Food is one of the great joys in life—all the different tastes and cuisines—the possibilities are infinite. But at times, our choices are limited due to restrictions we either place on ourselves for personal reasons, or because our bodies are warning us in some way.
This week, the Orthodox lent began, and if followed in the strictest sense, no meat or dairy products are to be consumed for the forty days leading up to Easter. Not even fish is allowed at this time. Crab, lobster, clams and seafood of that sort is fine, though. My ninety-three year old father, God bless him, still fasts like a cloistered monk in a monastery.
For me, with no protein options other than beans and tofu (yuck), it’s impossible. And no one wants to see the violent reaction I have when seafood crosses my lips. So I do the best I can. I can easily give up meat, but don’t take away my cheese! Holy week, I hold the fast as strict as my father—no meat, no dairy, no olive oil—I’m fine for the one week. But by the end of that week, get between me and that platter of assorted cheeses on the dinner table, and we have a problem!
Fasting is a religious choice, and it seems, every faith has its holy period to cleanse the body and mind. But there are other choices to be made regarding food, like the one my good friend made to be vegan because of her love for animals and respect for all life. Each year after my lent is over, I always give her credit for keeping this way of life all year long. She certainly has more willpower than I do.
Then there are the health issues people have to deal with. Some people gravitate to fatty foods and have eaten them all their lives. They go to the doctor and find out they have high cholesterol or heart issues. Or maybe they have diabetes. Now they need to learn to eat differently than before. But the love for food does not have to be stripped from them. There are so many delicious options, and with a few small changes they won’t feel deprived.
Healthy eating has become a priority in our home, but at the same time, I don’t want to totally give up the all foods that I love. There is nothing more refreshing than fresh vegetables, fruits and salads. Nice lean cuts of meat, grilled with flavorful spices and healthy grains are delicious and nutritious. But sometimes I need a slab of pastitsio, or a piece of quiche!
Everything in moderation, right? My strategy is to cook healthy all week but to make one decadent meal. Today, It’s a mushroom and shallot quiche with Swiss cheese and a bit of truffle oil.
*The pastry is basic pastry dough. Nothing unusual. Nothing I invented. If you are pressed for time, by all means, use a good readymade shell. The filling is my brainchild. I hope you like it.
Mushroom and Shallot Quiche
1 pound sliced white or baby bella mushrooms
2 large shallots, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons truffle infused olive oil or 1 tablespoon pure truffle oil
1 tablespoon fresh or dried tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cups freshly shredded Swiss or gruyère cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups half & half
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Flakey pastry dough (recipe below) or a good quality store bought
1¼ cups flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 – 5 tablespoons ice water
With a pastry blender, mix together the flour, salt and butter until it resembles course meal with pea size butter bits. You can also do this in a food processor if you choose.
Slowly add 3 tablespoons of ice water, mixing gently until fully incorporated. (Or pulse in processor)
Test a handful of dough by squeezing together. If it doesn’t adhere, add the remaining 2 tablespoons. Do not over mix the dough.
Press the dough into a disc, wrap in clear wrap and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Roll out dough and place into a two-piece quiche or tart pan.
Preheat oven to 375º
Place the baking dish containing the pastry dough on a baking sheet to prevent possible oven spills.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the truffle oil. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sauté on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have browned.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, salt & pepper, and the nutmeg.
In the bottom of the pastry shell, layer half of the shredded cheese. Lay the mushroom mixture on top and top off with the remaining cheese.
Carefully ladle in the wet ingredients.
Bake for 40 minutes