Arugula Herb Soup

You know I don’t usually do this – usually I report on something delicious, sharing the recipe so you can make it too – but I owe you a soup for May, and there’s absolutely zero chance of a recipe next week, since the moving truck comes on Friday(!!!!), so here we go (and besides, the photos came out so nicely). This one was… weird. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t remotely our favorite. If you’re into an herby, grassy taste, you should go for it.

The base here is a soup recipe from Ottolenghi that blends spinach, parsley, cilantro, and mint with a base of onions and garlic and broth. I added arugula to mine as well as some mustard seeds, and ended up with a murky green concoction that, I have to admit, was reminiscent of high quality lawn clippings. N. called it “pesto soup,” and despite the absence of basil, I tended to agree – thickened up a bit and tossed with pasta, it would have been delightful.

Ever the glutton, I decided what this soup needed to add interest and richness was a poached egg, that darling of chefs everywhere (seriously, I think adding an egg is the culinary equivalent of “put a bird on it.”), and I was right. Broken into the soup, the yolk cut through some of the earthiness of the greens that got even better with the addition of a crunchy slice of garlic rubbed toast. So, in other words, the soup was improved by adding other things to the soup.

Perhaps it was the heavy dose of arugula, which contributed a peppery earthiness the soup didn’t need. Perhaps it was just upped quantities of the greens – I do have a tendency to go heavy on the flavoring agents and light on the liquid. Perhaps it was just a soup the likes of which we’ve never had before.

I’ll be spending next weekend arranging my new kitchen, so I’ll see you when I can. Be well!

Arugula Herb Soup with Poached Eggs
Adapted from Ottolenghi’s column in The Guardian
Serves 4-6 as a starter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 yellow or white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup chopped parsley, leaves and stems, + ⅛ cup for garnish
½ cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems, + ¼ cup for garnish
¼ cup chopped mint leaves
1 cup each baby spinach and baby arugula leaves, or 2 cups baby spinach (Ottolenghi gives his quantities in grams, and I admit I should have weighed mine, but the food scale is packed, so I estimated)
3 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
5 ounces greek yogurt
1-2 ounces sour cream
squeeze of lemon juice to taste, if desired
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Eggs – 1 per diner
Garlic toast, if desired, to accompany
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium low heat and sweat the onions and garlic until softened and translucent: 5-10 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, nutmeg, and mustard seeds, then raise the heat to medium and sauté 1-2 minutes. The mustard seeds may start to pop.
  • Add the parsley, cilantro, mint, spinach, arugula, if using, and vegetable stock. Stir together and bring to a simmer; cook for 10 minutes.
  • While the soup is simmering, poach the eggs: heat a pot of water to a bare simmer, then add about a tablespoon of vinegar. Stir the water ferociously just before adding eggs, creating a vortex. The spinning water and the vinegar will help the whites cling around the yolks when you break in the eggs. Break eggs directly into the water one at a time, or, if you’re nervous about that, break eggs into small bowls or ramekins, then tip one at a time into the water. Keep just below a simmer for 3-4 minutes, gently coaxing the eggs away from one another and from sticking to the bottom of the pot after 1-2 minutes. After 3-4 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove each egg from the pot, and set them aside to rest in a bowl of warm water until you are ready to serve.
  • After the soup has simmered 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat and use a handheld or regular blender to blend until velvety smooth.
  • Return the soup to the heat and bring to just below a simmer. Whisk together the yogurt and sour cream in a small bowl, then add a ladle or two of hot soup to the dairy mixture and whisk in. Repeat 2-3 times – you are carefully raising the temperature of the dairy so when it is added to the soup it won’t curdle and split. Pour the diluted soup and yogurt mixture carefully into the rest of the soup and whisk through.
  • Stir in the remaining ⅛ cup parsley and ¼ cup cilantro, and crumble in the feta, reserving a small pile to garnish. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Ladle some soup into a bowl, sprinkle on the reserved feta, and top with one poached egg per diner. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil and serve with garlic toast.

