Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Bigger Picture" Quiche

Quiche is probably one of the most uninspired dishes in the history of the kitchen.

It is an ingredient catch-all, and therefore, incredibly easy to execute. This particular quiche, however, was inspired by a picture bigger than the fridge from which it came. Each ingredient has a storied excuse for it's inclusion and for that, it is a worthy meal.

This post is maybe a deconstructed quiche recipe. Instead of a recipe for how to take all of the ingredients in your fridge and turn them into a quiche, I will tell you why I made this quiche. Then I will tell you about the ingredients and what you might want to do with them, should you find them lying around your house. Besides making a quiche, of course.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that I have been a bad blog mommy. I have been neglectful. I will not bore you with tales of woe, I will not tell you I have been busy or overwhelmed. I will just say that I have been learning.

I have been learning to eat healthier, more affordably, and more proportionately.

All of this, and the quiche, has been inspired by a very close friend, KB's journey to health and happiness, and my wonderful, kind roommate, A's newly discovered kitchen gusto. I love having amazing, talented, beautiful friends who are wonderful people that love to eat too.

My roommate A, will tell you that I inspired her to start cooking, but truthfully she has reinvigorated my interest in cooking and in eating. She loves healthy food and has begun to cook with complete abandon. She comes into our kitchen and just throws spices and ingredients together to make the most flavorful healthy meals I have ever seen. A, likes to bring home ingredients I would never purchase, and do things with them that I would never do. I get to watch and soak it in, and then I go purchase the same ingredients and make something totally different from them.

My very good friend KB has taken her self down 30+ pounds since January, and couldn't look more phenomenal. She is eating healthy, exercising regularly and is super enthusiastic about how all of it has changed her body and her demeanor. She has inspired close friends and complete strangers to do the same thing. If you are interested, check out her whole story on her FB page.

Inspired by these women, I went into the kitchen to cook.

When A left for church this Easter Sunday, I began to thing about Easter foods and Easter eggs, which was where the Bigger Picture Quiche began. I have a bakers dozen eggs sitting in my fridge and I need to use them up. So, I started with a bowl of 5 eggs.

To make the Bigger Picture Quiche I started with a spelt crust (no, I didn't make this from scratch). A introduced me to spelt via her spelt flour pizza. I enjoy spelt because something in it's flavor reminds me of sourdough, and it's slightly more toothsome than white flour.  Frozen pie crusts are always good to have around, and this is what I decided to try. If you haven't yet, I encourage every one of you to try spelt. Suzie's Multiseed Spelt Flatbreads are perhaps one of my favorite discoveries. They are crackers, no weird texture or flavor great with anything. If you try them you will love them. If you try spelt you will also be diversifying your diet with a new grain. Why not diversify?

This next "ingredient" is the vegan equivalent of crack. Vegan Crack is actually a recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto from the blog My New Roots. A showed me this blog and I am hooked. Vegan Crack is one of the most amazing and versatile items I have ever added to my kitchen repertoire. You take a clove of garlic and throw it in your food processor with toasted pumpkin seeds and sun-dried tomatoes. Pulse this until it's as coarse or smooth as you wish. I prefer to keep it pretty coarse but it's fun to try it smoother or coarser depending on how you intend it to be used. This stuff stays in my fridge at all times. I threw it over some hummus and put out spelt crackers at my last dinner party and my guests loved it. I like to eat it with "arugula salad", which is what I call it when I take arugula and lemon juice, and a little bit of the oil from the tomatoes and toss them together with walnuts. Vegan Crack is also awesome over grilled or sautéed polenta cakes with a sprinkle of parmesan and fresh basil. I have thrown it in with some left over rice noodles or tri-color quinoa and acted like tomato sauce was out-dated. It's impossible to resist.

Recently, I came home and A was making dinner. She chopped kale, drizzled it with salt and olive oil, and toasted it under the broiler on a cookie sheet. It came out smelling wonderful and as she knocked it into her bowl, the crispy sound it made was indescribably mouth-watering. I realize now that is because it sounded reminiscent of pulling the little crumbs out of a bag of potato chips...exhilarating. Both KB, and A eat a lot of green things and it makes me feel guilty. I love greens, but I don't really like salad. When I make salad, I feel like I only end up with enough food for that night,  and I don't have leftovers for work, and that annoys me. I also feel like I made a lot of effort for not a lot of food. I get bored of chewing kale, but it is the only green with enough turgidity for me to keep in the fridge (that means it stays crisp longer than other greens). Usually I will sauté it with garlic and white wine, which is yummy, but it gets old. Since A showed me toasted kale, I cannot buy it fast enough. I like to pick up a bag at the store, toast it, and throw it in a bowl with some rotisserie chicken, Sun-dried Tomato Crack, and quinoa. It's good on sandwiches, and its so good I can hardly get it off of the cookie sheet before stuffing it in my mouth.

