This weekend it snowed: fat, heavy flakes that pelted downwind and hit my car windshield with a satisfying splatter. I drove from New York to Philadelphia, and the sky turned from a faded gray to a darkly ominous slate to complete white-out. The rain started somewhere in New Jersey. Driving in the rain can be soothing, the rhythmic swooshing of the windshield wipers, the cozy cocoon of warmth in your car. I put on quiet music. My sister slept in the backseat, her hair rumpled, waking up every few minutes to watch the towns tick by: Edison, New Brunswick, South Orange.
We drove down the slick, rain-coated roads of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Just over the Delaware River Bridge, the snow began in earnest. I had both hands on the wheel, leaning forward and squinting to try and see the lines painted on the road, as they slowly disappear under a layer of fast-appearing slush.
We pull onto my sister’s street. It’s a quiet curve of houses tucked off the main road. It looks like the setting of some comforting neighborhood sitcom: Lines of pretty houses with lawns and brick paths and American flags. There are willow trees and cherry trees. A rail trail runs nearby, close enough to walk to, taking you past baseball fields and backyards.
My parents are here visiting for the day, so almost my entire family is together. We call my little sister, the only one missing. We sit together and eat lunch. We take a walk through the hushed wooded area behind her house, coming back with red cheeks and numb fingers, shaking the snow from our hair and stomping it off our boots.
Getting home late, on days like today, can mean a compromised dinner. But it doesn’t have to. I’ll resort to picking up a salad (yesterday one of the guys at our local salad spot asked if I had reached BLACK PURCHASER STATUS yet, so that’s a good indication that I do not always swan around, Nigella-style, whipping up gourmet dinners). Or I'll make cheesy toast and top it with a fried egg.
Or I'll get lucky, and I'll have half a quiche left over from last night. This quiche is about as simple as it gets: The filling is a basic egg and buttermilk mixture spiked with a few generous fistfuls of cheese (any sort will do), and chopped asparagus. If you don't have asparagus, you could substitute baby spinach or chopped kale or broccoli.
Even better, the pie crust is wickedly easy. Unlike classic pie dough, there's no cutting in of butter, chilling of dough, or finicky rolling. Instead, you use vegetable oil (or olive oil) for the fat, and stir all the ingredients together quickly with a fork. Pat the dough firmly into a pie pan, blind bake the crust until set, and then pour in the quiche filling and finish baking.
The no-roll pie crust is a miracle: Flaky and delicate and buttery-tasting! A little recipe tip: To ensure that the filling doesn't leak, brush a thin layer of the quiche filling over the hot pie crust when it comes out of the oven. This helps seal the crust. Let it sit for a minute, and then pour in the rest of the filling.
Asparagus & Cheese Quiche
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
For the pie crust
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
7 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water
For the filling
2 cups asparagus, sliced into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I like cheddar, Parmesan, and Gruyere)
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Drizzle in the vegetable oil and mix with a fork until well-moistened. Add 1/4 cup of cold water and mix until the dough comes together. If the dough seems dry, add more water. Using your fingers, press the dough firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan.
Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the crust from the oven and turn the oven down to 375 degrees F. Remove the foil and pie weights.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Add the flour and salt and mix well.
Brush a thin layer of the filling into the bottom of the pie crust.
Add the cheese and asparagus to the filling and mix well. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet (makes it easier to pull it in and out of the oven) and back for about 35 minutes, or until the top of the quiche is set and only slightly soft in the very center.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving. It is also very good cold, and freezes well!