Real Men Make Quiche: An ode to my CSA farm box

11 Sep

Although this post is ostensibly a recipe for Swiss chard quiche, really it is a chance to praise the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm box that made it possible.  CSA’s are programs that allow community members pay a fee (invest in their local farm), which entitles them to a weekly share of the produce from a farm for a growing season.  It works in different ways from farm to farm and some even offer shares in meat and eggs.  Our CSA is with Nith Valley Organics, however, there are farms across Ontario and I am sure elsewhere that participate in the program or something like it.  Check here for a list of participating Ontario farms as well as more information on how the program works.

This is the first year that we have participated in the CSA program, and it has been an incredible experience.  I have found that it encourages experimentation because I try new vegetables every week that I would not buy otherwise or that may not even be readily available in supermarkets.  Stinging nettles?  Why not?!  Before this summer, I think I had only eaten Swiss chard a handful of times.  After picking up a few bags from my CSA, I was forced to think of something to do with it and so this recipe was born.  What better way to encourage trying new recipes than buying new ingredients!  Old recipes are also given new life when utilizing different varieties of commonplace ingredients.  Instead of eating plain Jane tomatoes, why not try one of the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes?  As I type, I have just finished eating an incredible BLT made with a tomato from my CSA box that was bigger than a softball, mottled red and orange resembling a sunset, and more flavourful than I thought possible!  Even the more run of the mill, everyday vegetables taste better than their supermarket counterparts.  The lettuce from my farm box is by far the best I have ever had.  This is because your produce is travelling the shortest distance possible from the field to your plate.  This means that crops can be picked at the peak of their freshness rather than being picked before they are ready and left to ripen on trucks or in storage.  Additionally, since they are not travelling thousands of kilometers there is less chance for vegetables to wilt, bruise, or be otherwise damaged in transit.  The drawback is that you are limited to eating what is in season, but anyone who has ever eaten wooden and flavourless strawberries in the middle of winter know that eating seasonally is better.  On top of these wonderful benefits for yourself, you are also supporting local farmers.  A win-win if I ever saw one!  And now for the recipe!

Ingredients:

  • Pie dough for one crust*
  • 4 cups Swiss chard stalks and all, roughly chopped**
  • 1 large onion, sliced pole to pole
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup ham, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup Emmental or Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup crème fraiche***
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Roll out the pie dough into a pie plate and trim off the excess.  Prick the bottom 15-20 times with a fork and bake at 375° F for 25 minutes.  This process is known as blind baking.  If you want, you can put a sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and weigh it down with dried beans.  Just don’t waste your money on pie weights when 50 cents of dried beans will do the trick.
  2. Sauté onions over medium-low heat with a pinch of salt in olive oil and butter until soft and translucent.  Add chard and cook until wilted.  You can add a splash of water if necessary to prevent burning.  Let cool.
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, crème fraiche, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and ½ tsp of salt and 1 tsp pepper.
  4. Spread the onion and chard mixture over the bottom of the pie crust.  Sprinkle the ham and Emmental on top.  Gently pour over the egg mixture, trying to distribute it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top.
  5. Bake at 375° F for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool for 20 minutes before serving so that it sets up and, more importantly, is not like lava in your mouth.

Notes:

* I use my old family pie dough recipe.  It was passed down to me from my mom, who got it from her mom, who I can only assume got it from a wise, talking reindeer in the wilds of Finland.  Use whatever pie dough you want.

** You could use spinach here too, but I think chard tastes better.  Plus if you get red chard with its vibrant scarlet stems and veins, it looks pretty cool.

*** If crème fraiche is not readily available, substitute whipping cream.

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