Sunday, February 24, 2013

Love is in the air... spinach, gruyère and ham quiche

We celebrated our postponed Valentine's Day yesterday by... well, basically eating a lot and sitting around.  It was wonderful.  After starting the day with some Homemade Granola, we enjoyed this wonderful quiche for lunch.  It was my first quiche ever and I am very proud of the results! I guess it is hard to go wrong with homemade pie crust, eggs and cream involved.  For dinner, we had a braised chicken and chickpea stew that was also awesome.

We enjoyed it with a mimosa and a simple arugala, pear and dried cranberry salad.

It was creamy and dreamy and a very lovely way to spend our "Valentine's Day."

By the way, check out the absolutely beautiful earring holder Brandon made me this year -- it is a piece of mesh screen that he stretched onto an old window frame I absolutely love it.  It is awesome.  He is a wonderful husband.

The animals were also in a loving mood yesterday... they hung out with us by the fire after lunch...

What a pair...

Sasha gets a Lupa kiss!

Betsi also was her cute self and enjoyed the fire.

Anyway, back to the quiche.  This recipe was sooo good.  We are eating it again for lunch todayIt seems like a very adaptable recipe that you could put any number of fillings in with wonderful results.  The crust and custard are easy enough.  Here's how you make it.

For the crust, I halved a simple butter crust recipe.  I incorporated the butter by hand, rather than in a food processor, to get a flaky dough.

Pate Brisee
(for 1 9 inch tart)

6 oz all purpose flour
small pinch salt
1 stick very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1-3 oz. ice water 

Whisk flour and salt.  Add cold butter.  Using fingers or two butter knives, cut butter into dough so dough resembles coarse meal and chunks of butter are no larger than pea-size.

Add ice water slowly and mix until moist crumbs form.

Turn dough onto surface and form into a disc, about 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

To pre-bake tart crust, set oven to 400 degrees F.   Place chilled dough on floured work surface (use a marble surface if possible) and roll out into a 1/8 inch thick round, 2 inches larger than pan.

Very gently, fold dough into quarters, place in tart pan, and gently unfold (or partly roll onto rolling pin and unroll into pan).

Lifting edges, ease dough into pan, flattening along bottom of pan, and pressing dough up sides.

Use rolling pin and roll over top of pan to cut off excess dough.  Press around sides so they stand about 1/8 of an inch above metal pan.

Use dull edge of knife to decorate edges of dough.  Poke bottom of crust all over with a fork.

Line shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake 10 minutes.  Remove foil and beans and bake for 3-4 minutes more.   Reduce oven temperature to 350 and chill crust on rack while you prepare quiche filling.

Quiche Filling Ingredients

1 Tbs. butter
1 small shallot, diced + 1 leek (white part only),  thinly sliced.
Most of 1/2 lb. bag of baby spinach
1 cup (4 oz) grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup or so of ham, thinly sliced (optional)
4 eggs
approximately 1 cup half-and-half
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and leeks and saute until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add spinach and cook until wilted.

Transfer spinach to a colander and press excess liquid from spinach.  Put bre-baked pie crust on a baking sheet.  Arrange spinach mixture in even layer in bre-baked pie crust.

Top with grated Gruyère and sliced ham.

In 2 cup measuring cup, lightly beat 4 large eggs.  Add half and half so mixture measures about 1 1/2 cups.  Add pinch nutmeg and salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Pour custard mixture over filling, being careful not to overfill.

Bake quiche on baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes, until filling is completely set in center and top is golden.  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before serving. 

Slice and enjoy!

Oh and I must share just a couple more sleepy Lupa pictures before I go... she is the cutest thing alive...

-- Anya

Homemade Granola

I have been in the habit of making my own granola lately -- I like it because you can customize it, it is really affordable compared to buying your own, and perhaps best of all, you can't read the calories on it!... it is actually calorie-free I think... :-)  also it's fun to make.  This is a good recipe from Bon Appetit a couple months back... I made a few changes (see notes)

3 cups rolled oats
1.5 cups assorted chopped nuts (Anya: I used 1 cup)
1.5 cups shaved coconut (Anya: I used 1 cup... you could also use grated coconut but the slivers are nice -- you can get them in the bulk section at some supermarkets)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil or coconut oil (I used coconut oil)
1/4 cup agave syrup, maple syrup or honey (I used honey)
2 Tbs brown sugar
(Anya: I added 1 tsp vanilla extract)
Assorted dried fruit such as raisins, golden raisins, cranberries, or cherries.

Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, and salt.  Add beaten egg white and stir well.  In small pan, put oil, honey (or other sweetener), brown sugar, and stir over low heat until combined.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, if using.  Pour over dry ingredients, mix well with wooden spoon.  Spread granola evenly on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 325, stirring every 10 minutes, for 35-45 minutes, until golden.  Remove from heat and place tray on a cooling rack.  The granola will crunch up and form clumps as it cools.  Spinkle with dried berries.  Serve with milk or over greek yogurt.  Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


-- Anya

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rigatoni All'amatriciana ("Rosie's Favorite Noodles")

