The Hand Off: Carrot and Basil Quiche
by Sarah A. Maine
As I wrote in my Tuesday post, my quest for greens led me to Shushan Valley Hydro-Farm’s basil oasis at the Union Square Greenmarket. My modest stalk of hydroponic basil was a far cry from the voluminous greens Brianna used in her Warm Gingery Greens with Quinoa, but it packed its own kind of punch – brightening up my kitchen with its vivid green leaves and filling the air with its delicate summery scent. Exactly what I needed during what has been one of the snowiest winters in recent history in New York City.
I also scored a bag of multicolored carrots – everyday orange, soothing yellow and surprising purple. Reading up on carrots on Wikipedia I found out that orange carrots are actually relative new comers to the food scene, introduced in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Wild, and then domesticated carrots have been enjoyed by people since at least the 1st century CE. I’d never eaten any type other than the usual orange variety so I was excited to enhance my carrot comprehension. There was even more to these carrots than I thought there would be – the purple carrots had split personalities, revealing orange or yellow flesh once they were peeled!
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The carrots were large and stout, with a woody texture, so I knew they would be well suited to being incorporated into a cooked dish. My plan to grate them, pair them with basil and cook them in a quiche seemed like a perfect fit.
For as long as I can remember, quiche has been one of my favorite foods. It has many desirable qualities:
- It sounds fancy but it’s actually pretty easy to make – just whip up the custard base, add some exciting extras and throw it in the oven.
- You can make it in advance and either refrigerate it or even freeze it for later consumption – making it a great meal solution for a busy week.
- One pie can be lunch for several days in a row.
- You can eat it cold, warm, or hot.
- When no one is around you can eat it with your fingers.
And this list is just the beginning! Although traditional quiche recipes are pretty dairy intensive, quiche can also be vegan – just substitute vegetable oil and tofu in place of the milk and eggs. I have not worked out what the proportions would be for this recipe – please let me know if you have any insight into making a vegan variation. The bottom line is – infinite variability, the best kind of Relay recipe – a good framework that can work any place, in any season!
Carrot and Basil Quiche
Prep time: Pie crust- 30 minutes, Filling- 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 Tbs ice water
- 6 eggs
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 cups cream buttermilk
- 1 medium onion
- 4 cups grated carrots
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
I cannot pretend to be an expert pie crust maker, I am firmly in the novice category in that department. Following that logic I cannot presume to give anyone else instructions (except not to lose heart!) for making pie crust. If you want to make your own crust and are in need of guidance I point you to the New York Times Dining Section’s Melissa Clark’s video The Basics of Perfect Pie Crust. The proportions above are from Mark Bittman’s savory pie crust recipe (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, pg. 867).
- Chop the onion and grate the carrots, set aside.
- Heat a large skillet and add 2 Tbs butter.
- When the butter is just melted, add the onions and sauté them for 3-5 minutes until they are clear and tender, turn off the heat.
- Add the grated carrots to the onions in the skillet. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Mix the eggs, buttermilk and ricotta cheese in a large bowl – this is your custard base.
- Slice the basil leaves into thin strips (the fancy word for it is chiffonade) and mix it into the custard base.
- Add the carrot and onion mixture to the custard base and mix well.
- Pour the custard mixture into the pie crust.
- Bake at 325º F for 30 – 40 minutes. The filling should be almost firm and slightly browned on top.
- Remove the quiche from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack.
- Serve warm or at room temperature – either way is delicious with a side of greens!
For this recipe I experimented by using buttermilk instead of the milk or heavy cream that is usually called for in quiche recipes. It’s a trick I learned from my mother, and although I can’t say with authority that it is a foolproof substitution across all recipes, in this case it worked fine. I knew that the ricotta would help bring in some extra creaminess in case the buttermilk wasn’t pulling its weight. The ricotta cheese also gave the filling an extra stoutness as well as a very delicate cheese flavor (some quiches made with cheddar or Swiss can be heavy and oily with all other tastes drowned out by the cheese). The carrots and basil were a sweet but gentle counterpoint to the cheese. If you prefer stronger flavors you can experiment with other cheeses as well as spices, such as a 1/4 tsp nutmeg or cayenne. I would love to hear about your favorite things to bake into a quiche, leave a comment below!