Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Asparagus and Squash Quiche

A quiche is a perfect summer meal to impress your friends and family. It looks way harder than it is, and basically you can put whatever you want into it (read: whatever you have laying around that's about to go bad).

Start by making a pie crust. Yes, you can buy a premade one, but once you make your own, you'll realize that there's no point in employing pillsbury for this particular task. I have no pictures of this step, but the recipe I used involves one stick of cold butter cut into cubes, a cup and a quarter of flour (any will do, but I used whole wheat pastry flour), a pinch of salt (unless you're using salted butter), and a few tablespoons of ice-cold water. Keep in mind that if you use whole wheat, you'll probably need a bit more water. Throw the butter, the salt and the flour into your food processor and pulse until it looks like pea-sized clumps. If you have a fancy food processor that comes with a plastic S-blade, use it. At this point, dribble in a tablespoon of water at a time while pulsing just until the dough forms one ball. Now take it out, flatten it slightly, wrap it in plastic wrap (aka saran crap, at least in my family) and refrigerate it for at least an hour.

While your dough is chilling, cut up some veggies into bite-sized pieces and roast them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. I used asparagus and kabocha squash (because I love it so very much). When cooking asparagus, get rid of the tough bottom of the stem by grasping both ends lightly and bending until it breaks. That's the sweet spot. Also keep in mind different cooking times. For instance, squash takes considerably longer than asparagus to roast. Therefore I put it in first and added the asparagus later. Sorry for the lack of pictures of this step too. I was kind of wingin' it.

At this point, turn your oven down to 350F.

Now cut some cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. I used a combination of cave-aged Swiss gruyere and what is essentially monterey jack marbled with jamaican jerk spices (Beecher's No Woman from Seattle if you care) but, again, whatever you're tired of looking at in your fridge will work.

Oh look at that, there are my roasted veggies. Notice how I kept the asparagus tops separate. Stay tuned.

Remove your dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Place it on a lightly floured surface (I really really like a silpat to keep the dough from sticking) and roll it out gently to about a quarter-inch thickness. By the way, look how nice this picture turned out with the bokeh and everything! And that's just with a point-and-shoot camera. Too bad the dough is cracked though. That's how I figured out it needs a bit more moisture with whole wheat. See, I'm learning too!

Anyway, this is how your rolled-out dough will look. Stop periodically to make sure it's not sticking too badly. The crust should be big enough to overlap over the edges of a pie tin.

Or pie-rex if you will.

Gently lift the dough into the dish and cut off the really overhanging bits. Use these scraps to patch up any cracks or spots where there wasn't enough dough.

Artfully pinch the edges. It doesn't have to look too nice, but it wouldn't hurt either.

Throw your veggies (except the asparagus tops) into your pie crust and arrange so they're pretty level. Beat 6 eggs with salt, pepper, and a splash of milk and pour them over the veggies.

Uh, make that 8 eggs.

There, much better!

Now arrange the asparagus tops on top in a nice pattern and bake until the middle is set. It took me about 55 minutes, but check starting at about 35. You don't want the quiche to burn. If the top (or crust) looks like it's turning dark but the middle is still jiggly, cover it loosely with foil for the rest of the cooking process.

Serve hot, cold, or room-temp. It's all good! (This is room temperature).

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I can only describe as oil-poached shrimp

I was kind of going for a tapas theme last night and I needed something to go with my tortilla espanola (see previous post) so I decided to try a super-simple shrimp dish.

Defrost enough shrimp to pack into a cast-iron skillet in one layer. Then pat them dry.

Mince about 3 cloves of garlic and add them to about a quarter-inch of olive oil in the bottom of a cast-iron skillet. If you don't have one, use a smallish round vessel that can go in the oven. A pie-tin might even work. Throw the garlic and oil in a 400 degree oven until the oil is hot and the garlic is dancing around in it.

Take the pan out and arrange the shrimp in the oil. Add a pinch of salt and some crushed red pepper flakes.

Throw the pan back in the oven and cook until the critters are done, flipping them once halfway through cooking. It should only take about 5 minutes, but your mileage may vary. When the shrimps are completely pink and curled loosely (if they are tightly curled up, they may be overdone) they are perfect.

Serve straight from the skillet but use a trivet because the pan will stay hot for quite a while.

Tortilla Espanola

Tortilla Espanola (or Tortilla de Patata) is a spanish egg and potato dish. It is delicious and has 3 ingredients, not including salt and pepper. The cooking technique itself can be a bit tricky, and i have yet to perfect it, but even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, it's still delicious.

Peel 3 potatoes. Quarter them lengthwise then slice very thinly, as if you were to make potato chips (which essentially you are. Just wait!). Rinse them well in cold water. I like to use a salad spinner for this because you want to dry them well too. Rinsing off the starch will allow them to be crispier when fried.

Heat an inch or two of oil in a pan. Cast iron works well because it retains heat. I used grapeseed oil, but any oil with a high smoke point (peanut, vegetable, NOT olive) works. Fry the potatoes in small batches. The oil should bubble furiously when the potatoes are added.

When the potatoes are golden brown and delicious, remove them from the oil to a paper-towel-lined plate

While the potatoes are cooking, crack 8 eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat them. Add a generous pinch of salt and some black pepper.

Add the warm potatoes to the egg mixture and mix well.

Heat a good amount of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium/medium-high heat. It's convenient to just pour some of your potato-frying oil in the skillet if there are no burnt pieces in it. I used about a 10-inch skillet.

When the pan is hot, add the eggs and potatoes. The edges should start to set right away.

When all of the tortilla except the center is set, it's time to flip. Do this by placing a lid that is smaller than the skillet directly on top of the tortilla. Pour off the raw egg and oil into a plate.

Then flip the tortilla onto the lid and slide it back onto the skillet.

Made a well in the center of the tortilla and pour back in the liquid.

Allow to set for another minute or so then move to a serving plate. Unfortunately, I browned the first side a bit, but i think a slightly lower temperature would fix that for next time.

This tortilla espanola serves 4.