One summer during college (photos above and below), I spent 6 weeks on a farm as a live-in volunteer. There I learned how to plant a garden, lay down drip tape, dig post holes and set up an electric fence, heard and milk goats, and that I never want a composting toilet in my own home. There were days when I got up before 6AM for milk duty, and one special weekend where we harvested honey. Every day at noon, the entire work crew would meet up for lunch and share a meal together. Everyone was sweaty and disgusting and electrolyte deprived, and it was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Most importantly, a lot of what we ate came from the ground just a few yards away from the kitchen. Everybody living there was working towards common goals: the running of the farm, the health of the goats, and helping people learn how to grow food to feed the hungry.
It helped me learn just how important it is to know who and where your food comes from. Farmers work really, really hard to grow and raise their produce and livestock. Supporting local farms isn’t just a hipster trend, it’s important to the local economy and agriculture. This isn’t a forum where I want to preach or get political, so I’ll be brief: When you buy eggs from your local farmer, you know he treated those chickens with love and respect. You also know the name of his wife and his sweet grandchildren. When you buy produce from the farm a few miles north, you get to know that farmers name, his favorite crop, if the cicadas are causing trouble, and see pictures of their adorable children. You know they work long, hard, hot days to bring fresh, healthy, beautiful food to feed you and your family. And that they care what goes in your body, because they are putting the same food in their own body, and the bodies of their loved ones. And you get to be their friend. Which is why it’s important to know how to cook food (and cook it deliciously) when it’s in season, so you can enjoy it and support your local farmer!
This is the first summer where I feel I’ve really been able to cook seasonally without being wasteful. We’ve had a prolific garden of our own this year, and the local farmer’s market has been stocked with so much fresh produce! We’re lucky enough to live in a city that has a farmer’s market with competitive prices, and right now the produce selection is a riot of color and flavor. If you have access to one nearby, get thee to the markets!! It has taken me a few years of seasonal cooking practice to get here, but it’s finally starting to click. If you’re not there yet, and want to be, don’t give up!
We’ve talked about how I feel about summer squash. *shrug* Meh. However, I’m reforming. As mentioned above, I’m trying to become more seasonally aware. I wish that meant haunting the boutiques for that perfect outfit, but instead it means eating the food that matches the calendar. Tomatoes usually aren’t good in December. Pomegranates are a joke in June. Know your farmer, know where stuff is grown, etc etc etc. See above.
Which brings me to this quiche. There aren’t a lot of things that can’t be made better by wrapping them in a buttery crust and mixing them with cheese. Zucchini is no exception. But this dish is really delicious, and it’s made me grow a fondness of the green and yellow gourds. It’s filling without being too heavy, and would make a great complement to a large salad or roasted carrots and potatoes. It’s a simple recipe that uses a lot of things I usually have on hand in my kitchen, and a go-to during the summer months. Which makes it just about perfect.
I usually make a lot of these, last time I made six at a time and froze them, we had so much squash on hand. It’s a simple process, and once you’ve assembled and frozen them, you have several summer dinners, just ready to be baked!
Summer Squash Quiche, liberally adapted from here
1/2 half recipe of an all-butter pie crust, rolled out to 1/8 in thick on a floured surface, placed in a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges of your pie crust. Set in the refrigerator until needed.
3 cups yellow or green summer squash, or a combination, sliced thin
2 cups yellow onion, diced
3.5 ounces of sharp cheddar, freshly grated
3 ounces of parmesan, freshly grated
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less to taste
a few grinds of black pepper
Olive oil, about 3 tablespoons
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Coat the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Add the squash and onions, cook them together over medium heat until the onions are softened and the squash is slightly browned. Once the squash and onions are done, place them in a fine mesh sieve in the sink, to let any excess juices drain out. Let them cool a few minutes while you prep the rest of your ingredients.
Whisk the milk and eggs together in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, the herbs and salt and pepper. Once the cooked squash has cooled slightly, stir it into the cheese mixture until well incorporated. From here, spoon the mixture into your prepare crust. I like to top my quiche with another sprinkle of salt, a couple more grinds of pepper, and a dash more parmesan.
Place your quiche on a rimmed baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is well browned and the filling is set.
To freeze: wrap the unbaked quiche well in plastic wrap, then in two layers of foil. When baking a frozen quiche, I take my quiche out of the freezer while the oven is pre-heating, then bake from frozen. You will have to allow for extra baking time, depending on your oven. I added at least 20 extra minutes.
Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes before cutting and devouring.