Breakfast quiche recipe for the first day of Spring

It’s spring! Finally. The snow may still be on the ground today, but there’s hope in my heart, friends, when the sun is shining and the day is longer.

I’ve been making these lately because:

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Protein gets you off to a great start.

Summer is coming.

(Forget about the bathing suit, I just want to fit into my jeans again.)

You can make them ahead.

They’re great to have on hand when company comes for the weekend.

Have them for lunch with a salad, no regrets.

Once you’ve made these, you’ll want to try different fillings. Leftover vegetables come to life when combined with different cheeses, cherry tomatoes or sautéed vegetables. Whip up the eggs in a blender—a little flour keeps the eggs from weeping.  If you’re not a fan of ham, you can substitute cooked bacon or just leave it out.  Make the basic custard and pour it over whatever combination of vegetables and cheese that pleases you. (I have omitted salt in the egg mixture because of the ham, so when improvising, be sure to sprinkle some into the custard.)

 

Crustless quiche recipe

Oil or cooking spray (for the ramekins)
6 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, finely sliced (white part only)
1 1/2 cups small ham cubes (from an 8-ounce ham steak)
3 cups packed baby spinach leaves (6 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil six 1-cup ramekins. (Cooking spray works the best). Have on hand a baking sheet.

2. Grate 1/2  cup of the cheese. Cut the remaining cheese into small cubes.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the ham and spinach, and cook for 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts. Set aside to cool, and stir in the cheese cubes.

4. In a blender, pulse the eggs, milk, flour and pepper, until smooth.

5. Set the ramekins on the baking sheet. Divide filling evenly among the ramekins. Pour the egg mixture over the filling and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy spring, friends!

 

 

Posted on March 20, 2017 .

Sweets for the sweet: Chocolate fruit and nut bark for Valentine's Day

It's snowing outside and we're hunkered down during another storm. We need chocolate.

Luckily, that is always something I have in my pantry, along with an assortment of nuts and dried fruit, so this is going to be easy.

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended.  The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget a smidgen of salt.

Happy Valentine's Day no matter where you are and who you are with. Maybe you are your own best friend right now, and in that case,  I'm sending you a big virtual hug.

Eat some chocolate, friends, and spread a little love this week. 

Chocolate fruit and nut bars
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars
8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raising or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment paper rectangle that is 9 inches wide and slightly longer than the pan. The parchment should fit on the bottom and extend up the two short sides of the pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

Posted on February 13, 2017 .

Baking with Dorie (Greenspan). Seriously.

Dorie 1.jpg

What do you do when a baking icon shows up at your door? (or in this case, a friend’s door) Well, when it’s Dorie Greenspan you don’t have to worry. Relax, because she is as natural and easy as they come

Dorie 2.jpg

My friend Sheryl Julian (former editor of the Boston Globe food section) was interviewing Dorie at her house, and I was the lucky fly on the wall. I opened the door to Dorie and her husband, and it was like greeting an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. In fact, I had met Dorie quite a few years ago, but I was sure she wouldn’t remember me. She did (or she had the grace to say so) and the conversation picked up from there.

Dorie 3.jpg

Dorie made Caramel Sugar Pufflets from her new book, Dorie’s Cookies. Leave it to Dorie to reinvent a vintage recipe and give it a modern twist (from the 1961 book 1001 Dairy Dishes from the Sealtest Kitchens.) It’s an abbreviated layered dough (like puff pastry) made with butter, sour cream and yeast. The dough is a dream to roll out, which makes these pastries undemanding and fun to bake. The dough is slightly salty, contrasting perfectly with the caramelized sugar layers. I would show you my photo of them, but alas, they were too enticing to make it in front of the camera—somebody ate them, but I won’t say who.

Never mind, because you can see them here and read Sheryl’s story (and get the recipe.)

I know it’s the eleventh hour, but I wanted to post this since really, there are still a few days left to shop and bake. The book is a must-give to a baking friend. You can never have too many cookie recipes, and Dorie’s are well researched and tested. You will find each delicious bite in every size shape and size imaginable.

There is so much more to say, but I have to get back to baking. If you are looking for a real last-minute treat, here is one I photographed and immediately gave away. I’ve put Dorie’s slogan on her next tee shirt “Bake and Release” into practice.   That’s how a prolific baker such as Dorie Greenspan keeps her girlish figure. 

Chocolate fruit and nut bars
Makes 18 (4 1/2-by-1-inch) bars

The possibilities of toppings for these bars are open ended. If you have some nuts, dried fruit and chocolate around the house, you won’t even have to make a special trip to shop for ingredients. The choices run the gamut: whole almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cranberries, chopped apricots, chopped candied ginger, or whatever strikes your fancy will do. Make sure to finely chop the chocolate, and don’t forget a smidgen of salt.

