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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.

Margaux says…

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.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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).

Asparagus and Leek QuicheVegetables: 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.

DSC06707Assembling 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!

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Cobb Salad

June 17, 2012

Margaux says…

In the summer we eat a giant salad for dinner almost every night.  It’s just too hot to cook, and honestly, too hot to eat anything but salad (in my opinion!).  This salad shows up on our table at least once a month every summer.  It started out being a favorite in our house because it was great for our new little eater, who couldn’t chew lettuce yet.  There’s an abundance of toppings that we could pick off for him, and so it was a complete meal for him as well as us.  Two years later, and it’s still a summer favorite!

I made it for our Father’s Day dinner tonight, served with a crusty bread for soaking up extra dressing, and a summery cake for dessert.  When I called my dad , we discussed our dinner plans (Dad and I are the cooks of the family), and he thought the salad sounded great and asked that I post it.  I’m actually shocked that I haven’t yet, as much as I make it, so I guess it’s about time!  So here you go, Dad…  xoxoxo!

Classic Cobb Salad
from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

Dressing (you only really need about half of this…I save it and use it on other salads for a few days after)
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 bunch watercress, some of the stems trimmed, chopped
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (we used a Stilton)
6 strips cooked bacon, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chives, minced

Make the dressing: Combine the canola oil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, sugar, and garlic in a blender. Purée the ingredients to make a smooth dressing and season with salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside.

Make the salad: On a (very) large platter, combine the iceberg and romaine lettuces along with the watercress. Arrange the blue cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado on top of the greens in neat rows. To serve, drizzle salad with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and top with chives. Alternatively, toss everything together in a bowl.

Do ahead: Salad dressing keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to one week. Individual ingredients (except the avocado, which is too prone to browning) can be prepped and chopped, and kept in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. However, no doubt due to sturdiness of 2/3 of the lettuces, I found that the entire assembled salad kept surprisingly well wrapped in plastic in the fridge for a few hours.

Panettone Bread Pudding

December 11, 2010

Margaux says…

I have a new obsession: panettone.  I was watching the Food Network because there was nothing else on (I’d already seen every cop show that was on, and had already caught up on all my shows on On-Demand).  So I happened to catch a Barefoot Contessa episode about bread.  Thrilling, right?  That’s what I thought, until she got to the bread pudding recipe.  The panettone, the eggs, and the half-and-half had me on the edge of my seat (well, I would have been had my 2-year-old son not been sleeping on me), and I could practically smell it baking.  I’ve actually never had panettone…I always just passed over it during the holiday season when it pops up at the grocery store because I assumed it was just an Italian fruit cake, which I really don’t like.  Well, thanks Ina, for broadening my horizons!  I seriously couldn’t stop popping pieces in my mouth while I was slicing it for the pudding.  I think I’m going to buy a loaf every week!  This stuff is like candy-bread!  Just think of the possibilities!  Panettone French toast!  Panettone toast and butter!  Panettone plain, with tea, for a mid-day snack!  Panettone and almond butter sandwich!  I’m so excited about this stuff.


This recipe is great for a crowd…luckily my babysitter has a huge family and I was able to send a bunch home with her this morning.  It’s serious comfort food, and I recommend serving it after a nice, comfort-food like dinner.  It would also be great served at a brunch.  The almond topping makes it very elegant, and I could see it at a post-wedding weekend brunch for the family, or for a birthday brunch.

I didn’t trim the crust from the panettone because there wasn’t really any super dark parts, and she didn’t trim it on the show…she actually said you don’t need to bother with that.  Also, I didn’t have extra-large eggs on hand, so I used one more whole egg and one more egg yolk, and it turned out perfectly!  I was a little hesitant about the 2 teaspoons of almond extract…that’s a lot of almond…but went for it anyway, and it was just right.  Tastes great served warm with vanilla ice cream!!

Panettone Bread Pudding
from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show, Bread Winner episode 2008

1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone. Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding.

Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eggs for Dinner

May 16, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Margaux and I have been emailing back and forth lately about how we have noticed a focus on eggs for dinner in the food blogs we follow and the magazines we get. It’s been quite amazing how many things we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, including a page on my Page-A-Day wine calendar about what wines pair well with dinner-style egg dishes! We both agree that we love eggs for dinner, so we took advantage of my visit to Chicago to make this delicious Spanish Tortilla. We also were trying to think of things we could make with Preserved Lemon when I remembered this great Moroccan tomato salad. It tasted really good with the tortilla!

Margaux says . . . Ironically, I’d been making eggs for lunch and dinner for a few weeks before we even started talking about it. Its really easy, and I know Desi will eat it.  So when we started going back and forth about it, I thought, “wow, everyone has eggs on the brain!”  It must be a seasonal favorite. 

Aunt Suzy says . . .

A note about the Chorizo: this recipe uses Spanish-style Chorizo which is smoked vs. Mexican-style Chorizo which is fresh. Since authentic Spanish Chorizo costs a pretty penny, I have always used the chicken Chorizo sold in places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. This time we used TJ’s chicken Andouille, which is a good substitute.

Asparagus and Chorizo “Tortilla” (like a frittata)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

6 ounces thin asparagus, tough ends discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into ¼-inch dice

8 eggs

1 cup grated Manchego cheese

¼ cup chopped parsley, divided (optional)

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet with sloping sides over medium high heat. (The best for this is either a non-stick or a cast iron like Le Creuset). When oil is hot, add asparagus and chorizo and cook, stirring, until asparagus pieces are just tender and chorizo is slightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Remove asparagus and chorizo from the skillet and set aside. Remove skillet from heat, wipe with a paper towel and set aside.

Whisk eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste and the cayenne pepper to blend. Stir in cheese and 2 tablespoons of parsley.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet and set on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, pour half the egg mixture into the pan. Cook about a minute, tilting the pan and loosening the edges with a spatula. Sprinkle the asparagus and chorizo over the eggs and then pour in the remaining egg mixture. Reduce heat to medium and cook the eggs, continuously loosening the edges with a spatula and tilting the pan to let the uncooked egg mixture run under the cooked part. Cook until the underside is golden and set but the egg mixture on top is slightly liquid, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the center rack of the oven. Bake until top is set, about 4-5 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn’t overcook. If the eggs on top are not done at this point, you can turn the broiler on and broil the top for 2-3 minutes.

Remove skillet from the oven and let rest for a minute. Using a spatula, carefully loosen the tortilla from the pan and slide it onto a serving plate. (The tortilla will be half to ¾-inch thick.) Garnish with remaining parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into wedges.

Moroccan Tomato Salad with Preserved Lemon

Salad

4-6 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or seeded and diced fresh tomatoes

½ medium red onion, diced

½ cup cilantro, stems removed and chopped

½ cup parsley, stems removed and chopped

½ preserved lemon, diced (pulp removed and discarded)

Dressing

3 Tablespoons fruity olive oil

2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Juice of one clove garlic (use garlic press to squeeze the juice and discard the pulp)

1 teaspoon paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all dressing ingredients thoroughly and pour over salad. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Serve as is or over a bed of lettuce on a platter.