I haven’t left my house or interacted with others in any significant way for over a month now. It is such a strange time we are living in that it’s rendered everything that I still hopefully cling to as some sort of ideal of “normal” as quaint: hugging friends gathered together for a yoga class, inviting a family over for dinner on Sunday night, or taking mine to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant for dinner. The arrival of coronavirus to Seattle, the first epicenter in a series of our nation’s cities to follow in the pandemic, was so sudden, so synchronized with others in distant cities, that it felt like a systematic shutdown of normal life as we knew it then. Pillars of trust built within the structure of our cities and habits that include interaction with others that so casually include many of my friends’ livelihoods, like caterers, yoga teachers, and musicians, have crumbled; with it, the hope of returning to what was has crumbled too.
I originally had planned to write this recipe for an Easter party with my neighbors, tacked on my makeshift editorial calendar with the vision of writing an easy essay about community with possibly a loose theme of rebirth worked into it. Our street has this sweet tradition of gathering together over a table dragged into someone’s front lawn, the parents eating treats and drinking coffee as the kids spilled into the surrounding yards and plucked eggs hiding among the budding tulips and crocuses. (My kids, inevitably, would be among the first to quit, satisfied with their baskets of loot and tearing into whatever packets of candy they could tuck into before we parents looked up from our neighborly chatting.)
Instead of this quiche being sliced into squares intended for napkin service in someone’s front lawn, it will be served at our family table for an Easter breakfast. It will offer yet another exercise in the attempt of making our confinement, our relentless routine, somehow exciting or singular through the food I make, an effort often beyond the grasp of my sons (with the exception of dessert). Its form is unchanged, but the shift in context has altered its meaning entirely. Breakfast quiche served at our table, a poor consolation in the shadow of such an exciting tradition, becomes a duty rather than celebration. The quiche, though a tasty and wonderful expression of spring and undeniably delicious, unintentionally mocked our ideas of normalcy and celebration as I set it on the table in front of my two young children who would have preferred pancakes.
We, as parents, scramble to infuse Easter celebration into the other possible entry points of our lives for the sake of hope in general, taking the form of Easter-themed coloring books and other feeble offerings. We tucked Easter eggs among their toys and offered them a series of clues leading them on their search. Finally, with a basketful of eggs and smiles spread across their faces, I felt as though we had achieved some kind of suitable alternative to their beloved tradition, and wondered instead if we had just embraced something similar to “a new normal.”
And somehow, with a plate of cold quiche nearby, I managed to write that essay about rebirth and community after all. It just didn’t look like what I thought it would when I first scribbled it on my calendar, which feels timely and timeless all at once.
Makes 16 squares
3/4 pound (about 20 medium stalks) asparagus, trimmed to 8-inches in length
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup arrowroot
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 large eggs, divided
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 / Preheat oven to 375°F. Drizzle asparagus with oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper, tossing to coat; transfer asparagus to oven. Roast asparagus until golden brown and tender, tossing once during cooking, 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2 / While asparagus roasts, brush an 8-inch square baking dish with butter and line with a strip of parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides. Brush pan with butter.
3 / In the bowl of a food processor, combine Pecorino, chickpea flour, arrowroot, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 large egg; pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Press crust mixture in the bottom and around the sides of the pan to the height of about 1-inch.
4 / Crack remaining 2 eggs into a medium bowl; whisk in cream and mustard until combined. Season custard mixture generously with salt and pepper. Pour custard over crust mixture, then lay asparagus over top. Transfer quiche to the oven; bake until custard is puffed and edges of crust are golden, 30 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack to cool completely.
5 / Run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to release crust. Use paper overhang to lift quiche from pan and transfer to a cutting board; slice into 16 squares (or, further, halve those diagonally into triangles for smaller pieces). To serve warm, transfer quiche bites to an oven-proof platter and reheat in a warm oven.