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For brunch (or any meal), asparagus celebrates spring

Recipe: Crustless asparagus quiche with pancetta and gouda

Quiche
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 fernlike 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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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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RECIPE

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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