29 April 2011

Vegetable Quiche






Quiche is one of those dishes that goes in and out of favor with the trendy set, but I've always liked it. And it was a mainstay in my vegetarian days. In those days, I was seriously into nutrition as well so always made the crust with part whole wheat flour. Years later I had the opportunity to have a little chat with Julia Child about that!

My mother and I enjoyed reading cookbooks and watching PBS cooking shows together, especially Julia Child's, when I was just a child. I had all these "warm fuzzies" associated with Julia, since I spent so many hours in the kitchen with her (courtesy of PBS) and my mother. When I finally met Julia, it felt as if I were reuniting with a beloved aunt who had been a part of my childhood.

It was sometime in 2000 or 2001 that I first met her. As a great admirer of hers since childhood, you’d think I’d have recorded the exact date of that first, and a few subsequent, meetings. These occasions were smallish gatherings of food people (I'm not keen on the word "foodies") enjoying a cooking demonstration followed by dinner. In each case, I marveled that the person cooking could do so with such an august personage in the audience.

I’ve always been pretty hard to impress — I waste no more than a glance (and not a single thought) on movie stars and other celebrities — but I was more than a little dazzled by Julia! She was quite easy to talk to as she seemed completely unaware of her special standing in these groups. My mother, who died years before I met Julia, would have been so impressed!

Anyway ... back to the subject of the little chat referred to in the first paragraph ... When I mentioned putting whole wheat flour in my quiche crust, she got that look and asked why I would ruin a perfectly good pie crust with whole wheat flour. Then she uttered those famous words she's said so many times, even to Jacques Pepin: We're not interested in nutrition, we're interested in taste!

So here's the quiche recipe I made up "back in the day;" but for Julia, let's leave out the whole wheat flour just this once!

Quiche

(Makes one 9-inch quiche)

The Pastry (not whole wheat!)

1 1/4 packed cups (6.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, well chilled
4 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon additional ice water, if needed

The Filling

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced or julienned
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
5 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) grated Cheddar and/or Jack cheese
Sprinkle of paprika

1 In medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. With coarse grater, grate butter into flour bowl. With fingers, quickly work the butter into the flour, leaving some pieces the size of small peas.

2 In small bowl, combine water and vinegar. Sprinkle over flour mixture while stirring with large fork. Add a little more water, if needed.

3 Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten slightly into a 4-inch disk; double wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four days. May be frozen for up to a month; defrost, wrapped, in the refrigerator.

4 Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If dough is thoroughly chilled, let it stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling. On lightly floured surface, roll out disk to a 13-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Place pastry in pie plate.* Bake at 450 degrees, lined with buttered foil and weighted, for 10 minutes. Remove foil and weights, and continue baking for 10 minutes. Remove crust from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

5 While crust is baking, prepare filling. In large skillet, heat the oil and sauté onions for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, zucchini, red bell pepper, half the salt and pepper, marjoram and crushed red pepper to skillet. Sauté vegetables over medium-high heat until all the liquid released by the mushrooms and zucchini evaporates and there is some caramelization. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

6 In medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure), combine eggs, milk, parsley flakes, remaining salt and pepper, and cheese. Stir in cooled vegetables. Pour filling into prebaked pie shell. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden and knife inserted in center comes out clean.

* I think a glass pie plate gives the best results, and I always use the Pyrex Clear Oven Ware 9" Glass Pie Plate. There are lots of quiche recipes in Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set).

22 April 2011

Bread and Butter Pudding - Bread Pudding








Bread and Butter Pudding, also called simply "bread pudding," is a dessert that has been a first for many of my dinner guests. Since I grew up with it, I'm always amazed when people tell me they've never had it before. They always like it and think it was something very difficult and time-consuming to make, when actually it is quite the opposite (Isn't that what every hostess aims for!).

If you are a Jane Austen aficionado, you may have read her mother's recipe, written in rhyme. My recipe makes about a fourth the quantity of Mrs. Austen's and uses proportionately less sugar and butter and more eggs. Also, I skip the cloves and rosewater--the cloves because so many people don't like them and the rosewater because I seldom have it on hand.

Sometimes I serve it with custard sauce, sometimes with my Banana-Pecan Rum Sauce (see below), but this time I served it with softly whipped cream sweetened with a drop of real maple syrup.

About the bread: I can never quite bring myself to use my homemade bread for pudding, so I go for the best store-bought bread I can find. Actually, it turns out rather well with the basic Oroweat/Brownberry/Arnold country buttermilk bread--six slices from the 1 1/2-pound loaf. And, unlike Mrs. Austen, I don't cut the crusts off.

Bread and Butter Pudding

(Makes 6 servings)

8 ounces good sliced white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
4 teaspoons rum
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup dried currants, optional

1 Use bread that's a few days old. I usually use 6 slices from the 1 1/2-pound loaf of Oroweat/Brownberry/Arnold country buttermilk bread. Spread one side of each slice with a teaspoon of soft butter. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the buttered bread. Spread it with a knife so that it is embedded in the butter. Stack the bread and cut into cubes, 16 squares per slice.

