Crustless Quiche

When your cupboard is bare, make quiche. Better yet, make crustless quiche. The thing that used to keep me from making quiche was never having a pie crust on hand, and not wanting to go through the trouble of home-making one. Problem solved with crustless quiche. I almost always have eggs, cheese and milk on hand, and the beautiful thing about quiche is that if you have that, you can toss in almost anything else – chopped up leftover ham or chicken, those last few strips of bacon that aren’t quite enough to cook for family breakfast, that half-bag of frozen spinach rattling around in the freezer. Don’t add meat, and it’s a good meal for Fridays in Lent, one that my husband will actually eat.

Here’s the recipe. I made it with the breadcrumb crust, and found that the egg mixture seeped through the crumb bottom, making it more like a strata than the firm, eggy custard I usually expect quiche to be. Still good.

Crustless Quiche Master Recipe
from Food Network Kitchens

Ingredients

2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Optional Quick Crust:
(NOTE: I used storebought breadcrumbs.)
1 1/2 cups bread cubes, preferably sourdough
2 tbsp unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
9 inch glass or ceramic pie pan

Custard:
2 cups half-and-half
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
pinch cayenne or paprika

Fillings:
2 to 3 cups prepared vegetables, such as braised leeks, broccoli, sauteed onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, tomatoes
4 ounces, or about 1 cup grated or crumbled cheese, such as Cheddar, goat cheese, Gruyere, Parmesan, fontina, provolone, mozzarella, Gouda, solo or combined
1 to 4 tablespoons minced herbs, such as parsley, chives, tarragon, basil, dill, rosemary, marjoram
3/4 cup chopped crisp bacon, diced ham or salami
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, optional, this is good to use with vegetables that release liquid during cooking, such as zucchini and spinach

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the pan: Brush pan with the soft butter and sprinkle the grated Parmesan evenly on top. Or for a Quick Crust, pulse bread into crumbs in a food processor. Heat butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add bread crumbs and stir until evenly toasted, about 5 minutes. Evenly spread crumbs in a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan. Place pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, cayenne or paprika to taste. Spread half the desired filling evenly in the pan, top with about half the cheese; repeat with remaining filling and cheese. Pour the custard over the fillings. Top with more herbs or cheese as desired.

Bake until the quiche is just set in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

Arugula Walnut Pesto

I love pesto. I could eat it with a spoon. In fact, I’ve found I prefer eating it with a spoon (or as a spread or dip) to eating it on pasta. Donna’s, where I used to work, had an amazing mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich, and they also put it on their Tuscan bruschetta. Thick, grainy layers of pesto on chewy Italian bread. So good.

I also love arugula. Peppery and nutty, it’s my favorite green. I use it as often as I use regular lettuce. So, arugula pesto. Double good, right? Right.

This pesto is strong-flavored, so be warned, but I think it’s absolutely delicious. It tastes like spring to me – clean, sharp, green, if something can taste green. Like the little wild spring onions we used to dig up in our suburban front yard as kids. I recommend eating this on soft, warm bread. Or on triscuits, like I just did since I ran out of bread. Or straight off the spoon.

Arugula-Walnut Pesto (found on www.myrecipes.com, and courtesy of Sunset Magazine)

1/3 cup walnut halves or pieces

2 large cloves garlic

4 cups loosely packed arugula leaves, rinsed and dried

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tbs lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt

(Note: I used a blender instead of a food processor, and it worked just fine.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake walnuts until slightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour into a food processor. Add garlic and whirl until coarsely chopped. Add arugula, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Whirl until smooth.

Food for Friday – Traditional Irish Soda Bread

I am powerless against Irish Soda Bread straight from the oven. Dense, warm, with an almost pretzly-tasting crust – before I even knew what was happening I had eaten a quarter of a loaf. I am a carb lover through and through, with any type of homemade bread topping the list. This is probably the easiest homemade bread there is. This recipe is another one from Melissa Clark, and apparently she got it directly from Ireland. It’s so simple it’s dangerous – no rising, no waiting, nothing complicated. And it’s absolutely best when warm, so make sure you eat as much of it as possible right away. I served it with Irish lamb stew, just to make my kids, Seamus and Meara, live up to their names.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, or use 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk or yogurt mixed with a little milk, or additional as needed

Softened butter, for serving

(Note: I used Mark Bittman’s substitute for buttermilk, which is to bring 1 3/4 cups regular milk to room temperature, add 2 tbsp white vinegar, and let it “clabber” or curdle which takes about 10 minutes. So you don’t even need to have buttermilk in the house!)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk or yogurt. Using your hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky. If it’s dry, add a little more buttermilk or yogurt.

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds, then pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place it on a buttered baking sheet and, using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough, reaching out all the way to the sides.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Serve warm with butter.

Food for Friday – Peanut Butter, Bananas and Honey.

Sometimes kid food is the simplest and most satisfying stuff. You can’t beat good old peanut butter and jelly (on wheat bread with strawberry jam, if you please). One step up from PBJ is peanut butter with bananas and honey. I was trying to figure out something to feed my two-year-old for lunch out of a pantry with dwindling supplies on a snowy day. I was out of jelly, but for once in a blue moon, had some honey on the top shelf of my spice cabinet. After I made an open-faced sandwich for him, I thought it looked pretty good and made one for myself. Mmmmmm. Maybe I was just really hungry. Or maybe the combination of hearty wheat toast, grainy all-natural peanut butter, creamy ripe bananas, and just a glaze of sweet honey is one for the ages. Seamus didn’t end up eating most of his, so I helped him finish. And I’ve had it for breakfast every morning since.

I’m sure you don’t need a recipe. Just toast a piece of bread, smear on some peanut butter, add sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey, and enjoy being transported back to when you were five and all you had to worry about was that your gloves would dry quickly enough on the radiator for you to go back out in the snow after lunch.

Food for Friday – Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad

I love food. I love going out to eat. Way back when I started to teach myself how to cook, I thought, why not cook things that are as good or as interesting as food I’d get in a restaurant? Now that I have kids, thrift, ease and speed are also considerations. This recipe’s got all of those things.  It’s from “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite” by Melissa Clark.  She writes a food column for the New York Times Dining section, and each recipe in her book is accompanied by a mini-essay about the dish. For this one, she writes about how she used to call the dish marinated raw broccoli salad, and no one would eat it. She changed the name (I think “sesame-cured” makes it sound complicated, though it’s the exact opposite) and the dish finally got it’s due appreciation.  It’s super easy and super good.  My whole family loves it. It can act as a side dish, or you can toss in some chicken breast or shrimp, serve it with noodles and rice, and it’s a complete meal.

I followed the recipe exactly, and found it to be a little saucy. Next time, I think I’d up the broccoli amount, because although the sauce is delicious, the large amount of oil makes it feel heavy if there’s not something else to sop it up. (Sidenote – I love that she calls for “fat” garlic cloves. Can’t you just see them?) Here’s the recipe. Hope you like it!

Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad

1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, 1 lb each, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add the broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour the mixture over the broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or chilled, up to 48 hours (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours.) Adjust the seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.