So Quiche Me and Smile for Me…

crust food homemade pie
Photo by Amanda Reed on


To: John Denver and Mary Travers

From: Fran

Forgive me for the pun. In no way was it intended to detract from or demean one of the great songs of the 1960s. I couldn’t help myself.

Thank you.





Now that the ear worm du jour has been activated, let us discuss quiche.

Let’s start with the crust. If it doesn’t have a crust, it is a baked omelet. It is a frittata. It is not a quiche, I’m afraid. Those have their charms, but I find that I really need a crust when I want quiche. You may use a frozen one for convenience if needs must. Otherwise, I recommend Patricia Well’s recipe for pate brisse from her book Bistro Cooking: 7 tablespoons butter, 1 to 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour (don’t use unbleached–for some reason it just doesn’t work as well), dash salt, and 3 tablespoons of ice water. I have the best results with cutting the butter into the flour and salt with a food processor. If you don’t have one, cut in the butter with a couple of knives. When it looks like sand, add the water gradually. Use just enough to make the butter and flour clump up, but not enough to make it turn into a ball. Place it on a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper (preferably the latter), pat it into a disc, and let it chill for an hour or so. Roll it out and line a pie plate or loose-bottomed tart pan with it.

For the filling, I use two or three eggs beaten with a cup of milk. If you want to go full frontal French, use cream. Or whole milk. I use 2% or skim depending on what’s in the house. For cheese, I’ve used cheddar, I’ve used Gruyere, I’ve used plain ol’ supermarket Swiss supercharged with parmesan. Grate the cheese and line the bottom of the shell with it.

Now, you can just pour in the eggs and milk and have a satisfactory product, or you can put cooked broccoli, cooked and drained spinach, sautéed onions or leeks, sautéed mushrooms, leftover bits of bacon or ham or other cooked meats. Scatter those over the cheese and pour on the eggs and milk.

I bake quiche at 350 for at least 45 minutes, or until it’s a lovely shade of brown and the filling doesn’t jiggle. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, place the filled pie plate on a baking sheet before you put it in the oven, especially if you’re using a loose-bottomed pan. If the crust leaks, or the filling decides to climb over the sides,  it will create a mess. Cleaning a baking sheet is easier than cleaning your oven. Trust me.

Let the quiche cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I would do a small green salad or a fruit salad with it. And probably a rose that erred on the crisp side if you’re doing this for lunch or dinner. Even in winter. (I really don’t like white wine, so if you’d rather have that I’d encourage you to obey your tastebuds for a pairing.)

Quiche began, as have many recipes that rose from humble beginnings as a way to use up dairy products, small amounts of vegetables, and bits of meat that may not have constituted a meal on their own to a dish of some glamour and prestige. It can be served in any season and for breakfast,  brunch, lunch, or dinner and be as posh or basic as needed. It’s one of the little black dresses of food.










Pesto Change-O

food ingredients recipe cook
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Today is August 1. In the earth based religions, today is Lammas, the first harvest at the height of summer.* Herbs and tomatoes reach their peak right about now. If you’re looking for a great way to use them,  something suitable for a feast, or just want something yummy on your pasta, fish, chicken, scrambled eggs, or bruschetta, try pesto.

“Pesto” means “pounded.” It’s a close relative to “pestle” as in “mortar and…” Once upon a time before food processors and blenders the cook put the herbs, nuts, cheese, and oil into a mortar and pounded away until they created a paste-like substance. Now it’s just a matter of loading everything into a food processor and pressing a button.

My food processor’s been busy this summer thanks to the productivity of the basil, enabling me to make several batches already. I use Patricia Wells’ pistou formula from her book Bistro Cooking  as a blueprint:

2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 3 large garlic cloves cut in half, 1/2 cup Parmesan. Put everything in the food processor, pulse it a couple of times to get the party started, and let it rip until it makes a paste.

This is classic pesto, or pistou in French. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, feel free to improvise. Since pine nuts involve a trip to the Italian market and run on the exorbitant side, I use almond meal or walnuts. No basil? No problem. Try cilantro. Or (I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud) kale. Yes, kale. The chef at my favorite lunch/tea/coffee makes pesto with it. He uses it on flatbreads and in his grilled cheese sandwiches. It plays nicely with its colleagues (read: not bitter and stringy ) in that application.

If you want to do something different, try pesto Trapenese. It includes tomatoes for a Sicilian spin. I haven’t tried it myself, but might just be giving this variation courtesy of Lidia Bastianich a try very soon.

