Amanda’s home! My sister works as a lab instructor at a college so she gets a month-long winter break that extends well before and after the holiday. Days before anyone else in the house starts to think about Christmas, she breezes through the front door, curly red hair static and wild from the dry winter air, two tiny dogs bounding in behind her. After a warm hug, a dozen puppy kisses, and inquiries about the drive down, my mind wanders to dinner plans. Amanda is a vegetarian; she not only dislikes the taste of meat but she adores the creatures that are used to make it possible. Whenever she comes home I get to test my ability with pastas and frittatas, breads and cheeses (she’s not really into vegetables), and experiment with sustainable, humane dinners.
Christmas Day I made her the Kale & Caramelized Onion Lasagna with Pumpkin Béchamel. I also made this on Thanksgiving as the vegetarian main and it doesn’t get old. It’s also great as a Saturday night meal to welcome your vegetarian or environmentally mindful relatives to town.
After we’ve devoured all of the Christmas leftovers and the newly emptied refrigerator breathes a sigh of relief, we’ll be ready to pack it again with fresh, home-made delights. My energy to make dough from scratch and whisk raw ingredients into hot meals will bounce back. Looping my new red patchwork apron around my neck, I’ll welcome 2018 with a luscious, irresistible quiche. I’ll remind my family of my skill in the kitchen that they may have forgotten since Christmas, which involves more deception in the form of butter and salt than any technical ability. Quiche is the easiest, most impressive thing you could make for a crowd. It works on Sunday, for brunch, with a cheesy surface that glistens in a sunny kitchen. Or for dinner, with a crisp green salad, a rich Chardonnay, and candles. This spinach-feta combo is always a winner in our family, but feel free to use any green-cheese pairing that you like.
Throughout Amanda’s month-long stay, we will forget about our omnivorous tendencies and embrace hearty, vegetable mains. Memories of salty Christmas ham and fatty cuts of pork will evaporate like the last wisps of smoke from holiday candles, our Bigfoot-sized carbon footprint will shrink just a bit, and the two little dogs will snuggle us extra tight. It’s not so bad when Amanda comes to town.
Spinach and Feta Quiche
What you need
- 1 whole wheat, store-bought pie crust, or homemade (see recipe below) if you have time
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced (about 2.5 tsp worth)
- 5 oz, 142g box baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
What you do
-Preheat oven to 375°F. Sauté onion in olive oil until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add spinach, red pepper flakes and 1 tsp salt and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes.
-Whisk together milk, eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and freshly cracked black pepper (I do about 20 cranks because I love pepper). Whisk in cheese and spinach-onion mixture.
-Pour the egg mixture into a pre-baked pie crust and stir gently to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is lightly golden brown.
Whole Wheat Pie Crust
What you need
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup ice water, more as meeded
What you do
-Pulse together the flours and salt in a food processor.
-Add the butter, pulsing until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are the size of lima beans (thanks for the tip, Melissa!).
-Add ice water, mixing until the dough barely holds together. If you grab a handful some of it should crumble away. Add a tablespoon or two more if it looks too crumbly.
–Scoop the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface.
– Press it together into a ball, flatten the dough into a disk about 1″ thick, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
-Roll the dough to the size needed (about 12″ to 13″ for a 9″ tart pan). Butter the pan, place the dough in pan. Use a fork to poke several holes in the bottom and sides of the dough and chill for 30 minutes.
–Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place chilled pie crust on a baking sheet. Line with foil, fill with pie weights (or white rice, as I do) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pie from oven and carefully remove foil and pie weights. Return pie to oven to continue baking, uncovered, until dough is just baked through and barely turning golden on the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.