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The Rachel: lamb sausage and spinach pesto pizza

2016 Food Blog June-0945A few weeks ago, N. opened the fridge, snooped through the shelves, looked at me. “What’s for pizza? Wait. I mean, what’s for dinner?” Sometimes you don’t have to ask them what they’re craving.

2016 Food Blog June-0915Clearly, the following week I made pizza. We each have a favorite variety – though lately my favorite is becoming N’s favorite as well – and we’ve lent our names to them; whenever I write “The Chelsea” on the weekly meal plan, N. gets quite excited. This got me thinking about what toppings would constitute other members of my family. “The Dad” would certainly have red pepper flakes in some quantity, and my mom informed me on Sunday that hers would have plenty of vegetables.

2016 Food Blog June-0917But I decided to go first with my sister, and that meant lamb. I’m not sure whether it outweighs her affection for seafood, but lamb is certainly her red meat of choice. She stalks the meat counter to find it on sale; she buys the toughest cuts (often the cheapest) and grinds them up herself to make lamb burgers; she manufactures ways to integrate it into even traditionally vegetarian dishes. R’s pizza, then, would feature lamb sausage.

2016 Food Blog June-0918Once lamb sausage was on the menu, and some crumblings of feta had joined it in my imagination, I realized there was no way of avoiding a very Mediterranean flavor profile. Neither R. nor I are particularly interested in tomato-based sauces for pizza – “The Chelsea” has only a brush of garlic infused olive oil over its surface – so there would need to be an alternative. I gravitated toward pesto, and despite R’s declaration that she is “devoted to basil,” she’s also a rather non-traditional person in an interesting and glorious way. Given that, a pesto on her pizza couldn’t very well be the standard, and since this pizza was already leaning in such a Greek direction, I had to reach for the spinach, and added some parsley, some sundried tomatoes, some lemon zest, in addition to the standard garlic and pine nuts.

2016 Food Blog June-0925Considering other personality features, I decided to add some heat. R. is a spicy person: she’s quick, she’s feisty, she’s fun; she speaks her mind. Thinly sliced pepperoncini joined my collection of toppings, though some near-transparent wafers of jalapeno would also do the job.

2016 Food Blog June-0933When you construct “The Rachel,” you have some choices, and those choices depend on how much char you like on various ingredients. Obviously the pesto goes on first, in a generous layer. If you want your peppers and green onions to stay soft, they should be next, so they can hide out under the protective coating of mozzarella. If you prefer a bit of color on these greens, let them ride out the quarter hour in the oven right on top. I like to put the sausage underneath the mozzarella; since it’s already cooked, the cheese bubbling over it seems to prevent the meat from drying out.

2016 Food Blog June-0936Blistering hot from the oven, this was glorious. The lamb sausage I used was a merguez, which carries some heat of its own, so between that and the pepper slices the pizza was perfectly spicy. The spinach pesto is a solid base – not too aggressive in flavor on its own, just pleasant support for the well-spiced lamb and the briny feta. But interestingly (delightfully), the pizza came into its own as leftovers. When I unwrapped the remaining slices today in my office, door closed and light off as though I were getting away with something, the pizza had been out of the refrigerator long enough to come to room temperature, and though the cheese was no longer stretching into long strings and the crust had lost a bit of crispness, the flavors had come together so compellingly that I’d suggest doing one bit of advance planning: if you can, make the pesto a day in advance. Then, when you spread it thickly over the crust, it will already have had a day to slow dance in your refrigerator.

2016 Food Blog June-0943

The Rachel: lamb sausage and spinach pesto pizza
Makes one 12-14 inch pizza
16 ounces pizza dough of your choice
8 ounces lamb sausage (I used a nice, spicy merguez)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
zest of one lemon
¼ cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained
6 green onions
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
½ cup parsley leaves and stems
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8-12 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
3-4 pepperoncini or other pickled peppers
*Note: if possible, I recommend making your pesto a day ahead so the flavors have time to meld. Otherwise, proceed as below.