With a basic formula and seasonal ingredients, the pesto-bilities are endless. (Well, someone had to say it…)




*For readers celebrating Lammas, brightest of bright blessings from me and Oakley. May this be a day of abundance and joy for you and whomever joins your celebration.



Showing Up on Monday

Dealing with the relative (now recovering nicely, thanks) and an assortment of other non-usual events made the last couple of weeks hiccupy in terms of writing and general sanity. Things are finally leveling out here in the soybean field, making the first full week of summer in the soybean field a more peaceful one.

A severe weather outbreak livened up last Wednesday. The two tornados that did damage were pretty small. No fatalities, thankfully. The rest either stayed airborne or went through open fields. Oakley and I sat watching the sound and light show in the sky and its coverage on TV. We didn’t even lose power.

The next couple of days brought chaos in the larger world. Unexpectedly, Britain voted to leave the EU. WNIU very rarely mentions news stories, so when one gets mentioned, listeners know it’s going to be a big one. Oakley knows that when Mom spits her coffee back into her cup it’s a big one. That triggered off days of losses in the stock market. Initially, I wanted to pull our investments, stuff everything into coffee cans, and bury them  in the back yard. It has to level out, and hopefully will in the next few days.

Today is mercifully quiet. Well, except for Oakley having a mild flare-up of colitis caused by the heat, most likely. He asked to go out at 2:30 this morning, then had a peaceful rest of the night. As we walked at the park this morning, he acted cramp-y (frantic pacing, hunching), and, well..I’ll spare the details. I called the vet, changed his herb for a few days. He’s napping peacefully on the floor in front of the fan.  We will have a better night tonight.

With a high of 90, this is a bit warm for my taste. I personally max out at 80 and begin to wilt at 85. Cooler foods are in order, such as salad and sandwiches and gazpacho. It’s due to be cooler tomorrow. I’ll cook the chicken legs then. Maybe oven-fried? Sounds good.

So begins the summer. Next on the agenda: we are eleven days from the Ren Faire opening. Oakley will be staying at Ms. Lanette’s for the night. We all need a bit of frolic, and we have those events to provide it for us.


Homemade Mayo

Really, it’s not that hard….you take one of these….egg-from-the-domestic-chicken-138x165.jpg

and some of this…..OldDesignShop_OliveOilAd.jpg

and some mustard, vinegar or lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Give them a ride in your food processor and you have homemade mayonnaise.

I used the recipe that came with my Cuisinart DLC-8. The one that I received as a wedding present. In the ’80’s. Still going strong after all these years. You take 1-1/4 cup of oil (neutral, like grape seed or canola or good ol’ vegetable oil–some concerns have been raised about canola, but it was what I had on hand), 1 egg or 2 yolks, 1 T. each Dijon mustard and vinegar (I used apple cider), plus salt and pepper to taste. Whirl the egg or yolks with the salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar to combine. Then with the processor running,  add the oil v-e-r-y slowly. That’s the hard part. The feed tube on my model is hollow with a small hole in the bottom so you can fill it with oil and let the processor rip. I poured the oil in a thin stream manually. It looks like nothing is going to happen, and nothing is going to happen, then…voila! Silky, perfectly textures mayo at  the bottom of the work bowl.

I used a combination of canola (see response above) and olive oils. The olive oil was a bit intense, so I’ll probably cut back to a tablespoon of it next time, enough to give flavor without being overpowering.

The mayo’s gone into bleu cheese dressing, salmon salad, and egg salad. It lacks the stabilizers (and sugar, thankfully) that its jarred cousins feature, so I need to use it up soon.

As long as I have some good bread, or French fries (how they do it in Belgium), that shouldn’t be a problem.

The Homecoming Feast: Hubby Tested, Doggy Approved

Hubby is on his way home from Michigan. Hopefully, he can negotiate the stretch of highway that skirts the southern tip of Lake Michigan without incident. Today we are on alert for yet another a late season storm that’s sprawling its way east just south of 1-80.

While I’m sure some cooks toy with the idea of groundhog recipes, I’m doing something a little more conventional and elegant. I picked up a turkey breast at Trader Joe’s the other day. We haven’t had it in a while. It will be seasoned with orange and basil tucked beneath the skin as well as a little salt and pepper, then roasted. Potatoes are a must, and there will be a green veg or salad. I’m thinking green beans amandine. We have brownies or strawberries for dessert. 

