June 26, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
My friend, Ruth, and I recently read My Life in France by Julia Child and thought it would be fun to cook some things inspired by her. . . maybe not exactly her recipes from The Art of French Cooking, but similar ones using fresh seasonal ingredients. We had talked about a souffle, but I’ve always been intimated by them. Probably should give one a try at some point, but we decided on quiche and chose an asparagus quiche because asparagus is at its peak right now. I did look in TAOFC to see whether Julia had a recipe using asparagus (no) and to see her methods (interesting and helpful!). Ultimately, we chose this recipe from Martha Stewart that we modified slightly. I know the perfect person to buy from at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, so we went Saturday morning to buy asparagus and other items for our menu. I realized that while I enjoy ordering quiche out or having it at other people’s homes, I had never made one myself! This was very easy and definitely delicious, so I will make quiche again, experimenting with other types and recipes. It was fun to cook with friends, with everyone diving in and making light work of the tasks. We served this with a beautiful salad and a glass of chardonnay.
Quiche is kind of a staple in our house. My dad made quiche a lot when I was a teenager, so it’s like comfort food to me. And it’s (relatively) easy, inexpensive (especially if you just use leftover stuff like I do a lot), and really delicious. This recipe is definitely a little fancier than I usually make, with the Gruyere and leeks, and it’s super good. We usually have a few leftover pieces for breakfast the next day, but this one we totally polished off that night!
When I make quiche, or any baked single-crust pies, for that matter, I use the Joy of Cooking method with the crust, and I find that it always makes for a better finished pie. In the Joy of Cooking test kitchen, this was the only way they found that didn’t end in a soggy, under done crust. The edges may get a little brown, but it’s totally worth it. I’ve included the instructions for this method after the recipe.
Your favorite pie crust for a single crust pie
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
2 medium leeks, white and light green part only
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half and half
A pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Crust: Roll out the dough and place in a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp or flute the edges. Bake at 350° for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and make a few stabs with a fork to deflate any bubbles. Set aside to cool slightly. Leave the oven on. (Or follow Margaux’s instructions below for pre-baking the crust).
Vegetables: Wash the asparagus and pat dry. Cut in roughly 3/4-inch lengths. Cut the tops off the leeks so only white and light green part remains. Slice these pieces in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running water, fanning out the layers. Thinly slice in half moons then pat dry with a towel or paper towels. Heat the oil in a non-reactive skillet over medium heat. Sauté for about 10 minutes until asparagus is beginning to soften and the leeks show a few browned bits. Remove from heat and set aside.
Eggs: Whisk the eggs and half and half together and add the nutmeg along with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to completely blend and emulsify a little.
Assembling and baking the quiche: Place the slightly cooled pie crust on a jelly roll sheet pan. Scatter the grated Gruyere onto the bottom of crust. Place the vegetable mixture in a layer over the cheese. Next pour the egg/cream mixture over all. Place the quiche on the sheet pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. (check at 45 just in case it’s done. At Ruth’s it took an hour in a gas oven and at my house it took 45 min in an electric oven.) A knife inserted into the center should come out almost clean. The quiche will continue to cook slightly as you let it rest for 15 minutes (or more) before serving. You can serve warm or room temperature.
NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS:
Suzy says…None of us had time to make a crust so we used store bought and it was fine! While I swear by homemade, I have friends who swear by store-bought. Today I was convinced that if pressed for time purchased crust is a good option. On the recommendation of the cheese department manager, I used half local Gruyere and half imported French. Her idea was that the French is nutty and flavorful, but not very “melty” and the local is very melty, but does not have as much flavor as the French. If Gruyere isn’t readily available, you can use regular Swiss cheese.
Margaux says…I have used store bought crust before too, and prefer Whole Foods brand by far. But I have to be REALLY pressed for time to do it…I always make an all-butter crust and it’s way more flavorful. 🙂
Joy of Cooking pre-baked crust method:
Roll out your dough and place in pie dish. Crimp the edges as desired, and freeze for about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the upper third of the oven. Take the pie dish with crust out of the freezer and smooth a large sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, into the pie crust, leaving an overhang all the way around the edges. Fill the liner with raw beans or rice or metal pie weights, banking the weights along the sides if you don’t have enough to fill the whole shell. Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in to set the crust. Take out of the oven, carefully remove the foil by grabbing the corners and pulling it out with the weights, then prick all over with a fork. Put it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until its golden brown. Check periodically for doneness and if there is any puffing up, prick the puff with a fork and gently push back in place with a spoon. Take out of the oven and fill with the filling and bake (don’t forget to turn the oven down to 350). If your crust edges start to get too brown during baking with the filling in, carefully cover just the edges with aluminum foil pieces. Or get a vintage crust saver (aluminum ring that you set on the crust) like I have…it’s great!