8 ounces dark, bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed, unsalted, raw nuts and seeds such as pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chopped dried fruit of your choosing

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a parchment paper rectangle that is 9 inches wide and slightly longer than the pan. The parchment should fit on the bottom and extend up the two short sides of the pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Spread the chocolate evenly over the bottom of the lined baking pan and bake for 3 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven, and use a small offset spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cool for 5 minutes. Freeze for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove from the freezer.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to coat them. Spread them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the nuts are browned and fragrant. Remove them from the oven and cool for 2 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the warm nuts and the dried fruit evenly over the chocolate. Place the parchment sheet you used for the nuts on top of the bars and press firmly with your hands to embed them into the chocolate. The chocolate will start melting from the heat of the nuts. (If it does not, return the pan to the oven for 1 minute.) Freeze for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens.

5. Using the parchment paper ends as handles, lift the chocolate out of the baking pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board with the short side parallel to the edge of the board. Use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the chocolate in half lengthwise. Make 1-inch cuts across the halves to make a total of 18 bars. Store in a cool place in an airtight tin between layers of waxed paper.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ONE AND ALL AND BEST WISHES FOR A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR WITH MANY NEW ADVENTURES AND GOOD FRIENDS AND OF COURSE, FOOD.

Posted on December 22, 2016 .

Turkey enchilada casserole

Ix-nay on the turkey soup, it's time to cook something a little different to use up those leftovers.

With folks still hanging around over the weekend, turn your leftovers into a spicy casserole. Traditional enchiladas are made with corn tortillas that are first fried, then coated in sauce, filled, and rolled. I break only one rule, and that is to ‘oven fry’ the tortillas instead of frying them in oil on the stove, which is a deal breaker for most of us. The frying actually serves to keep the tortillas from cracking when filled, but with some experimentation, I found that a light coating of oil and a few minutes in the oven accomplish the same goal.

Green sauce goes well with any kind of poultry (you could substitute chicken), and here it is made with tomatillos, pale green, firm fruits that are covered with a papery husk and a slightly sticky residue that must be removed. Their flavor is lemony tart and they pair well with the mild spice of poblano peppers and the heat of jalapenos. As in many Mexican sauces, once pureed, the sauce is simmered in a pan for a few minutes to blend the flavors. The thick Mexican cream (crema) that would be used here is not easy to obtain, but easy enough to replicate with sour cream thinned with milk. You can find cotija, a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese in some markets, but Parmesan makes a fine substitute. All’s well that ends well, and this feisty casserole rounds out a weekend of feasting in an unexpected way.

p.s. I'm going to let you in on a secret. When I'm feeling lazy and want to make this in a hurry, I use tomatillo sauce from a jar (!) (Frontera Grill). That's it. Everything else is the same. 

Rest up my friends, and enjoy your weekend.

Turkey enchilada casserole
Serves 6

SAUCE

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved crosswise
1/2 white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 poblano chiles, halved and seeded
2 jalapeno peppers, halved and seeded
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup turkey or chicken stock

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Spread the tomatillos, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, turning with tongs, for 4 to 5 minutes on a side, or until lightly charred. Transfer to a blender jar.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan and return to the heat. Add the onion and garlic. Place the poblanos and jalapenos with the skin sides down. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until lightly charred. Transfer to the blender jar. Add the cilantro, salt, and stock to the jar, and puree until smooth.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the pureed sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water or stock, 2 tablespoons at a time, if sauce seems thick.

ENCHILADAS
3/4 cup sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
12 corn tortillas
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups shredded cooked turkey (from about 3 pounds uncooked turkey)
1 1/4 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup crumbled cotija, or grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
4 thinly sliced radishes (for garnish)
Cilantro leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Lightly oil two 3-quart, shallow baking dishes. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet and a dinner plate.

2. In a bowl, stir together the sour cream and enough milk to bring it to the consistency of thick cream.

3. In a separate bowl, toss the shredded turkey with 1/2 cup of the sauce.

4. On the baking sheet, spread the tortillas (they don’t have to be in one layer.) Drizzle with the oil, and with your hands, lightly rub to coat them in the oil. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Remove.

5. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of each baking dish. Drizzle each with 2 tablespoons of the cream.

6. One at a time, dip, fill and roll the tortillas: Dip a tortilla in the sauce and set it on a plate. Spoon about 1/4 cup turkey filling on one side and roll it up like a cigar. Place in the baking dish with the seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas, leaving a small gap between each roll, six enchiladas per pan. Pour the remaining sauce over each baking dish, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle each dish the grated Monterey jack, dividing it evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.

7.  To serve, drizzle each dish with more cream, and sprinkle with cotija. Top with radishes and cilantro.

©2009-2016 Sally Pasley Vargas. Writing and photography, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on November 25, 2016 .

