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For brunch (or any meal), asparagus celebrates spring

Recipe: Crustless asparagus quiche with pancetta and gouda

This crustless asparagus-pancetta quiche is perfect for Easter brunch. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Better than any vegetable, asparagus represents spring; it’s literally spring shoots of a perennial fern-like plant. (Asparagus actually is a distant relative of onions.)

Asparagus has been a spring favorite since ancient Egypt. The Romans figured out how to freeze the shoots (in Alp snow) for later use. A recipe for cooking asparagus is included in one of the world’s oldest cookbooks, dating to first century A.D.

After generations of asparagus love in their native countries, European settlers brought asparagus crowns with them to the New World. Dutch immigrants grew asparagus as early as 1655 in the colonies.

Now, asparagus is a California specialty and plentiful this month, which makes it a good choice for building spring meals.

This easy no-crust quiche works nicely for Easter brunch – or any spring meal. It combines asparagus, pancetta and gouda cheese in a creamy egg filling. Pre-cooking the asparagus keeps the quiche from getting soggy.

Crustless asparagus quiche with pancetta and gouda cheese

Makes 6 servings

2 cups fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter plus butter for pan

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup pancetta or slab bacon, cubed

2 cup gouda cheese, shredded

5 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup milk

2 or 3 dashes hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Steam or microwave cut asparagus until fork tender but still vibrant green. (For microwave, cook about 6 minutes on high with ¼ cup water.) Drain and set aside.

In a frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Saute onion until soft. Add pancetta and saute until edges start to brown. Add drained asparagus and saute lightly.

Butter a 10-inch pie pan or quiche pan. Transfer asparagus-pancetta mixture to pan, spreading evenly on bottom. Top asparagus mix with grated cheese.

In a bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add cream, milk and a few dashes of hot sauce.

Carefully pour egg mixture over cheese and asparagus mixture in pan. Place on center rack in preheated 350-degree oven. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until top is golden and a thin-bladed knife stuck near the center comes out clean.

Let cool about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or room temperature.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Slice of quiche
Pre-cooking asparagus keeps quiche from getting soggy.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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