June 26, 2013
This was the weekend of getting stuff done. Actually, every weekend needs to be the weekend of getting stuff done, but somehow that doesn’t happen. If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband and I (more my husband, less me) are remodeling our house. FOREVER remodeling our house. Right now we’re re-doing our upstairs bedrooms…all three of them. It’s going slowly, as usual. Since it’s summer, we’re also trying to make our outdoor spaces more livable so that we go out there more often. I always feel like we spend more time at Home Depot and Menard’s than we do actually doing any work…but that might just be because I really don’t like those places very much.
This weekend I got the front yard looking pretty great…mulched, weeded, re-planted a bunch of stuff. And meanwhile, in the backyard, Jason painted the wicker furniture that I found in the alley a while back. I love finds like that! Now all it needs are some cushions and we’re on our way to some outdoor living!
So complicated baking projects were out of the question…but I had two quarts of strawberries that I needed to do something with ASAP. I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website last week, and thought it would be the perfect quick dessert to use up most of the strawberries with. I love tarts, but making the pastry cream can be so time consuming and tedious. This was a great alternative, and who doesn’t like a dessert with cream cheese?? It reminds me of a dessert my Aunt Gigi always made for summer gatherings, especially the Fourth of July, strawberry pizza. It’s the same idea, with a shortbread-type crust, cream cheese topping and fresh strawberries. This is even better I think, though, because it has about twice the amount of cream cheese filling…yum!
Easy Strawberry Tart
adapted from Everyday Food
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly or apple jelly
1/4 teaspoon salt
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.
Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan). Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese. Microwave jelly in a small bowl until liquified, about 30 seconds (keep a close eye so it doesn’t boil). Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.
June 24, 2013
We’re kind of into strawberries around here. And I’ve been buying them like crazy this year, as usual, even though they’re not that great (all the rain around here made them kind of tasteless). Usually at my house we just eat them fresh with yogurt, or just, well, fresh. But since they don’t have a lot of flavor this year, I’ve been making desserts out of them (add lots of sugar and voila, they taste better!), like strawberry pie, and this amazing strawberry shortcake.
The strawberry shortcake I grew up on was basically a buttermilk biscuit recipe with a little more sugar in it. My husband grew up on angel food cake as the cake part. Both good, but this is so, so much better. The shortcake is so delicious that I’ve been just eating the leftovers plain-ahem-for breakfast. And the recipe is super easy since it’s done in the food processor. I was stressed because I didn’t start making it until after dinner, but it was no problem!
If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make this recipe! But first….you should really invest in a food processor. It’s one of my most-used kitchen tools! Mine is a Cuisinart from the early 90’s that I got from my mom. (She hates to cook, but when I was a kid thought for a minute that she might like it and took a bunch of cooking classes and stocked our kitchen with fancy tools. Lucky for me, I have most of that stuff now.) Anyway, it’s a fantastic machine and if you can find a used one at a garage sale or something, it will most likely work great! But anyway, I’m guessing you’re not going to run out and buy a food processor for this recipe, so in the meantime…I’ll give you instructions below.
Aunt Suzy says . . .
A while back we posted another recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. We might call it the shortcut shortcake because the “cake” is Joy of Cooking cream scones, which have only 4 main ingredients with heavy cream filling in for the butter and eggs. From looking at Margaux’s recipe, these will be much richer and probably more classically “shortcake” as we Americans would think of it for this dessert. I’m going to have to try this once we get strawberries up here in Minnesota. Our winter lasted into mid-May so we are waaaaaaaay behind! Hey, Margaux, how about we make these for breakfast at Wimbledon?
adapted from Everyday Food
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, sugar, and the salt until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal but with some pea-size bits of butter remaining, 10 to 12 times. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream and the eggs; pour over flour mixture, and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25 to 30 times.
