Many years ago, I made my first risotto. It was a delicious leek, cream, and parmesan risotto. The recipe called for “leeks, thinly sliced, white and pale green portions only.” I dutifully hacked off the dark green leek tops and set them to the side, on top of papery onion skins and garlic peels. My dad walked into the kitchen and saw the leek tops and asked what I was planning on using them for. I informed him that they weren’t meant to be eaten and was planning on throwing them out. He balked at this and insisted on saving them. Being a teenager at the time, I’m assuming I rolled my eyes and kept cooking the risotto. Later that week, my dad made some aadhan na chora –adzuki beans with green onion–using the dark green leek tops and green onion. It was delicious. The fibrous leek tops added bulk and a melting sweetness to the dish. Re-purposing parts of vegetables that would normally get thrown away is something that my parents excel at. My mom saves cilantro stems and turns them into a puree for chutney or a delicious cilantro sauce that will definitely be a future blog entry. They save ginger skins and dry them out to add to chai for an extra ginger punch. I’m not nearly as good at this, but am slowly working at getting better. This recipe utilizes the leftover beet greens from my last post, and I must say that these “discarded” tops ended up being something very delicious.
Before we get to the details of how to make this quiche, let’s briefly talk about pie crust. I’ve talked about pie crust before and really thought that I had found the pie crust recipe for me. It was flakier than most other crusts and was pretty easy to make. But, something always felt a bit lacking. I love a flaky pie crust, but I haven’t had a pie crust that was really every flaky enough for me! In my head, the perfect pie crust is almost shattering flaky, like a delicious pastry, and redolent with the delicious flavor of butter. I’ve tried several different pie crust recipes and none of them had the flaky crisp crust that I was after. As I was brainstorming what I could do to get the pie crust of my dreams, I realized that if I wanted my pie crust to taste like a flaky pastry, why not use a technique that’s often used to make pastry dough quickly? I recalled an article that I read a few years ago on “blitz puff pastry” and thought that I could apply some of the same principles to pie crust. That’s what I’ve done here, and I think I’ve finally achieved my holy grail of pie crust: lots of buttery flavor, shatteringly crisp and flaky crust, with a tenderness to the crumb.
Basically, you take large chunks of butter that’s been semi frozen, and cut them into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or your fingers. The key is to leave behind big pieces of butter, so that when you roll out the crust, these pieces become flat and thin and create the striation necessary for lots of flaky layers. Then, add some ice cold water mixed with vinegar to the butter and flour blend and stir it up. The vinegar makes the hydrating element of the flour more acidic which helps to diminish gluten development. The gluten can lead to a tough pastry. Dump everything out on a counter and roll into a rough rectangular shape. Then fold it on top of itself, roll again, and pull everything together in a rough ball. You should see big streaks of butter. That’s how you know that it’ll be flaky. Everything is wrapped up tightly in plastic wrap and chilled for a few hour. You can see the difference in the photo above and the photo below after the dough was pulled out of the fridge. Then roll out the dough as you normally would for pie crust. When you roll out the dough, you can start to see the layers form. If you don’t flour your rolling pin well enough, the thin layers will start to stick to the rolling pin–that’s how flaky it is! Because I used this crust for a quiche, I didn’t add any sugar and I parbaked the crust. For a sweet pie, feel free to add sugar. Parbaking allows the crust to not get too soggy once liquid fillings are added in. It’s perfect for custard based pies and quiches, like this one!
The quiche filling is very easy to make. It was inspired by a chard and parmesan tart that a friend of mine had made for me in medical school. It’s not too rich and the flavor of the parmesan really shines through and complements the greens beautiful. Simply sautee some onion, garlic, and your beet green tops. The onions and garlic get dyed a beautiful pink by the beet greens. It’s really lovely. After the greens have wilted, place them into a par baked shell. Cover with a generous amount of parmesan. For the quiche base, I riffed off a few different quiche base recipes, but ultimately settled on milk, yogurt, a splash of cream, and eggs. It has a little bit of nutmeg that complements the slight bitterness of the greens and the nuttiness of the parmesan beautifully. You bake it in the oven until the top is golden brown and the quiche has the slightest wiggle in the middle. Let it cool a bit, and then slice and serve. Feel free to use any other dark, leafy green instead of the beet tops. I’ve done variations of this tart before and it works beautifully with kale or chard. This dish works equally well as a delicious brunch, lunch, or dinner. It pairs beautifully with an arugula salad. It keeps well in the fridge for a handful of days and reheats beautifully. I hope you enjoy your discarded beet tops as much as I have!
