Leek, Lemon & Feta Quiche

by ACP on January 22, 2010

Plated Leek, Lemon & Feta Quiche

LIFE GOES ON, and I write about food. It feels a little strange, after the outpouring of charity on the Helping Haiti post (and with haunting images of earthquake rubble still in my mind), to return to a celebratory meal, and yet . . . It’s also true that the best thing to do—once you’ve paused to acknowledge tragedy and to help in whatever way you’re able—is sometimes simply to carry on with your life. To separate yourself from the rawness of someone else’s (or even a nation’s) devastation, because this is what it means to live in the world: there is always joy somewhere, in the same moment as there are tears. There is always something being created, while something else is brought down. What good am I at performing the immediate tasks required of me (caring for my son, feeding my family) if I let myself go catatonic in response to all the bad news out there?

So I return to the food. To my father’s birthday lunch, which seems like it happened a long time ago now, despite the fact that it was just last week. As you know if you read my cornbread post, the meal planning started there. I’m not sure what exactly compelled me to move on to quiche, eventually creating this recipe, but I’m glad that I did. I think it was some lovely leeks I found at the Union Square Greenmarket. They were winking at me in the winter sunlight.

Greenmarket Leeks

Now usually, I do not make quiche; it’s my husband’s domain. He is French, après tout, and he has his mother’s recipe, and he’s been making darn good quiches for years. A bit traditional—you know, ham and cheese, Lorraine-style—but so good that he would get regular requests for them from the staff at my son’s preschool. For years, my husband fed them all quiche. His quiches have accompanied us on countless picnics and camping trips, too. I remember eating miniature ones in the sunshine on the peak of Slide Mountain in the Catskills, one weekend before my son was born and right after 9/11. They were the ultimate comfort food then.

Anyway, I had the leeks. I had some feta in the fridge, too, because—well, because I always have feta in the fridge. Leeks, cheese . . . and I remembered that one of the first cookbooks my parents ever gave me was a collection of classic French country home cooking recipes. I had the book in college, and it was that book that introduced me to leeks via a “Flamiche” or “Tarte aux poireaux” recipe (yes, I know this is Belgian in origin, but it was in the book). Until that recipe, I had no idea leeks even existed. I got to thinking about that tart and about leeks and about how maybe I could make inroads to my husband’s territory, carve out a little space for myself in there, too. After all, how far removed is quiche from a pita—that excellent phyllo-wrapped “pie” that Greeks know how to make so well, adapting it according to whatever ingredients are available. I took the base from my mother-in-law’s recipe and let it rip.

What resulted is pretty delicious, if I may say so, and it truly feels like mine: a mish-mash of ethnicities that come together, somehow, into something new and worthy. For my father’s birthday meal, I made individual quiches instead of one large one, and I served it with a salad of wild arugula on the side. I’m happy to say that the guest of honor enjoyed every bite. I hope you will, too.

Postscript: The ultimate triumph came when I made the recipe again as a bon voyage meal, the day my husband was set to leave on a business trip to France. Although he does not usually like messing with tradition, he had a generous second helping of this quiche and pronounced it “bonne.” From a Frenchman, what more do you need?

 

Leek, Lemon & Feta Quiche

Leek, Lemon & Feta Quiche . . . with Ouzo

 

While a leek quiche seems indisputably French, this recipe brings a Hellenic “Opa!” to your table with the addition of lemon, feta, and a hint of ouzo, the classic Greek aperitif. The ouzo is optional, but highly recommended. In a small dose, it brings a subtle sweet anise flavor that balances the sharp saltiness of the feta. With a fresh grating of lemon zest to brighten everything up, this quiche becomes light and cheerful, not at all heavy as some quiches can be. It’s perfect for a casual celebration meal, a Sunday brunch, or lunch to go. If you’re cooking just for one, make individual-size quiches and freeze some for later; you’ll be glad to have them on hand.

Yield: 1 large quiche, or 4 individual-size quiches

Ingredients:

1 sheet frozen puff pastry

1 pound leeks

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup half-and-half

3 eggs

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ouzo (optional)

2-1/2 ounces feta cheese, cut into 4 (approx 1/2-inch) slices

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.

Prepare the leeks. Rise off any visible dirt and slice the roots from the end. Remove the dark green tops, leaving a couple inches of light green with the white portion of the leeks. (The dark trimmings can be reserved for another use, adding them to a vegetable or chicken stock, for example.) Halve the leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise in 1/2-inch slices. Dump the slices in a colander or salad spinner and rinse thoroughly; if you don’t, you risk having a gritty, sandy quiche, as leeks often hide dirt deep in their layers. Let the leeks drain well, or spin dry.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the leeks and cook until they are wilted; don’t cook them so much that they give off liquid. Turn off the heat and let sit.

