Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Al Fresco Florentine

One of the blessings about having Wednesday off is that we can have a mid-week luncheon with friends. Today we ventured north to sun baked Healdsburg for an al fresco know, a lunch eaten outdoors.

First we had appetisers and white in the shade of the gazebo in comfy chairs with wisteria vines overhead. Conversation meandered from mutual friends and family doings to politics and current events to gardening and restaurants.

For lunch we moved to the deck and enjoyed an excellent salad with red and butter lettuces, radish slices, garden fresh yellow tomatoes, sugar snap peas, asparagus and avocados. The dressing, a French vinaigrette, was sublime.

My contribution was a quiche. I call it Florentine since it contains chopped spinach, but it also was the first quiche I've ever made with leeks and it turns out that leeks, sauteed in butter, add a light onion flavor...quite nice. The filling also had crimini mushrooms,

bacon...shall I say it again?? BACON...and eggs and milk and some nutmeg, salt & pepper. The crust was my favorite 'cheat' of Pillsbury ReadyCrust (see notes with crust recipes below to see why), blind baked with some dry beans I use as pie weights.

This quiche is full flavored and could make a nice brunch or light supper dish, too. The crust recipe and general proportions for the quiche are from The Big Book of Breakfasts by Maryana Vollstedt. Even though the day heated up to the mid-90s, the quiche eaten out of door was a great accompaniment to good conversation and great friends.

Florentine Quiche
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1 large leek, root removed and sliced into ½ inch slices, those slices halved, and all washed in a strainer to remove any sand or grit
1 cup sliced mushrooms – white or crimmini
½ pkg frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid squeezed out
1 prepared Quiche crust (recipe follows)
1 cup diced Swiss cheese, divided
¼ cup bacon crumbles (about 3-4 slices, well cooked, drained, then crumbled)
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet melt the butter and sauté’ the leeks until translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring often.
Add the mushroom slices and sauté’ another 4 or 5 minutes while the mushrooms brown and release their juices. Add the squeezed spinach and stir well to distribute.

Sprinkle half the Swiss cheese over the bottom of the quiche crust. Spread the sautéed vegetable mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles evenly over the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over that.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Pour this mixture slowly over the ingredients in the quiche crust.

Place quiche in prepared oven and bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until just set and lightly browned on top.

Serve warm. Serves 6 – 8


After working all day, we went to dinner with friends. I started making this quiche at 8:30 at night, so making a crust from scratch was not an option. (The ‘from scratch’ recipe is below my substitution.)

I used Pillsbury ReadyCrust. One round was fitted into a 9-inch pie pan, the edges were crimped, a round of parchment paper was put inside and dry beans were used as pie weights. Crust was baked in a 450 degree F. oven for about 10 minutes. Pie pan was put on a cooling rack, parchment and beans were removed, and crust was left to cool.

Official Shell for Quiche
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cold shortening, cut into small pieces
½ cup (1 stick) frozen butter, cut into small pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup cold water
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until dough holds together and starts to forma a ball, about 25 seconds. Do not over mix.

Remove dough and shape into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place disk on a lightly floured surface, and with a lightly floured rolling pin roll dough from the center out to the edges, changing the direction with each stroke, until the circle is 1/8 inch thick and about 1 inch larger than the pie plate. Fold dough in half and transfer to pie plate. Press gently to remove air bubbles. Fold edge under and flute. Do not prick dough for a quiche because the filling will seep under the shell. To partially bake the shell for a quiche, bake it for 8 minutes. Cool slightly on a rack. It should be slightly warm when filling is added.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F for the quiche.


  1. nice blog and great recipes.....Mmmmmm, this look very yummy;) thanks for sharing....

  2. I have to admit that especially when I'm cooking for friends and have started late, out from the freezer come all the pretty short-cuts! The leeks look great. I'm surprised their flavor actually came through the spinach; you must have it balanced very well - unlike my quiche attempts which tend to be dominated by a single flavor. Looks tasty!

  3. That is the way life is supposed to be lived! What a wonderful lunch.

  4. Eldivenlerim, Thanks for the kinds words.

    Tadmack, Thanks! Nice to know I'm not the only one taking shortcuts :) The spinach was only about 5 oz. and there were a LOT of leeks, so that is probably the reason the leeks flavor came through. Nice fresh organic leeks, too.

    Tanna, Sometimes life all comes together...this was one of them.