Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and that means a time to demonstrate our appreciation for all the special mothers and mother surrogates in our lives. I’ll be frank; I have never much enjoyed huge displays of excess on Mother’s Day (or any holiday, for that matter), but it is nice to have a special day to my advantage, where I feel more free to relax and do what I want or, more importantly, not do what I don’t want. (I’m looking at you, dishes!) Honestly, I only ask for one whine-free day from my daughter, and with that, I am perfectly content.
And, of course, good food.
For many families, Mother’s Day is a prime opportunity to enjoy a special breakfast or brunch in honor of the occasion. Really, I can think of few better ways to show affection than through delicious, carefully-crafted, beautiful food. In the case of Mother’s Day, at least for me, the highlights are bright and fresh flavors, preferably eaten on the patio or in the backyard. In almost every nook of the country, the weather is ideal for al fresco dining in the garden right now, surrounded by the lively sounds and sweet scents of spring in full bloom.
Actually, I believe that whoever invented Mother’s Day planned it purposefully for this time of year, just so I could enjoy my brunch surrounded by fragrant flowers, chirping birds, and the hum of insects.
In honor of the occasion, I wanted to do a spin on quiche, which—let’s be honest—practically screams brunch. Using a foundation of my famous custard filling, I brought the dish to new heights, making this flan extra-special with a fragrant, nutty crust and dollops of sweet, creamy ricotta. And what better way to summon the sentiments of the season than the quintessential springtime vegetable, asparagus? The tender spears and unique, fresh taste are a perfect match for the delicate filling. Plus, asparagus with tons of flavor is found in abundance, often locally-grown, at this time of year.
Whether you plan to celebrate Mom, or just want an excuse to prepare an exemplary culinary ode to spring, this tart is it! Versatile and convenient, it may be made in advance and can be enjoyed cold, warm, or hot. And it is simple to prepare, yet still holds an air of elegance and refinement, truly worthy of any occasion, or no occasion at all.
Asparagus-Ricotta Flan with Pecan-Parmesan Crust
Makes one 9-inch tart, about 8 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50-70 minutes
2 cups finely ground pecans, or other nut of preference (hazelnuts would be delicious)
½ cup almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup melted butter
2 egg whites
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (leftover from crust)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 pound asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and short enough to fit inside pan
Special equipment: 9” springform pan, parchment paper, baking beads/stones/dried beans/rice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper.
- Combine crust ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mixture should hold together when squeezed into a ball. If necessary, add additional butter if too dry or coconut flour (sparingly; a little goes a long way!) if too wet.
- Press crust evenly over bottom and about halfway up sides of prepared pan. Cut a large circle of additional parchment paper and press over top of crust. Fill with baking beads, dried beans, or rice to weigh down crust and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove top parchment and baking beads. Bake crust a further five minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine eggs, egg yolks, cream, milk, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Pour egg custard into partially baked crust. Arrange asparagus spears over custard (they’ll begin to sink and settle), being careful not to bring egg level over crust level. Spoon dollops of ricotta around asparagus.
- Bake in center of oven until puffed and just cooked through. There should be a slight jiggle when the pan is shaken, but a toothpick inserted should come out moist, not with raw egg on it. Total cooking time of filled flan should be about 45-60 minutes.
- Once cooked, transfer pan to a rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes before releasing sides of pan.
- Serve immediately or at room temperature. Alternately, chill completely and serve cold, or bring to room temperature and heat in 300°F until warmed through.
Image from Briana Goodall.