Saturday, May 11, 2019

Savory Beet Greens & Mushroom Quiche...two ways...

This spring has been for me a season of beet greens.  It started when I saw some beautiful beets at the store and suddenly realized I hadn’t had beets in a while and that I was really hungry for them.  These particular beets had beautiful tops…so I saved them and added them to a pasta (or perhaps a grain pilaf…the exact preparation escapes me now).  Then suddenly I had a couple private dinners in a row that included roasted beet salads.  So I had more beet greens—because when you buy nice beets you almost always get the greens too…which basically makes them free.  So I made more pastas and pilafs…and a fantastic soup (with pasta) that I hadn’t had in a while… 
And still there were more.  So when I came home from a class with a pastry shell left from the demonstration, I decided to make a beet greens tart.  Greens of all kinds make fantastic fillings for tarts, so a tart of nothing but the greens…shrouded in a custard and enhanced with a little onion and garlic…or bacon or sausage…would have been delicious.  But at the time I happened to have some mushrooms on hand.  I remembered a good pasta I made a year or two ago with mushrooms, greens and bread crumbs.  So I decided to turn that pasta into a tart. 

I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe—there are after all, many, many tart recipes on my blog—but this tart was the thing I decided to make again when I ended up with another windfall of beet greens.  Anytime I like something so much that I make it twice in a short span of time, it’s usually a good indication that I should post the recipe—if for no other reason than I know I will be glad I did when at some point down the road I want to make a well-liked dish again and I can’t find my notes.

Aside from selfish reasons, I thought the post would be instructive.  It is the season of greens at the markets…and people are always looking for ways to use this abundance.  This tart is a great way to do this.  Even if you don’t have beet greens:  You can of course replace the beet greens with spinach or chard…even kale (just remember to blanch kale before adding it to the pan with the onions).

The second time I made the tart I didn't really have enough of the beet greens (on the left)...
so I supplemented with a handful of spinach and a few chard leaves... 
Almost any green would be good in this tart.

But beyond the tart being a great place to use some of your greens, I had another reason to post this recipe.  The glut of beet greens continued until I had another leftover tart shell from a class—a tart shell that was a different shape.  The first tart shell was the large, almost flat, pizza style that I tend to favor (it shows off ingredients to great, it has a higher proportion of crust to filling…which I love).  The second was a traditional shell (baked in a removable bottom, 9-inch tart pan).  I have always told people that these two shells (the 12-inch pizza pan crust and the 9-inch standard crust) held the same amount of filling…but I think this is hard for most people to believe.  (They certainly don’t look like they would hold the same amount of filling.)  Posting this recipe is my chance to demonstrate that this is in fact true.  Both the tarts pictured in the post used exactly the same amount of vegetable filling and custard.  You can make it either way.  The traditional style will appeal to people who really think tarts are all about the filling.  The “pizza style” will appeal to those who—like me—always want more crust.

Before I close I want to make a couple of observations about the ingredients.  The first time I made the tart I used red onion and mature garlic.  When I made it the second time I had spring onions and green garlic in my pantry…so of course I used those!  You should use what you have on hand.  I have given instructions for both.   

And while on the subject of ingredients, I want to mention the rosemary.  I normally don’t make a big deal about the addition of particular herbs, because I think they fall into the category of seasoning to your preferences.  But for this recipe, if you have it—and you like it—you should include it.  It is delicious with both mushrooms and greens…and it really adds to the savory and complex flavor of this tart.  I’m sure the tart would be good without it…but it is exceptional with it.

Finally, you may have noticed in the title of the post that I have called this recipe a “quiche”…yet I have referred to it as a “tart” throughout the post.  I was going to call it a tart in the title…because it is a tart:  It’s baked in a tart pan…and the filling is cradled in a flaky pastry crust.    But it is also a quiche—a specific class of tarts in which the filling that goes into the crust is suspended in an egg custard.  I bring this up only because I was asked this very question in a class recently:  Was I making a tart? Or a quiche?  And, what exactly is it that makes something a tart or a quiche?  I then realized I had been using the words interchangeably as I taught the class…because the thing I was making happened to be both.  But of course this is not always the case.  As far as I know, all quiches are tarts.  But it is not true that all tarts are quiches since all tarts (savory or sweet filling baked in a pastry crust) don’t necessarily include custard.  So now you know the difference (if you didn’t before…).  In any case, whatever you choose to call it, I hope you will find it to be as satisfying and delicious to eat as I have.  And I also hope you will find it to be a useful way to use and enjoy the greens that are flooding the markets right now.

