I was fortunate to spend the early part of the New Year travelling around the South Island of New Zealand with my grandparents. Under blue skies and surrounded by mountains, I consumed an inordinate amount of quiche. Settled among the meat pies and soggy sandwiches, the towering triangles of vegetable-studded egg always appeared the most appetizing. However, filled with wintry root vegetables, the dish left me longing for fresh and bright summer flavours. Although quiche is typically classified as a French dish, the name is a derivative of the German noun, kuchen, meaning ‘cake.’ This recipe for a quiche filled with sweet semi-dried tomatoes, spindly asparagus and sharp feta is both delicious and aesthetically pleasing. Perched upon a cake platter with a serving knife, the presentation alludes to the etymological origin of the dish.

Paul LaCroix, Still Life with Asparagus and Tomatoes, 1864
oil on canvas, 34.29 x 41.28 cm, Private collection

There is a very limited amount of literature concerning the American artist Paul LaCroix. He has a handful of works in regional art museums around the United States and he is thought to have been a contemporary of Severin Rosen, who also painted in the mid-nineteenth century. LaCroix immigrated from France to the United States sometime between the late 1840s and early 1850s and exhibited his still lifes at the National Academy of Design throughout the 1860s. In addition to still life paintings, LaCroix was also known for his landscapes. In other works dating from the same era as Still Life with Asparagus and Tomatoes, he would combine the two genres by depicting lush fruits and vegetables against a sweeping landscape background. The two-genre paintings are reminiscent of the elaborate compositions by the Italian artist Bartolomeo Bimbi and demonstrated a marked point of difference from the dark and somber aesthetic by Peale, Rosen and Chase that informed Still Life with Asparagus and Tomatoes.

{Semi-Dried Tomato & Asparagus Quiche}

Yield: 6 servings

1 tsp butter for greasing
1 sheet frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
1 1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
12 semi-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 c feta cheese, crumbled
12 stalks of asparagus, woody ends trimmed off

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Butter the inside of the 8-inch round baking pan and carefully lay the pastry over the top. Using your fingers, mold the pastry into the pan, trimming off the excess around the top. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and slide into the oven for about 20 minutes, until the shell is cooked and golden.

Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, eggs, yolks and season with salt and pepper. Once the shell has baked, sprinkle the semi-dried tomatoes over the bottom and pour in the egg mixture. Carefully sprinkle over the crumbled feta cheese and then arrange the asparagus spears in a circular pattern. Reduce the oven temperature to 190C/350F and return to the oven for about 30 to 35 minutes until the eggs are golden and set.

Can be served at any temperature; hot, warm or cold and is wonderful with a salad of greens, simply dressed with lemon, salt and olive oil.