This was my sister's favorite pasta when we were growing up and is known in my house as "Rosie's Favorite Noodles."  We ate this dish at least once a week, and my mom would often rewarm leftovers for us for breakfast, in a cast-iron pan with a bit of oil until the noodles were extra soft and would  get a slight brown crispness from the pan.  I still rewarm noodles this way and it is an incredible way to reheat most pastas -- turning them into something different and guiltier but extremely satisfying -- sorta like good Chinese food.  Yum.  Amatriciana is a classic Italian sauce and when my husband and I went to Italy for our honeymoon, it appeared on most menus.  It is often served with Bucatini but I prefer it the way I had it growing up, with Rigatoni.  The fat noodles are the perfect vehicle for the tomatoes, pancetta and onions.  I can make this one in my sleep.  Here's what you need:


2 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. olive oil (or 1 Tbs. grapeseed oil and 2 Tbs. olive oil, reserved)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 inch thick slice of Pancetta, diced (omit to make a vegetarian version)
1 28-oz. can of Italian whole peeled tomatoes, cut up with their juices
1 generous pinch (or more) red hot pepper flakes
1 lb. Rigatoni pasta

Parmesan, for serving.


1.  Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until golden.

Note: At my father's advice, I have lately been using 1 Tbs. Grapeseed oil -- which has a high smoke point and does not turn to trans fats when cooked -- rather than the olive oil for cooking the onions.  I then add olive oil later in the process of cooking the sauce.

2.  Add Pancetta and cook for 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add chopped tomatoes (Tip: I use kitchen scissors to cut them up in a bowl) with their juices).

And red hot pepper flakes (I add about 1 Tsp. but you can add less or more to your liking)

And simmer over very low heat for at least 25 minutes.  I often leave the sauce 40 minutes or so.  The tomatoes will break up and the fat will separate from the juices.

4.  Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Reserve some pasta water before draining the pasta.  Toss pasta, sauce, and a few tablespoons pasta water.

 5.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quinoa Porridge

Yummm! I have a new love.  This porridge.  I went to Philadelphia this weekend to visit my sister and we went out to brunch on Sunday morning before I left.  After days of heavy eating, I felt like something light and ordered the quinoa porridge, figuring it would be warm and satisfying and oatmeal-esque.  It was, and it was delicious.  I came home and browsed recipes last night (don't all people look at quinoa porridge recipes at night??) and made it for breakfast this morning.  It is my new favorite thing.   It is easy -- done in 20 minutes -- and  I made extra which can easily be rewarmed for breakfast before work this week. 

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is grain-like but is actually a seed and has a wonderful texture and, unlike oatmeal, it keeps you from getting hungry because it is high in protein.  It is also high in amino acids,  magnesium and iron and is a source of calcium.  How cool is quinoa?!  Basically, it is really good stuff. 

You can vary this recipe easily.  The liquid to solid ratio for quinoa is 2:1 and you can use milk, water, or a combination.  Or to make vegan/lactose free, use a milk substitute such as soy milk, almond milk, etc.  I used 1/2 water and 1/2 milk, topping off the milk with a bit of heavy cream.  You can use any combination of dried fruits, spices, nuts, or fresh fruits.  Like oatmeal, the fun is in the toppings!

Quinoa Porridge
(4 large servings)

4 cups liquid (milk, water, or 1/2 and 1/2)
2 cups quinoa 
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup dried fruit (such as raisins,  golden raisins, apricots, currants, dates)

Optional Toppings:

toasted sliced almonds (or pecans)
fresh fruit (such as blueberries, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries)
warm jam or berry compote
seeds (try pumpkin or sunflower seeds)


In a saucepan, warm milk and/or water over medium heat until simmering.  Add quinoa and bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, stir, and let simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed or texture is to your liking.  Serve with toppings of your choice.  Enjoy!


Lebonese Chicken and Chickpea Stew

I am not a huge fan of winter.  I tolerate winter.  I don't ski or snowboard or go sledding and the days of snow men and snowball fights and whatever allure they once had are long gone.  I mostly just, um, stay inside.  But there are a few things I love about winter.  One of them is the foods you get to enjoy and feel entitled to eat.  Some of my favorite foods are clearly winter foods -- stews, soups, rich pasta sauces --  foods I would never want to eat if I lived somewhere where it was always warm.  And that would be sad. 

This Lebonese-inspired chickpea stew with chicken thighs is one of these foods.  It is hearty and warm and wonderful.  It is from Bon Appetit, February 2012.  I changed the original recipe by adding more chicken -- 4 thighs instead of 2 -- and by subbing chicken stock for the water.  The cubes of country style bread I toasted after tossing in a little olive oil, salt and pepper to make them crusty before adding them at the end.  Here is the recipe.

Chickpea Stew
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012 
serves 4
4 T olive oil, divided
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
kosher salt
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. ground cumin
2 Tbs. tomato paste
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from a jar
2 Tbs. (or more) fresh lemon juice
2 cups 1" cubes country-style bread
3 Tbs. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Heat 2 Tbs. oil in medium heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

2.  Reduce heat to low and let oil cool for 1 minute; add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.   Add cumin, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. 

3.  Add reserved chicken, along with any accumulated juices, bay leaves and  cups water (or chicken stock).  Scrape up any browned bits.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes.

4.  Transfer chicken to a plate.  Add chickpeas to pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, shred chicken.  Add shredded chicken to stew.  Add red peppers.  Stir in remaining 2 Tbs. oil and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice; simmer for 1 minute.

5.  Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired.

6.  Divide stew among bowls, garnish with parsley.  Top with toasted bread cubes (or put bread cubes in bowl and top with stew).