Cranberry pear sorbet and other Thanksgiving stories

It's happening. Already. It always seems to sneak up on you. But let the eating season begin. And, since dessert is obviously the best part of the meal, let's start with that. You don't need an ice cream maker to make this sorbet, though if you have one, it's a bit easier. I have lots of recipes to share, so stay tuned. In the meantime: Cranberry pear sorbet Makes about 1 quart A subtle pear essence underlies the tangy cranberry flavor in this stunning-looking knockout dessert. The cranberries don’t overpower the pears and the color is spectacular. You could try other fruits with the cranberries, such as poached apples, or pink grapefruit, or quince that has been cooked until soft. The only limit is your imagination. The good news is that you can make this without an ice cream machine. 1 orange Water 2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries 3 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into large dice 1 1/4 cups sugar 1/4 cup light corn syrup 1. With a vegetable peeler, remove 3 wide strips of orange zest from the orange. Halve the orange and extract the juice. Pour it into a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 1/2 cups.  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the orange juice and water mixture, the orange zest strips, cranberries, pears, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cranberries soften and pop. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. 3. Remove the orange zest. In a food processor, puree half the cranberry and pear mixture until smooth. Repeat with the other half. 4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the sorbet mix into a gallon zipper bag, close the bag, and submerge it in the ice water. Leave for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is cold, adding ice as necessary. Alternatively, refrigerate overnight. 5. Pour the sorbet mix into an ice cream maker and churn until it looks like soft serve ice cream. Transfer to a container; press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours. If the sorbet becomes too hard in the freezer, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes to soften it, or carefully soften it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time.  To make without an ice cream maker. Although this is a two-step method that takes longer than freezing in an ice cream maker, it is handy to know about if you don’t have a machine. When the sorbet mix has chilled, place the bag on a flat tray and freeze for 3 to 4 hours, or until hard. Remove from the freezer and leave at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Cut the bag open with scissors and peel back the top of the bag. With a heavy knife, cut the frozen slab into 1-inch chunks. One-third at a time, process in a food processor until the sorbet looks creamy and no chunks of ice remain. Pack in a container, and continue until all the sorbet is used. Press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve.     

It's happening. Already. It always seems to sneak up on you. But let the eating season begin.

And, since dessert is obviously the best part of the meal, let's start with that. You don't need an ice cream maker to make this sorbet, though if you have one, it's a bit easier.

I have lots of recipes to share, so stay tuned. In the meantime:

Cranberry pear sorbet
Makes about 1 quart

A subtle pear essence underlies the tangy cranberry flavor in this stunning-looking knockout dessert. The cranberries don’t overpower the pears and the color is spectacular. You could try other fruits with the cranberries, such as poached apples, or pink grapefruit, or quince that has been cooked until soft. The only limit is your imagination. The good news is that you can make this without an ice cream machine.

1 orange
Water
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
3 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and cut into large dice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

1. With a vegetable peeler, remove 3 wide strips of orange zest from the orange. Halve the orange and extract the juice. Pour it into a measuring cup and add enough water to measure 1 1/2 cups. 

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the orange juice and water mixture, the orange zest strips, cranberries, pears, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cranberries soften and pop. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the orange zest. In a food processor, puree half the cranberry and pear mixture until smooth. Repeat with the other half.

4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the sorbet mix into a gallon zipper bag, close the bag, and submerge it in the ice water. Leave for 30 minutes, or until the mixture is cold, adding ice as necessary. Alternatively, refrigerate overnight.

5. Pour the sorbet mix into an ice cream maker and churn until it looks like soft serve ice cream. Transfer to a container; press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours. If the sorbet becomes too hard in the freezer, refrigerate it for about 15 minutes to soften it, or carefully soften it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time. 

To make without an ice cream maker.

Although this is a two-step method that takes longer than freezing in an ice cream maker, it is handy to know about if you don’t have a machine. When the sorbet mix has chilled, place the bag on a flat tray and freeze for 3 to 4 hours, or until hard. Remove from the freezer and leave at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften slightly. Cut the bag open with scissors and peel back the top of the bag. With a heavy knife, cut the frozen slab into 1-inch chunks. One-third at a time, process in a food processor until the sorbet looks creamy and no chunks of ice remain. Pack in a container, and continue until all the sorbet is used. Press the top with a piece of parchment paper, and cover. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve. 

 

 

But wait! There's more.

 

I love this easy one pan chicken. I have neglected this blog so I can write for The Boston Globe and Simply Recipes (and a cookbook in between--more on that later). But in case you didn't see this, go here for the recipe. It's one of those throw it together and shove it in the oven dishes to make when you're really busy. Don't order out, make this! And happy Thanksgiving--I will be "talking" to you again soon.

Posted on November 19, 2016 .