Made with the wild thyme and hyssop that grows on the hillsides of the Levant, Za’atar is versatile spice blend that can be used on anything and everything. Each country and region in the Middle East has their own twist on this classic. Some add caraway seeds, some add fennel, but at its base is the earthy blend of hillside herbs. I used this flavor profile as the base for my quiche, adding eggplant and cauliflower, with a bright punch of spinach and cilantro. It’s a fresh, verdant combination, and very unexpected in classic quiche.
I made this in a 9 inch deep fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
1/2 recipe savory pie dough (recipe below)
1 large eggplant, split
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon za’atar
or equal parts thyme, oregano, majoram, sesame seeds
big pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 ounces spinach
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
INGREDIENTS (SAVORY PIE DOUGH)
(This is a double crust recipe, so you will only be using one for the tart. Refrigerate or freeze the other one for future use)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter
1/4-1/2 cup ice water
DIRECTIONS (FOR PIE CRUST)
In a food processor or quickly using your fingertips, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter until the chunks of butter are broken down to the size of peas and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the first 1/4 cup of water and mix until the dough comes together easily. It’s too dry if it immediately clumps apart. Add two tablespoons of water at a time, you can always add more water but not more flour, so careful not to add too much! Bring the dough into two balls and plop them on top of two sheets of plastic wrap. Loosely wrap up the ball and press down, smooshing the ball into a disc about an inch thick. Pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes while you busy yourself with the other stuff.
Pre heat oven to 425 F.
Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with half of the zatar, plus some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until tender and golden brown. When done, scrape the flesh out of the eggplant with a spoon, set aside. Throw out the skin.
Unwrap and place one of the doughs on a well floured surface. Sprinkle with flour, and roll out with a rolling pin (turning often to get an even thickness) until the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick and about 11 inches wide. Place the dough into a tart pan (with a removable bottom) and press in the sides. Trim off the top of the dough, place a small sheet of parchment paper on top of the bottom of the tart, and fill with pie weights or beans. this will prevent the dough from rising and will keep the sides from shrinking down.
Bake on the center rack for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 375 F, remove the parchment and weights/beans and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven. It doesn’t have to be cool to continue.
DIRECTIONS (FOR THE QUICHE)
Heat oven to 375 F.
In a bowl, whisk together the half and half, eggs, and remaining zatar, plus a little salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower, cauliflower, eggplant, and spinach and combine.
Pour the mixture into the crusts and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and the edges are cooked, but the middle jiggles a bit like jello. Remove the quiches and let them cool for 10 minutes before cutting.