Monthly Archives: January 2017

ZUCCHINI AND SPINACH UN-QUICHE

We are entering our third week of unpacking. We had thought that by now we would be able to have Carol and her family over for our alternating family Sunday dinner. Unfortunately that was not to be although our kitchen is in good enough order to do some cooking. This week I was scheduled to make the main dish and sides. Carol was scheduled to make appetizers and dessert. The modified modified plan was for me to cook in our kitchen and then take it to Carol’s house for the dinner.

Carol made some outstanding appetizers and a delicious bread pudding (I forgot to make the promised whiskey sauce, but not to worry – there was whipped cream and/or ice cream to substitute.) Carol calls the appetizers puff pastry pinwheels. She had two kinds: pesto and sun-dried tomato. She says that the family’s favorite is prosciutto. It would have to be great to beat the two that she baked. Her bread pudding was made from an extra Christmas panettone augmented with chocolate and raisins.

Puff pastry pinwheels

Puff pastry pinwheels

For the main dish I roasted a whole chicken along with Hasselbach potatoes.  The challenge was the green vegetable. This time of year you can always find broccoli, broccolini, and green beans, but for me they have worn out their welcome. I know that summer squash is out of season, but in Southern California everything seems to be in season all year long. Unfortunately zucchini often cooks up watery with not much color. I decided to combine it with another watery vegetable but with more color: spinach. And mushrooms. Cheese and mushrooms sounded like good additions, and suddenly you have the makings of a quiche. The crust was definitely too much effort and too filling for a side dish, but the stand-alone filling sounded good.

Here’s the whole menu – puff pastry pinwheels, roast chicken, Hasselbach potatoes,  zucchini-spinach un-quiche, and panettone bread pudding.

RECIPE

Zucchini and Spinach Un-Quiche

Ingredients

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 generous handfuls, more or less, fresh baby spinach
  • 5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese, coarsely grated
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup panko
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Method

  1. Wash the zucchini and cut off the stems. Grate with the coarse side of a box grater. In a clean towel or with clean hands, squeeze as much liquid as you can from the grated zucchini.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the grated squash and sauté until the squash gives up its liquid. Then add the spinach and cook until the leaves are completely wilted and they have given up their liquid. Add the mushrooms and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add Pernod
  3. Transfer the mixture to a strainer. Drain. Use a heavy spoon to press out as much moisture as you can. Place in a well-buttered 2 quart baking dish or soufflé bowl.  Top with grated Swiss cheese.
  4. Combine the well-beaten eggs and cream. Add a little bit more salt and pepper. Pour over the zucchini/spinach mixture and stir until well combined. Sprinkle the top with panko and grated Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 350°F for 1 hour or until bubbling and well-browned. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, and serve while still warm.

Cook’s Notes

  • The casserole will deflate as it cools. It will not reinflate with reheating, but it will still taste good if it is rewarmed.
  • You can turn this into quiche by baking it in a blind-baked pie shell at the same temperature for the same time.
  • You can turn it into a soufflé by separating the eggs, combining yolks with the cream, and gently folding in the stiffly-beaten egg whites. Use the same time and temperature.

 

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EASY AS APPLE PIE

I have been away from the blogosphere for much of the month of January. Instead, Susan and I have been opening boxes after our move from Santa Fe to Southern California. In spite of downsizing, we are still trying to figure out how to cram the accumulations of over 50 years of marriage into our condo that is a lot smaller than the house we left.

For nearly three weeks, our focus has been on getting settled in, but we have made time to spend with our daughter and her family. Carol has suggested that we start a new tradition with family dinners, alternating between our homes every Sunday. Everyone gets a part of the meal to cook. This week, I was assigned dessert. Carol is a great dessert cook, and so is her mother. The pressure was on. It occurred to me that apple pie is a favorite for most, and it certainly fits in with family tradition.

I was right. Apple pie was a big hit, especially with the teenagers who went back for seconds. The recipe I used was my modification of a recipe published by Sam Sifton in the New York Times. His recipe was a modification of one by Kierin Baldwin, a well-known NYC pastry chef. The key to the pie’s success is cooking the filling before you put it in the pie. I added lemon juice and a good splash of Calvados. Cream instead of the usual egg wash gives the pie a nice sheen. I also increased the cornstarch so that the filling became custard-like. For that reason, it is extremely important to let the pie cool completely before you serve it. Also, use a glass pie pan if you can. Everything seems to bake more evenly. Confession: I used a commercial pie crust. If you’re a purist, make your own.