KB is always telling me that lean protein is good so I have been trying to substitute the bacon in my diet for more lean protein. My coworker showed me Spicy Jalapeño Chicken Sausages from Trader Joes. Since, I have a package in my fridge I toasted one up, chopped it into bites, and threw it in the quiche too. Tomorrow night I will put it in my Pad Thai.

I love onion, and I love to add it to dishes because it always makes them more interesting. Nothing new or fancy here, but I threw in some caramelized onions because while my crust defrosted I had 20+min to let them melt to a beautiful golden brown. If you make a ton, they can spruce up EVERYTHING. Even that dull salad.

Last, were some button mushrooms I had because I keep them around to fill me up. I sliced and sautéed them and added them to the quiche. Half will hang around and go into dinner tomorrow.

So let's recap...

1. Spelt Pie Crust, defrosted, docked, and blind baked for 10min.
2. Caramelized Onions
3. Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto aka Vegan Crack
4. Sautéed Mushrooms
5. Toasted Kale
6. Lean Protein (optional) I chose Chicken Sausage
7. 5 eggs, salt and pepper.

Less than ten ingredients. Whisked together and poured into the crust and cooked for 30-45min, or until the egg is still a little wiggly, but set.

This will be lunch for a few days. And the leftovers will go into dozens of different healthy dishes that I can eat the rest of the week.

I hope you enjoyed this post and are feeling inspired to fool around with at least one of these ingredients.

I'll try to cook for you more. I miss this more than I realized.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just Soup. From the Pantry. Spinach, Coconut Milk, Lemon and Chickpeas.

I like this soup so much that I couldn't get my memory card from my camera to my computer without pausing for a spoonful out of the bowl in my other hand.

The kicker is that I actually followed a recipe. When I woke up this morning I had white, Idaho, and sweet potatoes in my fridge, some garlic, a few onions, almond milk and lactose-free yogurt. Since it's the holiday season I'm trying to keep stock low to make space for cool opportunities to go out to eat and out of town family meals.

A few weeks back I saved a link to 25 Vegetarian Recipes you Can Cook in Under 30 minutes on TreeHugger so I decided to visit for inspiration. Vegetarian eating has been the way to go at home since I was forced to buy a new (larger) pair of jeans over Thanksgiving week.

Recipes that don't require a lot of shopping are my favorite, mainly because if I go in Whole Foods for a carrot I will inevitable come out with three bags of groceries and $100 "Whole" in my pocket. Plus it is winter now and the cold weather doesn't encourage me to leave the house. The soup I made for lunch today fulfills all my winter cooking requirements.

Back on TreeHugger, Braised Coconut Spinach with Chickpeas and Lemon caught my eye. Chickpeas and coconut milk are pantry staples and I discovered a nub of fresh ginger hiding under my potatoes. All I needed to make this happen was a lemon, some sun-dried tomatoes and a bunch of spinach.

Different versions of the recipe recommend serving it over a whole roasted sweet potato or basmati rice. I opted to roast cubed sweet potato and throw the pieces over the top for a slightly crunchy, sweet starch. I also sweated down my onions slower than the recipe recommended and only needed half a lemon worth of juice. The cool thing is that this recipe can get revamped if I add some curry or make some rice. I bet if I had used less of the ingredients I could have made a cold salad version of this, and used the oil the tomatoes came in to create a lemon vinaigrette.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey. What's Missing?

High Wire Distilling Co. owners Ann Marshall and Scott Blackwell pause for a photo with Chef John Currence.

Chef John Currence is one of those chefs who is immediately approachable. I wasn't actually familiar with the man before he came to High Wire Distillery on his old school book tour launch, but after a bit of conversation, it turned out he might be one of those people worth knowing and knowing about. After a pause in his conversation with Chef Sean Brock, he took my copy of his new cookbook, Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey, and walked over to a table to focus on the inscription and take a moment to chat. This totally unnecessary gesture was indicative of this chef’s giving spirit.

At Tuesday night’s launch party, some of the finest chefs in Charleston recreated select recipes from the book, and the results were fairly spectacular. Chef Currence has won a number of awards recognizing his culinary talents. He works with admirable groups like Southern Foodways Alliance, and owns four Mississippi restaurants, with more on the way. I've never been to his restaurants so I couldn't promise you he makes amazing food, but based on his accolades and Tuesday’s experience, I'd be willing to bet on his stove-top skills.

“You have no idea my dedication to my craft,” Currence said to me, and he meant it with no pretensions. His commitment to creating an accurate representation of City Grocery Restaurant Group’s bold, intense, and rustic aesthetic is evident on every page. Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey becomes a library of vivid photos with obligatory anecdotes about the provenance of each dish.  Below the anecdotes, Chef Currence artfully fleshes out his fictitious kitchen with musical suggestions accompanying the recipes to serenade you as you sauce. 

Angel Postel of Home Team PR, introduces Chef Currence to the crowd. 