 

  • About 45 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, preheat your oven to 500F, or as high as it will go. If you are using a pizza stone (highly recommended), be sure to put it in the oven at this point to preheat as well. If your pizza dough is refrigerated or needs time to rise and relax, this is a good time to set it out as well.
  • Cook the lamb sausage in a medium skillet over medium heat. Use the flat edge of a wooden spatula to coerce the lamb into small pieces. Stir and flip frequently until cooked through and lightly browned, then set aside to cool.
  • For the pesto, add the pine nuts and garlic to a food processor along with the sundried tomatoes, lemon zest, and the white and light green portions of the green onions, reserving the green stalks until later. Process for 4-5 seconds to break down the big chunks of vegetables. Pack in the spinach and parsley and process again, agitating the machine a bit to try and coax the leaves down into the blade. When it is simply not making any progress, add the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with the machine running. If that’s not enough liquid, add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil one at a time, pausing between each. You are looking for a very thick, paste-like “sauce” – the less moisture we add to the top of the pizza, the better. If things still aren’t coming together after all 3 tablespoons of oil, add a splash of water, but try to keep this to an absolute minimum.
  • Once the pesto is a thick but spreadable texture, taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly. I suggest under-seasoning a bit with the salt, since the feta cheese is quite salty.
  • Slice the greens of the green onions and the pepperoncinis into thin slices.
  • To assemble your pizza, stretch out the dough to your desired size (I put it carefully right onto the hot pizza stone), then spread generously with the spinach and parsley pesto. Add the remaining ingredients above or below the mozzarella cheese depending upon how browned you want them to get. I suggest lamb sausage underneath, to keep it moist, then the two types of cheese, then green onion and pepperoncini slices.
  • Carefully maneuver the loaded pizza back into the roaring hot oven, and bake for 15 minutes until the crust is crisp and the cheese is nicely studded with golden blisters. Remove from oven and let sit 4-5 minutes. Then sprinkle with additional parsley leaves if desired, slice, and serve.

“Parsley Pie”

2016 Food Blog February-0492Whereas last month’s blog experiment entry left me stumped for a while, not only do I know which post led this searcher to my blog; the dish I wanted to create coalesced pretty quickly in my mind. The search term “parsley pie,” with its bright green focus, seemed appropriately spring-y for this first warm week in Southern California. Though I had my own ideas already, I did a quick image search to see what other sorts of “parsley pies” turned up, and the answer is: not many. Most of what I saw were meat pies, with the addition of parsley to lighten up the filling or, in one case, add fiber. Some of these concoctions were the classic British pork pie, with high, golden sides and, sometimes, a hard boiled egg or two cunningly tucked into the filling, while some were shepherds pies, with parsley added to the ground lamb or to the mashed potato topping.

2016 Food Blog February-04372016 Food Blog February-04572016 Food Blog February-0458What I’d envisioned, quite contrary to these heavy options, was a pie where parsley dominated: something like a quiche Lorraine would be a neutral base, and allow for greater visibility for the heaping mounds of the freshly chopped herb in question. I suppose if I’m being absolutely honest I should call this a parsley quiche, but it does have a proper crust and a filling, and since that ultimate internet authority Wikipedia (hah!) classifies quiche as a “savoury pie,” I’m going to cross my fingers behind my back and declare that this counts.

2016 Food Blog February-04632016 Food Blog February-04732016 Food Blog February-0476Because there are no bulky chunks in the filling to hold it up, this must of necessity be a shallow pie. Thus it was a perfect opportunity to use the tart pan I bought myself for Christmas (though a pie pan would work fine). Along with eggs, milk, and of course the eponymous parsley, I whisked in a combination of other herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, and a few chives, to add some variety to the flavor. And because I can’t help myself, I topped the green freckled custard with crumbles of feta cheese, which admittedly adds a pleasant brininess that the pie would suffer without.

2016 Food Blog February-0500A few thoughts: if you’re going to make this, you have to like parsley. This seems a distressingly obvious revelation, but I mean it – this really, really tastes like parsley. If it’s too herbaceous for you, or you’re looking for a bit more to sink your teeth into, crumbled, crisp prosciutto, or lumps of crab, or slick slices of smoked salmon, would bulk it up nicely. Alternatively, a side salad with a thick wedge would make a perfect spring lunch. As for construction, if you use a tart pan you really have to be sure your crust forms an unbroken layer around the bottom edge of the pie. Cracks or very thin areas can lead to egg leakage in the oven. Don’t ask me how I know this.