In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, using a whisk or fork, beat together the half-and-half, eggs, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Add the ouzo, if using.

Prepare the pastry crusts. On a lightly floured surface, or between two layers of plastic wrap or parchment paper, roll out the thawed puff pastry to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Line a shallow pie plate or cut the pastry into four circles to fill individual baking dishes. Press the pastry up the sides to make a nice edge.

Fill the quiches. Distribute the leeks evenly across the bottom of the dish(es). Pour the milk mixture over the leeks. Top the quiche(s) with the slices of feta. (If you have feta that crumbles apart, don’t worry, just sprinkle it on top.)

Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on size of the quiche(s). The center should be solid and the crust and top nicely browned. Let the quiche cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. The quiches taste great hot, room temperature, even cold.

Enjoy with:

A simple green salad and a glass of chilled assyrtiko from award-winning Domaine Sigalas in Santorini, Greece.

Variation:

Omnivores may want to dice 1 package of Canadian bacon (about 8 slices) and add it to the quiche at the same time as the sauteed leeks. I’ve tried it this way, too, and it’s just as nice.

 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul January 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm

This looks divine! I’ve come to the conclusion that most things taste better with ouzo…thanks for sharing!

Reply

ACP January 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion. Thanks for commenting. Stin yia sas!

Reply

Ed January 22, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Great stuff here! Beautiful photos!

Reply

ACP January 22, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Thanks, Ed. So glad you like the food/photos. Means a lot.

Reply

Magali January 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

As a consumer of the quiche at the IPS Bake Sale, let me be the first to say we will be having this again on February 10th! How about a donation to Q’s alma mater?

Keep the blog and photos coming. Its a treat for the eye and stomach.

Reply

ACP January 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Donation for a good cause? You got it! ;-)
Thanks for stopping by, Magali. I’m glad you like the blog.

Reply

thenakedbeet January 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Love it! I may never buy frozen or bother with my own crust again. Do they need less time in smaller/deeper portions, like ramekins? And I bet these freeze well too for making ahead.

Reply

ACP January 22, 2010 at 11:09 pm

It’s funny, this is one recipe where I’ve never been tempted to make my own crust. I love it with puff pastry, and honestly, that’s just not something I usually have time to make from scratch. Even if I did, it probably wouldn’t beat out Pepperidge Farm in a taste test. As for baking time: actually, the lesser time indicated in the recipe (30 minutes) worked well in my oven for the mini quiches. The larger quiche took 40 minutes, maybe a little more. Just keep an eye on the browning. Finally, yes, absolutely: make ahead and freeze. I like to always have a few stored up in the freezer for my no-bake/no-cook days. These taste just as good reheated.

Reply

Kim - Easy French Food January 23, 2010 at 2:20 am

Hey what a great combination. I love the idea of adding lemon zest – seems quite original to me. I make quiches a lot and always use store bought puff pastry for the crust. I’l be giving your flavor combination a try. Thanks.

Reply

ACP January 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm

So glad you like the sound of the flavor combo; I think the lemon really adds something special. If you try it, let me know what you think. Meanwhile, I checked out some of your quiche recipes. I love the theme of your blog, since so many people think that “easy” and “French” form a contradiction in terms—but it doesn’t have to be that way. My mother-in-law never puts crème fraîche in her quiches, but that sounds nice and rich, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post. Bon appétit!

Reply

maria v January 23, 2010 at 2:36 am

i love making individual pies for my family – although i dont make quiche, leek often finds its way into our pies and soups

Reply

ACP January 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Maria, I’d kill to have one of your pies with leeks!

Reply

Lauren January 24, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Hello! Allison, if you wanted to send me a recipe for the ebook I’m creating for Haiti, you may still do so (just do it quickly please!). Thank you so much!

Reply

Susi February 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Allison — I made this over the weekend and it is divine! I think I may never make a quiche again without using puff pastry — it makes it so special. Thanks for sharing!

Reply

ACP February 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I’m so glad you made this, Susi, and that you liked the results. I know that I myself have been completely converted to the puff pastry quiche crust. I’ll never use anything else. Thank you for the feedback.

Reply

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post: How a Baker Says Thank You

Next post: Gluten-Free Grahams