An introduction–to me and to quiche

Even just a few years ago, I wasn’t really into food or gardening. I used to subsist on mostly oatmeal and tea. I got hooked on growing food in 2009 between taking a plant biology course and interning at Great Kids Farm–and now I have multiple jobs in food and agriculture. 

I spend basically the rest of my time cooking and/or eating and/or thinking about what my next meal is going to be. My contribution to this blog will be writing about my learning experiences and community gardening in Baltimore City. 

This time of year is kind of slim pickings in the garden, and you may find yourself with a fridge full of odds and ends (unlike late-summer gluts). I try to eat “sustainably” which for me means considering growing practices (i.e. pesticide/herbicide use, treatment of animals, land use, etc.) AND the distance the food has traveled to get to my plate. Growing my own food helps me feel better on both counts.

But even if I’m not growing my own food, I still try to eat local, fresh foods as much as possible. Right now I also take part in several local groups that do “food rescue,” where food that would otherwise be thrown away (because it’s too “ugly” or slightly damaged, or almost expired) gets sorted and redistributed to willing takers. All of this means basing my meals around what’s available. 

Two of my stand-bys are soup and quiche. Both of these foods are intimidating to some people, but they’re fairly easy. I’m still working on getting the balance of seasonings right in my soup, but I have many testimonials that I make a mean quiche. 

My quiche for New Year’s day with friends (photograph courtesy Dorothy Fisher).

Here’s my basic method: 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup shortening, cold (butter is best, but you can also use Crisco) 
1/4 cup water — iced

Cut up shortening into cubes, fold into flour until mixture is crumbly but just beginning to form up. Add water SLOWLY until you can form a ball (may not require 1/4 cup water so do it in drips). It really helps to have cold shortening and water (helps the dough shape up better). 

If you have time, refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, then roll out. (You can roll it out immediately if you have to, but it’ll be a bit messier and more likely to stick to the rolling pin.) If you don’t have a rolling pin (like me), an unopened can of beer or glass jar can work well–anything durable with smooth sides (I used an empty Prosecco bottle once for a New Year’s morning quiche). 

This easily makes enough pie crust for a quiche. To make more, just keep the ratio the same and you’ll be all right! 

3-4 eggs
bit of milk (roughly 2 Tbsp.) 
a dash of salt and pepper
sautéed vegetables (i.e. mushrooms, carrot) and meat (i.e. bacon, cubed ham, etc.) 
chopped fresh vegetables (i.e. peppers, bell peppers, celery, carrot) 
roughly 2 c. shredded cheese

The goal here is to use up stuff, so I’m not going to specify what meat and vegetables you use. It’s really up to you, your garden, and your fridge. The premise to a quiche is that you’re putting an omelet in crust. 

Put the pie crust in a pie plate and bake for 5-15 minutes at 425* F. Meanwhile, whip the eggs and milk, salt and pepper, and then add the other ingredients. 

Sautée anything that won’t cook sufficiently if simply baked (carrots, for example, will tend to crisp up; mushrooms don’t get that lovely mellow quality; bacon generally needs to be cooked at least partway before crumbling it into the quiche filling; root vegetables also should probably be softened a bit before going in the pie). 

Everything else–fresh herbs and vegetables that should stay crisp (i.e. celery)–should simply be chopped and thrown in the bowl with the whipped egg. Pour 1/2 of this into the partially-baked pie crust, then sprinkle the cheese evenly and add the remaining egg-veg mixture. (Alternatively you can put cheese down first, pour the egg over it, then add veg, and finally add a bit more cheese.) 

For those of you who like more specific directions, there are plenty of more directive quiche recipes out there. Technically, I think this begins to border on being a vegetable or meat-and-vegetable pie, as a traditional quiche is very light and mostly about the egg, cheese, and crust. I like quiche in all seasons, but I think it’s particularly nice in the spring when the weather is starting to warm up a bit (and a light dish is appealing) but it’s still cool enough to appreciate something coming straight out of the oven (though quiche is often served at room temperature, too). 

Enjoy! And please comment if you come up with any particularly scrumptious combinations! 


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