2016 Food Blog February-0503

“Parsley Pie”
Makes a 9-inch pie
About 2 hours, including crust resting time
For crust:
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1¼ cups)
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)
2-4 ounces cold buttermilk (water would be fine too)
For filling:
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mixed soft green herbs (such as basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro, dill, etc)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (I used black, but white pepper would work too)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

 

  • To make the crust, combine the flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor. Cut the stick of butter into 12-16 slices, then add these to the processor as well and pulse at 1 second intervals until the butter is mostly broken up into blueberry or cherry-sized chunks. With the processor running, dribble in the buttermilk just until the mixture starts to come together into a dry ball. You may not need all of the buttermilk. Turn the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic wrap to help you quickly and decisively form the mixture into a flat disc about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap it up and stow it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Not only does this chill the butter, making for a flakier end result, but it allows the buttermilk to hydrate the flour.
  • While you wait for the dough to chill, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position, oil or butter a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate, and prep the filling ingredients. Whisk the eggs with the cup of milk and add in the chopped herbs, the ½ teaspoon of salt, and the ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Note: 1 cup chopped parsley means you chop before you measure, so you do need a rather large bouquet of herbs to meet the required amount.
  • You can whisk the feta in with the herb and egg mixture, or you can crumble it over the top of the custard when it’s poured into the crust. Or, of you prefer, you can do a little of both, mixing some in and saving some to sprinkle on top. You do you.
  • After at least half an hour in the fridge, remove the dough disc and unwrap it onto a floured board. Now, this is crucial: let it sit about ten minutes to warm up just a tad before you try to roll it out. When it has had a chance to shake the chill off, sprinkle its surface with a little flour and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. I like to start in the middle of the disc and push away from me first, then bring the rolling pin back all the way towards me. Then I turn the disc of dough 90 degrees and repeat, flipping it over if needed, until I have a rough circle.
  • Use the rolling pin to help you transport the circle of dough into the prepared pan. Drape the dough gently down into the edges and, if you are using a tart pan, be sure to press it lightly into the grooves on the side of the pan, and carefully patch any thin areas or cracks along the bottom. For extra insurance, place the tart pan on a cookie sheet – this makes for easier transport to and from the oven and, if you do suffer some leakage, keeps the mess contained, not on your oven floor.
  • Whisk up your filling mixture again to ensure even distribution, then gently pour it into the crust. Sprinkle some or all of the crumbled feta over the top, if desired, and carefully transport to the oven.
  • Bake 45-60 minutes until the crust is pale gold and the filling is set and has puffed slightly in the center. Remove to a wire rack and let cool at least fifteen minutes before you carefully remove the tart pan (if using) and center the pie on a serving platter. I used a cake stand because I like to be fancy for you. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Project Sauce: Sole Meunière

We are now, with one exception that you’ll see in a week or two, deep into the butter portion of this sauce project. It makes sense. Most of the big deal “mother” sauces are French, and the French do have a soft spot for butter. And that makes sense too. I mean, all you have to do is melt a few tablespoons of butter and you’ve already got a sauce. Think of the way it softens with the maple syrup on your pancakes, becoming something so much richer and more complex than either would have been by themselves! So let’s talk about some buttery details for a minute, and then I’ll take you to our sauce this week: meunière, a classic butter and lemon sauce specifically intended to be served with a sautéed filet of sole.

Food Blog August 2014-0418As I continue to learn about sauces, I’m seeing emulsion after emulsion. A fat bound to a liquid, often with some thickening agent that gives body to the sauce and helps the normally separate ingredients get along. Think vinaigrette: the fat is the olive oil, the liquid is the vinegar. Dropped into a glass together, they form distinct layers. But beat them vigorously, often with a dollop of mustard to help them blend, and they become a thick, rich dressing. Kitchen magic.

