While I think that there is a wide variety of reasons why we garden, arguably the biggest one is to have fresh homegrown food. I really enjoy cooking, and the appeal of growing my own quality ingredients was what got me started on the path to being a gardener.
We didn’t keep a garden this winter so our own ingredients have been a bit sparse. However, our chickens have been actively laying eggs, we’ve still got onions and herbs growing throughout the yard, and, a few months back, we came into possession of a lot of locally hunted venison. So, when we invited some friends over for dinner last night, a quiche seemed well in order.
Quiches have, over the past few years, become one of our staple go-to meals for a number of reasons. First of all, they are relatively easy… especially if you choose to do a crust-less quiche, which is the route we normally take (crust-less quiche is exactly what it sounds like, all the filling, none of the crust). Secondly, quiches tend to be blank pages which you can fill in with whatever meets your fancy. Oh, you’ve got some feta and tomatoes? Those can go in a quiche! Country ham and asparagus? Quiche time, folks! Tons of wild mushrooms? I know a quiche that would like to be friends with those. Point is, quiches can provide for nearly endless variation. Finally, a quiche is a great way to use a lot of eggs at once, and with our four chickens happily laying away, we’re pretty constantly in need of ways to use eggs.
As a cook, I advocate a laid back and relaxed culinary approach. Basically, cook what you like and are comfortable with, but don’t be afraid to experiment a bit here and there. Personally, I tend to use recipes more as rough guidelines to get some ideas as opposed to set rules (and I have been told this is why I struggle more with baking). As such, the following two recipes are intended and presented — mostly — as said “rough guidelines” and I strongly encourage people to adjust and change as they will (and then share here, so that we can get more ideas ourselves).
As mentioned above, our winter garden is a bit skimpy and we found some of the ingredients from other local sources.
Venison Sausage and Kale Quiche
- Eight fresh eggs
- About 1.5 cups milk (you could, if you want, substitute a half cup of half-and-half to make a creamier and richer quiche)
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated (we prefer the sharpest of the sharp cheddar, but any kind will work)
- 4 or 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and grated
- About 1/2 lb (or a little more) venison sausage
- 2 or 3 large kale leaves, roughly chopped into small pieces
- 4 or 5 button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small onion (and greens if available) finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 sprig rosemary, pulled off stem and finely chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme, pulled off stems and finely chopped
- 3 or 4 small sage leaves, finely chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Bacon fat, butter, or other oils (for greasing pan, and cooking sausage)
Preheat the oven to 350° and grease an 8″ pie pan with a bit of butter. Peel and grate potatoes. Form a rough bottom crust in the pie pan with the grated potatoes (so, essentially this is not a “crust-less” quiche, but it is also not a traditional dough crust, either). Place the pan with potato crust in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to get lightly golden-brown. This precooking will assure that the potatoes are entirely cooked.
In a skillet, melt a little bacon fat (or other oil) to brown the sausage in. Venison is a very lean red meat, and without some added fat source, it can easily become dried out. We tend to keep bacon drippings in the freezer for cooking things like venison. Not only does it assure that the meat won’t dry out, but it also gives it an extra blast of flavor. Once the venison sausage begins to brown, add in the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and kale. Lower the heat and let the vegetables get a bit wilted, but avoid over-cooking, as they will be cooked further in the quiche.
In a bowl stir together the eggs, milk, herbs, and onion greens if you have them. Add in about 3/4th of the grated cheese, beating quickly until it is well integrated with the liquid.
Once the potato crust is ready, spoon the meat and vegetable filling directly into it. Pour the eggs on top the filling, and use a fork to carefully mix everything down into the filling. Atop the eggs and and filling place the remainder of the cheese. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (maybe a little more or less). Quiche should be ready when the top has puffed up, turned a rich golden-brown, and when a butter knife, put into the quiche, comes out relatively dry. Serve hot.
All told, counting vegetable prep this whole recipe will probably only take about an hour or a little longer (depending on how well one can multitask some of it). It was plenty to feed five of us last night.
This quiche came out lovely. I told Eliza that, personally, I think this was the best quiche I’ve ever cooked. The timing was just right, and the pairing of flavors created an exceptionally well-balanced meal. Really, I’m hard pressed to think of anything I’d want to change on this one (maybe using porcini or another type of edible wild bolete, instead of button mushrooms, but this is certainly not a necessity).
While a quiche can be an adequate and filling meal on its own, because we had guests over for dinner last night we wanted to have a little something to go along with it. Recently, I’ve made a beet and carrot salad a few times that is very easy and delicious. This is beet and carrot season in South Carolina and so this quick recipe is also an easy way to use two widely available ingredients.
Lemon-Ginger Beet Salad
- 3 or 4 large beet roots, peeled and either chopped into small pieces or grated (I prefer grated, simply because I think it looks nicer)
- 2 medium to large carrots, peeled and either chopped into small pieces or grated
- 1 lemon
- Ginger root
- Salt & Pepper to flavor
- 1 or 2 tbls. olive oil (this is not a necessary ingredient, but, the oil can help cut the acidity of the beets from their oxalic acid. Another solution, is to just quickly parboil the beets, but I tend to prefer the crisp rawness)
In a bowl combine beets and carrots. Zest lemon peel and squeeze in lemon juice. Grate in a small amount of ginger (note: freeze your ginger root. This makes it really easy to grate, and also makes it keep much longer). Add in the oil, salt, and pepper and stir together. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Honestly, the most time consuming part of this beet salad is processing the beets and carrots, and, if you have a food processor with a grating blade, you can cut your time on that down to only a few seconds. All around, this salad can be made in ten minutes easily. The mix of the ginger heat, citrus sour, and beet earthiness is lovely. Paired up with the rich protein and dairy flavors of the above quiche and you’ve got a great balancing dish. Additionally, I’d recommend pairing both of these with a dark beer or a rich red wine.
As our crops in the garden start to come in this spring I’ll probably be writing some more cooking posts. Cooking is up there on my list of favorite things to do, so I hope I can share some more good foodstuffs to make with your garden harvests.