Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Quiche Florentine

 Lovey and I adore spinach quiche.  The only downside to my spinach quiche was always the amount of liquid the spinach produced which gave us a watery quiche with a soggy crust.

I took two approaches that might solve the problem.  One was to steam the spinach first (I used to just throw it raw into the pie shell before adding the egg mixture) then chop it up

 Next, drain, drain, drain.  This means that I have to plan a little further ahead for the draining time. I wrap it in a piece of old tee shirt (clean of course) and squeeze.  Then I let it sit in a strainer until time to use.

The other thought was to blind bake the bottom crust with a light layer of the shredded Gruyère on it.  I use a deep dish pie plate for the quiche.

Once the crust had cooled the cheese firmed up, providing somewhat of a barrier between the custard and the crust.  This is also a step that you'll need to perform prior to making your custard.

Next, I sautéed some onion until golden brown.  These were set aside until time to assemble the quiche.

 This fond from the onions is pure flavor.  I used this same saucepan to prepare the custard.

 In that saucepan, beat your eggs seasoned with a good pinch of salt, and a light grating of nutmeg.

Slowly add the hot milk (I heat the milk up in the microwave) beating constantly with a whisk.  Continue beating over low heat until the custard begins to thicken.

 The saucepan is removed from the heat and the chopped spinach is folded in along with the onions and 1/2 of the remaining cheese.

 Pour the custard into the pie shell.  Sprinkle with the remaining grated Gruyère.

 Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is golden.

I was very pleased and even more so, Lovey was pleased.  This resulted in very little liquid after baking.  Serve with a tossed salad and you have a nice meal for brunch or dinner.

Quiche Florentine
Serves 8

1 - 16 ounce package baby spinach
Pie crust for single crust pie (I usually use boxed Pillsbury)
3/4 pound Gruyère cheese, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion
6 large eggs
pinch salt
pinch ground nutmeg or several grates of fresh
2-1/2 cups milk

Rinse the spinach and place in a saucepan with a little water and sweat over low heat until it is all limp.  Drain and chop.  Place chopped spinach in a colander over a bowl.  From time to time toss and press liquids out (any time you pass by).

Roll out crust and fit in a 9" deep dish pie plate.  Grate the cheese & spread enough cheese over the bottom of the pie crust to form a thin layer.  Set extra cheese aside.  Place pie plate in freezer to firm up the crust.

Preheat oven to 450°F.  

Pull crust out of freezer and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire rack.  Lower heat of oven to 375°F.

Peel onion and slice in half through the root.  Place one half, cut side down.  Instead of slicing on the root end begin slicing from the side of the half.  Slice them as thin as you can.  Repeat with the other half of onion.  Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan.  Once butter has stopped foaming add onions and slowly sauté until golden brown.  Remove onions from pan and set aside.

In that same saucepan, off heat, beat the eggs with the pinch of salt and grated nutmeg.
Heat the milk up in the micro-wave.  Gradually add hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking until combined.  Continue to whisk over low heat until the custard thickens.  Remove from heat and add the spinach and the onions.  Fold in 1/2 of the remaining cheese.

Pour mixture into pie crust and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake in a 375°F. oven for 30 minutes or until the custard is set and top is golden.  A sharp knife inserted into the middle should come out clean.  You can serve immediately.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Dilly Bread

This bread was an extremely popular one in 60's.  Every mother was making it; it was all the rage.  It was a Pillsbury Bake-Off winner which catapulted it into millions of American homes.  Mine was one of those homes.  My mother made it all the time. She let me make it with her and it has remained one of my favorites.

The ingredients are easy to assemble:  yeast, cottage cheese, flour, sugar, butter, dill weed, egg, instant dried onion, baking soda, and salt.

It's a yeast bread

and a batter bread; so you don't have to knead it.

I love that it has cottage cheese in it.  I was one of those children who loved cottage cheese.

Once mixed up you'll have a heavy batter.  Cover the mixing bowl and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour.  

Stir down the batter and spoon it into a greased 1-1/2  to 2 quart casserole

Cover with wax paper and let rise until the batter doubles; about 45 minutes. I put mine in a non-heated oven because Lovey and I keep our house pretty cool in the winter.