Food Blog August 2014-0402What I’m finding quite interesting about butter is that whole butter, the sort we buy in paper-wrapped sticks, is in fact an emulsion in itself. The butterfat, which is what solidifies when milk is churned, is the fat portion. But there is also some water in butter, and there are milk proteins too, which stabilize the emulsion. So in that one stick you have a liquid component and a fat component, hanging together in stasis.

Food Blog August 2014-0409When you brown butter, that darling of savory and sweet concoctions alike, several things happen. First, as the butter melts and bubbles furiously, you are seeing the water content boil off. If you stop at this point, skimming off any solids on the surface and reserving just the molten gold of the butterfat, you have clarified butter. But if instead you keep cooking it, the milk proteins that once acted as emulsifiers start to toast, and become deeply bronzed, and you have brown butter. You can even see those proteins roasting and browning in the photo above.

Meunière sauce capitalizes on brown butter. And with the water content of the butter boiled off, it needs a liquid to play with again, so we add the tart brightness of lemon juice. And then, for an herbal note, a scattering of parsley. That’s it. It’s so simple it feels almost like cheating. And yet it’s a classic, likely because how could a splash of butter and lemon be anything but delicious?

Food Blog August 2014-0410Unlike most other sauces, aside perhaps from hollandaise, meunière is pretty dish specific. It doesn’t really stand alone; it’s a sauce but also indicates preparation: sole meunière, or sometimes trout meunière. And though I obeyed and ladled mine over two delicate white filets, I could just as easily see this sauce, essentially a hot vinaigrette, serving as a bright gravy for mashed potatoes or roasted chicken. I would ladle it over a great tray of steamed green beans, or even stir some pasta into it and add shaved parmesan to the top (sidenote: as a kid who didn’t like marinara sauce on pasta, I would have welcomed this alternative with wide-open taste buds).

Food Blog August 2014-0405But as I said, I went traditional here. Not as traditional as sautéing or deboning the fish tableside, as some classic preparations demand, but I resisted my usual urge to add twists or additional ingredients. I wanted to see what this was about.

Okay, so I added some lemon zest to the salt and pepper I used to season the fish before dredging it in flour. But really, such a tiny alteration hardly counts, right? And when you serve the filet tenderly over some rice pilaf and drag your green beans through the last remnants of the sauce, well, words fail (no, seriously. I’ve sat here for fifteen minutes trying to think of how to tell you it was good!). Bring on the butter. She is clearly justified as the diva of the sauce world.

Food Blog August 2014-0412

 

Sole Meunière
Adapted from Ina Garten and Anne Burrell
Serves 2
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 filets of sole, 3-4 ounces each
Salt and pepper for sprinkling
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons minced parsley

 

  • Preheat your oven to warm (200F or so) and place a sheet tray with a rack balanced over it inside. This will allow you to keep the fish warm and crisp while the sauce finishes.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • While the butter melts, unwrap your fish and season both sides with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and lemon zest.
  • Dredge the filets lightly in flour and then lay them flat straight into the pan, being sure they are not touching. If they sit around in their floury state, they will not get crisp.
  • Sauté for 2 minutes over medium-high, until the fish begins to look opaque. It will be about ⅔ cooked at this point. Flip each filet carefully, again, being sure they are not touching, and cook another 1-2 minutes until the bottom is golden and comes away easily from the pan. Remove each filet to the rack in the preheated oven.
  • Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, again over medium-high heat. When it is melted and bubbling furiously, add the lemon juice and stir to combine.
  • As the butter starts to brown, which should only take about a minute, season the sauce with salt, add the parsley, and remove from heat.
  • Transfer the fish to a plate or serving platter and spoon or carefully pour the sauce over the fish to serve.

Parsley Pie Crust

Food Blog January 2013-0412

I’ve never been one to start at the beginning.  Stories require backing up and wait- wait- let me explain who that was.  Dreams are recalled near the end, and only slowly do the initial details return.  Directions often skip a step or come in fuddled order.  I don’t know whether this is a consequence of a disorganized brain, or whether it’s a signal of confused genius (hah!).  The Odyssey, with its in media res trope, was an enormity to my teenage brain when I first encountered it during high school.  What a wonderful way to present information, and how validating and revelatory it was to find out that this was a classical method!

