You’d think quiche would be a summer picnic staple. In practice, the beloved cheese pies are too darn messy. Cutting one into slices while you’re sitting in the wild or at the beach can be tricky. And if you figure, “Aha! I’ll slice it up ahead of time,” you discover there’s no easy way to transport the individual wedges. Finally, however you transport your quiche to the picnic, it’s gotta be served with a knife and fork. No way. Picnics are all about finger food.
This recipe for Picnic Size Southwestern Zucchini Quiches provides a snazzy solution to the problem — individual cupcake-sized pies, each one neatly ensconced in its own liner. And making them is a snap because I’ve swapped out the typical labor-intensive pastry pie crust for a crumb crust made with butter-moistened Triscuit crackers. (In fact, any kind of cracker will do. So will bread crumbs.) It’s sort of like a savory version of a graham cracker crust.
The filling consists of eggs, cottage cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, shredded sauteed zucchini and canned chiles. You’re welcome to replace the Monterey Jack with a different cheese and the zucchini with a different cooked vegetable. Just be sure to keep the amounts the same. This filling is poured on top of the crumb crust and baked in muffin tins. Transporting the finished quiches to the picnic is a cinch — they ride in the tins.
And these little guys hold their shape beautifully. You just pick up one, peel back the paper and eat it as you would a cupcake. (I recommend using cupcake liners made of brown parchment paper, if you can find them.) And they’re versatile, too — delicious right out of the oven, at room temperature, or even cold.
PICNIC SIZE SOUTHWESTERN ZUCCHINI QUICHES
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
22 whole Triscuit crackers ground fine in a food processor (about 1 cup) or 1 cup finely ground cracker crumbs of your choice or dried bread crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 medium zucchini (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
6 ounces coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup whole milk cottage cheese
One 4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chiles
Bottled salsa as an accompaniment
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl combine the crumbs with 3 tablespoons of the butter; toss well. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of twelve 1/3 cup muffin tins lined with parchment or cupcake holders. Bake the crusts in the middle of the preheated oven until they turn a slight shade darker, about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside, and reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.
While the crusts are baking, grate the zucchini, preferably using the grating attachment of a food processor. Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Working with small handfuls, squeeze the zucchini well to remove the excess water.
In a skillet heat the remaining tablespoon butter over medium-high heat, add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute over medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes.
In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a large bowl whisk the eggs well. Add the flour mixture and cheeses; stir until combined. Stir in the zucchini mixture and chiles; divide the mixture among the muffin tins. Bake the quiches in the middle of the oven until the tops are puffed and golden brown and a tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Eat right away (if not taking to a picnic), or let cool and then chill, covered with plastic wrap, leaving the quiches in the muffin tin. To serve: Carry the quiches to the picnic in the muffin tin and serve, topping each quiche with a spoonful of salsa.
Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories; 190 calories from fat; 21 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 156 mg cholesterol; 593 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 17 g protein.
Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “HomeCooking 101.”