Archive for August, 2010

A vegetarian dish that even a carnivore can enjoy. The original recipe from Chow.com indicates a homemade crust, of course, but for the sake of ease, speed, clean-up time, and my sanity, I went with a deep-dish frozen crust from the freezer section in my grocery store. You can do your own crust if you have a crust to be proud of, or you can choose a frozen crust without shame.

Broccoli, Mushroom, & Gouda Quiche

2 c. broccoli florets and tender stems (about 6 oz.), large dice*
1/4 c. olive oil
2 c. portobello mushroom (about 4 oz.), large dice
1/2 medium red onion, minced
3 large eggs
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. shredded young Gouda cheese (about 4 oz.)**

*I cheated a bit again and got frozen florets from the freezer case, then thawed and diced them as needed.
**Do try to get Gouda which is not smoked, just plain Gouda.

I spent about half an hour in the mid afternoon prepping my ingredients. When I was ready to start cooking at dinnertime, I had a bowl of diced broccoli, a bowl of diced mushroom, and a bowl of minced onion in the fridge and all ready to go. While the broccoli was blanching, I shredded the Gouda. While the mushroom mixture was cooling and the crust thawing, I washed up dishes.

Prepare the crust, either homemade or frozen. If frozen, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thawing and preparing the crust for a one-crust pie or quiche. If you are using a frozen crust and it only needs to be thawed, as mine was, then keep the crust in the freezer until you are about 15 minutes away from filling and baking it, about the time you finish cooking the mushrooms in the step below.

First, bring a medium saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add broccoli and cook until fork tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and let cool in a single layer on a large plate.

Then, heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add mushroom and onion and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft and mushroom edges are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until incorporated and smooth. Stir in broccoli, mushroom mixture, and cheese.

Pour custard into pie shell and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven until puffed and golden brown, at least 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing.


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Cranberry glazed chicken pizza with peas and mushrooms

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Banana bread is such a basic loaf for the home baker. Everyone has bananas that don’t get eaten before they go all weird and mushy, so one might as well make banana bread. I like Nigella’s moist, fragrant, almost exotic loaf.

Banana Bread

scant 1/2 c. golden raisins
6 Tbsp. or 3 oz. bourbon or dark rum*
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 c. chopped walnuts**
1 tsp. vanilla extract

*I use Captain Morgan’s Dark Spiced Rum or Gosling’s Black Rum.
**I consider these walnuts to be optional. I don’t like walnuts in my banana bread. Other add-in suggestions from Nigella include: 2 Tbsp. of good cocoa powder for 2 Tbsp. of the flour; or 4 oz. of bittersweet chocolate cut up in to chunks; or chocolate chips from the baking aisle. I usually leave out any add-ins, unless I want to make the loaf a little extra special as a gift for someone.

Put the golden raisins and rum or bourbon in a smallish saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave for an hour if you can, or until the raisins have absorbed most o the liquid, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit and get started on the rest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a separate large bowl, mix the melted butter and the sugar, and beat until blended (I use the electric mixer). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the add-ins of your choice (walnuts, chocolate chips, et cetera), the drained raisins, and the vanilla extract. Add to this the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well to incorporate. Scrape in to a 9×5 loaf pan, buttered and floured or with a parchment paper insert.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. When the loaf is done, a toothpick inserted should come out cleanish. Remove from the oven. Leave the loaf in the pan and place it on a rack to cool.

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The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Posting Date: August 14, 2010

Ooohhhh. Intimidating. Truly, this was a challenge for me, even though I understand that some people make pierogi regularly, from scratch, from family recipes, all the time. But I don’t think I’ve ever even eaten a pierogi…

We were provided with an array of fillngs to choose from (the dough is basic), we just had to choose the right one: a cottage cheese filling, Russian style filling, potato & cheese, meat & cabbage, soy bean filling, and sauerkraut. I thought Jim would have chosen the sauerkraut filling, but we decided on the Russian style, consisting of mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, onions, and bacon.