So it was no big surprise that, when facing the first week of my dough challenge, I couldn’t start at the beginning.  Ruhlman arranges Ratio with doughs first, true, but he seems to traverse the category in a solids-to-liquids order.  Bread comes first, pate-a-choux closes the chapter.  To me, this was even more intimidating than the idea of tackling dough at all.  Bread is something I want to build toward, not race into headfirst.

I flipped ahead in the book to take on my own personal Waterloo: pie crust.  Supposedly “easy as.”  But I’ve never found it that way.  My crust is somehow tough AND crumbly.  It collapses, it sticks, it refuses to roll in a smooth circle, it requires patching and crimping and pressing and it’s just easier to buy Pillsbury.  But now I’m in it, and I’ve got to conquer this thing.

Despite this personal beginning, it wasn’t enough for me to just make a pie crust.  You guys have probably all made pie crust.  How boring would it be for me to just report on the quiche I made?  At the end of the pie crust section, Ruhlman lists a number of alternatives and additions.  Ground nuts, cracked peppercorns, a dusting of spices, parmesan cheese?  I had never considered this.  I had to try it out.

Our quiche would have a parsley crust.  Coincidentally, this made my experimentation a perfect candidate for submission to Weekend Herb Blogging.

(I started with parsley, and then I started imagining adding lemon zest, and big particles of cracked black pepper, and then I realized that I just wanted some of the herbed buttermilk biscuits I so heralded when I made them for my Bittman project.  Biscuits are in our future, friends.)

The ratio for pie dough – at least this one – is 3, 2, 1.  Three parts flour, two parts fat, one part water.  This is by weight.  The problem here is, despite my desire to conquer this beast, and despite the impressive (read: verging on ridiculous) collection of kitchen tools I’ve amassed over the years (pot sticker press, anyone?), I don’t have a kitchen scale.  That makes it hard to work in weights.

Food Blog January 2013-0385

Fortunately, though he advocates it persistently, Ruhlman provides the general weight range for a cup of flour, so I worked with that.

Every pie crust recipe I’ve ever read, Ruhlman’s ratio included, calls for the water to be ice cold.  I get this: you want the fat to remain cold during this construction phase so it can melt and leave flaky pockets as it bakes.  Ice water keeps things frosty.  I decided to skip the ice cube middle man and stuck my water in the freezer for a few minutes.

Food Blog January 2013-0396

Usual procedure here: cut in the butter, add salt (and parsley, in this case), incorporate just enough water to bring things together, form into a disk and refrigerate to firm the fat back up.  Then you can roll out, fill, and bake.

Food Blog January 2013-0398

Food Blog January 2013-0401

That all sounds pretty simple, but somewhere in there things tend to go wrong for me.  This crust was (relatively) easy to work with.  It didn’t disintegrate, it didn’t melt, it didn’t even crack in too many places.  I think playing with biscuit and cracker doughs this past year accustomed me to the feeling and delicacy required to not destroy a circle of dough.  It was barely moist and not exactly elastic, but it did have a bit of give.  It baked to a lovely golden color, the flecks of green were intriguing and special, and the quiche that rested just wobbling between its sturdy walls was delicious.

Food Blog January 2013-0407

But the crust was tough.

I can assume a few reasons for this.

1.) It’s possible my ratio was off.  Because I didn’t weigh my flour, I may have had too much or too little in the mix.

2.) More likely, I overworked the dough.  I pressed and kneaded and folded until the dry bits at the bottom of my mixing bowl were willing to play along, and perhaps I was too insistent about that demand for inclusion.

Food Blog January 2013-0408

Like everything else, it seems pie crust needs a revisit to get it right.  The feeling of the dough between my fingers is familiar, but I have to learn its textural intricacies.  How much water is just enough?  How crumbly can it be and still hold together?  How much of the dryness do the fat and water absorb while the wrapped disk rests?  Without another attempt or three, I won’t know.