If using a pastry cutter instead of a food processor: cut the butter into the dry ingredients in a large bowl using a pastry cutter until the mixture is a coarse meal, with some small chunks of butter. Whisk together the cream and eggs, pour into the butter and flour, and using a wooden spoon (or your hands, which is easier), mix together the mixture until large clumps form. Do not overmix.
Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack dough, invert, and then tap out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 biscuits. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.
Hull and quarter about 6 cups of strawberries. Mix them in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup of sugar. Let is sit for at least an hour, until they get nice and juicy.
The whipped cream:
Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream with 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form.
When shortcake has completely cooled, you can carefully cut them in half lengthwise with a serrated bread knife. Add strawberries and whipped cream and serve!
June 19, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I learned about this salad recently when friends and I got together to cook Asparagus and Leek Quiche. It was a perfect compliment! I love both beets and fennel, so what’s not to like? It’s easy to put together once the beets are cooked. We thought you could add a little feta cheese and call it a main dish salad!
1 pound cooked beets, cut in small wedges
1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced plus chopped fronds for garnish
about 6 cups lettuce, torn in small pieces or use spring mix
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like chives, parsley, dill or mint (we used chives and mint)
To cook the beets you can either roast or cook stovetop. For stovetop, place the unpeeled, washed beetroots in water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer at a gentle boil for about 20-30 minutes for small beets and longer for larger ones. Here’s a great how-to for stovetop cooking of beets. Remove from heat, drain and let cool slightly. When cool enough, you can easily slip off the skin with your hands. Let cool completely and cut into small wedges.
Make the dressing by whisking the buttermilk and mayonnaise together until emulsified. Add the herbs and continue to whisk. Set aside.
Wash and dry the lettuce and spread on a platter. Place the sliced fennel bulb on top of the lettuces, then the beet wedges. Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad. Garnish with the fennel fronds.
March 5, 2013
Aunt Suzy says . . .
Today demanded soup, but I’m in the mood for spring now that it’s March. I would not say spring is around the corner here in Minnesota as you can see by this predawn photo, but enough winter already! So here’s a soup that’s, well . . .a soup, but with many ingredients that taste of spring. Perfect for a day like today! Both Randy and I thought we almost couldn’t get enough. He wanted me to make sure to say that, in his opinion, this must be made with homemade stock, feeling that boxed or canned would diminish the light spring-like quality we loved so much. He also had an initial bad reaction to the idea of lettuce in a soup, saying that it’s like putting walnuts on a salad. After a few spoonfuls of the soup, he said that he must like walnuts on salad – hehe. So don’t be put off by the cooked romaine lettuce – it adds a light crunch and lovely vegetal flavor. Enjoy with a lemony Pinot Grigio and a baguette!
This recipe was inspired by one that I saw in a Food 52 email yesterday, but is highly adapted in both method and ingredients. Serves 8 (or 6 hearty eaters)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 scallions, white and green separated and sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small zucchini, small dice
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and ground black pepper
9 cups chicken stock
1 small can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
zest of 1 lemon, Meyer if available
1 1/2-2 cups cooked green beans, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 cup each fresh mint and fresh parsley, chopped (or more to taste)
2 cups dried pasta, small shapes (I used gemelli)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. When shimmering, add the white part of the scallions and the celery. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic zucchini, salt and pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the chicken stock and chickpeas and simmer for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.
Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Add the chicken, green beans, herbs and lemon zest to the soup pot and simmer till heated through, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to over-stir.
Right before serving, stir in the lettuce and lemon juice. Cook until heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
To serve, place a handful of cooked pasta into the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowl over the pasta. Garnish with a few slices of the green part of the scallions (and a few red pepper flakes if desired).
September 10, 2012
This past week, the New York Times had a group of risottos in it’s “Recipes for Health” column that combined different grains or rices with the traditional risotto rice, Arborio. They all caught my eye, but I started with this one because I have wanted to make something with farro for a while and have not. This dish is a WOW! The herbs and lemon add freshness to the taste and the farro creates a wonderful chewy mouth appeal. We served with an Italian Orvieto white wine and a green salad. This falls into the “easy” category except for the need to stand at the stove and stir for about 40 minute. Totally worth it!