Beet Greens & Mushroom Quiche

Olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced, or 2 or 3 spring onions, finely sliced or minced
1 clove garlic, minced, or one stall green garlic, finely sliced or minced
A small sprig of rosemary, picked and minced (to make about 1/2 to 3/4 t. minced)
1/8 t. hot pepper flakes
5 oz. (trimmed weight—no stems or ribs) beet greens, Swiss chard or kale, rinsed in several changes of water
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 12-inch “pizza-style” tart shell or 1 standard 9-inch tart shell, blind baked (see below)
100 gr/3 1/2 oz. Gruyère cheese, finely grated (about a cup)
2 eggs
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 to 1/2 c. coarse, fresh breadcrumbs, tossed with a teaspoon of melted butter
salt & pepper

Film a wide sauté pan set over moderate heat with olive oil. If you using red onions and mature garlic, add the onions along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender and beginning to become golden at the edges. Add the garlic, rosemary and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. If using spring onions and green garlic, add the onions and garlic to the pan along with a pinch of salt and cook until tender and translucent. Add the pepper flakes and rosemary and cook until fragrant. The red onion base will probably take about 15 minutes…the spring onion base will take less time—perhaps 5 minutes or so. For both kinds of onions, regulate the heat as necessary to allow the mixtures to sizzle gently, reducing the heat if the onions threaten to scorch. If the pan ever looks dry, drizzle in a bit more oil.

When the onions are cooked, add the greens. If using beet greens or chard, add them a handful at a time, turning with tongs to coat them in the fat and expose them to the heat and adding more as they begin to collapse. If the greens were recently washed, there should be enough water clinging to them to create steam and help them cook…if they were washed ahead (or spun dry) you may need to add a few tablespoons of water to the pan. Cover the pan and cook until the greens are tender. Uncover and continue to cook until any liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside in a warm spot. 

If using kale, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the kale and cook until tender (about 7 minutes). Lift the kale out and spread on a baking sheet to cool. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water. Add the cooked kale to the onion mixture and cook gently for a few minutes to infuse the greens with the flavor of the onions. Set aside.

While the greens cook, sauté the mushrooms: Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to sauté in batches—don't overcrowd the pan. Heat a sauté pan (non-stick, if you have one) over high heat. Add oil to coat the pan (a tablespoon or so), then add the mushrooms. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, tender and any liquid that they have given off has evaporated. If they seem dry at any time as they cook, drizzle in a bit more oil. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and season with salt & pepper. When the greens are cooked, add the mushrooms to the greens. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the baked crust on a baking sheet. Scatter about 2/3 of the cheese over the baked crust. Scatter the greens and mushrooms over all. Whisk together the eggs and the cream. Season with salt and pepper—and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg if you like.

Slowly pour the custard over the vegetables, jiggling the pan a bit so the custard will be evenly distributed and will penetrate the vegetables. Be careful not to let the custard flow over the edge.

If there are any low places in the edge of your crust, you will not be able to use it all. Scatter the remaining cheese over the tart, followed by the buttered breadcrumbs. Bake the tart until the custard is set—about 20 minutes for the pizza-style tart, 25 for the traditional (a knife inserted in the center will come out clean). Slide the tart under the broiler to brown slightly if you like. Serves 6 as an entrée (with a salad or vegetable side), 8 to 10 as a light first course with a fluff of lightly dressed greens.

Pâte Brisée
(Short Crust Pastry)

For a 12- to 13-inch “pizza-style” crust
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200g)
1/2 t. salt
11 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (150g)
1/4 to 1/3 c. ice water

For a 9- to 10-inch tart shell

1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour (150g)
3/8 t. salt
8 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (113g)
3 to 4 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 the smaller measure of ice water over the flour/butter mixture.  Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary.  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.  Form the finished dough into a thick disk.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out, let dough warm up for a moment or two.  Butter/spray the a pan and set it aside.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 1/8- to 1/6–inch thick and with a diameter 2 to 3 inches larger than that of the pan.  Trim any ragged edges.  Brush off the excess flour and fold the dough circle in half.  Transfer it to the prepared pan.  Unfold the dough and ease it into the pan being careful not to stretch it.  Fold the edges to form a ½-inch rim of a double thickness of dough for the pizza-style crust.  For the traditional tart pan, simply press the dough against the sides of the pan (being sure not to stretch the dough) and cut the dough off flush with the edge of the tart pan.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To blind bake, line the pastry with aluminum foil or parchment paper, pressing it into the corners and edges.  Add a layer of pie weights or dried beans.  Bake in a 400° to 425° oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  When the pastry begins to color on the edges and is cooked through, remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the pastry dries out and turns a golden brown (another 5 minutes or so).

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