Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mmm Soup

I definitely found a new favorite soup recipe. It's a recipe I've been want to try for a while and now I'm really glad I did! Everything is really simple but the flavors come together perfectly. The lentils make it smooth and creamy while the quinoa lends its light nutty taste. The dark leafy greens (kale...but I used chard) provide a yummy taste and some of the most readily absorbed calcium, iron, and protein available. To serve, a spoonful of tahini in the bottom of the bowl (the swirl you see in the photo) adds another layer of flavor and texture. This is perfect for spring and is just one of those feel good soups. A nice piece of bread, or indian flatbread as in the photo, make a very satisfying meal.

Another exciting friend Joe is teaching me to brew beer. We make a batch just the other day and it's happily fermenting in my pantry as I write this. It'll be bottled in another week and then sit for a month to carbonate.
Joe did an apprenticeship at a brewery in New Mexico last semester-so, I'm hoping to learn his ways. I'll take some photos when we bottle and follow up with a little critique when it's finished. It's an IPA so here's Joe with his little ball of hops.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Cleanse

So...this post is not going to be very exciting, which means there will be no pictures. I promise to make up for it in the next one though. I was gone last week, visiting family in California, and while I did do some cooking I, naturally, forgot to take pictures of any of it. Such is life. Quick descriptions of what I made: seared scallops with sauteed asparagus and saffron couscous one night and macaroni and cheese with wilted rainbow chard another. I was able to go to a nice farmer's market with my mom (I'm jealous of all those people who have farmer's markets year-round or at least this early in the season). We stocked up on organic cheeses, radishes, chard, basil, tomatoes, eggs, rhubarb pie, and strawberries that make my mouth water just thinking about them. After doing some other shopping in downtown Ventura we came home and I made some mayonnaise (with one of the beautiful eggs) for my mom to use in some amazing tomato basil sandwiches. The simplest meals are often my favorite.
Now that I'm back and the spring equinox has past, it's time for a spring cleanse. Basically, I'm eating really simple foods for the next week. Oat, corn, or rice porridge for breakfast with a green smoothie ( I may get addicted to these!) and soup and a light salad or Kitcheri for dinner. Kitcheri is an Indian dish of basmati rice and some variety or lentil (red, yellow, or mung beans) cooked into a porridge with a combination of spices. In Ayurvedic medicine it's traditionally used for the very young or old and for those that are sick. It's very easy to digest, which is why it is a perfect meal when doing a cleanse. I can eat as many vegetables and fruits as I want to fill my belly. No dairy, little to no wheat, nothing processed, and lots and lots of water. For everyone that knows my sweet tooth...this isn't so easy for me. I'm craving more pizza and Thai food than anything though. Ah, well it's just a week. If anyone has any questions or advice to offer on cleansing please share.
I will return with my next post refreshed and anew; ready to celebrate the new season with flavor.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Leek and Mushroom Quiche

There are some things that really just make food better. For example, a sandwich jumps a few points by simply toasting the bread. Sun dried tomatoes are another element that make foods like pizza or pasta go from good to great. Pastry, I think, is the ultimate. A meal is so much more enjoyable set in a crust or wrapped in a hearty layer of flaky pastry. With this simple addition, stew (delicious in its own right) becomes the comforting satisfaction that is pot pie. Custards and fruit, also quite nice on their own, are raised to pie and tart status with just a little flour and butter. Last night, with the same ingredients, I could have made a lovely omelette. Instead, I decided not to settle and went for the all out quiche. A spinach salad on the side, complete with vinegrette a la Maman, provided a crisp balance to the richness of the quiche.
Here's how I did it:
I began with a simple Pate Brisee made in the food processor.

Pate Brisee
1 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter
ice cold water

Add the flours, salt, and sugar to the food processor and pulse until combine. Cut the butter into chunks and add to them to the bowl. Pulse until the texture is of a coarse meal. Add about
3 tbsp water and pulse, adding just enough water to hold the dough together. Don't overmix or the dough will become tough. Wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile...start on the filling. I didn't follow a recipe so I'll just explain. Wash and slice one leek-then, sautee in olive oil until tender. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Wipe two handfuls of mushrooms with a damp paper towel and slice-sauteeing in the same pan with a little more oil and some Herbes de Provence. Remove to a separte bowl. Whisk 5 eggs with just under a cup of cream or half-and-half, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Now for the layering...roll out the dough and lay into a greased and floured pie pan. Evenly disperse the leek in the bottom of the crust.

Pour the egg mixture over the leek. Scatter the mushrooms on top, followed by shredded Swiss Cheese and pine nuts. Instead of cutting off the excess crust (did I mention that's my favorite part?), I just folded the edges over the filling. It give it a kind of rustic look.

Bake at 375-degrees for 50-60 minutes.
I won't lie-it was pretty amazing. Leeks are a great substitute for people like me who don't like onions. Their sweetness is tasted throughout the egg filling. The mushrooms provide a nice savory balance and the pine nuts added that toasted element. This is one of those dishes that sun dried tomatoes could have really done something for-but that might just lead to overwhelming goodness. Is that so bad?