VDP: Eggs with Roasted Peppers

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I had quiet a few more roasted peppers than I needed for the dinner the other night. To use them up I cooked them with a touch of garlic and some onions in olive oil. I then cracked a couple of eggs and let those cook leaving the yolks runny. To serve them, I topped them with grated Parmigiano cheese and some more of that green herb oil. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes and tasted fantastic with crostini.

VDP: Zucchini Pulp Fritters (Ijja)

Friday, March 14, 2008

To make these Lebanese pancake-fritter hybrids (Ijja) first buy some zucchini, the ones with the pale green skin. Next, core them and reserve the pulp. What to do with the actual zucchini? Well, I don’t know. You can stuff them with rice and lamb and braise them in some tomato broth.

Actually these fritters are the byproduct of making the stuffed zucchini (Koussa Mahshi). It is a thrifty way of making a delicious meal out of something that might normally be discarded. To make the batter, squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the pulp then coarsely chop it. Mix into the pulp a couple of eggs, some flour, chopped fresh mint, minced onions, salt and pepper.

I like to fry these in my cast iron skillet. Just heat about a half inch olive oil (or vegetable oil) and drop in heaping tablespoons. Flipping these suckers is tricky, so you have to be careful. I served them with a tomato salad (red onions, fresh mint, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper) and pita bread. These are not supposed to be crispy. They are soft and almost fluffy on the inside. Tear a piece, wrap it in pita bread and eat it with a forkful of the tomato salad and some fresh sliced chilies. Delicious.

VDP: Swiss Chard, Shallot and Goat Cheese Tart

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why is this a tart, not a quiche? I am not exactly sure, but I can give it a shot. This here is a quiche. It’s got a lot more eggs, it’s about 2 inches thick and the whole point of it is the custard, not the ‘filling’. A savory tart on the other hand uses eggs more like a binder, something to set the filling ingredients in place. Whatever you call them, these types of tarts are an amazing way to have a vegetarian dinner that is satisfying, beautiful and delicious.

This recipe is based on one from Leitesculinaria.com for a swiss chard and leek tart with goat cheese. I had no leeks, or rather I forgot to buy the stupid leeks. So, I used some shallots instead. I also blind baked the tart a bit longer without the beans to get it nice and brown. Other than that the recipe is made as is.

The end result, with the sweetness of raisins and shallots, the crunchy pine nuts and the twang of the goat cheese is nothing short of sublime. It really tastes as good as it looks.

Real Men Don’t Eat quiche, they eat Quiche!


“Real men don’t eat quiche”! Yeah, right, not when it is my quiche or should I say the Bouchon quiche. I really do not know where that reputation came from. Probably from the tiny dainty pieces of puff pastry painted with a substance that might’ve been egg at some point and frozen in boxes that you can pick up at Sam’s or Costco. Yes, these poor little imitations still pop up at an “eh-derve” party here and there, but these are not quiche!

Neither are those ½ inch thin tarts that are sold and made by many. You need 2 of those tarts, yes tarts not quiche, to get full. Is that possibly why “real men do not eat quiche”? Do they not meet the criteria of filling, delicious and rich that any man looks for in a meal? If you believe those Hungry-Man commercials, they don’t.

Well, I doubt anyone can make this argument against the quiche from the Bouchon book. This is a real quiche, 2 inches thick and chuck full of eggs, cream, milk, meats and other goodies…oh yes and cheese. Take that Hungry-Man!



Bacon-Mushroom Quiche

Yields: 8 generous slices
I’ve made the Bouchon recipe numerous times and the first few times were bad experiences. This thick quiche will leak if not properly made, and in all honesty it is one of the most challenging cooking experiences I’ve had. A small crack can turn into a much bigger one once the custard is poured in and disaster ensues. When you get the hang of it though, this is one glorious piece of pastry, delicious and impressive. I have not had a leaky quiche in quiet sometime. Remember, work fast, keep the dough rolled thick, and fill when still hot/warm.

Here is my adaptation of the Bouchon recipe. My custard has more eggs and less dairy because I like the more curdy texture rather than creamy. I also love this bacon mushroom filling, but feel free to improvise.

12 ounces All Purpose Flour (about 3 cups, but if you have a scale, please weigh it)
2 Sticks butter, chilled and diced
1 Tbsp salt
¼ Cup ice water

Custard and Fillings
6 thick slices of bacon, cut into ¼ strips across
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot diced
1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
7 large eggs
3 Cups milk
½ Cup heavy cream
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 Cup grated cheese (Swiss, Gruyere, mozzarella or smoked mozzarella)

Special Equipment
8 X 2  inch cake ring (Available for less than $10 at a cake supply store or Sur La Table)

Make the pastry: in a food processor, combine one third of the flour with the salt and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter in increments until all of it is incorporated ending up with a paste. Add the rest of the flour and the ice water and pulse until you have a nice smooth dough. Form the dough into an 8 inch disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour or up to 48 hours. This can also be frozen. Make sure the dough is pliable before rolling though.
Lightly oil the inside of the cake ring, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. Roll the dough into a ¼ inch thick round. It should be large enough to line the ring and have about a ½ inch overhang. But DO NOT roll it too much thinner than ¼ inch. Roll the pastry on a rolling pin and lay it in the ring gently, do not pull and tug on it as you let it rest in all corners. Fold any overhang on the outside of the ring, it will help keep it in place. Save any extra dough, you might need it.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes till it sets.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Line the unbaked crust with an oiled parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans (I use beans). Bake for about 30-40 minutes till the edges are brown. Gently remove the beans and the parchment, patch up any small cracks with the reserved dough and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the inside and bottom are lightly browned. Make the filling while this crust blind bakes.

Make the Filling: Saute the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat till the fat is rendered and the meat is lightly crisped. Remove to a plate and sauté the mushrooms in the bacon fat, till lightly browned. Add the shallots and onions and cook everything till the mushrooms exude all their liquid and the onions are soft. Whisk in the butter and cook for another minute. Add the bacon to the pan and if needed add a little salt. You will also be seasoning the custard so don’t add too much.
Heat the milk and cream till a skin forms on the surface but do not boil them. Remove from heat. Crack the eggs in a large bowl, add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and whisk till smooth. Slowly add the milk mixture and keep on whisking till everything is combined.

Assemble the quiche: Do this when the pastry and custard are still hot/warm, do not let them cool down. This will help the filling cook and set faster rather than get the pastry soggy and leaky. Make sure the shell has no small cracks, pay particular attention to the corners. If it, does patch them with pieces of reserved dough. Leaving the shell on the baking sheet, place half the bacon-mushroom mixture in the bottom, top it of with a third of the cheese, and gently pour in half the custard. Repeat with the remaining filling, half of the remaining cheese, and the rest of the custard. You might want to place this in the oven then adding the last cup or so of custard to avoid spilling during transfer since it will be filled to the brim. Top with the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 70 – 90 minutes, until it is set and nicely browned on top.
Cool to room temperature and then chill overnight. When ready to serve, the quiche should be set and can be handled easily. Simply use a knife to cut the extra overhang and slide the quiche out of the ring. Slice and heat the slices on a baking sheet in a 375F oven till heated through. Enjoy.