On Saturday I sowed the first seeds directly in the ground – finally!- and spinach was the very first vegetable I sowed. So no, this quiche was not homegrown, but hopefully will be in about six weeks. Because I am definitely making it again. This is not your good old spinach quiche (though I definitely don’t think there’s something wrong with your old spinach quiche). But this one is different, very different – it’s faster, easier and healthier. The problem with a traditional quiche is that you have to plan to have enough time to make the pastry, chill it, roll it out, prebake, fill, bake again. Plus it does contain a lot of butter. I love savory tarts (there are quite a few in the archives), but they are usually not our weekday dinner. But this one totally was. The crust is made of buckwheat groats that are just evenly distributed in the buttered balking dish and they cook together with the filling.
I must admit I was somewhat skeptical about the buckwheat-groats-crust and were Barbara Damrosch not one of my most trusted sources of gardening wisdom I might not have attempted it all. While making the quiche my inner monologue went something like this: “Will this work? This won’t work – the groats won’t cook! But it’s Barbara Damrosch… If it works it’s brilliant! But what if there’s not enough moisture to cook the groats?” Well, it worked and it is brilliant. Of course it worked – it’s Barbara Damrosch! The Barbara Damrosch of the Four Season Farm, who writes the “Cook’s Garden” column in The Washington Post and the author of the encyclopedic The Garden Primer. Who not only knows about gardening but is also a brilliant and amusing writer. And apparently a great cook as well.
Her newest book, written partly together with her husband Eliot Coleman (and if you are a vegetable gardener and don’t already have his books then you really should get them) is actually two books in one. The first part is all about growing vegetables – improving the soil, planning your garden and how-to on growing the individual crops. The second part (written by Barbara) is about cooking from the garden. Most recipes are fairly uncomplicated – when your ingredients are homegrown and super fresh you don’t want to mess with them, you want them to shine. Which is just as well because after working in the garden till sunset you want your meals to come together quickly. Because the recipes are based on the harvest they combine vegetables that are available at the same time plus most recipes have a “Try this too” section where possible seasonal substitutions are suggested.
As a gardener you don’t start your meal with a recipe, your starting point is what you’ve just picked from the garden. So the recipe for this spinach quiche will also work with fresh peas in spring, broccoli in summer, or leeks in winter. I’m planning to make them all during this growing season!
Spinach quiche with buckwheat crust
adapted (a little) from The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook
3 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup creme fraiche (or use more cream)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
½ tsp fresh thyme leaves or ¼ tsp dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
¾ cup buckwheat groats also called kasha
6 ounces fresh spinach, chopped (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 F).
Combine the eggs, cream(s), nutmeg, thyme and pepper in a bowl and set aside. It is best, but not essential that the mixture reach room temperature.
Using your fingers smear 1 tablespoon of the butter over the bottom and sides of 9 (23 cm) ovenproof round glass or ceramic baking dish. (I used a fluted glass tart pan with 24 cm diameter -slightly bigger).
Pour the buckwheat groats into the pie plate, and turn it while holding it at a tilt to coat the sides and bottom with the groats. Then hold the pie plate flat and shake it to distribute the remaining loose groats over the bottom.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium – low heat. Add the spinach and saute, stirring until it has wilted, about 5 minutes.
Gently distribute the spinach over the bottom of the pie plate without disturbing the buckwheat. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the spinach.
Beat the egg mixture thoroughly with a whisk or eggbeater until it is uniform but not foamy. Carefully pour it over the spinach.
Bake until the center is firm and the top is rounded and golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes, the quiche is done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cooked quiche sit for 5 minutes or so, it will sink slightly as it cools.
Cut the quiche into wedges and serve while it is still warm.