If you live in the United States and you have been following the news, then you already know that Seattle got snowed in and iced over this week, all in one fell swoop with no breather in between. Our world turned one solid color (or at least a continuum of white, black and grey) and it was all I could do not to check my camera over and over to make sure I hadn't inadvertently changed the settings...
At first it was new and lovely and we marveled at the transformations it brought to the landscape : odd shapes suddenly appearing where there were just bushes before; cats' pawprints quilting together otherwise untrodden lawns; stately evergreens slumping against the windless sky. But I soon found I wanted color back and I wanted it soon and since the forecast didn't look encouraging, it had to be in our plates. No way we could hazard down the hill to the grocery store however, so making do with what we already had was a must. I looked in the crisper drawer: the beets we had bought last week at Ballard Farmers' Market woke up and winked at me. I looked in the pantry: flour, poppy seeds and olive oil? Check! I looked in the refrigerator again. Eggs? Check! Cream? None! Milk? Check! Cheese? Fresh goat cheese only. Perfect! Beets and goat cheese are a match made in heaven... I decided to make a quiche.
First I steamed the beets. I considered roasting them but I wanted them to keep their firm cheeks and vibrant colors. There is a wonderful dignity to just-steamed-enough vegetables, don't you think? Serene emissaries of the vegetal world, they carry the unadulterated tastes of the soil, the wind, the sun and the rain, combined and summed up in unique flavors. A gift too precious to be roasted away on a day when they have been cast as the stars of the show (don't get me wrong, I love roasted beets as much as the next person, only not for this particular quiche...)
While the beets were steaming (thoroughly scrubbed but uncut and unpeeled), I mixed the dough for the crust (adapting a French recipe by Laurence Salomon which can be found here), rolled it out and baked it blind. Then I let beets and crust find their cool.
I had steamed three different kinds of beets (dark red, yellow and pink) and all were the same dull brown when they were done. But under their drab coats, their flesh was as exuberant as ever. The crust got a coat of mustard paint and a powdering of ground hazelnuts. Then the sliced beets amiably arranged themselves in nestled circles.
If there had been a way of making a quiche without a filling, I would have done it (just so the beets would continue to shine). But there wasn't. Or rather if there was, I couldn't find it. So I poured the egg, milk and cheese mixture over the beet petals and hoped the oven would do its magic.
Which it did. Pretty much.
For the crust (crust recipe adapted from Laurence Salomon)
- 150 g white whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose flour can be used instead and will likely require less water)
- 10 g poppy seeds
- 50 g old-fashioned oat flakes
- 33 g extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 pinches of salt
- 50 to 70 g of ice water (depending on the flour, you may need to use more or less, so go easy on the pouring)
- Assorted beets (I forgot to weigh them but you won't go wrong if you buy and steam four or five big ones. Leftover beets are delicious in soups or salads), scrubbed but unpeeled with roots and top stems (not leaves) uncut
- 150 g fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 50 g ground hazelnuts (optional)
- 52 g whole milk
- 3 eggs
- French Dijon mustard (you don't have to use fancy - I used Trader Joe's - but you need to make sure it contains no sugar as its role is to counterbalance the sweetness of the beets)
- Hot pepper sauce to taste but preferably sparingly (I used Sriracha)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Nutmeg to taste, freshly grated
- Steam the beets and let them cool down. Then peel and slice them
- Assemble the crust: pour flour, poppy seeds, oat flakes, salt and olive oil in the food processor with metal blade attached, pulse for 10 seconds (until oat flakes turn into coarse flour) and with the motor running, slowly pour in the water (just enough for the dough to form into a ball). Stop the moment it does. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes (I put it in the refrigerator but I am not sure it was actually necessary as it may have made it harder to roll out)
- After 30 minutes, roll out the dough and place it in 11-inch ungreased tart pan. Place a piece of foil in the pan and fill it with pie weights (you don't need to prick the dough). Bake in preheated 350°F/177°C oven for 15 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack
- While beets and crust are cooling, whip the goat cheese with the milk and the eggs, adding salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste
- When crust is cool, paint bottom with Dijon mustard and sprinkle ground hazelnuts on top if desired (the hazelnuts are optional: they soak up some of the liquid, preventing the dough from getting soggy and they add a layer of taste which I like very much but it mostly came through when we ate the quiche cold the day after. Their presence was barely perceptible when the quiche was warm and freshly baked)
- Arrange the sliced beets in the crust and pour filling over them. Grate nutmeg over the quiche and bake in pre-heated 350°F/177°C oven for 30 minutes. Check doneness (the filling must be set) and if necessary, bake another 5 minutes until gently golden all over.
- Let cool somewhat before unmolding.
- Eat hot, warm or cold.
The beet quiche keeps beautifully in the fridge and tastes even better the day after. It also makes a comforting lunch to take to work if you can make it through the snow...