A few weeks ago, I stayed overnight with old friends at their home in Oliver in the South Okanagan.
Ingo Grady is one of the valley’s most passionate and forward-thinking advocates. For decades he has been driven by a belief that the Okanagan could yield wines that hold a place among the world’s best. His wife, Patti Ogden-Grady, was the founder of Okanagan Wine Country tours, and you won’t find a better guide anywhere.
I’ve known Ingo for 30 years, but I had no idea what a good cook he was. He packed a picnic and five of us met up with Mike Dowell, co-owner (with wife Nicole) of Liber Farm & Winery in Cawston, known as the Organic Capitol of Canada. Ingo made a super-silky crustless quiche that we devoured with more than one bottle of chilled Liber’s rosé.
I’ve been experimenting with quiche since I returned home. One of the best I’ve tasted is the savoury Alsace onion tart at Le Crocodile, Strasbourg-born chef-owner Michel Jacob’s graceful restaurant. Here’s my version of it, along with a quick recipe for crustless spinach quiche inspired by Ingo Grady.
Alsatian Onion Tart
This flavourful dish is perfect for brunch, lunch and dinner sided with a butter lettuce salad and a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
4 medium onions, cut in half and sliced in long, extra fine strips
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
4 tbsp (60 mL) butter, divided
2 tbsp (30 mL) flour
2 cups (500 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
salt, freshly ground pepper and dash of nutmeg
1/2 lb (226g) bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 partly baked pie shell baked in a 10 1/2-inch (26 cm) metal tart pan with removable bottom or a 10-inch (25 cm) porcelain quiche pan
Heat oven to 400 F (205 C).
In a large, cast iron or heavy-based 10 to 12-inch (25-30 cm) skillet, heat oil and 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium-heat until golden brown. Lower the heat and continue to cook until very soft and evenly browned, stirring frequently, about 30 to 40 minutes. You may need to add a little more butter. Transfer to a strainer and drain.
If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, put it on a baking sheet.
Melt remaining 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter in a saucepan. Add flour and cook slowly, stirring, letting the butter and flour froth together for 1 minute without colouring. Whisking all the while, add milk and cook until sauce comes to a boil.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and whipping cream, season with 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt and 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) pepper and nutmeg. Add drained onions and bacon, stirring after each addition. Pour mixture into prepared pie shell and bake on bottom shelf of oven for 1 hour.
Test tart to see if it is thoroughly cooked by giving it a gentle shake. If it is still wobbly in the centre, turn off heat and leave it in closed oven for another 30 minutes. The golden surface can be protected from further browning by covering the pie loosely with aluminum foil.
Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Crustless Spinach Quiche
Buy really fresh spinach, ideally in bundles not bags, still attached to the little crowns that connect the leaves to the roots. (Adapted from Three Ingredient Baking by Sarah Rainey, Penguin, 2018.)
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 to 1 1/2 lb (454g to 680g) fresh spinach, washed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
Dash white pepper
3/4 cup (180 mL) whipping cream
3/4 cup (180mL) grated Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 300 F (150 C). Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch (20 or 22 cm) quiche or pie plate.
In a small skillet, heat olive oil. Add shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Put still-wet spinach in a microwave-safe dish, cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Place in colander and use the back of a wooden spoon to press out water. Wrap spinach in paper towels and squeeze to absorb every last drop of water. Spread spinach on a cutting board and roughly chop it. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with the cream. Stir in spinach, shallots and cheese. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and bake about 40 minutes, until centre is firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
Makes 8 servings.
Onions, shallots and garlic keep best in a cool, dark spot, and bamboo steamers are an ideal storage container. The baskets stack easily and allow enough air circulation to prevent mould.
Five Spots in Metro Vancouver for Quiche:
• Pâtisserie Lebeau , 1728 W. Second Ave.: Quiche Lorraine and spinach-cheese quiche, small $6, medium $9.35; open Tuesday-Saturday; (604) 731-3528.
• The Sweet Spot , 12000 First Ave., Steveston Village, Richmond: rotating varieties include wild mushroom, smoked salmon, spinach and Asiago cheese etc. $6.25; open Wednesday-Sunday; (604) 271-8865.
• Bâtard Boulangerie & Café , 3958 Fraser St.: Spinach quiche, oyster-mushroom quiche and onion-bacon quiche, $6.25; open daily; (604) 506-3958.
• Trafiq , 2148 W. 40th Ave.: Mushroom-bacon or onion, bacon and Cheddar quiche with side salad $15; open daily; (604) 261-3070.
• H Tasting Lounge (Westin Bayshore) 1601 Bayshore Dr.; Pancetta, goat cheese and zucchini quiche with side salad $13; open daily; (604) 691-6962.
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