2 In 2-quart bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, mace, salt, milk, rum and vanilla. Add bread cubes, mixing gently. Pour mixture into buttered 2 1/2-quart round Corning casserole* and let stand for 10 minutes or so while oven preheats to 350 degrees. If you're using the currants, take care to separate them so that the pudding won't have clumps of currants. Then pour the bread mixture into the casserole in three batches, sprinkling a third of the currants over each.

3 Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and golden and knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer dish to rack and cool about 20 minutes to serve warm with either ice cream or sauce. Or refrigerate for at least 3 hours to serve chilled with whipped cream. It's also delicious at room temperature.

Banana-Pecan Rum Sauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 medium bananas
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons rum
1/16 teaspoon salt

In small skillet, toast pecans; remove and set aside. Slice bananas into 1/4-inch rounds; set aside. Add butter to pan, and melt over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cook, whisking, for about a minute. Add rum, bananas, and salt; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Spoon over warm bread pudding.

15 April 2011

Victoria Sponge - An English Teatime Classic



Victoria Sponge just might be the next big baking trend! Not. You know I can't be bothered with all that nonsense: cupcakes versus whoopie pies versus cake pops versus macarons. Let the bandwagons roll by! In or out, trendy or passé, the only thing I care about is how well something goes with a cup of tea.

Victoria Sponge, named after the Queen, is an English classic that goes perfectly with a good cup of tea. My strong preference for jam and cream rather than thick sugary frostings is, I always supposed, an English thing I inherited from my mother and her mother. We never sweetened the whipped cream for this cake, but you can if you like.

And do use the highest quality raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves you can find, since it is such a huge part of the cake. The only homemade jam I have left is peach (and that just won't do for this), so I had to use store-bought. I love Cascadian Farm Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread. This recipe takes about a third of a 10-ounce jar.

When I was a little girl reading my mother's English cookery books, all the cakes were 7 inches* instead of the usual 8 or 9 we see in American cookbooks.These days the English, too, are making larger cakes. But I like small wedges of cake for afternoon tea, so I always split and fill one 7-inch round layer rather than sandwiching two layers. Since Victoria sponge contains butter it isn't a true sponge, so the cake freezes quite well. Just double the cake recipe and freeze one layer for another occasion. (I just baked one this time because I couldn't find the second pan!)

For my readers in the UK, I have a British Conversions page (see the link on the horizontal menu bar). But just for fun, I included them in this recipe. If you're not from the UK, call up your inner Anglophile and make this lovely cake. Just looking at it makes me want to give a garden fete!

Victoria Sponge



(Makes one 7-inch/18-cm round layer)

3/4 dip-and-sweep cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces/110 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces/99 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/60 ml) milk

1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry jam or preserves 
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/175 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (essence)
Powdered sugar (icing sugar)

1 Preheat oven to 350F/180C /Gas4. Butter well and lightly flour one 7-inch layer pan (18-cm sandwich tin). In small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

2 In medium bowl, with electric mixer (electric hand whisk), cream butter. Butter must be very, very soft to start with. If you didn't get the butter out 3 hours ago, don't try to make this cake. Add sugar and vanilla, and continue creaming until light and fluffy. While beating, slowly drizzle in beaten eggs. Continue beating until light and fluffy. With large metal spoon, fold in the flour mixture after sifting it over the batter. Stir in the milk. You may not need the entire 1/4 cup; batter should be rather stiff, of a consistency to drop from the spoon.

3 Pour into prepared pan/tin. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not underbake.

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour.

5 Not long before serving, whip cream and vanilla (and not more than 2 teaspoons of sugar, if you really must!) until stiff. As you can see in the photo, I go a little crazy with the cream; you could probably just use 1/2 cup. Split cake and spread bottom half with jam and top half with whipped cream. Put top half in place and sprinkle with powdered sugar (icing sugar). Cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

* A 7-inch cake pan might be unusual to Americans; but since that was the "English" thing, I of course had to have the 7-inch tins. I've had mine forever. Now, as then, they can be a bit hard to find. Order here: Parrish Magic Line 7 x 2 Inch Round Aluminum Cake Pan.

Note: A couple of readers just told me their ovens are out of order just now, so I've added this recommendation: Cuisinart TOB-195 Exact Heat Toaster Oven Broiler, Stainless.

08 April 2011

Peach Pie - Freezing Peach Pie Filling


Peach pie is something I wouldn't be having in April had I not frozen some of the luscious organic peaches I got last summer. If you've been reading Delightful Repast for very long, you know I love peaches but refuse to buy the out-of-season imports no matter how much I'm craving a peach.

Last July and August I enjoyed flavorful organic peaches every way I could think of -- peach pie, peach shortcake, peach jam, peach cobbler, peach crumble, just plain peaches. I imagined how wonderful it would be to have a peach pie in the middle of winter, so I froze them pie-ready.

