Look at that picture. Isn’t that quiche just gorgeous? Don’tcha just wanna cut a huge slice of that and chow down? Unfortunately, it is all smoke and mirrors. I could tell you that everything in my kitchen comes out perfect and that we eat picture perfect food every day. I have to say, if I religiously follow a recipe, we probably will eat reasonably decent food. There are the times that I am tired or spacing out while cooking and things get burned or some important ingredient gets left out (case in point, the blackberry muffins I made earlier in the summer that accidentally ended up sugar free. They looked great and were still quite edible, but something was definitely wrong, very wrong).
Anyway, today started out like any day off. I slept in late and sat around reading things on the Internet in my pajamas when I remembered that I really wanted to make quiche before the feta cheese and the milk in my fridge got too scary to use. Quiche for lunch, yum! Grandiose ideas started to swirl in my head and that is when the problems began. Visions of pesto and tomatoes and roasted red peppers were swimming in my head. Was it brilliance or was it just the fact that I have been hitting the gym way to regularly and I hadn’t eaten a thing all morning and I was starting to get loopy? I headed to the kitchen with a formula not a recipe.
I have been making quiche since the mid 80’s. “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” by Mollie Katzen has been my guide for over twenty years. Mollie created a quiche formula so that you could use any of half a dozen crust recipes she created. You pick a cheese. You pick a combination of veggies and herbs for the filling or make up your own. You decide if you want to use an 8” or 9” pie pan and use the prescribed amount of eggs and milk for the custard. It’s easy stuff that has rarely failed me before.
One of my masterpieces in the past has been a tomato/zucchini quiche with cheddar cheese. Another masterpiece was a Greek quiche made with feta, spinach, and roasted red peppers. Both of these pies come off without a hitch. I had wonderful produce from Saturday’s Farmer’s market. Heirloom tomatoes, a big gorgeous red pepper and a huge mass of basil with the roots still attached, sitting in water for ultimate freshness. I would create my ultimate quiche! A pesto, feta, tomato, roasted red pepper quiche!
I started this ordeal by roasting my red pepper. No problem. Fifteen minutes rotating the pepper under the broiler in a cast iron pan and I had a perfectly blistered pepper, which I popped into a bowl. I popped another bowl over it clamshell style so the pepper could steam. So far, so good…
Next I made the crust. The “Moosewood book of desserts” has a great recipe for all butter pie dough. I adapt the recipe to stone ground whole wheat. Today, as I inserted the flour and the pats of cold butter into my food processor, I started to add tablespoons of ice water, one, two, and three. The dough did not want to stick together. The problem is you don’t want to process too much because the dough needs to keep bits of butter in it and you don’t want to form gluten. I add water, four. Pulse. Pulse. Five. Pulse. Pulse. I take the barely sticking together dough out of the processor and…ugh. Too wet. I roll it out anyway but it is sticking to everything. That’s ok. I have made this mistake before and it actually makes a light, flaky dough if you are careful. The only problem is that it is a bitch to work with. I scrape the dough off of my floured wooden board and then plop it into the pie pan. It is ragged and torn. I patch up holes. I patch things up so that there are edges where none existed before. I somehow end up with a nice looking crust. I store it in the fridge.
Next. I make pesto. Yes. I make pesto. “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest” also contains an amazing recipe for Pesto. The basil with the roots on it looks like it is two different plants tied together with a twist tie. I think it is a purple Thai variety and sweet basil. I untie the twist tie and the most astonishing thing happens. The thing looks like it is all one plant. It is definitely coming off of the same rootstock. How did they do that?? I grind the bi-colored basil together with a most amazing Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and salt and come up with the best pesto I have made to date. I still have several stems of basil left even after using it in sandwiches a couple of days ago. The $2.50 a bunch I was scoffing at on Saturday turned out to be a bargain. Things have turned around. This quiche will be amazing!
I grab my crust and spoon a thin layer of pesto into the crust. I grab my feta. I think this is where things started to go terribly wrong…
I buy feta from Costco. They have Valbreso feta, which is a high quality French feta. Like all Costco food, they sell it in mass quantities. I used to wrap the overflow in wax paper and store it in the fridge. The feta would dry out (which was good for some recipes) but it would also go bad in less than a week. Recently, I learned how to make brine for Feta. Now my feta lasts s couple of weeks in brine. The problem is that my feta is quite moist. I dumped a bunch of moist feta on top of my oily wet pesto.
When I have used tomatoes in quiche before, I would sauté them several minutes in pan with herbs. This tends to make them release their liquid. Today, I just sliced the tomatoes and gave them a quick squeeze over the sink, which I thought squeezed out a lot of seeds and liquid. I added more dollops of pesto and a little Parmesan on the tomatoes. I then peeled my pepper, tearing it into moist strips that I topped my moist tomatoes with. I think everything looks wonderful so I mix up my eggs and milk. Dust the top of my creation with Hungarian paprika and pop it into a 375-degree F. oven.
The quiche is to cook for 35 to 40 minutes. I go to get it at 35 minutes. Things are still wet. Okay. No big deal. This has happened before; it just needs a few more minutes. I go back to check at 40 minutes. The quiche still has the jiggles. I give it 5 more minutes. Looks great. I take it out and let it cool a few minutes before we cut into it. My boyfriend cuts into it and this perfect looking quiche that feels solid on the surface conceals a subterranean lake. Oh no! Lunch will be delayed. I pop it back into the oven for 10 more minutes before I decide it’s had enough! I’ve had enough! My boyfriend has had enough! We pull the quiche out of the oven and cut pieces from it. They fall apart in a pool of soft runny custard. The quiche tastes good; it just has a terrible, terrible consistency. So dear reader: no recipe for you. Not yet anyway. The quiche was perfect from the crust to the pesto. It was jut the cheese layer on up that sucked. I am sure it was a moisture thing so I will trade out the cheese, precook the tomato and maybe drain the roasted pepper after I shred it. I will not be defeated! The fantasy quiche will become a reality!!