But it tasted good.  It crunched against the quiche and while it didn’t shatter at the slightest fork pressure, it did have that dryness against the teeth you expect from crust.  The parsley contributed a grassy freshness and made the flavor more complex, especially the following day.  I could see this working similarly well with dill, or thyme, or maybe even marjoram, all of which pair nicely with broccoli and mushrooms.

Onward, then.

Food Blog January 2013-0417

Broccoli mushroom quiche with parsley pie crust

(The quiche recipe is my mom’s.  I’m sure she got it from somewhere, but I don’t know that she even knows where anymore.  I’ve changed very little here, though her version usually contains bacon instead of mushrooms)

Crust:

1 heaping, lightly fluffed cup of flour (or 6 oz., if you’re doing this properly)

1 stick (8 TB, 4 oz., etc) butter, cut into 16 or so pieces

2-4 oz. very cold water

Pinch salt

2 TB chopped parsley (or dill, or oregano, or marjoram, or thyme… whatever you like best, I expect)

Filling:

1 cup small broccoli florets

6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced thinly

¼ cup green onions, diced

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 ½ cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup grated swiss cheese

First, make the pie crust.  Measure out your water and put it into the freezer while you assemble your other ingredients.

In a bowl, combine the flour and butter pieces.  With your hands or a pastry blender (I always use the pastry blender – I hate the too-dry feeling of slowly crusting flour on my hands), cut the butter into the flour until it is pea-sized chunks and smaller.  Add the salt and herbs and combine gently.

Dribble in some water – 2 oz. to start with – and combine.  If the dough really isn’t coming together, add more water.  When you can press a few teaspoons of the dough between your fingertips and it stays together, turn the whole mass out onto a floured board and work lightly to bring it together into a disk.

Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and stow it in the fridge for half an hour or so.

When the dough disk is cold and firm, bring it back to your floured board and remove the plastic wrap.  Roll it out, moving a rolling pin (or wine bottle) in a few strokes straight away from you and back toward you only.  Avoid diagonal movements.  The dough will become a long oval.  Then, flip the dough over and turn it 90 degrees so you are facing a fat, flour-drenched oval instead.  Roll again, still moving the rolling pin straight away from and back toward you.  Repeat this process until you have a rough circle an inch or two larger than the diameter of your pie plate.

Lightly roll half of the dough around your rolling pin and drape it loosely into the pie plate, unrolling as you go, letting the crust settle into the dish.  Trim, crimp, or fold over any dangling edges as aesthetically as you are able.

Set aside (or perhaps return to the refrigerator?) while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When it is shimmering, add the mushrooms and give them a good stir, taking care that as many as possible have contact with the bottom of the pan (that is, don’t leave them piled atop one another if you can help it).  Then leave them alone for a good five minutes, or until they begin to develop a golden crust.

While the mushrooms are getting golden, steam or microwave the broccoli florets until they are just crisp-tender and still very bright green.  Set them aside.

Turn your mushrooms and let them sizzle for another five minutes or so.  When they are golden on both sides, turn the heat down to medium and add the onions.  Cook until soft and translucent.  Toss the broccoli in the pan, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Mom often adds tarragon or marjoram at this point as well – start with ½ tsp and see what you like.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

While the vegetables cool, beat the eggs and milk together.  Add a dash of grated nutmeg, if you like, or some cracked black pepper.  As the quiche bakes, this will become a lovely firm custard.

To assemble, fill the pie crust with the vegetables, spreading them in an even layer.  Gently pour the custard over the vegetables.  Toss the shreds of cheese together and spread them evenly across the top of the filling.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and the quiche has puffed in the middle.  If it’s not puffed yet, it’s not done.  The ingredients will be cooked through, but when you cut into it you will find a disappointing watery layer at the bottom.  Give it another few minutes.

With the center puffed and the cheese sizzling, remove the quiche from the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes so the cheese can solidify a bit and doesn’t string all over when you try to cut through it.

Slice and serve. Food Blog January 2013-0418