Tag Archives: quiche

On Onions

This morning we finished seeding onions and leeks in our greenhouse, the first starts of our spring planting in preparation for the farm season to come. John already planted and covered Walla Walla Sweets in field beds last fall for spring onions, but this time of year we plant other less winter tolerant varieties in the greenhouse instead. Many farmers start onions as seeds or bulbs outdoors but we’ve found that seeding in flats in the greenhouse and transplanting in spring when the plants are about the size of a blade of grass works best for us. Seeding onions is cheaper than bulbs and easier than cultivating newly emerged alliums amongst exuberant spring weeds.

One of the varieties, Cortland, will provide the yellow storage onions that we’ll give to our CSA members in the fall because that variety keeps better than others. Here we are in January and we’ve still got Cortlands in our root cellar to take us through the next few months until we harvest Egyptian/walking onions (so-called because the flower heads lean over and plant themselves) and green onions in the early spring.

This week I got hungry for onion quiche, a recipe I’ve been making for 25 years that’s a kind of cross between French onion soup and quiche lorraine using onions instead of ham. The crust includes sesame seeds, which makes it extra hearty for a winter meal. We sliced and caramelized onions, grated cheese (we use Naked Goat from our local cheese shop), cracked eggs from our chickens just starting to lay again, and added some milk.

Even though I’ve made this quiche many times, this time the quiche came out even sweeter than ever. The Cortlands in winter storage had sweetened; the taste was something like onion marmalade on crust. We probably could have eaten the whole thing between the two of us but saved half for lunch the next day, when it was just as sweet, if not more so.

If you’ve got a few onions in storage, or even if you have to buy a few (preferably at a winter farmer’s market), try this hearty quiche for a warm and filling winter meal.

And what to serve with it? This time of year on our Front Range farm, “salad” is hard to come by, at least in the traditional lettuce sense. Because we’re rebuilding our season-extending “bluehouse” (named as such because it’s not the “greenhouse”), we don’t have our usual winter bed of kale and spinach. But we’ve got some small spikes of last year’s chard and fall-planted spinach out in the field under row cover that will do for now. I like those tiny leaves of spinach with grated carrot and tart green apple with a lime juice and lime-infused olive oil dressing.

Eating last fall’s onions for a winter dinner and starting next summer’s onions in the greenhouse in January bring the cycles of the seasons together. As one year’s harvest turns to the next year’s planting, we’re reminded that farming requires both looking back and looking forward, learning and planning and growing again with one eye to the weather and another to each other.

Stonebridge Onion Quiche
Ingredients:
Filling: 2 large or 4 small yellow onions, peeled and sliced in thin half-crescents
3 Tbl butter
2 cups grated Swiss cheese or a hard goat cheese like Naked Goat
3 large eggs
1 cup half and half or milk
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Crust: 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached)
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut in pieces
1/4 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 450.
Melt 3 Tbl butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add onions. Stir to brown evenly, about 15 minutes, until just beginning to caramelize.
Shred the cheese in the food processor and set aside.
While the onions are cooking, make the crust in the food processor. Mix flour, seeds, salt and baking powder until blended. Pulse in butter until pea-sized. Drizzle water through top of feed tube until dough forms a ball. It should be moist but not soggy. Roll out dough on pastry cloth and place in standard pie plate (8” diameter across bottom; 10” across top).
Place shredded cheese on top of the crust and top with cooked onions to cover the top evenly.
In food processor, mix eggs, half and half, salt, and nutmeg. Pour over onions.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and bake another 45 minutes. Let quiche sit 10 minutes before serving. Makes 4 2-piece servings.

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A Rogue Tomato and ’70s Quiche

I’m making a favorite recipe tonight, Tomato Tart, something I traditionally make with green tomatoes picked right before the first fall frost and ripened in the greenhouse. But this year the first frost was so late (Oct 27), the tomatoes had finished ripening well before, as if staying on the vine until the end of October was unnatural. I could have made it earlier with tomatoes gone red in the field but I hadn’t thought of it. No green tomatoes in the greenhouse, no tart.

Then last week John brought in a partially ripened tomato from a rogue tomato plant still growing in our greenhouse. Not in the shelf garden where we plant cherry and cluster tomatoes, but from a monstrous vine that had seeded itself in the soil floor of the greenhouse and grown up through the slats of the long table where we set out flats of starts each spring. In the greenhouse’s humidity, the vine had grown more exuberantly than it ever could outside in our dry heat; now in December tomatoes as big as our fists are slowly starting to ripen and one is red and ready for tonight’s tomato tart. Yahoo!

Made in the oversized stoneware pie plate that I routinely use for our Stonebridge Big Quiche, this tart is rich with a buttery crust and two cheeses and savory with herb-spiked olive oil drizzled over the tomato slices. I like that something delicious can be made from a tag-on, leftover vegetable that might have been disregarded after the season’s over.

But then I love anything on a crust. I grew up with my mom’s Bisquick pizza and grandmother’s pumpkin and apple pies, but the discovery of quiche when I was a sophomore in high school opened my eyes to pie crusty cuisine.

I drove my parents crazy in high school for all the usual reasons but also because I took up natural food. Even before the dangers of transfat were warned in the media, I insisted on butter instead of margarine. I would only eat whole grain bread or cook with whole wheat flour. I didn’t completely quit eating my mom’s homemade cookies, but I wouldn’t eat them frosted, or frosting on anything for that matter. I made granola cookies and unfrosted carrot cake and banana bread, a big change from my junior high daily snack of root beer floats and Ding Dongs. I also ate at least one banana every day, which earned me enough of a reputation that one friend gave me six bunches of bananas for my seventeenth birthday.

That was the spring—1976–my friend J. and I discovered quiche. A new restaurant had opened “near the college,” which was code in our small conservative town for “kinda kooky.” It was literally on the other side of the railroad tracks in a neighborhood we hadn’t even known existed. I’m not sure how J. and I heard about the place but we went looking for it one day, driving around the unfamiliar and slightly seedy side streets until we found a little hand-carved sign in front of an old, two-story house: The Harvest Restaurant.

We were seated in a booth with the requisite macramé and given simple menus listing salads, sandwiches, and something we’d never seen before and certainly didn’t know how to pronounce. The description sounded intriguing: cheese, egg, and vegetable filling on a whole wheat crust. We pointed to the dish and told the waitress we wanted that. “The quiche,” she said, undoubtedly realizing we had no idea what to call it. Yes, the quiche please.

The dish more than lived up to our expectations. To eat something with flaky crust that wasn’t just sweet seemed revolutionary to me—or European, same thing. I wouldn’t get to Europe until right after graduation but I had a sense that food was more extraordinary there than the casseroles, fried chicken, and roasts of the time. I loved the quiche, so much that I took my mother to The Harvest for mother’s day. I don’t think she was quite as impressed as I was, and probably more concerned with the neighborhood than with the food, but it was a step in forging my independent cuisine identity, and a well timed one since the restaurant closed shortly after that.

I wouldn’t have quiche again until I went to Europe. Until then, I didn’t have a recipe and I didn’t know where to look for one in those pre-epicurious days, but after I got back, I found one somewhere for an authentic “Quiche Lorraine.” That fall when I went to college, I found the Moosewood Cookbook and changed my eating forever, and two summers later I learned how to make great crusts from my former mother-in-law who got tired of making pies from all the blackberries I picked in Maine.  So now I’m making tomato tart for dinner, delicious and homegrown and still slightly Europeanish. Bon appétit!

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