Spinach Quiche

This quiche is delicious and a good way to use spinach.  You can also use broccoli, cauliflower, or any other green in place of the spinach – just make sure to cook the vegetables first.  Also, if you are rushed for time, you can make the quiche without a crust, a crustless quiche – just grease the pie pan and cook for 5 or 10 minutes less.  This recipe is adapted from “The Way to Cook” by Julia Child ( Knopf).

For a 9-inch quiche.

2 TBS minced green onions, shallots or leeks
2 TBS butter
10 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed, washed, blanched and chopped (see below)
Seasonings: salt (optional), 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
The Custard: 4 “large” eggs blended with enough milk or 1/2&1/2 or cream to make 2 cups.
1/4 cup lightly pressed down, grated cheese – Swiss, monterey jack, colby or cheddar
a 9-inch pastry shell – for the flakiest crust, Julia Child recommends pre-baking the crust, but I usually just add the filling to the raw crust and bake.  See recipe for crust below.

1. The Filling: Preheat the oven to 375F.  Saute the shallots or onions or leeks briefly in the butter, add the spinach;  stir over heat until tender.  Season, let cool, and blend in the eggs and milk.

2. Filling and baking the quiche: Reserving 2 TBS of the cheese, strew the rest in the pie pan.  Pour in the spinach-custard mixture up to 1/4 inch of the rim.  Sprinkle on the remaining cheese; bake 35 minutes until puffed and brown.

3. Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes, then eat.

To blanch spinach: place spinach in a pot of boiling water for about one minute.  Remove to a colander and run cold water over the spinach to stop the cooking and set the green color.  Then with a large spoon, press the spinach in the colander to force out as much water as you can.  Then put spinach on a cutting board and chop coarsely.

Making  a Pie Crust
This crust recipe is also from the cookbook “The Way To Cook” by Julia Child (Knopf).  I always receive compliments when I use it and it is not really all that difficult.  The recipe calls for a mix of all-purpose and cake flours, but I often use only all-purpose flour and still get a good crust.

For about 1 9-inch pie shell (with a little left-over dough that you can bake separately on a cookie sheet with brown sugar on top, for a treat)
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
½ cup cake flour
1 tsp salt
6 oz (1½ sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, quartered lengthwise and diced
¼ cup (2 oz) chilled vegetable shortening
½ cup ice water, plus a couple teaspoons more, if needed

Have all ingredients measured and ready to use.  Put the flour, salt, and diced butter in a food processor and pulse (on-off half-second clicks) 5 or 6 times to break up the butter roughly.  Add the shortening, turn on the machine, and immediately pour in the ½ cup of ice water, then pulse 2 or 3 times.  Remove the cover and feel the dough – it should look like a bunch of small lumps, and will just hold together in a mass when you press a handful together.  (It’s important not to over-mix; it should not mass on the blade of the machine).  If too dry, pulse in a  teaspoon or two of water.  From now on work rapidly to keep the dough cold and manageable.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface; press it into a rough mass.  For the final blending, rapidly and roughly, with the heel (not the palm) of your hand, push egg-size clumps of dough out in front of you in a 6-inch smear. Again, it is important not to over-mix – what you want is layers of flattened butter lumps that barely hold together – this gives the crust the flakiness.

Form the dough into a cake – it should be fairly smooth and pliable.  Put into a resealable plastic bag (e.g a Ziploc bag) and refrigerate.  Freshly-made dough should chill 2 hours at least, allowing the flour particles to absorb the liquid, as well as to firm the butter and relax the gluten.

When ready to assemble the pie, put the dough on a work surface and roll out the dough about ¼-inch thick and about 1½ inches larger than the circumference of the pie plate.  Because the dough has such a high butter content, it is important to work quickly so the butter does not soften.  If the dough loses its chill and becomes difficult to handle (i.e., soft and sticky), return to the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes.

When pie crust has been rolled out, roll up the dough on a rolling pin and transfer to the pie dish.  Cut edge and crimp with fingers or a fork.

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