I love shapeshifting meals. Meals that can be a substantial breakfast, a luxurious lunch, or a light dinner. Quiche, Frittata, Shrimp and Grits (okay, this one’s not so light)–these can make any meal depending on serving size and accompaniments. And since this one uses The Best Cheese Known to Mankind, well, it was an obvious choice. I know there are more complex cheeses for more refined palates, but if I’m really going to be honest with myself, smoked gouda takes the cake every time. Seriously, there’s a picture of me at my wedding pointing at the smoked gouda on the cheese tray and smiling hysterically. Granted, this probably had something to do with the fact that I realized at that point I could eat the whole tray and it wouldn’t hit my hips until after I’d worn the wedding dress, but the smoked gouda was certainly the initial inspiration for the giddy grin. It reminds me of growing up in Ohio, when my parents would take me to the corner butcher shop on Saturday mornings–Richter’s, I think it was called–and the whole place smelled of the same savory smokiness I associate with gouda. How I loved that smell, and still do. All that to say, this quiche and I had this date from the beginning.

This recipe was simple to put together, as long as you let the store give you a hand. Just buy a crust and some pre-washed spinach and you’ll be ready to eat in an hour. I baked this in my convection toaster oven and it baked in almost half the time the recipe claimed, especially the blind baking step–it only took 15 minutes, and probably could have gone for less. If you have a large enough toaster oven, I highly recommend this method. Granted, I used the regular oven for the side of zucchini (see below) so it didn’t keep the kitchen from getting hot, but the speedy baking was still worth it. Also, the recipe in the magazine claims it makes 10 servings. If you’re serving it for brunch alongside several other offerings, sure, 10 servings might be accurate. But as a dinner entree with a simple side, go for 6-8 servings. The calorie count is still quite low, and there’s nothing worse than feeling unsatisfied after a good meal.

So without further ado…

Smoked Gouda Quiche

(adapted from Cooking Light, August 2010)

For the crust:

Buy a premade crust. I understand, you’re feeling righteous. You want to put only whole foods in your body, and no preservatives. You want to use real ingredients and feel the butter and flour come together under your gentle touch. Got it. If this is the case, here is my suggestion: Buy it. Seriously. Not only is the crust recipe suggested by Cooking Light the worst pie crust I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot)–it ripped and shredded and fought me every step of the way and made me want to scrap the whole endeavor and go out for pizza–although the final product did taste good. But you have to make the dough, chill it, roll it out and shape it to the pie pan, then freeze it, blind bake it, cool it, then finally fill it and bake the actual quiche. At least 3 hours total. It’s a good thing Dan was late getting home from his squash game or we would have waited for hours. And while I don’t mind a long process, this is not what you want to be doing for a “quick” evening meal. You can certainly make the crust the day ahead, but really, I have better things to do. So just buy it.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pierce a storebought 9-inch frozen pie crust with a fork to keep air bubbles from forming and bake for 25 minutes (check after 10-15 if using convection) or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

2. To prepare the filling: Heat 1 T extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup sliced green onions (green and white parts); saute 5 minutes or until tender.  (Add a pinch of salt to draw out moisture.) Add 3 cups fresh baby spinach (basically three large handfuls); saute 2 minutes. In a bowl, combine 1 cup low-fat milk with 3/4 cup grated smoked gouda, 3/4 tsp. salt, a pinch of grated nutmeg (freshly grated is always best), and 3 large eggs. Mix well with a whisk. Stir in the spinach mixture until well-incorporated. Pour filling into the crust.

3. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes. If using convection, check after 20-25–the middle should not be wobbly and the top should be firm to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestion (and another recipe): Dan and I ate this for dinner with a side of Roasted Zucchini. Here’s how you make it: Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix 1-2 cloves minced garlic with 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil. Cut several zucchini into wedges (cut off both ends, halve, then slice each half lengthwise several times) and place these wedges skin side down of the baking sheet. Brush with the olive oil mixture, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence (or any other dried herb mixture you prefer). Bake for about 8-10 minutes; remove when the zucchini begins to brown on top.