Mushroom, Spinach, and Leek Quiche

I have access to an abundance of local eggs where I live, which is wonderful but also leaves me with more eggs than I sometimes know what to do with. I've decided I need to start getting creative and bust out of my "eggs for breakfast" rut, and see what I can do with eggs for dinner. I have cooked eggs for dinner, but usually in a frittata or something similar. I actually have never made a quiche, so I thought it would be a good adventure for me to write about.

The first thing I did was peruse my favorite cooking websites and cookbooks to get the jist of what I needed to do: I need to make a crust, I need some veggies, and I need some cheese. The great thing about quiche is that the last two things on that list can be anything that sounds good to you. That being, said, I took inventory of what I had at home and also headed off to my local co-op to see what veggies they had. I came home with a small bag of crimini mushrooms, a few handfuls of spinach, and some local fresh oregano. Those ingredients mixed with a leek and some cheese I already had would prove to make a delicious quiche. So I had my fillings, but I still needed to make a crust.

In going over the recipes on Epicurious.com, I came across one that used a butter-based pastry dough instead of a standard shortening-based pie crust. While the recipe was quick to point out that a butter-based crust is less flaky than a shortening-based crust, it said that tasted delicious and is much easier to handle. So, I chose to abandon the crust I have been making for about 15 years and try something new and, to little surprise, they were absolutely right. The crust tastes delicious, has a light flakiness to it, and is very easy to work with. For those of you afraid to go near a homemade pie crust recipe, I highly recommend you try this one. The directions are simple and straight forward; I followed them to a "T" and the result was a great pie crust. Also, if you like the leaves in the picture above, check out the pie crust cutters at Williams-Sonoma. They are a great way to easily add additional flair to any pie, quiche, or tart, and to use up any leftover dough.

In making this quiche I have realized that quiches take a lot of time, mainly for the crust preparation, so plan accordingly. The link for the dough recipe will show you how long it takes, and note the additional chilling baking time for both the dough and the quiche indicated below. I made the dough, baked the crust, and prepped all the fillings (except the egg batter) one day and put it all together to bake the next. I promise that the time is absolutely worth the result!

This quiche can be made as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast, pair with rosemary potatoes and fresh fruit. For lunch or dinner, make a quick side salad of mixed greens tossed in olive oil and white wine or champagne vinegar with a little salt and pepper. And remember, these mix-ins are only what I had on hand and what looked good at the co-op. You can add whatever you would like, but try to be local if you can!

Mushroom, Spinach, and Leek Quiche
Serves 6-8, depending on slice size

1 tbsp olive oil
5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, sliced (green and white parts)
4 cloves garlic, roughly minced
2 packed cups spinach, torn
1/4 c fresh oregano, chopped
6 eggs (the more local and fresh the better)*
1 1/2 c milk (any type will work)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 c freshly grated aged cheddar

Prepare all-butter pastry. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic, saute until leeks are soft. Add mushrooms and saute until dark and soft. Remove from heat.

Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface using a lightly floured rolling pin until you have about a 13-inch round. (If it isn't perfectly round that's okay, you can always use extra pie crust to cover any areas that might need it). Fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Tuck about 1/2 inch of the overhang underneath and press down with your thumb to reinforce the edge. Remove any additional dough (you can use this dough for any embellishments you like). Prick the bottom with a fork and chill for 30 minutes.

Line the pie shell with foil and pie weights (dried beans work fine too). Bake until the pastry is set and golden, 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and weights and then bake for another 15-20 minutes, until deep and golden all over. Put pie plate on a 4-sided sheet pan. Leave the oven on.

Whisk eggs, milk, nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp salt together in a large bowl until smooth. Add spinach, oregano, and 1/2 the cheese; stir to combine. Pour into prepared pie pan. Add leek-mushroom mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake quiche until set, about 45-50 minutes. (The center will tremble slightly when moved; it will continue to set as it cools). Allow to sit for 20 minutes before serving.

*Note: I highly recommend using fresh, local eggs for this recipe. The flavor and color are so much better than conventional eggs, plus you are supporting your local economy. Local eggs are readily available these days, from your grocery store to your farmers' market. They might cost a bit more but it is absolutely worth it for the enhanced flavor and nutrition.


Millet "Fried Rice"

If it hasn't become obvious yet, I love trying new things. In my adventures in cooking, one of my favorite things to try is new and interesting grains. It's incredible how many there are, how different they are, and how good they are for you! Plus, spending so much time at my local food co-op has given me a great opportunity to see what grains are out there.

I got the idea for this recipe when I saw it in Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Cooking. She has a whole section dedicated to using unique grains in delicious ways and this recipe was one that really popped out to me. I really like fried rice and usually make my own when I have leftover rice. I never thought, however, that I could use something other than rice as the base for this dish. Millet was also quite a surprising choice, given that it makes most of us think of bird food. Millet, however, has a surprising number of vitamins and some protein, making it a healthy and easy change. An important note though: millet does not cook like rice or quinoa. Keep a close eye on it once the liquid starts to be absorbed. If you wait too long (like I did the first time I made this recipe), the millet will be mushy and will not work as well when you are stir frying it with the other ingredients. Also, don't skip the rinsing step; this is important as it will remove excess starch and reduce the potential for mushiness.

I was lucky enough to have some locally grown, fresh picked spring onions to use in this recipe, but green onions are a fine substitution. If you have more local veggies, given the time of year, feel free to add them to this recipe; just remember that vegetables that take a longer time to cook should be added first (right after the garlic & ginger) and those that take less time to cook should be added towards the end.


Millet "Fried Rice"
Makes 4-6 servings

1 1/2 c millet, picked over and rinsed
4 1/2 c water
2 tsp salt
2 smaller (or one large) carrot, diced
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp butter
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz firm tofu, cut into a 1/4-inch dice*
3/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c sliced spring onions
1 tbsp tamari (soy) sauce
1 c frozen green peas
A few drops of chili oil (optional)

Combine the millet, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to an active simmer and cook, covered, until the millet is fluffy and splitting. Test it after about 20 or 25 minutes, and once it is tender (but not mushy), drain off any extra water (there should not be much, if any), and set aside.

Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the eggs and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the eggs in a thin layer. Cook for about 45 seconds or until it sets. Fold the eggs over themselves and cook for another 30 seconds before transferring to a plate or cutting board. Let cool a bit, then slice into strips. Scrape away any remaining egg from the skillet.

Return the cleaned skillet to medium-high heat and, without any oil, add the tofu to the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove the tofu and set it aside with the egg. Again, scrape out any bits from the pan.

Arrange the remaining ingredients near the stove (this is key because the next succession of steps is very quick). Place the skillet over high heat, add the remaining oil, and let the oil get hot enough that a drop of water will evaporate within seconds of hitting the pan. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the green onions and carrots, giving them a good toss, and then stir constantly for the next 30 seconds. Stir in the millet, cooked tofu, peas, and tamari. Cook for 30 seconds and then fold in the egg strips. Cook for 30 seconds longer, remove from heat, then taste for seasoning, adding the chili oil (if using). If you like, finish with an extra drizzle of tamari or toasted sesame oil and a sprinkle of sliced green onion tails.

Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, p. 64.

*The tofu can be replaced with chicken in this recipe. Use the same amount, cut into the same size pieces. Cook the chicken when the recipe calls for the tofu to be cooked in a dry pan, but use some additional sesame oil to cook it in. You can also use shrimp, but I recommend cooking that separately (not in the same pan as the rest of the dish).