Tuesday, July 2

Like flecks of jade on the glowing face of the sun

After a few days of glorious summer rain, I've been furiously pulling weeds from the vegetable patch.  Colorado may be in a season of drought right now, but with just a sprinkling of water its fertile soil sprouts forth with seeds that have lay dormant for years.  Weeds or not - it's wonderful to see the dry ground turn green again!

As I was weeding yesterday afternoon I noticed the spring peas - fat and sweet - were finally ready to harvest.  Spring peas in July!  It's either a blessing or the cure of living in the mountains!  I choose to believe the former.  So, I gathered up the kids and together we combed through the leafy tendrils, picking only the most plump of the peas.

Originally, I had intended to use them in a salad.  Something Asian inspired that would highlight their sweet freshness.  There were precious few of them and I wanted to do them justice.  But after retuning to the kitchen, I began rummaging through the refrigerator and what I found - fresh eggs, creamy milk, a few sprigs of mint leftover from a watermelon salad last week - inspired me to make this sunny garden pea and mint quiche instead.

I made a simple shortcrust pastry shell.  Then blanched the peas ever so quickly and made sure they were very dry before placing them in the crust.  After that it was just a matter of whisking the eggs with milk, and adding the mint.  Easy-peasy.  Bake until its firm, golden, and dotted with green mint, like flecks of jade on the glowing face of the summer sun.

After rolling out the pastry and fitting it into the pan, you'll be left with just a few scraps of leftover dough.  You can either stash it away in the freezer.  Eat it raw (as I used to do as a kid).  Or, you can do what my grandmother always did and make Kolaczki.  I remember well sitting in her kitchen rolling out the dough on the clean kitchen counter.  How her crystal blue eyes would sparkled as she laid out an assortment of jams from which to choose.  How her apron and hands were dusted with flour.  And how flour seemed to cling to my cheeks and nose, too.  How we would laugh and talk for hours as we made these!  Grandmother and granddaughter bonding in the kitchen.  When they came out of the oven I would sprinkle them with sugar while she made a pot of tea.  I couldn't wait for the tea, and eagerly bit into the crispy pastry.  The jam, still bubbly with heat, would burn the roof of my mouth.

If you make these Kolaczki with your leftover quiche crust, you'll have just enough to make about five cookies.  Bake them off while the crust is chilling in the refrigerator, and share them with someone you love while the quiche is baking away.

Garden Pea and Mint Quiche

for the crust:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
10 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup ice cold water

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and cut into the flour with a pastry blender or by quickly rubbing the butter into the flour between your fingers.  Mix in the water.  As soon as the dough begins to come together, place it in a mound on a floured board.  Frissage the dough by pressing the heel of you hand into the middle and smearing it across the board.  Scrape the dough back into a mound and continue until the dough just comes together.  (I usually frissage it 4 -5 times.)  When the dough has come together wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Butter and flour a pie plate or tart pan.  On your floured board, roll the chilled dough into a circle that's about 2 inches larger than your pan.  Transfer the dough to the pan by rolling it loosely onto the rolling pin and then into the pan.  Press it gently into the pan.  Cut the excess dough away at the edges of the pan.  Brush the inside of the crust with egg white and place the pan in the refrigerator to chill again.  This keeps the dough from shrinking in the oven.  Meanwhile make the filling.

for the filling:
1/3 cup fresh garden peas, shelled
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (use some of the whites to brush your crust before chilling)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp fish sauce
a pinch of salt
1 sprig of fresh mint, stem removed and leaves minced

Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C).  Blanch the peas in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Drain and return to the heat for a few seconds to dry the peas.  Scatter the peas into the chilled crust.  Whisk together the eggs, yolks, milk, fish sauce, salt and mint.  Pour into the pastry shell.  Place the quiche on a sheet pan and bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until just firm in the middle and golden around the edges.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*A few kitchen notes: 
-I know you're saying, Fish sauce?!  Why?  Because the mint and the peas are both sweet, you need that savory, meatiness in the background.  Trust me, it works.  And I promise no one will know it's in there.

-Here in the mountains, quiche cooks A LOT slower than at sea level.  At sea level it may be done in 45 minutes.  Here it takes a full hour.  That's why there's such a discrepancy in the cooking time.

My Grandmother's Kolaczki

leftover shortcrust pastry
a bit of milk

Roll the pastry out and cut into squares that are about 2 x 2 inches.  Place 1 tsp of jam in the middle of each square.  Fold the corners up to the middle like an envelope.  Brush each one with milk and sprinkle generously with sugar.   Bake in your preheated 360 F (180 C) oven for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.  Garnish with icing sugar if desired.

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