On a weekend afternoon, Pardis and Frank Stitt gather friends around the table to partake in the flavors of the season. The Stitts made this Ratatouille Quiche with Arugula and Olives using eggs from their chickens and summer vegetables harvested from their Alabama farm.
Ratatouille Quiche with Arugula and Olives (Serves 8)
FOR THE VEGETABLE MIXTURE:
- 1 pound small fresh eggplant, cut into large cubes
- Several fresh thyme sprigs or a big pinch of dried thyme
- 8 parsley sprigs
- Pinch of dried fennel seeds
- 4 bay leaves
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound yellow onions (about 5), coarsely chopped
- 1 pound red bell peppers (about 3 large ones), seeded and cut into large cubes
- 1 pound zucchini, cut into large cubes
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 pound tomatoes (about 5), cored, each cut into eight wedges
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of fresh parsley and basil, coarsely chopped
- Additional olive oil (of the best quality) to finish
- Sprinkle eggplant with salt, and let stand 1 hour; pat dry.
- Place thyme, parsley, fennel, and bay leaves on a double layer of cheesecloth; gather edges together, and tie securely.
- In a large heavy pan or casserole, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onions and bouquet of herbs; stir to coat with the oil. Cook, covered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers; cook, covered, another 20–30 minutes, until onions are light golden (do not let burn); the vegetables should be very soft.
- In another heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot; add eggplant, stirring to coat with oil; cook, covered, until very, very tender (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.
- In another heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil until hot. Add zucchini, stirring to coat with oil. Add garlic; cook, covered, until tender (about 15 minutes).
- Add tomatoes to onion mixture; cook over low heat about 15 minutes. Combine all of the vegetables in a colander over a skillet to collect the liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency; add liquid to vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and basil; finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
FOR THE QUICHE:
- 1 pastry shell, pre-baked in a 9-inch springform pan.
- 6 free-range eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Gruyère or Comté cheese
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Place eggs, milk, cream, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a blender; blend at low speed to mix, and then at high speed for 1 minute.
- Place 2 cups vegetable mixture onto the base of the pastry shell; sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup Gruyère. Add the cream mixture to about three-fourths full; top with remaining cheese. Place on a baking sheet, and transfer to middle rack of oven. Top with remaining cream mixture, and bake until golden brown (about 11/2 hours). Cool a few hours. Trim away excess pastry crust along the top edge; remove from springform pan.
Garnish with basil and perhaps a few lettuces, dressed with olive oil.