When I was young (decades ago!), my parents had an apple tree. And one day when we were drowning in apples, my mother and I got the brilliant idea of freezing them pie-ready. We had four pie plates and we lined each with a big piece of foil, then stirred up four batches of apple pie filling and poured them into the foil-lined pie plates, folded the foil over the apples and set the pie plates in the freezer. Once the pie filling was frozen, we removed the foil-wrapped filling from the pie plates and stacked the tidy packages in the freezer. And repeated the procedure many times!

So last August I did the same with peaches, but on a much smaller scale, of course. Then any time I wanted peach pie, I just stirred up some pie dough and got the pie filling out of the freezer. It's been wonderful, but now I'm down to the last two and it will probably be another fourteen weeks before I can get my hands on some really good peaches. Wish I'd frozen a couple more!

If you're a peach pie aficionado like me, be sure to do this next peach season. Here's the recipe for Peach Pie with Lattice Crust. And here's the pastry (below). Or try my Gluten-Free Pie Crust. Just scroll down for the recipe and double it for a two-crust pie.


Pastry for Double-Crust 9-Inch Pie (food processor* method)

2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
2 tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar
Ice water to make 3/4 cup liquid

1 With metal blade in place, add flour, salt and baking powder to work bowl of food processor. Turn on for three seconds to combine. Add half the frozen butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add remaining butter and pulse for six 1-second pulses, or until the frozen butter is the size of small peas.

2 In 3/4-cup measure, combine lemon juice and ice water. Pour over all of flour mixture; pulse for six 1-second pulses or just until dough forms large clumps; do not over-process. (The amount of water you will need depends on your climate and the moisture content of your flour. You may not need to use quite as much water as I do.)

3 Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into two balls. Place each ball on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten slightly into a 4-inch round disk; double wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. (Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.)

* I have the DLC-10E, which (understandably after all this time--I've had it since I was very young) is no longer available. See Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless and other currently available models.

01 April 2011

Pan-Seared Ribeye Steaks - Rocky Mountain Organic Meats

Ribeye steak is my all-time favorite steak. I don't eat meat every day and I don't like to eat ridiculous quantities of it, so I've always preferred a nicely trimmed ribeye, about 8 ounces and about an inch thick (makes two meals for me!). And since, ideally, I would be a vegetarian instead of the flexitarian that I am, I prefer to have meat that has been organically, ethically, humanely and sustainably produced. (I hope my vegetarian and vegan readers will pass this post along to their omnivore friends.)

When I "met" Rod Morrison of Rocky Mountain Organic Meats on Twitter, I looked into the company and learned that their beef and lamb are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished and certified organic. No hormones. No antibiotics. No grain. No GMO feed. No irradiation. No feedlots where deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrive. Passionate about sustainable and organic agriculture and livestock production, Rod is dedicated to environmentally friendly agriculture practices, healthy land stewardship and--most important to me--the ethical treatment of animals. The animals are allowed to roam free and are treated humanely.

While two of the steaks thawed (they are shipped frozen from Wyoming), I pondered pan sauces and checked to see if I had on hand all the ingredients needed for my simple shallot pan sauce. Once the meat goes in the pan, you have to pay close attention--making mise en place (having all ingredients ready) crucial to steak cooking.

A lot of people either broil or grill their steaks and have never cooked one in a frying pan, thinking it would just ruin a good piece of meat. So I'm going to write out really detailed instructions for making a great-tasting skillet steak, something I learned from my mother. This one (in the photo) is cooked medium. How do you like your steaks?

Pan-Seared Ribeye Steaks with Shallot Pan Sauce

(Serves 2)

1 medium shallot, finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

1 or 2 teaspoon(s) extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless ribeye steaks, 1 inch thick, about 8 ounces each, room temperature
Salt
Coarsely ground black pepper

1 Get sauce ingredients ready before starting steaks. Now I know this doesn't sound like much sauce. It isn't supposed to be. It's just a tiny bit of sauce for each steak, enough to accent the flavor of the beef without overpowering it. Trust me, it's the way to go!

2 Heat heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, not much, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

3 Thoroughly dry steaks with paper towels and season both sides with salt and lots of pepper. The oil should be shimmering in the hot pan.

4 Place steaks in the pan, with space between them. Cook over medium-high heat, not moving steaks, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn steaks; cook 5 minutes. Turn steaks again and reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 4 minutes (or 2 for medium rare, 6 for medium well to well done). Turn once more and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer steaks to plate, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes or so while making the sauce.

5 As soon as steaks are removed, add shallots to pan and cook over low heat until softened, about 1 minute or so. Turn heat to medium-low; stir in Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, parsley and pepper, scraping up browned bits. Add accumulated juices from platter. Add butter, whisking constantly until melted. Spoon over steaks and serve immediately.
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