One other diversion we have been able to do when we can’t open another box is to go to the shore and watch the sunsets. This image is of Point Vicente and its lighthouse just as the sun is setting. Truly a beautiful spot.

Point Vicente at sunset

Point Vicente at sunset

RECIPE

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 large Jonagold apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup Calvados
  • 1 carton commercial ready-made pie crusts (2 discs)
  • cream
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Method

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the prepared apple slices and stir until they are well covered with butter.
  2. Combine the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Sprinkle over the apples and stir until the apples are completely coated. Continue to sauté until the apples are softened and the coating begins to caramelize. Sprinkle in the flour and cornstarch. Stir and cook until the mixture is smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and Calvados. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the pie, remove the pie crusts from the refrigerator. Line a glass pie plate with one of the crust circles. Fill with the apple mixture, mounding it slightly in the middle. Dot with bits of the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  5. Paint the rim of the filled pie shell with cream. Top with the second crust circle and press the rim firmly to seal the crust. Turn the edge of the assembled crust under and crimp with a fork or your fingers. Paint the top crust of the pie with cream. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut 4 slits near the center of the pie. Lower-down slits will encourage the filling to bubble out during baking.
  6. Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet that has been preheated in the middle of a 425°F oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F and continue to bake for an additional 30-40 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.
  7. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely, 2 hours or more.
  8. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or sharp Cheddar cheese.

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BLUE APRON WELCOME

After an experience that could only be described as “The Move from Hell’ we are settled into our condo in sunny Southern California – well, actually it has been rainy and overcast since we got here, and actually, much of our furniture and clothing has not yet arrived. Still, it is comfortable to be settled once again after six months of preparing our house for sale, decluttering  (but not enough), dickering with the buyers, removing a hot tub, worrying about an unexpected radon inspection, working through a harried packing day, and rushing through a hurried cross-country drive with a midway stay in Lordsburg, New Mexico.

To top that off, the alarm was ringing when we entered the front door of our new home. In our efforts to disarm the alarm, I unknowingly sent a medical alert to the local fire department. We wondered why the flashing red lights outside, and then in full firefighting regalia the rescue team knocked on our front door. Everyone agreed that there was no emergency, and the team went back to their station, only to reappear about fifteen minutes later. The alarm company insisted that the team had not done their duty, and we still had a medical emergency. We got the matter resolved, and the leader of the team said we should get the alarm company to disarm the system. My call to do so was unsuccessful as I did not know the password. Several calls later, and after the revelation that neither the current nor past owners of the condo were recognized as the responsible person for the service, the alarm company refused to do anything. Finally, with pathetic pleadings from me, a supervisor’s supervisor intervened without my ever knowing the password.

All of this would have finally done the trick in contributing to a mental decompensation from either or both my wife and me. Our daughter was at the rescue. She had arranged for gift cards to local restaurants, subscriptions to the LA Times, and – best of all – a trial of Blue Apron.

If you don’t know about Blue Apron, you should get acquainted. It is a nation-wide service that is computer-based and geared to the busy home cook. Our daughter has two teenagers, a full-time job, and lots of volunteer activities so it is perfect for her. Once a week the subscriber chooses from two to four or more menus for the week. You can choose 2 or 4 portions for each meal. The menu selection is large. Then, once a week Blue Apron delivers a box filled with the ingredients, illustrated instructions, and recipes for preparing the meals in 30 minutes or less. No fighting the crowds and long lines at the grocery store!

Our trial meal was salmon with orange & soy glaze, sautéed book choy and mushrooms, with rice. It turned out to be fun, easy, and delicious. And there were leftovers enough for lunch the next day. Our daughter has made us believers in Blue Apron. The service is more expensive than buying your own ingredients but cheaper than a restaurant, and you compensate with convenience and professional portion control and recipes.

I’m happy to be in Southern California. And I wish you a Happy New Year.

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