Wait – don’t go. Hear me out.
Last week I made a resolution to use the food I have in my kitchen, rather than go shop for more, deciding what’s for dinner depending on my mood or the (near-constant) desire to try something new. I go for milk and eggs and come home with bags full of whatever was inspiring or on sale at the time, and then can hardly cram it into my cupboards and freezer. I think this is pretty typical, considering the fact that walk-in pantries and chest freezers are standard issue in most houses.
I hear a lot of people refer fondly to their fridges as that place produce goes to die. And it’s true – in North America (Canada very much included) it’s estimated that we throw out 40-50% of the food we buy. Half! Can you imagine the spending on groceries that takes place across the country on a daily basis? And that half of those purchases are tossed out? (Or composted, but still.) Besides the actual food waste, consider how much time and energy went into growing or producing all that food, transporting it, stocking shelves, even driving to the store to buy it. And it winds up tossed. A study last year estimated the annual cost to be $27.7 billion. Billion! That pipeline project everyone is talking about costs a measly $7 billion in comparison.
Alright, I’ll get to the point. Didn’t mean to get all preachy.
So what do you do when someone brings over a hunk of caraway Gouda so big it’ll keep you in cheese and crackers for a month? And you can’t do grilled cheese because of your six year old’s reaction to little bits in his cheese? You turn to the all-knowing intra-net and search for something to make with caraway and cheese in it. You go to Epicurious and punch in “Gouda” and “caraway”. If you’re lucky, something will pop up that makes use of that enormous bag of coleslaw you bought with the best intentions.
To make this quiche you cook a few slices of chopped bacon with an onion, and when the bacon is crisp and its fat rendered, you throw in a few handfuls of cabbage and cook it down. (A great use of bagged coleslaw – especially the last of the bag, which tends to get wilty.) When I did this, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world – like a fantastic warm bacon slaw. But as it cooked down it became more dense, as cooked vegetables do, and it made a great filling. Especially with the odd thin shard of carrot and purple cabbage – colour is always a good thing.
So yes, a cabbage and caraway quiche is an entirely unlikely thing to ever come out of my oven – but at the same time, MacGyvering my way through dinner pushed me out of my comfort zone, and the results were totally delicious. So good, in fact, that I made one of these a week ago, and then another this morning for my sister’s birthday brunch. The reaction around the table? “What’s in this? It’s delicious!” It wasn’t as easily identifiable as your typical ham & cheese or spinach quiche.
But you know how everything you make just sort of tastes like everything else you make? That you have your spice roster and don’t often edge out beyond it? Caraway is not typically a part of my culinary palette. It’s a fine spice, I have nothing against it, I just don’t really use it. I don’t think I could even locate any among the vast number of small jars and baggies that make up my spread-out spice non-rack. But with the creamy cheese and smoky bacon, it totally worked.
I’m not a quiche maker. But frittata tends to be my fall-back leftovers-user, and they aren’t much different. I contemplated skipping the crust, but then recalled how much I love a good wedge of quiche in a restaurant, and I went for it. I do love a good pie crust, and that you can get away with a slightly softer, more velvety filling when you’re not relying on it to hold its own.