Spinach-Leek Cheesy Quiche

Quiches offer exciting possibilities for brunch, snacks and dinner; plus they are fun and immensely creative to make.  You can plan your meal, shop for foods to include in your quiche, or wait until the mood strikes you and see what goodies are on hand in your fridge and pantry. Share with me how you work in your kitchen.  Do you plan ahead with all meals, write down notes, or wing it?

I faintly recall eating quiches a few times in Switzerland when we lived there several years in the 1970. But mostly, I’ve been cooking them for the last decade or so, and more vociferously lately for my husband and I. They are a quick, and fun go-to-meal, especially when I have premade pie crust on hand. As a passionate baker and cook, I  keep extra pie dough discs in the freezer to use when I’m in the mood. (check this weekend on my blog for simple pie dough recipes.)

For this quiche, I acted in the winging method.  One day I was at the grocery store and randomly tossed vegetables in my cart, thinking to myself, let me try some spinach, maybe a package of mushrooms and leeks, I love leeks and these  caught my eye. The  seed seems to have been planted correctly, about an inch or so below soil level.  Then, as the leeks grow, the surrounding  soil is  built up, about ten inches, like a mini hill around each plant. This process contributed, overtime, to much white part developing, once the plants were dug up.  This method is good for the cook, the white part is the most important, quite tasty, not bitter like some of the darker green parts toward the top of the leek.

Because I’m a gardener, I always have fresh zucchini on hand, especially in August, and then toss them in many of my sweet and savory dishes. I grate them for sweet bread dishes; for savory foods, I slice them in half inch discs, and then cut them in half again. I often saute them with other vegetables. For soups, I’ll grate or slice zucchini, whichever method strikes my fancy.

And onions of all kinds entice  me; I use them interchangeable – white, yellow, scallions, red, and shallots! Reds seem to be the strongest taste-wise, to me. In particular, I love scallions with their mild taste.  I chop onions anyway I wish, slicing or chopping; they, along with other vegetables, contribute to a savory dish.  In stir-fries and other dishes, I sometimes cook onions longer, 10-15 minutes, as they slowly brown, caramelize and turn sweeter.

Just by chance, I had heavy cream in my refrigerator, and this recipe called for milk or cream, so I decided to go half and half, to make it creamy smooth and rich!

I’ll end with comments on cheeses.  If there ever were foods on hand that I would wish for as constant companions they are: cheese, heavy cream,  eggs, and onions, naturally.

A few of my favorite melting cheeses: Fontina, sharp cheddar, Asiago, Gruyere, and Parmesan

 

INGREDIENTS                                                                          Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground pork, spicy or mild

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small white onion, chopped, or 6 scallions, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped

1  8 ounce package of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped

1  8 ounce package fresh mushrooms, any kind, cut in thirds (optional)

3 garlic cloves,  minced

1 medium zucchini, sliced in half-inch rounds, sliced in half again

1  1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese or a mix of cheddar and Gruyere

3 eggs, gently mixed

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4  teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4  teaspoon mixed herbs – thyme, oregano, basel and sage

1 (9-inch) homemade pie crust shell, frozen, unbaked or store bought, defrosted, but still chilled – blind bake the crust- directions below

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

 

PROCESS

BLIND CRUST BAKING:

1   Preheat the oven to  375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled pie crust to roughly 12 inches, flipping it occasionally. Using your rolling pin, gently pick up the dough and roll it into an ungreased pie pan. Press down carefully in the middle and flute the edges nicely.  Cover it with a 12-14 inch piece of parchment paper. On the paper, add pie weights, about a container and a half. (a full layer of dried beans work too), Spread the weights evenly all around the bottom. Around the edge, if possible, use a red silicone strip, available at good cooking stores, and wrap it around the crust part, to keep it from burning. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Take the pan carefully from the oven. Remove the weights, parchment paper and silicone lining, if using. With a sharp knife, poke several tiny holes in the bottom crust. Return the crust to the oven and cook 5-7 minutes longer as the crust turns faintly brown. Remove and cool completely.

 

PROCESS FOR FILLING:

1   In a large frying pan saute the olive oil on medium high.  After a few minutes, as the oil shimmers, add the sausage and cook it 7-10 minutes, as you break up the pieces of meat. Once golden brown, nearly cooked through, remove the meat to a plate. Leave about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.

2   Add the onion, bell pepper and cook on medium-heat for 3-5 minutes, as the vegetables turn slightly golden. Add the zucchini and mushrooms, if using, and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach. Stir it around. Sprinkle on half the salt. Reduce the heat to very low.  Cover the pan, and for 3-5 minutes let the steam cook the spinach and the mushrooms too will release their moisture. Add the half teaspoon of herbs.   Uncover the pan and cook about another 3 minutes to blend all the vegetables.  Set aside.

3  In a large bowl mix the eggs, milk and heavy cream, add the rest of the salt and the pepper.

ASSEMBLYING THE QUICHE

1   To the cooled empty pie shell, add the cooked vegetables, gently spreading them around. Next, spread most of the grated cheese on top of the vegetables, reserving about one quarter cup for the final topping.

2  Pour the mixture of eggs, milk,  heavy cream and seasoning, slowly on top of the cheese, watching it carefully so as not to overfill the shell. Leave roughly 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch space, so that the filling is not totally up to the rim.  (You might need to reserve several tablespoons of the liquid mixture, since it’s sometimes hard to judge exactly how much filling a crust will take.)  Sprinkle  paprika over the mixture.

3   Bake 35-40 minutes, checking at about 30 minutes.  When finished, there may  be a slightly jiggle in the middle, the edges should be lightly golden. If you look in the oven once while the quiche is baking and the edges are too brown, cover the entire pie with aluminum foil for the last few minutes. Remove from the oven.  Let the quiche rest and cool slightly for about twenty minutes.  It’s best served warm or at room temperature. Quiches reheat well for snacks and other meals.

 

TIPS AND TWEAKS:

  •   use ground turkey, or ground beef, instead of pork. Or eliminate meat all together adding  more vegetables.  However, remember to be watchful not to fill the shell too high. Broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower and kale  make great additions to quiches.
  •  Instead of an onion use one leek, remembering to wash and clean it thoroughly.
  • Reduce the amount of vegetables by roughly one third, adding, and placing carefully a dozen cherry tomatoes, cut in half. However, top them on the quiche after you’ve added the cheese and liquid mixture. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a little additional salt.
  •  spice up the quiche if you like by adding cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of worchester sauce, a little soy sauce, garam marsala, cumin. Use your imagination to change the flavors, but be careful not to mix too many spices in the quiche.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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