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Zucchini Quiche (Quiche de Calabacitas)

The French may not have occupied Mexico for long—indeed, no longer than three years—but their culinary influence remains evident, especially in the central part of the country, including Puebla. This highly flavorful quiche, with its rich sauce of poblano chilies, pairs well with grilled meats or can easily stand on its own as a light main course. Well-cured Spanish Manchego cheese, made from sheep’s milk, adds a distinctive flavor to the filling. Make the empanada dough featured here, or use your favorite flaky pie or tart dough recipe.

To roast the chilies, use long-handled tongs to hold them over a gas-stove burner until their skins are evenly blistered and charred, about 5 minutes; or roast directly over a very hot charcoal or gas grill. Alternatively, roast under a preheated broiler, turning occasionally, until evenly blackened and blistered, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chilies to a paper bag and let stand for 5 minutes before peeling.

Ingredients:

For the empanada dough: 

  • 6 oz. low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature 
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 
  •   

For the filling: 

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, plus more for pan 
  • 3 poblano chilies, roasted (see note above), seeded and deveined, then cut lengthwise into narrow strips 
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 1/4 lb. small zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 3 tsp. chicken bouillon granules 
  • 1/4 lb. regular or low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature  
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 lb. Manchego, white cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, shredded 

Directions:

To make the empanada dough, in a bowl, using a wooden spoon, an electric mixer or your hands, mix together the cream cheese and butter until well blended. Add the flour and salt and mix well. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for about 1 minute, then form into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch quiche dish or a tart pan with a removable bottom.

To make the filling, in a fry pan over medium heat, melt the 1/3 cup butter. Add the chilies and onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl. Put the zucchini in the still-hot pan along with the water and 1 1/2 tsp. of the bouillon granules and cook until the zucchini is just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.

In a blender or food processor, combine half of the onion-chili mixture, the remaining 1 1/2 tsp. bouillon granules, the cream cheese, eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Process until pureed.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Drape the round over the rolling pin, transfer it to the prepared pan and ease it into the pan. Trim off the edges even with the rim. Arrange the zucchini and the remaining onion-chili mixture in the lined pan, then top with half of the Manchego cheese and all of the cream cheese mixture. Top with the remaining Manchego.

Bake the quiche until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is brown, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the quiche from the oven and let it firm up for several minutes. If using a tart pan, remove the sides and slide the quiche onto a plate. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Mexico, by Marilyn Tausend (Time-Life Books, 2000).