Charleston is never a bad place to enjoy a night of eating in the company of food lovers, though it is rare to experience such a well-conceived evening. The High Wire facility was customized to be a convenient and charming backdrop for events like this. Grassroots wines, Edmund’s Oast brews, and High Wire liquors provided countless beverage options to pair with dishes from F.I.G, Two Boroughs Larder, Husk, Butcher & Bee, and The MacIntosh.

The sneak preview of beers from Edmund's Oast's Master Brewer, Cameron Read, had me salivating as soon as I walked in the door. Cameron brewed two 10-gallon batches specifically for the book launch. The “southern drinking experience” Sorghum + Biscuits, in the style of an English Pale, was made with biscuit malt from Riverbend Malt House in North Carolina. Rumbustion was a dryer Belgian Golden, with an infusion of High Wire rum for a mildly-sweet balance. Read brews a very solid beer and is a major reason that Edmund's will be giving local beer haunts a reason to quiver over their cash drawers when it opens early next year.

I caught Lauren Shor, of Rafa Distributing, at the F.I.G. table more than a dozen times, which is to say that I was right in line behind her, tracking bowls of fresh fried bivalves through the dining room like a bloodhound. Sous Chef Jason Stanhope offered the Cornmeal Crusted Buttermilk Fried Oysters (pg 139) with shellfish from both the Gulf and Beaufort. The two varietals offered either meaty, subtle sweetness or briney resistance underneath the peppery and tangy house made ranch dressing with fines herbes. If following the recipe causes you to be as deft at frying oysters as the chefs at F.I.G., then Currence may be a demi-god. 

Cute cones of Oysters were devoured by the fistful.

Two Boroughs Larder's Chef Josh Keeler presented Sweet Pickled Deviled Eggs with a Trout Roe garnish (pg 70). No description of this dish could be better than the given, “you are looking at the classic caviar accompaniments”. A Northern affinity for luxury items like caviar meets a quintessentially Southern pickled, deviled egg. It had me craving lox and bagels.

Chef Sean Brock of Husk and his Sous, John Sleasman, were churning out the simplest of luxury items, Crispy Pickled Pig's Ear “Frites” with Comeback Sauce (pg 150). Whether it was the Crystal Hot Sauce or just the brine, this iteration was inescapably more delicious than the already delightful BBQ Pig Ear Wraps Brock serves up at Husk. In the book, Chef Currence suggests listening to “Lookin' for Love” by Johnny Lee while you fry up some of these marvels, but he has to know that after you do that for someone else, you won't be looking for love much longer.

A modest interpretation of the Spicy Hill Country Meat Pies with Sriracha Mayo (pg 128) came from Stuart Tracy and High Wire's neighbors at Butcher & Bee. I was thoroughly disappointed to realize that “Hill Country” in the recipe title didn't refer to the pies being made with squirrel meat or possum, but instead to the small mountain towns where the Southern version of the meat pie is said to have originated. Disappointment faded as I was rapidly distracted by the morsels of flaky dough decorating my fingertips.

(L)Angel Postel of Home Team PR, with chefs from The MacIntosh/  (R) Little birch bark piglets adorned the tables. I found this one munching on a square of pâté. 

I could not keep my hands off of the Pork Pâté (pg 125) offered by Executive Chef Jeremiah Bacon of The MacIntosh. The country style recipe was nixed in favor of an ultra smooth paste served on house-made lavash and punctuated by chopped pickled Geechee Boy chestnuts from Edisto Island. Someone said Bacon, and I swooned.

Joe Raya

The Bittermilk No. 2 Tom Collins

Beyond all the food, Joe Raya of The Gin Joint/Bittermilk was posted in the tasting room with a series of cocktails based on High Wire spirits. The ultimate was the Tom Collins with Bittermilk No. 2, an Elderflower and Centennial Hop syrup. If any of you remember this year’s Wine and Food Festival, you may recall that he made a similar spirit, the Sharecropper Collins, which caught my attention but lacked the resinous pine and bright citrus flavors expected of the hops. Raya still hasn't captured the bright character of the hops, but he is getting closer with each attempt. The concept is seductive enough, and the cocktails featuring these infusions are always outstanding. 

This was one of the better events I have had the pleasure of attending recently. Home Team PR did a great job with every detail, and the featured recipes from Chef Currence were a gastronomically pleasing backdrop.

If you are looking to attend another cool event from Home Team PR, grab a ticket to the Pitmaster Backyard BBQ at Home Team BBQ's West Ashley location on December 6th, 2013. The menu will include some non-southern style beef barbacoa and smoked baby goat, as well as oysters and sides. Tickets are a great value at $30 per person and are likely to go fast. For more information, email

While the Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey tour will be wrapping up this week, I suggest you stop into one of Chef Currence's restaurants in Mississippi in the next few months. Keep an ear (preferably a crispy pig ear) to the ground for details on the opening of Big Bad Breakfast in Birmingham, Alabama (expected in February 2013).