Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Equinox Pie!

They say when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.

So, what do you make when life presents you, just before the Spring Equinox, with too many eggs, a handful of kale sprouts, and eight kinds of goat cheese?

Equinox Pie!

This kitchen experiment was the happy result of a seasonal culinary confluence. The eggs, (including one double-yolker), came from our chickens who have now ramped up production to an average of 14 eggs a day. (Ironically, after weeks and weeks of TOO MANY EGGS, I may not have enough for this week's Winter Market because we're about to put at least a couple dozen into the incubator for our first batch of Spring chickens.)

The kale sprouts are our first harvest of 2010: a handful of sprouts that had to be thinned out from among a spritely batch of seedlings nestled in one of the cold frames inside our hoop house. I couldn't bear to just toss them to the chickens—I wanted to enjoy, appreciate, and honour every tiny green snippet.

And the eight kinds of goat cheese? Oh, what a lovely mishap! A fellow market vendor (Creeping Thyme Farm) had set out his full range of goat dairy products for folks to sample at last week's market. Usually, the samples are consumed with the enthusiasm his delicious products deserve, but it was an unusually warm day. Maybe most of our usual customers were suffering a bout of Spring Fever and couldn't bear to come inside-- even though “inside” just meant walking through the open doors of an otherwise unused commercial-size greenhouse at a local garden center. By noon on that unseasonably warm, clear March day, the solar gain of that unheated greenhouse had all the vendors peeling off their coats and sweaters. By one o'clock, the heat had us rolling up our sleeves. By two o'clock—closing time for our Winter market—my fellow vendor was looking at his table full of fresh, handmade cheeses with something approaching despair. “Could you use these?” he asked, “'cause after all this heat, I really can't save them for anything.”

One delighted smile and an enthusiastic nod later, that entire array of cheeses was bagged up and set in my cooler. I swapped him a dozen eggs and some other farm goods to make it worth his while. Once home, I combined all the softer cheeses (plain chevre, garlic & herb chevre, plain bondon and bondon with bruschetta) in one container. Into another container I packed all the harder cheeses (feta, queso fresco, queso fresco with sundried tomatoes, and ricotta salata). I knew I needed to use them all quickly, but what to do, what to do? I mused and pondered for a couple of days, thought about the eggs and the kale that needed thinning, and rummaged to determine what else might need using up. Then, inspiration struck:

Equinox Pie!

In celebration of the year's turning—complete with my tiny handful “harvest” of the year's first green growing things—I would make a quiche. Now, I've only made quiche a few times in my life, but after flipping back and forth through a few cookbooks to get the proportions and techniques, I thought I had it figured out well enough to have a go.

First, I put on my apron—a custom one made for me by another one of our market vendors. This apron takes a bit of fussing to get off and on, but the vintage style ensures that clothes are well-protected (and it makes me feel ridiculously charming, which boosts my confidence in the kitchen).

Next, I made a batch of pie crust (Pate Brisee, Joy of Cooking, p.591, chosen for its ability to “withstand a moist filling”). I used a cup each of unbleached wheat flour and white spelt flour, a stick of butter, about 2/3 cup cold water, and about ¼ tsp of “Sea Shakes,” a locally-made blend of sea salt, seaweed, and herbs. There: the fruits of the sea and the bounty of the oceans were properly blended with the gifts of the earth. The elements were balanced and harmonized, as equinoctal ingredients should be. Once made, the dough was set in the fridge to rest for a couple hours before rolling out, trimming, and draping in a pyrex pie dish. I crimped the edges by hand, a process that always makes me feel like a happy five-year-old.

Time to tackle the filling: I used six eggs, including one smallish pale green Araucana egg and one monstrous double-yolker from an overachieving Golden Comet. I broke them into a large mixing bowl, beating each egg in thoroughly before the next was added. Into this lovely golden puddle I poured two cups of milk (raw whole milk from nearby Winter Hill Farm, shaken well to incorporate the cream). Next, I added the soft goat cheeses-- about 8 ounces-worth-- and mushed them around a bit. Then I took all the harder cheeses—another 8 ounces or so—and whizzed them in a food processer just enough to break up the larger chunks, then added them to the milk-egg mixture as well. I also tossed in about ½ cup of peas (for color and a sweet contrast against the cheeses' saltiness) and about half of a leek, sliced thinly. For seasonings I added a finger-full each of nutmeg and paprika. I figured the salt and herbs in the various cheeses could provide all the rest of the excitement.

Lastly, I tossed in my handful of kale snippets. ( I think the high-end restaurant menus refer to these as “gourmet micro-greens.”) I knew they'd get lost in the mix, but I trusted they'd contribute some ephemeral hint of greengrowiness. I poured the soupy mess into the waiting pie shell. Lastly—and, I suspect, utterly unnecessarily—I grated about 1/3 cup of Monterey Jack cheese and sprinkled it over the top—because, really, is there such a thing as a quiche with too much cheese?

The Equinox Pie baked for about 50 minutes at 350 degress Farenheit. I took it out when the crust was nicely browned and it was no longer jiggly in the middle. It was served to our “Good Dirt” farm book group during a discussion of Derrick Jensen's extraordinary collection of interviews, “Listening to the Land.” (This is, hands down, one of the best books I have ever read. You should read it. In fact, everyone should read it... preferably while eating locally-sourced quiche.)



Mama Pea said...

Omigosh! Your Equinox Pie looks WONDERFUL. And look how your little kale sprouties showed up and (I'll bet) added so much fresh green flavor to the quiche. It would have been a challenge, but I could have forced myself to eat a piece. Or three.

Noni said...

The pie sounds delicious but it needs a wheat free crust. The pie looks more then delicious...what is the superlative form of delicious?

MaineCelt said...

Hmmm. I know there are gluten-free frozen pie shells available at natural food stores...I guess I would need to double-check to figure out what combination of gluten-free flours or nutmeals would work best with that filling. How about something with rice flour, garbanzo flour, and almond meal?

Anonymous said...


Fiona said...

Wow -- this looks absolutely stunning and sounds so delicious! And goat cheese... mmmmm!!! Sounds like Mama Pea and I could split one of these between us :)

Mama Pea said...

Fiona - And I'd wrestle ya for the bigger half! ;o)

Lauren said...

beautiful! I'd give just about anything for an overabundance of goat cheese!