When doubled, remove the wax paper and bake in oven preheated to 350°F for about 40 - 45 minutes.   My mother always made it in a small, round, enameled Dutch oven exactly like this one. 

I love that the minute the bread comes out of the oven it's finished off by brushing the top of the loaf with melted butter then sprinkled with salt.  

This is absolutely the best bread to serve with soups and stews.  Simply sliced and buttered, or

use it to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mmmmmm.

  Dilly Bread
Yield 1 loaf
Adapted from my mother's adaptation of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipe

1 cup small curd cottage cheese, room temp
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 - 3 Tbsp. dried minced onion
2 Tbsp. fresh or 1 Tbsp. dried dill weed **
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, room temp
1 pkg. active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
coarse Kosher salt

Mise en place:
  • measure cottage cheese and 1 Tbsp. butter into small saucepan
  • measure sugar, onion, dill, 1 tsp. salt, baking soda, eggs, and yeast into a large mixing bowl
  • Measure out flour
  • melt the 1/2 tsp. butter and set aside with Kosher salt
  • generously grease a 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole
In a small saucepan, heat the cottage cheese and 1 Tbsp. of the butter until warm to the touch (110° to 120°F).  Turn the cottage cheese into the mixing bowl with the next 7 measured out ingredients.  Stir until mixed.

Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time to make a stiff batter, beating well after each addition with a wooden spoon, if by hand, or with a mixer using the flat paddle.  This is a heavy batter, not a dough, and will not be kneaded.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about one hour.  Remove the plastic wrap and stir down the batter with 20 strong strokes.  Spoon the batter into a generously greased 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole.

Cover with wax paper and leave until the batter doubles in volume, about 45 minutes.  Keep the wax paper from touching the expanding batter or it may collapse when the paper is pulled away.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake the loaf until it is deep brown and crusty, around 40 - 45 minutes.  A wooden skewer inserted in the center should come out clean and dry when the bread is done.  If moist particles cling to the probe, return the loaf to the oven for an additional 5 - 10 minutes.  Cover with foil if needed to prevent excessive browning.

Remove the bread from the oven and immediately brush with the 1/2 tsp. melted butter.  Sprinkle salt lightly over the crust.  allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the casserole and placing it on a metal rack to cool.

**The original recipe called for 2 tsp. dill seed.  I used dill seed for years, then when dill weed became regularly available in the markets I started playing around with using fresh dill weed.  It's wonderful either way so the choice is up to you.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Egg Brunch Casserole

Another breakfast casserole.  This is an oldie that Tyra and I made when we had our Tea Room.  We served it with a hot curried fruit and a spinach salad on the side.

It's easy, simple and one of those dishes you can pretty much prepare the night before serving.

White bread is called for and over the years I have used different breads for this recipe and I keep going back to the grocery store white sandwich bread.  It's cheap and soft, and there are certain things that cheap, white sandwich bread is best for; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese and this casserole, oh, and fried Bologna sandwiches.

Shredded Cheddar cheese is layered on next.  Of course you can use any cheese you like but I prefer a sharp Wisconsin Cheddar

Sliced Kielbasa-style smoked sausage that you cook then slice.  I used Eckrich.  The original recipe called  for a pound of smoked sausage but just like a can of coffee is no longer a pound of coffee, this sausage is now packaged at 14 ounces; so just get the 14 ounce package and don't sweat over the other 2.  Can you even buy coffee in the can anymore?  Hmmm...

Mix the eggs, 1/2 cup of the milk, mustard, marjoram and basil together.

Pour this mixture over your bread, cheese and sausage.

Cover the casserole with foil or a lid if you pan has one.  I would normally use a glass casserole dish but I was taking this to work and this metal pan was easier to transport it.  Slip it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day prior to serving, pre-heat the oven to 350°F.  Dilute the soup with 1/2 cup milk and pour over the casserole.  Bake for 1 hour.

