Last weekend my neighbour (take a look at his blog here) gave me a wonderful gift – a treasure box full of goose and duck eggs from the birds he raises near his pond. I was so thrilled, I went straight to the kitchen and began to plan an egg based menu for the week ahead. Eggs are such a staple in my kitchen, I get a little apprehensive if our egg stock is running low. I know if I have eggs, I can quickly whip up any number of easy meals on busy weeknights when I’m running late or other dinner plans fall through – and I frequently do.
When it comes to farm-fresh eggs, I’m the first to admit I’m a far-cry from being an experienced urban poultry farmer. This is apparent because my first inclination was to wash the eggs and put them in the fridge. Thankfully, I consulted Google beforehand and, while I couldn’t find much information on duck eggs specifically, I did learn the proper way to clean and store chicken eggs. Just before a hen lays an egg, she covers it with a protective film called “bloom.” Since egg shells are porous, the bloom keeps bacteria out and moisture in. The bloom is also the reason why unwashed eggs can safely sit on the counter at room temperature for weeks. Once the bloom has been removed by washing, the eggs need to be refrigerated and consumed very quickly. One of the biggest differences between eggs sold in Europe and commercial eggs sold here in the US is that, in the US conventional eggs are washed before being sent to grocery stores, hence removing the protective barrier and making refrigeration necessary, whereas, in Europe, this practice is actually illegal and poultry farmers could face stiff fines if caught washing their eggs. Ironically, the extreme germ-phobia here in the US has led to practices that actually make our food more contaminated and less natural. I’m still shaking my head on this one.
Of course, by the nature of how and where the eggs are laid, they do need to be cleaned. But this should be done just before using the eggs. All they need is a quick rinse to remove any bacteria that might spread from the shells to the eggs when cracked and also to your hands. Eggs should be washed in water that is at least 20 degrees fahrenheit warmer than the egg itself. They should never be washed in cold water, as this creates a vacuum effect, pulling water and bacteria through the shell, into the egg, contaminating it. Likewise, the eggs should never be left to soak, submerged in water for the same reason. A quick rinse under warm, running water is sufficient.
Much like having an abundance of eggs in the kitchen, in the garden I can always count of two things – lots of fresh zucchini and herbs. In the summer I like to “shop my garden” and create meals out of anything that’s ripe and ready to be harvested. Here’s what I came up with today.
I picked a few zucchini and some fresh herbs. I wanted to make a garden quiche for lunch. I started with a quick pastry shell that I fit into an 11-inch tart pan. With a vegetable peeler, I created a few long ribbons of zucchini to decorate the top of the quiche, then grated the remaining zucchini to be used in the filling. As for cheese, I decided to use some tangy feta because it provides a nice contrast to the richness of the duck eggs.
Duck Egg Quiche with Garden Vegetables
for the pastry:
- for the pastry:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 TBSP cold butter, cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup ice water
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
To make the pastry whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it’s evenly distributed. Mix the vinegar and water and add it to the flour mixture a few tablespoons at a time. Mix until the dough just comes together into a ball. (You may not use all the liquid, and that’s okay.) If the dough seems too dry mix in an additional teaspoon or two of water. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and press into a disk shape. Place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and prepare an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. On a floured surface, roll out the dough so that it fits into the pan with a little extra. Press the dough into the corners and up the edges of the pan. Fold the excess dough back in on itself to reinforce the edges and trim neatly. Prick the bottom of the tart shell in several places with a fork and place the tart shell in the freezer for 15 minutes or until very firm but not completely frozen. This will keep the shell from shrinking when baked.
Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 375 F/190 C. Remove the weights and parchment and place back in the oven. Bake an additional 5-7 minutes. Cool slightly.
For the quiche:
- 5 duck eggs (or 6 chicken eggs)
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 red onion, thinly siced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 pepper
- 3 TBSP chopped chives
- 1 TBSP chopped basil + more for garnish
- 4 oz. feta diced or crumbled (divided)
Use a vegetable peeler to peel a few long ribbons of zucchini to be set aside to use as decoration. Grate the remaining zucchini and place in a colander over a plate to drain the excess water.
Heat the oil in a large skillet.
Set aside a few sliced of red onion to be used for decoration. Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the remaining onion with the garlic until slightly soft. Add the grated zucchini and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the milk and salt and pepper. Whisk well. Stir in the chives, 1 tablespoon of basil and 2 oz. of the feta.
When the sautéed vegetables have cooled slightly, stir them into the eggs.
Pour mixture into the pre-baked tart shell. Arrange the reserved zucchini strips and sliced onions artfully on top. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the preheated 375 F/190 C oven for 30-35 minutes, until the center of the quiche is set.
Remove from the oven, cool slightly, then remove from the pan and sprinkle over the remaining crumbled feta and sliced basil.