A good friend recently gave me a gift from her late season garden. Her gift included a big bag of Tuscan Kale. I love Tuscan Kale. It is a relatively recent introduction to American palates and is slowly but surely becoming widely available—Whole Foods and The Community Mercantile regularly carry it. Unfortunately many national and regional grocery chains still do not. For some reason, no one at my farmers' market is growing it yet. No wonder this gift of the just harvested giant leaves was truly a treat.
As I considered what to make with my kale, I thought about a recipe that I posted last October for Butternut Squash, Kale & White Bean Soup. In recent weeks this post has surged in popularity. I must not be the only one who loves the combination of Kale and Winter Squash.
Since I happened to have a round of pastry dough on hand (left over from a class), I thought I would try this happy combination of bitter and sweet in a quiche. Kale is always good in a quiche—its slightly pungent quality goes well with the creamy custard—but this quiche surprised me. The addition of the sweet squash and caramelized onions along with the tangy goat cheese made for an exceptionally delicious...not to mention beautiful...tart.
If you have never prepared Tuscan Kale, you should know that the method I used in this recipe is fairly typical. It is first blanched, then squeezed dry and then warmed in a bit of olive oil. More often than not the olive oil is augmented with something flavorful and aromatic...garlic, hot pepper flakes, anchovy, lemon zest, etc. Tuscan Kale is a substantial green—even when subjected to a lengthy cooking process, it maintains its presence. Cooking it in boiling water before sautéing will help to reduce it to tenderness more quickly.
You could of course simply use the cooked kale without warming it in the oil, but it is greatly enhanced by this process. For my quiche, I added it to a pan of lightly caramelized onions. Taking the time to heat the kale until it sizzles in the oil infuses it with the sweet flavor of the caramelized onions. The quiche would lack some of its intriguing depth without this step. And this quiche is so delicious, it is definitely worth the extra few minutes involved.
Butternut Squash, Tuscan Kale & Goat Cheese Quiche
1 large bunch Tuscan Kale (about 1/2 lb.), thoroughly rinsed and ribs removed
14 to 16 oz. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, quartered length-wise and sliced cross-wise 1/4-inch thick
1 to 2 T. olive oil
1 small onion (about 6 oz.), cut in a 1/-4-inch dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 10- to 10 1/2-inch tart shell, blind baked (Pâte Brisée recipe below)
2 oz. coarsely grated Gruyère
2 to 2 1/2 oz. soft goat cheese
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until tender—about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool. When cool, squeeze out the excess water and chop coarsely. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the squash slices in a bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt & pepper. Spread the slices on a baking sheet and roast in a 425° to 450° oven until tender and beginning to brown—about 20 to 25 minutes.
While the squash roasts, heat the oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Sweat the onion until it is very tender and beginning to caramelize—15 minutes or so—regulating the heat as necessary to keep the onion from burning and covering the pan and lowering the heat if the onion begins to caramelize before it is tender (remove the lid once the onion is tender and allow it to begin to caramelize).
Add the garlic and pepper flakes and continue to cook until fragrant—a minute or two. Add the kale, toss with the onion-garlic mixture and cook until the kale has given up any remaining excess water and has begun to sizzle in the olive oil (add a bit more if the pan seems dry). Set aside to cool.
Place the eggs in a small bowl and whisk briefly to break up. Whisk in the cream until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
Build the quiche: Scatter the Gruyère over the bottom of the crust. Arrange half of the squash on top of the cheese.
Scatter the kale-onion mixture evenly over the cheese and top with the remaining squash. Crumble the goat cheese over all. Place the tart shell on a cookie sheet and pour the custard over the filling—be careful, all of the custard may not be necessary. Scatter the cheese over the top and transfer the baking pan to a preheated 375° oven.
Bake the quiche until the filling is set and the surface is a light golden color—about 25 to 30 minutes. If, when the custard is set (the tip of a knife slipped into the center should come out clean), the surface is not as golden as you would like, briefly run the quiche under the broiler until the cheese is light golden brown. Serves 8 as a first course or 6 as a light entrée.
(Savory Tart Dough)
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour (190g)
1/2 t. salt
10 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (142g)
3 to 5 T. ice water
Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 3 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. If, when you squeeze some of the mixture it holds together, the dough is finished. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, pressing into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
To roll out, let the dough warm up for a moment or two. Butter a 10- to 10 1/2-inch removable-bottom tart pan and set it aside. Flour the work surface and the rolling pin. Begin rolling from the center of the dough outward. After each stroke, rotate the dough a quarter turn—always making sure that there is sufficient flour to keep the dough from sticking. Keep rolling and turning until you have a round of dough that is at least 13 inches in diameter and has a thickness of no more than 1/8–inch. Brush off the excess flour and fold the dough circle in half. Slide the outspread fingers of both hands under the dough and gently lift it and transfer it to the prepared tart pan. Unfold the dough and ease it into the pan being careful not to stretch it. Cut the dough off flush with the edge of the pan by pressing gently against the edge. Chill the shell for at least 1/2 hour.
To blind bake: Line the pastry with aluminum foil (dull side out) or parchment paper, pressing it into the corners and edges. Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans. Bake in a 425° oven for 12 to 18 minutes. When the pastry begins to color on the edges, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a light golden color for a partially baked shell, and a deeper amber for a fully baked shell. Let cool before filling.