Egg Brunch Casserole
Serves 10 to 12


Night before:
8 slices white bread
2 cups grated cheese
1 pound Kielbasa 
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk

2-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. dry marjoram
1/2 tsp. dry basil
 Day of Serving:
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt

Mise en Place:
  • cube bread
  • grate cheese
  • brown  sausage whole, then cut in 1/2" pieces
  • crack eggs in medium mixing bowl
  • measure out 1/2 cup of the milk
  • measure out herbs
The night prior to serving:
Prepare an 8" x 12" baking dish by spraying with vegetable spray.  Place bread cubes in the bottom of the baking dish.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over bread.  Layer sausage pieces on top of cheese.

Whisk the eggs, 1/2 cup of milk and herbs in the mixing bowl.  Pour mixture over the ingredients in the baking dish.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Day of serving:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Remove baking dish from the refrigerator.  In a mixing bowl dilute the soup with the other 1/2 cup milk and add the saltPour over top of baking dish.  Bake for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Parmesan-Turkey-Ranch Rollups

I was flipping through my recipe files looking for something easy to prepare for this past Super Bowl Sunday.  I made Beef Stew for dinner, but wanted to have some snacks to munch on between church and the game.  

Lovey is pretty hard to cook for because he's such a picky eater.  This one seemed to be a good choice because it has several elements that he likes; flour tortillas, roasted turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, well....they had the right stuff.

There's not a lot of prep work.  Turkey is from the Deli (I had it sliced very thin),  veggies are diced, and the Parmesan grated.

The base of the rollups is Ranch dressing.  I prefer Hidden Valley made from scratch rather than purchased pre-made in the bottle; and I'm partial to the mix that calls for buttermilk.  Use whichever floats your boat.

Use 6" to 7" flour tortillas.  I laid all mine out on the counter and prepared them assembly-line style.  Spread each tortilla with the dressing.

Sprinkle each with the cheese, green onions, and tomato

Lastly, add the turkey then the lettuce.  Roll them up cigar-style and secure with toothpicks.  I suppose you could slice these into individual bites, each secured with its own toothpick.  I knew Lovey would just pick up a whole one and eat it so I didn't bother.

I also set out a small bowl of extra ranch dressing for dipping.  I thought they benefited from a little extra dressing
They were easy and Lovey approved; that in itself was satisfaction.

Parmesan-Turkey-Ranch Rollups
Yield:  8 rollups

3/4 cup ranch dressing + extra for dipping
8 (6" - 7") flour tortillas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 green onions
1 medium tomato
2 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
12 ounces thinly sliced deli turkey

Mise en Place:
  • if making from scratch whist together the ranch dressing
  • grate cheese
  • dice the green onions (white and green parts)
  • seed and dice the tomato
  • chop the lettuce
Lay out all of the tortillas on the counter (I placed mine on wax paper).  Spread the dressing evenly on 1 side of each tortilla.  Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan, green onions, and the tomato.

Divide the turkey among the tortillas and top with the lettuce.  Roll up the tortillas and secure with toothpicks.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Choû-Fleur Au Gratin - Cauliflower Au Gratin

'Choû-Fleur' has an elegant ring to it doesn't it?  Well, it's simply French for cauliflower.  I love cauliflower in any form I can get it; raw on a crudité platter, soup, tempura, steamed.  Mostly, at my house, it gets steamed, mashed and seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.  That is my dinner many nights when I get home from work and am not super hungry.

I've been reading this book for quite some time now.  It was published by Gourmet Magazine in the 1950's and 1960's.  It's like a travel guide to the food in the different Provinces of France.  During those decades we in the United States were not as familiar with French cooking as we are now; thank goodness for Julia Child, so this served as an introduction to many basic French foods that are common place to us now. It's been a super interesting read and I have been having fun with basic French cooking through this book.  It was in this book that I found the recipe that I use as the base for any quiche I make.

Back to the cauliflower....  This evening I wasn't particularly hungry so I decided to do something with a head of cauliflower, oh, pardon me, choû-fleur, that I had in the fridge.  I decided to go very French basic.

Using this book I made Cauliflower Au Gratin.

