Leafy greens are some of the most interesting vegetables available in spring just for the fact that there's such a large variety. The farmers' markets are full of greens to be eaten. Delicate baby greens are especially wonderful in salads. Sturdier, more mature leaves can be sauteed for use as sides or as a filling, like in this quiche. This tart combines spinach and nettles with flavorful smoked ham and Parmesan cheese.
Everyone knows spinach, but not everyone is familiar with nettle, called stinging nettle because the papery leaves and wiry stems have little follicles that sting on contact. In markets you'll find bunches of nettle bagged in plastic to make it easier to handle. It's a good idea to use gloves when working with nettle. As with spinach, make sure to wash nettle in many changes of water and spin dry. Once it's cooked, the sting is gone. Nettle tastes somewhat like spinach but sweeter.
Instead of heavy cream in the custard base, this quiche uses tangy and thick crème fraîche, which is much like sour cream but richer. Mixed with egg yolks, it will turn into the fluffy custard filling that quiche is known for. It's a good idea to partially bake the dough, making it less likely for the crust to turn soggy from contact with the custard. This recipe doesn't even require beans or pie weights the keep the dough from shrinking. Freezing for 30 minutes takes care of that.
Once it's out of the oven, don't get too excited to cut into the quiche, though. Wait until it has cooled a bit, then use a pizza cutter to easily portion the rectangular tart into squares. It's perfect for brunch with family, makes a nice dinner, and even reheats well for lunch the next day—that's the versatility of quiche.
Spinach, Nettle, and Ham Quiche
Recipe adapted from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver.
Note: If you can't find stinging nettle, use more spinach.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 large red onions, sliced
1 bunch spinach, stemmed, leaves torn
1 bunch stinging nettle, stemmed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram plus 1 tablespoon leaves
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
herbed crust, recipe follows
7 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced
3 large eggs
16 ounces crème fraîche (2 cups)
5 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for sprinkling
freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Warm oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add onions and saute until very soft, about 10 minutes. Raise heat and add spinach and nettle in batches, tossing until wilted. Add chopped marjoram. Season with salt and pepper.
Layer baked herbed crust with ham and sauteed vegetable mixture.
In a large bowl or measuring cup, whisk together eggs, crème fraîche, and cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour over filled quiche. Sprinkle top with extra cheese and marjoram leaves and drizzle with a little oil. Bake until custard is set and puffed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/3 cup ice water
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, and herbs. Add butter and work with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal. Add ice water a little at a time and mix until dough comes together. Form the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour before rolling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out dough on a well floured work surface to fit a 10-by-15-inch sheet pan. Carefully lay dough over pan. Trim any large overhang. Fold extra dough under and crimp edges using your thumb and forefingers. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pan all over. Freeze shell for 30 minutes. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly.