It’s been busy around here: building an extension to the front porch (and dealing with the accompanying mess), preparing for company (another good reason to deal with the construction mess) and enjoying company (how nice to have cleaned up that mess!). With all of this activity, I go inevitably in and out through the front door a lot, meaning recently that I get to see certain precious images over and over – this is one of the notes of greeting that 6-year-old Rise made last week and taped to my front door. How can you see this and not smile??
When it’s busy I forget about things, but routine is handy for calling us back. I have a garden. I planted stuff. But it’s been so busy I’ve hardly been out there except for a quick oregano-snipping or weed-lamenting visit.
Anyone who has grown zucchini knows what a zucchini surprise is. For those who are unfamiliar with this fast-growing vegetable, it’s when you are casually checking under the leaves of your various, viney garden plants to see what’s hiding, and come upon – Oh, look at that! – a baseball bat of a zucchini that you didn’t see when you were in said garden two days earlier (!). Such a surprise was mine last week when giving a mini-tour of the garden to some recent Airbnb guests.
Carrots, beets, onions, melons, cabbages and almost all herbs will reach their optimal point of harvesting and nicely wait for you to come along and take them to the kitchen. Not zucchini. It is among the most impatient of vegetables. You don’t care enough to look for me when I am in my tender prime? Fine. I will grow bigger, bigger, bigger, past my prime, and you will have a baseball bat on your hands before long!
So, yeah, past their perfect prime were those first two zucchinis, though you couldn’t call them bats yet. I gave the smaller of the two to my guests and put the other in my fridge, after checking to make sure there were no babies hiding there too, looking to expand into zucchini monsters if I were negligent again. I gave them a few days, did remember to go check, and there found four new ones, only one of which was still prime (i.e. three were already bigger than that!).
Guess it’s time to do something with zucchini! Right about then, Claudia sent me a new zucchini pie recipe called Schafskäse Zucchini Quiche. (It’s the zucchini time of year apparently!) I was intrigued by the parmesan in the crust and the goat cheese and sunflower seeds in the mixture. (Never mind that Schafskäse means sheep’s milk cheese, not goat’s milk cheese – this is unimportant.) I asked Mom if she had sunflower seeds; she didn’t, and I didn’t want to go to the store. So in the end the recipe was simply inspiration and I created my own Zucchini Surprise Pie.
For the crust I cut ½ cup cold butter into 1/3 cup finely grated romano cheese mixed with 1 ½ cups flour and ¼ tsp salt (with my pastry blender). It looked like typical pie crust crumbs, but I knew it would have an extra special taste on account of the cheese in there.
I added ¼ cup of ice cold water (you can make it cold by adding ice cubes to the water, or use water from the fridge, or take your chances that the water coming out of your faucet is cold enough). Mix this quickly (don’t overmix) till it pulls from the sides of the bowl; make a nice ball. Roll this out on a floured surface, big enough to fit your dish – I used an oval dish that’s 12×8 inches. Best way to see if the dough is the right size is by placing your dish on top, as I did (see below). If there is enough to fit in there and come up the sides, you are good to go!
Fold the dough in half and gently lift it up and into the dish; unfold and drape the edges over the sides. This keeps them out of the way for now. Later, you can be fancy with a scalloped edge or just flop the excess on top.
For the mixture, start by grating your zucchini (not the smallest holes you have on your grater, and not the largest). I used about 2 ½ cups in this recipe, but if you have a little more or a little less, I don’t think it would matter. To this I added 4 eggs, 8 deli slices of genoa salami (cut up), 4 oz crumbled up (by hand) goat cheese…
… as well as 1 cup grated Jarlsberg (swiss) cheese, ¼ cup flour, 1 tsp salt, a few shakes of pepper, 3 fresh sage leaves (chopped) and the leaves off 2 stems of fresh thyme (which would amount to 2 teaspoons probably, hard to tell when it’s so fresh and not pressed down – again a little more or less won’t hurt anything). These are the herbs I used because they seemed good to me, and you know that Simon and Garfunkel song:
Are you going to Scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.
What parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme have to do with the fair and the love I haven’t a clue (never did). But because of that song I always thought that any/all of these herbs could be used in a recipe that calls for one or another, that they go well together and that various combinations are acceptable. See what you learn from music?? Anyway, the fresher, the better, and mine came straight from the garden into the bowl and that makes me smile. 😊
Right about at this point I turned on my oven so it would get hot while I finished up. I set it to 375F, then mixed all of this up and poured it into my crust. Normally you put milk or cream in a quiche but the goat cheese is so creamy, you don’t need it.
I was not in the mood to be fancy with the edges (chomping at the bit, one might say, to go lay more deck boards on the new porch) so I flopped them over and popped it in the oven. Ovens are different and people like different levels of golden-brownness; my pie stayed in my oven about 40 minutes and looked like this.
It smelled so good!! My sister was coming and I knew she would love this, but we had decided to go out to dinner – enjoyed Rhett’s River Grill which, it turns out, is relocating by the end of the year and will be waaaay closer to my house!!
So I let the zucchini pie cool, covered it with plastic before refrigerating it, and reheated it the next day at 300F for half an hour. Delish! I love the cheese in the crust too. Taking leftovers as part of a picnic lunch to the Science Museum in Richmond the next day gave us a chance to try it cold – just as good!!
Not bad for an experiment, I’d say. Thank you, Claudia, for the inspiration! Now whoever among you has too many zucchinis…