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Green Thumb Sunday: Mountain raspberries

Mountain raspberries

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

There’s a first time for everything, even quiche

There are lots of things I’ve never cooked, and in my head, I divide them into two categories:

  1. This Food Sounds Hard and/or Tedious: This includes soup dumplings (any dumplings, really), latkes, and from-scratch puff pastry.
  2. Everyone Says This Is So Easy But I Have Some Weird Mental Block So I Don’t Try It: This includes carbonara, homemade biscuits, and molten chocolate cake.

Until this past weekend, quiche was in the second category.

I love quiche. Who doesn’t love buttery pastry filled with puffy, cheesy, custardy goodness? If you are one of those people, I probably shouldn’t be your friend. (Exceptions will be made for my lactose-intolerant, egg-intolerant, or vegan friends. You can stay, though I will always feel a little sad that you can’t have quiche.)

But for some reason, the idea of actually making a quiche myself never seemed appealing. I make plenty of frittatas and other custardy dishes, so it’s not like a puffy casserole scares me, and I have no trouble making a perfectly tasty tart dough, so that’s not a problem, either. But in the past, I would have rather just waited for someone else to cook one for me.

Last week, though, I was having a powerful quiche craving while making up our menu plan for the week, and since The Pickle’s daycare expenses have eaten away (see what I did there?) almost all our discretionary dining out budget, the only way to solve this problem was to suck it up and make a quiche myself.

I turned to Nick Malgieri’s How To Bake for guidance—that book has been my baking Bible since it came out in 1995—and whipped up an easy, buttery tart dough in the food processor on Thursday night, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and stashed it in the fridge. I thought I might make the quiche for Friday night dinner, but I was exhausted from the week, so held the dough another day before rolling it out.

Quiche crust, unbaked

Saturday morning, as soon as The Pickle went down for his morning nap, I got to work. I rolled out the dough, smoothed it into my pie pan, and pre-baked it for about seven minutes so it had a head start on the custard. (Malgieri doesn’t call for this, but I’d seen other recipes that did, and it seemed like a good idea.)

For the filling, I sautéed some spinach in bacon grease (all the flavor, but none of the expense of making actual bacon), grated a hunk of Gruyere, and beat together a custard of milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.

Quiche ingredients

Into the blind-baked crust went the spinach and the cheese, then I poured the custard over it all and popped it in the oven just as The Pickle woke up 32 minutes later.

The quiche spent 40 minutes in the oven, which gave me plenty of time to feed The Pickle while it baked. The boy seemed particularly distracted, perhaps because there was a redonkerous buttery, cheesy smell wafting up to his room from the kitchen. Soon, little buddy, you, too, will be allowed to eat quiche.

Baked quiche

The quiche emerged from the oven browned and golden, then rested while The Unicorn and I dealt with a minor Pickle emergency post-feeding (we won’t go into what happened…we are talking about food, after all…but suffice it to say it required an unplanned trip to the bathtub), and then we headed to the kitchen for brunch.

Untitled

The verdict? The spinach introduced a little more moisture than I might have liked, but otherwise, the quiche was everything I’d hoped for. The crust was crispy and buttery, the filling cheesy and creamy. And there were leftovers for us to snack on later in the weekend. It was dead simple, and I will not wait 41 more years to make another one.

Looking for quiche ideas? Here are a few I found while trying to decide what recipe to use:

Green Thumb Sunday: Grainy narcissus

Grainy narcissus

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Green Thumb Sunday: Rose explosion

Rose explosion

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Green Thumb Sunday: Pink into white

Pink into white

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Green Thumb Sunday: Bonsai and lights

Tree and lights

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

The adventure of the hipster narcissus

Before Christmas, The Unicorn came home with a narcissus bulb in a lovely pottery dish.

“You know that hipster coffee shop over near the barber?” he asked. “They had a pop-up flower stand there today. The woman said this bulb will flower by Christmas.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “Did you say…pop-up flower stand?”

What can I say? Oakland knows how to bring the hipster thunder. Only they probably don’t call it thunder. They probably call it reverberation+air.

We set the pottery container in our living room, and both of us swore to keep it watered. But, as it turns out, the only living thing we are really good at nurturing right now is The Pickle.

“Does the narcissus need water?” The Unicorn asked me one day.

