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Recession-Proof Recipes: A Foraged Feast

I remember Alton Brown once referred to quiche as "Refrigerator Pie," and while that phrase gave me the heebie-jeebies, I now see what he was getting at.

Quiche may sound a little stuffy or unapproachable, but if you think of a quickie egg custard in a pie shell as a tasty carrier for a world of little tidbits hanging around the fridge... that quiche suddenly goes from stuffy to sensible.

Have a random bit of cheese? Maybe there's a few herbs in the crisper? A mushroom or two? Some shriveling cherry tomatoes? What if all you have are onions? Never fear... dinner is close at hand.

The secret to making quiche a quick, easy and economical dinner is making sure you have a pie crust in the freezer. I know of no hungry person who's interested in rolling out a pie crust. Leave the crust-rolling and freezing to some lazy weekend day. Or just buy a pack of reliable frozen crusts from your favorite store.

When you meet up with that inevitable "there's nothing for dinner" day, just remember the handy pie crust in your freezer and do a quick forage through the fridge.

Mushroom Quiche and Lemon Greens

I always like to pair a richly flavored quiche with a crisp green salad.

Luckily, salads can also be great friends for the fridge forager and the hawk-eyed produce aisle sale watcher. One of my favorite salads of late has been the "bitter greens with a lemon vinaigrette" version. Something about a bitter green just loves the tangy bite of a fresh-squeezed lemon. Arugula, spring dandelion... even spinach works well for this recipe.

A word to the would-be lawn foragers: Picking baby dandelion greens from your own yard can be a terrific way to make a salad on the cheap, but you really have to be sure that 1. the dandelions haven't bloomed yet (for some reason, the blooms make the leaves inedibly bitter) and 2. nobody's chemically treated the lawn for at least three years. Nobody's looking for a mouthful of Roundup in their salad.
Forage Quiche
Quiche Base
1/2 cup cream, half & half or milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust

Add-ins
Grated cheese (up to 1 cup), sautéed onions, leeks or mushrooms, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs or a teaspoon of crumbled dry herbs, roasted red pepper slices, cooked spinach or arugula, cubed cooked ham, bacon bits, cooked spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes or sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped roasted vegetables.

1. Heat oven to 375°F. If you prefer a crispier crust, pierce the shell several times with a fork and pre-bake it for 25 minutes before proceeding to the filling step.

2. In a suitably sized bowl, whisk together the cream (or half & half or milk) with the eggs. Add the salt, nutmeg and pepper.

3. Spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of add-in fillings across the pie crust. Pour the egg custard mix over the fillings and place the quiche on a baking sheet.

4. Bake until the quiche is set in the center, about 35 minutes. Let it cool on a rack for 15 minutes to an hour before serving. Leftover slices are great for lunchboxes.

Lemon Green Salad
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 pinch sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups tender greens
6 halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
6-8 hard cheese shavings or crumbles of goat cheese (optional)

1. Whisk together the lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in the olive oil in a stream until incorporated as a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little more sugar, if desired.
2. Toss greens and vinaigrette in a salad bowl.
3. Top with cherry tomato halves and cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

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5.15.2008

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