NOTE: I like this blog post from The Chef In You about farro and how to cook it. I found “pearled” farro in bulk at our local coop. It also comes in semi-pearled and non-pearled varieties, the latter of which needs to be pre-soaked. If you can’t find it locally, you can order from Amazon or here.
Makes 6 servings
6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed thoroughly of sand
Salt to taste
2 plump garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups cooked farro (1 cup uncooked)
2 cups chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, basil, chives, thyme (I used a cup of parsley, a cup of basil and 2 tablespoons lemon thyme)
Freshly ground pepper
2 ounces grated Parmesan (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cook the farro according to directions and set aside.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan, then turn the heat to low. Make sure this is on a burner handy to the main pan you will cook the risotto in.
Heat the oil a large saute pan or heavy saucepan on medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the rice. Cook, stirring, for about 3 more minutes.
Stir in the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until absorbed and almost evaporated. Next, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock – enough to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly (adjust heat accordingly). Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, not too fast and not too slowly, stirring often and adding more stock when the rice is almost dry, for 15 minutes.
Stir in the farro and more stock to cover and continue to cook, adding more stock as necessary and stirring often, for another 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked through but al dente. If it is still hard in the middle, you need to continue adding stock and stirring for another 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasonings. NOTE: Make sure you watch for dryness and stir often as the mixture tended to stick once the farro was added.
Stir in the herbs and fresh pepper (be generous), add another ladleful of stock and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute. Finally, add the Parmesan and the lemon juice, stir together and remove from the heat. The risotto should be creamy; if it isn’t, add a little more stock. Stir once, taste and adjust seasonings, and serve. Prepare for your taste buds to be delighted!
June 17, 2012
I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but I made a boxed cake today. This is the first boxed cake I have bought since I was in high school, I think! Ok, let’s start from the beginning: I pinned this cake on Pinterest, not even looking at the recipe first, because it was so pretty. Who isn’t attracted to a bright pink cake? Plus, I love coconut. Then I realized that it was with a white cake mix and a package of jello, and I thought, well, I’ll just do it from scratch instead someday. Fast forward to today, Father’s Day, and me asking my husband what he wants for his Father’s Day “treat.” He didn’t really have any idea, so I took him to my “baking” pinboard on Pinterest, and he picked this cake! (Shows what I know…I thought for sure he would pick a pie, or the ice cream cake that I’ve been dying to make.) Ok, it’s 85 degrees outside, and I’m 7 months pregnant…boxed cake mix it is! Plus, I realized that the original recipe is from Joy the Baker‘s website, who I trust for cakes (I’ve made quite a few of hers), so I figured, how bad could it be if she likes it?
The cake mix is seriously doctored, and the frosting is KILLER, so you can’t really tell it’s from a mix. Well, actually, I could, but everyone else that was scarfing it down said they couldn’t. I felt a little betrayed, actually. All the hard work I put into my cakes, and my family loves the doctored-up cake mix just as much.
Strawberry Coconut Cake
adapted from Joy the Baker
1 (18.5 ounce) box white cake mix (without pudding)
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry jello
1 Tablespoon self rising flour
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 tsp pure coconut extract
1/3 cup fresh strawberries, finely diced.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the cake, combine to cake mix, Jello, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition Add the water, coconut extract and strawberries and mix well. Divide the batter evenly into three 8-inch round baking pans that have been oiled and floured. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the layers pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the layers from the oven to wire racks. Let them cool, still in their pans, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the inside edge of each pan, then unmold each layer onto the racks to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) block cream cheese, softened
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 (1 pound) boxes powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp pure coconut extract
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
pink food coloring
4 sliced strawberries
To make the frosting, in a bowl combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat until soft and pliable and no lumps remain. Add one box of the powdered sugar, salt and coconut extract. Beat until incorporated. Add the second box of sugar and mix until incorporated. If you would like a smoother consistency, and a slash of milk. If you would like a thicker consistency, and a bit more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.
Put the coconut in a small bowl and sprinkle with two or three drops of pink die. Mix with hands to distribute the color and wash hands immediately. Once the cake is frosted, decorate the top of the cake with the shredded coconut and sliced strawberries.