Quiche for real men?
How many times have you heard the cliche “real men don’t eat quiche” while sitting in a group at a restaurant table or even an elegant brunch or lunch at home? The comment is likely to be muttered more quietly at a private home gathering in fear offending the hosts or the cook.
To trace the origins of this male antipathy, it is necessary to go back quite a few years. Quiche originated in France and was adapted to English cooking as early as the 14th century. The early French version of an egg custard in pastry with lardons became in England a hearty pastry with custard, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
The more widespread appearance of quiche on American tables coincided with the growth of appreciation of diverse foods, as well as a search for low-calorie healthy ingredients. Hence the current popularity of broccoli quiche, asparagus quiche, zucchini quiche, etc. They are all mildly delicious in their own right, but a pale and far cry from the bold and hearty fare provided by the original type of quiche.
This was amply demonstrated recently on our week-long cruise, where a different quiche was available for breakfast each day. Unfortunately, they all looked pale and retiring and did not inspire a happy awakening of my taste buds. The chef had excellent credentials, but admitted that the delicate flavor was what the public favored in a quiche. However, those delicate flavors are likely to account for the prissy perception by “real men” of quiche.
And yet, quiche is an easy summer meal, is relatively uncomplicated to make, and is no more caloric than everyone’s favorite, pizza, and with comparable flavor. So on a recent evening we had a hearty quiche and salad for supper.
Crisp in a pan four thick slices of bacon and drain on paper towels. Pour off most of the fat and saute on low heat a thinly sliced onion until transparent. Line a 9-inch pie plate with a premade pastry crust, pressing down the sides, and crimp the overhanging edges. Spread over the crust 1 cup Gruyere cheese, the sauteed onion, ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and the crumbled bacon. In a separate bowl, beat 4 eggs with 1 cup milk and ½ cup cream, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper. Pour egg mixture over the contents of the pie. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, turn down the heat to 350 degrees, and continue to bake for an additional 10-12 minutes until a knife inserted about an inch from the side comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers. Individual slices can be reheated in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Arugula salad with feta, cranberries, and pecans
In a bowl, combine 3 cups torn leaves of arugula with ¼ cup dried cranberries, 8 pecan halves cut in half, 2 tbsp. chopped chives, and 1 oz. cubed feta cheese. Toss with lemony vinaigrette: 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, a dash of salt and pepper, and 2 tbsp. olive oil.
The adapted recipe for the following Italian type of quiche originally came from my friend Jane Button many years ago. Its name will assuage the sensibilities of any male at your table.
Line a 10-inch pie plate with a premade crust, press down the sides, and crimp the edges. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute 2 cloves chopped garlic for 1 minute with ½ tsp. marjoram, ½ tsp. oregano, and 2/3 cup pitted and sliced Nicoise olives. Stir in 8 oz. tomato puree, 4 oz. tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste. Slice a seeded green pepper into matchsticks and ½ lb. mozzarella cheese into very thin slices. In a bowl, beat 5 eggs, 1 lb. ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp. each chopped onion and parsley, 1 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese.
To assemble the pie, spread a little more than half of the ricotta cheese mixture in the pie shell, arrange over it 1/3 of the mozzarella slices, cover with half of the tomato sauce, and spread ½ of the green pepper over that. Repeat all the layers and top with the last 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes until well browned. Let stand for a half-hour before serving. Serves 6-8.
This heartier fare will please, regardless of gender, with its fresh and flavorful ingredients. All calorie concerns can always be addressed by the quintessential advice of your family doctor: it is all in the portion size!
(I. Winicov Harrington lives in Waldoboro. She is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to winicov-harrington.com.)