We’ll be able to make soup or sandwiches with it, and Oakley can have some, too.

So what are you having tonight?

In Praise of Cabbage

ImageAs I write this, the sky spits sleet and rain by turns. The week’s forecast resembles a holdover from last month with grey skies and crazy cold temps. 

Anyone in my neck of the northern hemisphere would do unspeakable things for just a little green about now. However, compromising one’s ethics is totally unnecessary. You just need to get a head of cabbage. 

The only ethnic cuisine I can think of that doesn’t have at least one dish with cabbage is that of the Inuit. It’s a hardy crop, able to tolerate some pretty low temps well. I’ve seen recipes calling for it in soups, salads, main dishes, and even desserts. Cabbage is also cheap, anywhere from 29-50 cents a pound. You can dress it up as Molly Wizenberg does in cabbage in cream (please see her book A Homemade Life for the simple recipe) or make a deliciously down-to-earth Indian stew with potatoes.

Skillet Cabbage is one of my go-to dishes. This recipe originally came from More with Less, a compilation of recipes from members of the Mennonite church. The basic recipe: 4 cups of cabbage sliced thinly, 1 thinly sliced onion, 1 coarsely grated carrot, and a clove of garlic. Stir fry the veg together (you may add slivers of leftover meat if you’d like, or tofu) and season with a tablespoon or two of soy sauce. If you want Indonesian, add two beaten eggs to the mix at the end of stir-frying and let them cook. For Vietnamese, top with some chopped peanuts. This is great as either a side dish or over rice or Asian noodles for an entree. 

As with any blank canvas, the possibilities are endless. 

(Many thanks to Cynthia Sanford for the inspiration)

Potage Bonne Femme, a/k/a Refrigerator Soup


(image courtesy of ) 

I’ve been cleaning out the fridge today. I’ve found two heads of cauliflower that need to be used (you did see my earlier recipe for the soup, didn’t you?). There are also some tomatoes, carrots, and a zucchini lurking about as well as a few potatoes. I have the better part of a tetra-pac of chicken broth. I think it’s time for some potage bonne femme. 

Sounds pretty fancy-schmancy, right? Well, I’m going to tell you a secret. Cuisine bonne femme means that the recipe has roots in thrifty French household practices, not restaurant food. It’s what you might have eating in someone’s home. It may be pureed to give it some body and creaminess, but it was made from the odds and ends of veggies that needed to be used up before they spoiled. The elegance comes from the simplicity.

Make a miripoix–chop up some celery, carrot, and onion. Saute in some butter or olive oil until soft, then add the broth and the the little treasures that you found in the drawers. You may add some rice or pasta. Adjust the amount of broth accordingly. Add salt and pepper to taste, maybe a bay leaf. Just let it simmer until the veggies are done. You may puree part of it as discussed above.    

This would work great as a first course, or with some cheese or hummus and crackers for a main. Or a salad. The possibilities are endless.

The Chicken Challenge

ImageUne poulet.Uno pollo.A chicken. Some wise person described it as a blank canvas for cooks. The number of recipes ranging from weeknight suppers to the most formal of dinners supports that theory.

In a fair and perfect world, everyone could afford organic chickens. We are in process with that, and that day will come. I buy them when I can. I have an organic poultry farm in my area, and her eggs and chicken are fantastic. 

Most of the time, I purchase chickens produced by Amish farmers. A bit more expensive than the supermarket brands, but less than the 100% organic free range ones, and yes, you do get better quality.

I do whole chickens either on our electric indoor rotisserie or en coquotte. For the rotisserie, I blend salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, then rub the mix under the skin. Do not ask me to tell you how to truss the bird. My trussing attempts look like a bondage session that went terribly wrong, but it’s enough to keep the wings and legs from flying around. Once the rotisserie is going, it takes about two to two and a half hours for the bird to be done.

En coquotte can be done with a slow cooker or in the oven at 400 for about two to two and a half hours. If you use a slow cooker, make a rack in the bottom with the carrots and leeks–cut both into batons. Season the chicken with salt and pepper as well as the desired herbs, and put it on top of the carrot-leek rack. Add some quartered redskins, then put it on high if you’ll be eating it in less than eight hours, or low for more than that. If you’re doing it in the oven, use a covered pot and the same veggies.

Leftovers can be used in a myriad of ways. The meat is also dog-safe, so you can use it as a treat or a base for Fido’s meals.