pushed backwards towards the snow. It keeps going like this, inching forward a bit more every time, until finally with an almighty shove you topple into the season. I’m looking forward for this game to end. I have a fat bunch of seed packets to plant in my garden and a closet full of skirts and sandals to wear. In the meantime, restaurants all around are starting to clean off their patio furniture. Aaron and I have been taking long walks around Lake of the Isles in the brilliant sunlight and changed out the flannel sheets from our bed. Spring, we’re ready for you. Please be ready for us.
I enjoy eating quiche all year round, but I love it best in Spring. It’s an elegant meal (I included a quiche in 2 of the 3 Easter dinners I’ve cooked), but it’s also a simple one. It’s perfect for both Spring and psedu-Spring. You make a crust, bake it, fill it it, then bake it again. And while it’s not a 30 minute meal, most of the time is inactive time. I like to make the crust the day before I plan on baking quiche. The day of it’s as easy as assembling the filling, baking, and eating. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until I’m left quicheless. It’s a sad state to be quicheless, to face a breakfast routine of toast and peanut butter over one of flakey crust and airy custard. I’m planning on making this again just for breakfast leftovers.
Leek and Spinach Quiche
If you have a preferred pie crust recipe, then you could easily substitute it in for this one here. I would just decrease the sugar and make sure you only make enough for a single crust. Or you could just make a double crust recipe and save one crust for a future quiche. On second thought, do that. This recipe stands up well to improvisation, so please make this your own.
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter, cut into fine chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
6 cups (8 ounces) packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup cream
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated gruyere cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add in the butter, and using a pastry knife or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture. If you’re using the pastry knife cut and move the knife until the butter is about the size of peas. If you’re using your fingers (my preferred method), rub the butter into the flour until the butter is well distributed and about the size of a pea.
Use a fork to mix the flour and butter together. Slowly, slowly, slowly add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing with the fork the whole time. You want the dough to be just moistened enough to hold together, but not so much that it feels wet. The amount of water you’ll need depends on your flour, the water content of your butter, the air in your kitchen, and your confidence, but it should sit somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup (4 to 8 tablespoons). If there are patches that are drier than others pour the water over those dry patches. The dough is ready when it just holds together. If you think you’re almost there, give it a squeeze. If it holds together on its own it’s ready. If it doesn’t, add another tablespoon.
Gather your dough into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Wrap this disk well and refrigerate for at least an hour. You can refrigerate the dough for a few days, or freeze for a few months, as long as it’s wrapped well.
When you’re ready to roll out your dough dust a clean surface with flour. Unwrap your dough and place on the surface. Use smooth, long strokes of a rolling pin to roll the dough out onto the surface. Every few strokes, turn the dough a quarter turn to make sure it’s rolling out evenly, and not sticking to the surface. If you’re having trouble with sticking, add a bit more flour.The dough is ready when you have a smooth, even expanse of dough about 12 inches in diameter.
Fold your dough into quarters and place in a 9 inch pie pan, then unfold. Center the dough, and trim off the overhang to about 1 inch. If you have any holes, now is the time to patch them with the extra dough. Crimp the ends of the dough to an even pattern, and poke the bottom with a fork half a dozen or so times. Return the dough to the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400.
Place a sheet of parchment paper over the dough, and cover with a weight such as dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove beans and parchment paper and return to oven for 8 minutes, until the crust is golden and smells of butter. Remove from oven, and reduce the heat to 350.
While the crust is baking, wash the leeks in several changes of clean water. When the leeks are clean and drained, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks to the olive oil with a pinch of salt, and stir well. Let the leeks cook for a few minutes, until they’re starting to wilt and smell sweet and onion-y. Add the spinach, and cook for another few minutes, until the spinach is wilted. Set aside, and let cool. Drain any liquid you can easily drain.
In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs. Add the cream, cheese, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooled vegetables, and mix well. Pour into the pie crust and return to the oven.
Bake until the crust smells toasty and the filling is set, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.