Friday, March 17, 2017

Hashing out a quiche

Quiche is a way of making a couple of eggs seem like a lot more food. Plus you get the mix the healthful (spinach) with the not-so (bacon). But most quiches, even the most delicious ones, often suffer from a soggy crust.

If that's been your experience as well, here's a variation to try. Another bonus: It's gluten-free.

Lori K’s Hash-Brown Quiche

Serves 2 with a side of fruit for breakfast; 4 with a large salad for brunch

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more in a mister
1 box of Golden Griddle hash browns, reconstituted (you will have at least 4 servings left over)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of spinach, washed well and drained
2 eggs
¼ cup of heavy cream*
½ cup of 1 percent milk*
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper
¼ cup of cooked crumbled bacon
1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan

Heat olive oil in shallow 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add approximately 2 servings of the reconstituted hash browns, covering the bottom of the skillet completely. Season with a little pepper and salt, but be aware that the bacon and Parmesan are also salty. As the hash browns  cook, make sure the edge is as even as possible, pushing them away from the side a little.
Put the washed spinach in a food processor and chop. Pour it out onto a clean old dishtowel, fold over the sides and over the top and put in the microwave for a minute. Starting at the end you put the spinach, roll up and squeeze until the spinach has most of its moisture removed. Put back into the food processor, add the eggs, cream, milk and seasonings, and process until well blended.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F or 300 degrees in a convection oven.
Mist an 8-inch pie pan with oil and invert it on the raw side of the hash browns in the pan. Flip the hash browns into pie pan; they should come up the sides a bit, so mash them down to form a crust in the pan. Spread the bacon crumbles over the hash browns.
Pour the egg-spinach mixture over the hash browns and bacon. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the quiche.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the center is firm. Cut into quarters and serve.

* You can use ¾ cup half&half, a mixture of sour cream and milk, or evaporated milk, depending on what you prefer or have on hand.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Just for the halibut

Want a fancy dinner, fast? Think fish. Think thick. Think halibut.

Jim saw a nice piece of freshly caught Pacific halibut at our neighborhood grocery, Taylor's in Land Park. He got about ¾ pound, which was enough for the two of us and some leftover for lunch tomorrow. But he wanted to get on the road tonight (it was supposed to start raining in the morning) so he asked if dinner could be ready soon.

I cut two small Russet potatoes in half and put them in a cast-iron skillet, cut side down, in about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. They cooked for 6 minutes, until they were golden brown. I put them cut side up on a microwave-safe plate, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and hit the 1-potato setting on the microwave (about 4½ minutes).

Meanwhile, I washed and put a big bowlful of baby Swiss chard (that I just trimmed from the big pot they are growing in) in a microwave-safe bowl and seasoned it with garlic salt. I put it near the microwave and waited for the potatoes to finish.

Then I heated a tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet on another burner. I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper and put it skin side up in the skillet. It needed to cook 6 minutes to get a nice golden crust, so while that was happening, I prepared the simple sauce: 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons capers, a sprinkling of whole thyme leaves and 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped finely.

The fish got flipped, I turned on the oven, and then I added the sauce ingredients to the pan. When the butter browned, in about 2 minutes, I scooped up as much of it as I could and put it on top of the fish, then turned the heat off (the fish would continue to cook as long as it was in the pan).

I put in the dinner plates in the oven to warm.

I checked the potatoes, and they were soft in the middle, so they came out and the chard went in, covered with a plate, for 90 seconds. It was still very green, so I gave it another 30 seconds. It would have been prettier if I left it very green, but I like my greens a little on the soft side.

I gently lifted the fish off its skin and cut it in thirds, plated it, the potato halves and the chard on the warmed dish and served it. Total cook time, about 11 minutes. Not bad.

It was simple, and simply delicious.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A great, big, beautiful dal

Indian food, with its gorgeous colors and calliope of tastes in every single dish, has always been a mystery to me. I've enjoyed it at restaurants, both holes in the wall and white-tablecloth establishments, all around the world. But when it has come to home cooking, I've often been reduced to TastyBite pouches over rice. Not bad, but I longed for more. And fresh vegetables.

So I was delighted to take a class from Sudha at the Charlottesville Cooking School on Barracks Road before we left Virginia. We had a small class of four (the other classes I've been to there have been a dozen or so), and she taught us a few basic North Indian dishes and explained what ingredients to look for in Indian grocery stores.

We made a dry dal, paneer, rice and chipatti bread.

Sudha taught mostly by doing, and she chopped vegetables into the pans as she cooked, much like my grandmother did, not in tiny chef dice but in big, hearty chunks. Lest you think she was from another era, she used a MagicBullet blender for her sauces.

I wish I had the recipes to pass on, but really, recipes are not the point. Spices and technique and practice are. But I am happy I bought a spice tin like Sudha had; having all the basic spice on hand, not in a bunch of lined-up jars, so I can add a little or a pinch more as I cook, has made a change in how I cook, and not just Indian dishes, either.