Start with a nice, head of cauliflower.  Select one that is very white and void of a lot of brown spots.

Remove the green leaves and core the head.  Coring will help the separation into florets easy.

Separate the head into florets.  This is a pretty good size.

Rinse in a colander.

Place the cauliflower in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the  cauliflower until tender yet a little crunchy; about 3 to 4 minutes.  Pierce one of the larger pieces of cauliflower to test.  You don't want to cook it completely.  

Normally I would steam the cauliflower but I want to boil the cauliflower this time so I will have some cooking liquid to add to the sauce.  Drain the cauliflower and save 1/2 cup of the liquid.  Set the cauliflower aside.

Since this is a gratin, there is going to be a sauce that the cauliflower bakes in.  To be a proper gratin this sauce will form a crust on the surface of the cauliflower when baked.

So now we make the sauce.  The base of most French cream sauces is a Béchamel sauce.  In the U.S.  we all learned to make this in Home Economics class as a white sauce.

The sauce we'll make for our gratin is a Mornay sauce which is a Béchamel glorified with cheese and cooking liquid from whatever you are cooking with.

Let's make a basic Béchamel which is equal parts butter, flour and milk seasoned with a little grated nutmeg. For this recipe we are going to make 2 cups of white sauce.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in the same saucepan that you cooked the cauliflower.  Once the butter has finished bubbling, whisk in 2 Tbsp. flour and blend until you make a paste, or a roux.  Whisk off fire and allow to cook for a minute or two to rid the mixture of a floury taste.

Add 2 cups of very hot milk and whisk until smooth.  Return to fire and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.

Now, here is where the Béchamel sauce becomes Mornay Sauce.  Add the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid that you cooked the cauliflower in.    Boil until you have reduced the sauce by a good quarter.  This is an important step.  If you don't do this your gratin might be a little watery (which in itself will not ruin this dish.  But not much can ruin this dish).

Stir in the Parmesan and Gruyère cheeses.  Return to a low heat and stir in make sure the cheeses melt.

Add the nutmeg.  Remove from the heat and finish the sauce with 2 Tbsp. butter.  (hey, remember this is a French dish.  There will be a lot of butter).

Coat the bottom of the dish with some of the Mornay sauce.

Fold the cauliflower into the remainder of the sauce and coat thoroughly.

Pour the cauliflower into the gratin dish and top with the reserved Gruyère cheese and bake in a 375°F. oven for 40 minutes or until the top is nicely browned.

This is so fabulous and will make the perfect side dish for any entreé.

Choû-Fleur Au Gratin - Cauliflower Au Gratin
Serves 4 to 6

1 head cauliflower
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg, preferably fresh ground
1/2 cup reserved cauliflower cooking liquid 
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, divided
2 ounces Parmesan cheese

Mise en Place:
  • remove green leaves from cauliflower, core and break into florets.  Rinse and set aside
  • measure out salt
  • divide butter in 2 Tbsp. portions
  • measure out flower and milk
  • measure out nutmeg
  • shred cheeses and set aside 1 ounce of the Gruyère from rest
  • equipment:  saucepan, colander and gratin dish
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place cauliflower in saucepan and cover with water.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt to the water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until cauliflower is tender yet still crunch.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and drain cauliflower in a colander.  Set aside.

Prepare the sauce.  In the same saucepan you cooked the cauliflower, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter.  When the butter has stopped bubbling, pull saucepan off the heat and whisk in the flour until you have a roux.  Allow to cook off heat for a minute or two.  Heat the milk in the microwave for 3 minutes or until very hot.  Return pan to heat and add the milk to the roux and whisk until smooth and sauce begins to thicken.  Add the reserved cooking liquid and blend.  Cook sauce until it is reduced to by one quarter.  Pull pan off heat and whisk in the 2 ounces each of Gruyère and Parmesan.  Return to low heat and stir until the cheese is melted.  Add the nutmeg.  Pull pan off heat and finish off with the remaining two Tbsp. butter.

Cover the bottom of the gratin pan with some of the sauce.  Fold the cooked cauliflower into the sauce and stir to coat.  Pour into the gratin dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.