Beet Green and Parmesan Quiche
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: 1 9 inch quiche||Total:|
Use the flavorful and edible beet greens to make a rich quiche with onion, garlic, and plenty of parmesan in the flakiest pie crust ever!
- For the pie crust:
- 175 g All-Purpose Flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 1 stick of butter, cut into large pieces (1"x0.5"x0.5") and placed in the freezer for 20 minutes
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp ice cold water
- 1 Tbsp vinegar
- For the filling:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 cups beet greens, chopped into ribbons (see note)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 oz parmesan, shredded
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup full fat yogurt
- 2 pinches nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Make the pie crust:
- Mix together the water and vinegar and place in the freezer to keep cold until ready to use. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Toss in the butter pieces. Using a pastry blender, or your fingers, break the butter down into slightly smaller chunks. There should be a mix of sizes, ranging from about 1/4" to 3/4". Don't break the butter down too much, the big chunks are key for maximum flakiness.
- Add 3 Tbsp of the ice water-vinegar mix and stir together. Grab a handful of the dough, and give it a gentle squeeze. If it holds together just a little bit, it's good to go. If the dough is still pretty dry and crumbles quickly, add the last tablespoon of ice water-vinegar.
- Dump the dough out onto a clean counter. Using a heavy rolling pin, roll into a rough, thick rectangle. The dough will look like a shaggy mess. That's totally normal. Using a bench scraper or a spatula, fold the dough on top of itself in thirds, like you would to a letter going into an envelope. It won't fold neatly, just do the best you can. Roll out again into a rough rectangle. Again, the dough will be pretty shaggy, and that's okay.
- Fold the dough on top of itself to resemble a rough circle/sphere. Gather into a ball and squeeze together until it holds it shapes. Do not knead the dough! Just give it some squeezes until it all sticks together. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Once the two hours have passed, place the cold dough ball onto a lightly floured countertop. Pound the dough a few times with a heavy rolling pin to flatten it out. Roll into a large, flat rough circle, about 14-15 inches in diameter. Be sure to rotate frequently so that it doesn't stick too much. Using a lid/pot/plate that's about 14" in diameter, trim the rolled out pie crust into a neat circle. Carefully transfer the crust into a pie plate. Fold the edges under and finish the edges in whatever style you choose. The easiest is to use a fork to lay down a little crimp. Place the crust in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- While the crust is cooling, heat the oven to 375F. When 30 minutes have passed, pull the pie out of the fridge and fill with weights. I use beans and a strand of pie weights. For easier clean up, you can place the beans in parchment paper. Place the pie crust in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes rotating by 180 degrees once 10 minutes have passed. Allow to cool, and remove the weight when they are cool enough to handle. Make the filling while the pie crust is baking and cooling.
- Make the filling:
- Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a deep skillet until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions, lower the heat slightly and cook until the onions are translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and cook until softened, but not brown. Add the beet greens and toss well. Cook until they are wilted. Add a few pinches of salt and grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Do not be very heavy handed on the salt as the parmesan will add some saltiness as well. Set aside.
- In a large bowl mix together the eggs, cream, milk, and yogurt until smooth. Add in the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and some pepper.
- Layer the beet green mixture relatively evenly into the parbaked pie shell. Sprinkle the parmesan in an even layer on top. Pour the egg mixture on top and pat down on the greens and parmesan so that they are fully submerged.
- Lower the heat to 350, and place the quiche in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating by 180 degrees half way through. Bake until the crust and top of the quiche are golden and there is a slight wobble in the center of the quiche. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 20 minutes, and serve.
Feel free to use another leafy green such as chard or kale.
This crust recipe works well for sweet pies, just add in 2 tsps of sugar to the dry ingredients before adding in the butter.