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Healthy Directions: Zucchini and Spinach Quiche with Orange, Dates, Feta, and Thyme, Jamie SchlerBy Stephanie Burt
Writer Jamie Schler knows a thing or two about making life (and food) an adventure. She grew up on the Space Coast of Florida -- which inspired the writing of her Orange Appeal cookbook -- but these days runs a hotel with her husband in France. And although she lives in the land of eclairs, she finds inspiration and ritual is vital to keeping things healthy. “My family and I have always eaten our three meals together, at the table, at regular times every day; we avoid grabbing something randomly and eating on the run,” she says. “I think this is very important when thinking about health; it means we eat thoughtfully, take our time, and are enjoying each others' company, which is good for both mind and body. And we always have fresh fruit with each meal in place of dessert.”Sometimes, eating healthy means turning adventurous. It can mean trying new ingredients (quinoa, anyone?), finding a new way to amend an old favorite to be more healthy, or, as is the case here, trying a whole new flavor combination that surprises.
However, when she was developing this recipe, even her husband was skeptical about the sweet meeting the savory in such a traditional dish. “I think we expect something acidic like citrus will turn the cream or clash with its delicateness, but it doesn't at all. In fact, the cream seems to mellow the orange flavor and temper the acidity and you almost find a hint of Creamsicle. But replacing some of the cream in the quiche batter for a savory recipe was more daring, a real experiment, and I (and my husband who really was the Doubting Thomas) was astonished at how delicious it was!”
As for the pecans, she and her family often incorporate nuts into their diet, so reaching for them was easy here. “When a dish or dessert feels flat, like it's missing some pizzazz, I'll add nuts! That's just how nuts ended up being a feature in my quiche recipe, and I'm really happy knowing that I'm adding a really healthy ingredient on top of the flavor and crunch,” she explains.
This is truly a main dish, one-slice-per-person-is-plenty recipe, and it’s packed with good ingredients, from iron-heavy spinach to vitamin rich dates to feta, one of the healthiest cheeses, so those of you eyeing the cream in this recipe, remember, good health is all about balance. Feel free to replace some of it with milk (see the recipe below), but avoid nut milks or other cow milk substitutes, as they aren’t a good alternative here. What is, good, however, is that this dish works as a filling main dish for a festive brunch for all -- vegetarian or not, and with its unusual combination of flavors, will spark some conversation too.
Zucchini and Spinach Quiche with Orange, Dates, Feta, and Thyme Serves 8 to 10
Orange Savory Pastry Crust 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 1 small or medium orange, finely zested 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed4 to 6 tablespoons cold orange juice or water 10 x 1 ½ -inch (24 x 2.5 cm) deep pie or quiche dish
Quiche Filling 1 pound (450 g) slender zucchini 1 tablespoon olive oil2 ounces (60 g) baby spinach 3 1/2 ounces (100 g) feta cheese 6 Medjool dates 1 cup bite-size orange cubes 1/4 cup (65 ml) orange juice 3/4 cup (185 ml) heavy or light cream,or half cream and half whole milk 3 large eggs ¾ teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1 orange, zested 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
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