On the menu last night: a Spinach-Mushroom Quiche. You could call it a tart if you like tarts more than quiche. This is a quiche with no dairy, no eggs, and no butter. Sounds like it would lack something in the taste department, right? It was delicious. It took about 3 hours to make (one hour of which is in the oven), and I’m sort of slow in the kitchen in general…but it was really something special.
A bit about Peter Berley and his book, The Modern Vegetarian: Peter is the former chef of New York City’s Angelica Kitchen, and now teaches classes at places like The Natural Gourmet Institute, and the Institute of Culinary Education. Next time I am in New York I will try to catch one of his classes – he keeps a schedule on his website. As far as his flavor of vegetarian goes, as evident in this book – it is very east meets veg. Pantry items you might want to have on hand if you cook from this book regularly might be: mirin, miso, soy sauce, a variety of dried sea vegetables like wakame and nori, a variety of fresh produce, Asian greens, and herbs.
Whereas the base for much of what I might cook in my “everyday” California kitchen might be olive oil, champagne or white wine vinegar, fresh herbs, produce, etc — a Berley recipe might be more likely to use sesame oil, rice vinegar, and naturally brewed soy sauce – just more Asian influenced. It is a lot of fun to see how he uses ingredients like dry sea vegetables and the like – because up until this point I haven’t used ingredients like that much in my day to day cooking – many of them are very healthy with various levels of essential minerals, iron, and calcium, etc.
I’ve been cooking my way through many of the recipes in Peter’s book over the past couple of months and this quiche recipe is going in my favorites folder. He makes this quiche unique and signature by suggesting the use of light sesame oil and seeds in the crust along with a splash of rice vinegar and tofu in the filling. It all tastes great, I was snacking on the filling before I even filled the tart shell.
Sometimes it is tricky to figure out what to bring to a potluck, picnic, or brunch when you know it is going to be a mixed crown of vegetarians, vegans, and non-vegetarians – this is one of those recipes what will appeal to just about everyone.
The catch? This recipe is a time commitment. That being said, the finished quiche is hearty, flavorful, filling, and we have plenty of leftovers to eat for lunch today, and maybe even dinner tonight. I actually like the tart even more the morning after (I had a bite this am). Warm, cold – it tasted great both ways. I used a 9.5-inch tart pan and the crust was just the right thickness. It maintained its structure through slicing, plating, and I even dropped the tart about a 6-inches while removing the ring – it stayed intact. On that front it certainly passed the picnic basket test.
Tips? The main tip I have here is to really chop the spinach finely before you mix it into the rest of the filling. If you don’t chop it enough you end up with these weird strands of spinach in your quiche. Shoot for flecks of spinach and not threads of spinach. Also, give the sesame oil a shot in the crust. You can choose between olive oil and sesame oil when you are mixing the crust, and this time around I went for olive oil – I think the sesame would be delicious, and will try that the next time around.
Don’t freak out when you see the length of the recipe, just give yourself plenty of time on a weekend to give it a shot. It’s one of those recipes that really demonstrates how healthier doesn’t have to be less tasty, rich, satisfying. The fact that it is vegan really becomes a non-issue.
Peter also has a newer book out called Fresh Food Fast, which I am going to try and pick up soon.
For the crust:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/3 cup unflavored soy milk or water
1/3 cup light sesame oil or pure olive oil plus more for brushing the pan
For the filling:
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
10 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine or water
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
3 garlic cloves, slice crosswise into 1/8-inch rounds
10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Pinch hot red pepper flakes
1 pound firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 pounds fresh spinach
Paprika for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. To make the crust, spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes.
3. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk and oil. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough.
5. Lightly brush a 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan with oil. Put the dough in the tart pan. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the dough and press down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough and refrigerate while you make the filling.
6. To make the filling, in a wide saute pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and mushroom, raise the heat to high, and saute for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring and shaking the pan until the vegetables are caramelized. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook until dry. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the vegetables into a mixing bowl and set aside.
7. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, basil, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. With a rubber spatula, scrape the garlic oil into the bowl of a food processor.
8. Crumble the tofu into the bowl of the food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and puree until smooth. With a rubber spatula, scrape the puree into the mushroom-onion mixture.
9. Remove and discard the tough stems of the spinach. Wash the leaves in a large bowl with several changes of cold water. Transfer the spinach to a pot and cooke, covered, over high heat for several minutes, just until wilted. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to arrest the cooking. Drain well and squeeze dry. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and chop fine. Add the spinach to the rest of the filling and stir well to combine.
10. Fill the tart shell with the tofu and vegetable mixture and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Dust with Paprika. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes,until firm.
11.Let the tart cool for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
From: Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian, Regan Books (October 1, 2000) – reprinted with Permission