Russian-style Pierogi
makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings

2 to 2 1/2 c. all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 tsp. salt
About 1 c. lukewarm water

3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)    
1 c. cottage cheese, drained        
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear*
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. butter, melted        
1/4 tsp. salt        
pinch of pepper to taste

*I fried the bacon, then drained off most of the fat, removed the bacon, and sauteed the onion in a bit of bacon fat with a small pat of butter.

I recommend doing this in stages.

This is my assistant. See how thrilled she is:

Is any of this for me? No? Well, never mind then.

Stage 1: The Filling
Combine all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and set aside in the fridge until you need it.

Stage 2: Start the Dough
Place 2 c. flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time. Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. We’re aiming for soft dough here. Let it rest 20 minutes.

Stage 3: Forming the Pierogi
 On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 mm), cut with a 2-inch round or glass. Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

Stage 4: Cooking the Pierogi
Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled to doneness taken out straight from the freezer.

Then I got to thinking about what variation I would make. I couldn’t think, at the time, of any distinctive family recipe that could be easily adapted to being a pierogi filling. So my mind turned to local foods and local ingredients. Lobster pierogi just didn’t sound appetizing. Neither did hot dog & baked bean pierogi. Then I thought about Thanksgiving, and tried to imagine a turkey-and-stuffing stuffed pierogi. Then I was struck by a bolt: something to do with cranberries. Then the Culinary Fairy waved her magic wand, and reminded me of Cranberry Glazed Chicken.

I shredded it with a knife and fork, and mixed in some frozen petite peas and all of the leftover cranberry glaze sauce. It was about at this point that I remembered a recipe that would have been TO DIE FOR as a pierogi filling: Chicken Paprika. Chicken, gravy, boiled rice, peas…I’ll have to tell you all about it later. But believe me, it would have been the heights. With extra cream gravy spooned over the top. If or when I ever make pierogi again, please remind me to make chicken paprika first?

This was, indeed, a challenge. These are the hardest things ever to form. The dough stuck to everything it touched, including me, the rolling pin, the rolling surface — everything except itself. Most of the pierogi I was able to get to the “formed” stage exploded in the water, and the rest developed tiny leaks that made the filling taste watery, bland, and downright blah.

What I would do differently: Use premade wrappers. I’m all about the shortcuts that make a project more efficient, less stressful, and more successful.

Just remind me about the chicken paprika.

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I love both the articles and the recipes at Chow.com. Ran across this one on ketchup this afternoon, and got to thinking about ketchup and its place in American cuisine. There are some people who don’t *like* ketchup, but we’ve all had it, we all know what it is, and we all know it can double as fake blood in an English class reenactment of a scene from Dracula in a pinch.

I did have to admit to myself while I was reading this article that given the choice, I am partial to Heinz. I try to grocery shop conscientiously and save a few cents here or there when I can by buying store brands, but I can’t bring myself to buy store brand ketchup. I can’t do it. And thankfully, Jim doesn’t fault me for it. I’m the one who eats the most ketchup anyway, so I might as well get the brand I prefer. I really do think I could pick Heinz out in a blind taste test.

Then again, if a chef offers homemade ketchup with the entree I order at their restaurant, I’m going to enjoy it, and I’m not going to ask for Heinz. Mostly because I am not Malcolm Gladwell, but also because I recognize and respect that some foods just have places they belong. Heinz belongs at cookouts and quick food joints, at family barbeques and at American chain restaurants. If I’ve chosen to eat at the kind of place that bothers to make its own tomato-based condiment, I’m going to give it an honest try.

I know I’ve had the conversation, off-line, about enjoying foods in their natural habitat. Yes, I know that your steak would taste divine with a shaving of truffle, but we’re eating at a chain family-style restaurant, and that isn’t how they prepare their steak here. So just enjoy your simple steak seasoned with salt and just enough black pepper. Respect what the kitchen does instead of carping about what they haven’t done. If you’ve been served something truly heinous, fine, that’s one thing, but if you meal is good and you’ve been given no reason to complain about it, then don’t.

I know, I got off on a little tangent there. What it comes down to is that I love mass-produced ketchup on my grilled hamburgers and my fast-food French fries, but I also respect the kitchens who go the extra mile to offer me something made from scratch. What about you? Would you ask for Heinz no matter how chic the restaurant? Or do you think that every food has its place, and every place has its food?

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