“I’ve been meaning to give it water for days,” I replied. Of course, I would only have time to really look at the bulb while I was sitting there nursing The Pickle, which is a totally inconvenient time to remember that something across the room needed some non-milk liquid, and then, by the time The Pickle was burped and ready to move on to something new, I’d completely forgotten about the poor bulb.

“I get it,” said The Unicorn, who was experiencing the same issue while sitting in the same chair when he gave The Pickle the occasional bottle.

Suffice it to say, the bulb’s existing sprouts were only slightly more pronounced by the time we hit Christmas, though the roots had started to push out of the rocks holding them in the little pottery container. The flower was nowhere to be seen.

“Does it need to be repotted?” asked The Unicorn.

“Probably,” I replied, but again, with a new-ish baby and 27 loads of laundry to do every week, repotting the hipster narcissus was very low on my list.

Luckily, The Pickle’s aunt came to our rescue. The Unicorn asked her to repot it while she was visiting, and she gamely looked up directions on Pinterest and set about moving it to a jar that would give the roots a little more space to roam. As soon as the roots had more room to spread out (and, to be fair, as soon as we got a little better about watering it), the plant took off.

Tangled roots

Blossoms

The Pickle showed vague curiousity about the bulb’s shoots, probably more because they made an interesting upward pattern than any nascent interest in gardening.

Interested

The Unicorn noted that the shoots bore a resemblance to the aging onion we were inadvertently cultivating in the kitchen.

Relatives

And finally, the flower bloomed. Of course, without a stake, we now have a narcisssus that’s growing sideways instead of straight up, but it’s beautiful, regardless, all tangled roots and spring-green leaves, with its brown-tunicked bulb and a tight umbrel of white blossoms.

Narcissus

Green Thumb Sunday: Delicate blossoms, American Samoa

Delicate blossoms

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Green Thumb Sunday: Green on green

Green on green

Gardeners, plant and nature lovers can join in Green Thumb Sunday every week. Visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

The Pickle’s less-than-Pink Lady applesauce

The Pickle is currently eating quite locally—he’s still a card-carrying Boob Vampire, with no other food in sight. But we’re just a couple of months from beginning to introduce him, one item at a time, to the world of solids.

 

He will be my tiny food minion. I will give him delicious things to eat and he will … well, he will probably spit them at me and throw them, but still, I am determined that the experimentation involved in teaching a tiny human how to eat will be extremely fun.

 

I’m envisioning starting with avocado. It’s delicious, it’s full of good fats and other nutrients that will help The Pickle grow and develop, and it’s fun to smoosh around. Plus, we can get great local avocados at our farmers market, so it even meets my eat-local sensibilities.

 

Before Christmas, I picked up a mess of apples from that same farmers market. I had stopped at one of the fruit stands to pick up Granny Smith apples for the pie my mother-in-law planned to make, and Pink Lady apples for me to bake for breakfast one day (Honestly, if I’d known I’d be using these apples in the way I ended up using them, I would have made a point to remember the name of the farm, but at the time, I was rushing to finish the holiday food shopping, and I didn’t take note of it, and, well, there it is).

The vendors at the fruit stand pointed me toward a crate of “ugly” Pink Ladies. “They’re absolutely delicious and great for baking,” one of them said. “But they didn’t get as pink as they need to for us to be able to sell them at full price.”

I overbought, as it turns out, because its the farmers market, and I always overbuy, and then we ended up not needing to make baked apples, so by the end of the visit, I was sitting on a fairly large bowl of less-than-Pink Ladies and some straggler Granny Smiths on my kitchen counter.

 

My sister-in-law volunteered to make her famous apple barbeque sauce, but even that would have only put a dent in the pile. “What if we make applesauce for The Pickle?” she asked.

 

And so, on one of those brilliant, temperate Northern California winter afternoons, she sat outside and peeled and chopped all the apples, then simmered a mess of them down into apple sauce. Later that night, following the trusted lead of Smitten Kitchen, I pureed the sauce in the food processor and carefully portioned it out into an unused ice cube tray for freezing.

Applesauce, pureed

The result is a bag of lovely cubes of applesauce, gently spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and nutmeg and ginger, because I want The Pickle to get to know different flavors as he learns about food. I don’t know exactly when we’ll let him try them, but for now they’re tucked in the freezer, awaiting the day when he’s ready. I love that I’ll be able to tell him the first food we made for him was a team effort, made from apples grown nearby and purchased just down the street.

 

Frozen applesauce cubes