The place I keep coming back to right now in memories and daydreams is New York, though the times shift between 1996 and 2004. By the end of that period I was oppressed by the grotesque bodies and the low and constant din of machinery all around. At the beginning of the era I was still a teenager drawn to the city, which was exotic and familiar all at once. My best friend was at NYU, while I was north in starchy, conventional Boston.
Angela, when I visited, showed me downtown, which was everything I’d read about, and more. I can still smell the tangy bodegas and East Village studios, and feel the fear of riding the unpredictable subway, like rotting armor, that carried us up to The Cloisters overlooking the river, and into other worlds that were not connected by the streets above. It was never then a whole place, but a suite of vignettes where I found myself living a surreal life I always wanted, though I never stayed for long.
One of the avenues into urban adulthood was cooking. We were tentative vegetarians and ethical in our middle class prejudices. We’d open cans of chickpeas and olives, experiment with avocados, sniff the bulk bins of spices in Middle Eastern grocers and concoct a recipe based on our bohemian intuition.
There was always someone who knew more. Someone whose parents had a house in The Hamptons and who spent their summers in Montana or Croatia. They were the keepers of the knowledge of cumin and Sartre. They told us which films were important and taught us to snack on hummus and hard cheeses. They inevitably played the Djembe. Some of them we slept with, while others left right after dinner. Later we’d retire to the roof to smoke clove cigarettes and discuss the future.
There might not be anything more late-nineties than quiche, in my experience. Maybe casual lesbianism and Leonardo DiCaprio. But man, did we get down on some room-temperature quiche. We ate it with our hands, sitting on tapestries in barren parks with brown bagged 40s, and in the school cafeteria because we mistakenly thought it was healthy, or European.
I still think quiche is cool. I always will, I guess. The way I will always love Romeo + Juliet, Ani DiFranco, and Bukowski. It’s part of the fabric of my coming of age. And that fabric smells like patchouli.
To honor that time and because in spring you eat leeks, and leeks are best friends with bacon, I made quiche. Because it is delicious and you should have it for dinner with a salad and rosé outside and remember the light. Be light, like those moments from adolescence, when the only worry you had was when the train would come.
I made this a “crustless” quiche, because I would rather have a loaf of rustic bread on the side. But that’s me. You do you. Quiche is perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. You can also eat it cold out of the refrigerator while you watch Jeopardy and run water for a bubble bath. Which is definitely what I may or may not be doing right now.
Spring is the ideal time to make this dish. You can feel very lovely going to little shops and farm markets for the best brown eggs, cheese, and leafy leeks. The whole endeavor made me feel invigorated about shopping, cooking, and eating again. I hope you make this and have a similar experience, mixing memory and desire. Here’s to the end of April and all the promise of spring!
- 1/2 lb thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced
- 2 big Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup kale, thinly sliced
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup gruyere cheese, grated
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- Preheat oven to 375. Grease a pie plate with butter. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add leeks, brussels sprouts and kale. Season with pepper and cook the vegetables down until they soften, 7-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Spread the mixture into the prepared pie dish.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the eggs, egg yolk, half and half and milk. Pour this into the pie dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes until browned on top. Let the quiche set for another 15 minutes before slicing.