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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!

Chocolate Cookies

May 22, 2011

Margaux says . . .

These cookies are delicious, and very simple to make! They also are a good option when wanting to make a sweet on a whim, as the ingredients are usually on-hand in most kitchens. I’m sure you could use regular cocoa powder instead of Dutch processed, and they would be just as delicious. The texture is crispy and chewy, and the sanding sugar makes them sparkly and pretty!

The flavor instantly reminded me of Oreo’s…it’s a rich, dark chocolate that isn’t too overly sweet and would pair really well with vanilla frosting. So I will definitely be making them again as homemade Oreo’s, using the vanilla frosting recipe below. I also am thinking these would be great for ice cream sandwiches, using any of your favorite ice cream flavors. I’m going to use Bobtail’s Merlot chocolate chip…I think it will be the perfect pairing!

Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies

from Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook

2 cups plus 2 tbsp all- purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
sanding sugar, for rolling

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture; beat to combine. Form dough into a flattened disk, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Roll each ball in sanding sugar. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until set, 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies from baking sheet to wire rack. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.


Vanilla Frosting (for filling)
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch table salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth, 30-60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add sugar, and beat until smooth, 2-5 minutes. Beat in the cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 4-8 minutes (the time depends on the strength of the mixer…with my KitchenAid it takes about 5 minutes or so).

Margaux says

So I have to admit, I subscribe to Martha Stewart Living. It’s ideal for me, because I like crafty stuff, as well as liking to cook and bake. So it saves me from having to subscribe to multiple magazines, since I barely have time to read just the one. Plus, its really, really good. This month’s Martha had a chocolate chip recipe that was supposedly for everyone: people who like chewy cookies, and people who like crispy cookies. My husbands favorite cookies are chocolate chip, so I thought I have to try this one, since its claiming to be the best. I seem to be on a cookie kick lately, which is kind of weird…I’m usually more of a cake/pie baker. But I’m finding that its easier to throw together a batch of cookies with a one-year-old running around my feet than anything else. I can also just bake one or two sheets, then save the dough for later when I have more time.

This chocolate chip recipe is only slightly different from the one on the back of the Toll House chip bag, which is what I usually use. I like using the dark brown sugar…it gave them a little more flavor. These definitely lived up to Martha’s testimonial of being the best! They didn’t fall flat like every other recipe that I’ve used do, and they have a chewy center with a nice crispy edge. Just make sure that you don’t over-do them…they need to be just turning golden brown, and still just slightly underdone in the middle. I over-did a few batches, and they weren’t as good.

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Martha Stewart Living, April 2010)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
2. Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips (I did this by hand).
3. Using a 2 1/4 inch ice cream scoop (about 3 tbsp), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden around edges but soft in the middle, about 15 minutes. (That was too long for me…check after 13 minutes to be sure). Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Finished Dough

Finished Cookies