COLUMNS Foodlove

Crazy for Quiche!

I’M ALWAYS a sucker for a dish that satisfies any of the three meals as well as one that can utilize a variety of ingredients with panache. Quiche is also a trans-seasonal dish, as it is fresh and inviting as a light al fresco supper with white wine and salad, or as part of a hearty brunch in deepest winter accompanied by potatoes or a cup of soup.

The word quiche is, as we know, French, but derives from the German kuchen—to regional kuche to kische. The origin of the dish seems obscure, but may have descended from the kingdom of Lotharingia (the modern area of Alsace-Lorraine), which though sounding Tolkeinish existed briefly as part of the 9th Century Carolingian Empire. (Tangentally, the politically active Lotharingians asserted their democratic leanings by deposing rival kings, including one Charles the Fat. We can assume that he enjoyed his kische.)

Larousse Gastronomique states that Nancy, not Lorraine, is the real birthplace of quiche, and any dish that contains the migaine (eggs & cream) and mixed with onion and other surprising items like pumpkin is called a quiche. Still others assert a Roman form of cheesecake, patinea, is the real predecessor of quiche.

QuicheAnglophilic sources claim the first written recipes for quiche in 14th century manuscripts from England. One such book is the Forme of Cury, or for you English listeners, “forms of cookery,” from the Master Cooks of King Richard the II. Ah! Humble dish, noble origins.

Whatever the geographical paternity, the primary ingredients of the first versions of our savory pie were eggs and cream cooked into a custard with various meats—bacon being the signature of quiche Lorraine. Technically Lorraine doesn’t use onions or other savories, while her sister Alsacienne is flavored a la alliums. Original crusts were bread dough or puff pastry, and one early version of Lorraine was cooked in a cast iron pan without fancy touches like a crimped edge or lattice top.

Luckily food evolves, and now quiche contains cheese and a host of tantalizing ingredients. The key to filling is fresh herbs and veggies sautéed beforehand. And please, use half and half and fresh eggs for the custard. Gourmet additions include smoked and flavored salts (try lemon), lox, or sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Try anchovies if you’ve a mind to, capers, or kale and chard. Whip a little pesto or an olive tapenade into the custard. Marinated red peppers, artichoke hearts . . . you get the idea.

Crust is as essential as filling, and is traditionally blind baked. I have made and eaten many a quiche without doing so, however, so try for yourself to see. Recipes for quiche abound in almost any cookbook; my favorite basic custard formula is from the Moosewood original cookbook, and crust from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Quiche is easy to make (as pie!), and is as tasty elaborate as basic (yeh—butter, eggs, cream—say no more). Perfect for a potluck or to make for one and eat on the whole week. Simple and civilized: Bon appétit!

Nigella Lawson follows this basic rule for shortcrust pastry:

Use half the weight of fat to flour and use a liquid–egg yolk,orange juice, whatever–to bind it. Put the flour in a shallow bowl, add the cold, diced fats
and stir to coat. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Put the liquid with a pinch of salt in the fridge. Then by hand, with mixer, or food processor, combine the fats and flour til the mixture is sandy. Add in liquid till the mix just comes together and form into disc(s) by hand. Refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling out.

This recipe, from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, will make more than enough:

1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed 2 egg yolks
2 Tb. ice water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. sugar


Shower Me With Flowers

I have found a new subtle group of foods that completely fit the bill for summer sensuality. It all started one night while rambling through an urban park. The hour was late-ish, the company and weather fine. I was surrounded by aromatic and visually compelling roses, all colors and sizes. I began with mere quaffing of fragrances. Full and ripe, these roses invited first that I bury my face in their abundant offerings, and then the tasting was inevitable. I overrode my questions of pesticides and chemicals for a walk on the wild side. I plucked a petal from a just-past-her-prime bloom and put it gently into my mouth. Ah! The delicacy, the subtle flavor, the richness! I was hooked. Flower to flower I flitted, like some oversized night pollinating butterfly, sampling the culinary vagaries of the roses.

Of course, we’ve most of us eaten flowers at some point, in a salad or perhaps in ice cream (think the nouveau penchant for lavender). But how many of us eat these delicacies at home? I encourage garden grazing, with the usual caveats: if you don’t know it’s edible, don’t eat it; and of course if you’ve just peppered it with RoundUp, well . . . duh.

What follows is a quick list for making like a bee and getting into flower tasting:

Bee Balm (Monarda species) is similar to bergamot and can be used to flavor tea.

Calendula (Calendula Officianalis) called “poor man’s saffron” the golden or orange petals add a joyful hue to salads and ethnic foods. Peppery in flavor.

Violet (Viola species) are sweet like nectar and of course are spectacular candied.

Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) are lemony in flavor and dee-lishus in subtle pasta dishes.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) add color and zest like calendula, and young buds can be fried as they taste similar to mushrooms.

Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) taste sweet and spicy, almost like cloves.

Impress your friends: bring cupcakes with candied violets to next backyard do.

Candied Violets

  • Wash flowers gently in a basin and drain on paper towels
  • When the blossoms are dry, paint a little beaten egg white gently  on each blossom and then sprinkle with granulated sugar
  • Leave to dry for a few days sitting in a sugar filled tray
  • Stored in an airtight jar away from light, they will keep indefinitely

Candied violets