Summer quiche and carrot salad

I have some delicious recipes to share! Inspired by what I hope is the legitimate and unfaltering arrival of warmer weather, I made a tasty summery meal. A light, fluffy quiche and a lemony carrot salad. They were easy to prepare (aside from the carrot grating) and easy to enjoy. First off… the quiche.

Summer Quiche

1 sheet pie crust (I used Pillsbury but you can get whatever brand if your favorite. Or if you are ambitious make your own crust!)

1/2 lb ramps

1/2 lb broccoli (feel free to use any veggie you like)

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 c. skim milk

7 eggs

1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

1 tsp kosher salt

a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

2 1/2 oz fresh feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and thaw the pie crust as described on the package.

Prepare the ramps and broccoli by chopping it into small pieces. Heat up the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the chopped ramps and broccoli and let it cook gently until the ramps become transparent and the broccoli gets a nice bright green color. Be careful not to over cook though because they will cook more while in the oven. Turn off the heat and let them rest.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, lemon zest, salt, and pepper until fully combined. Pay attention to the size of your pie pan when determining the correct number of eggs to use. I used a 9 in. baking dish with rather high sides so I had a lot of room to accommodate that much filling. It will rise just a tiny bit when cooking so If you have extra filling just leave it aside. You bake it in a small ramekin and use it to make a delicious egg sandwich for breakfast someday!

Once your pie crust is full thawed, lay it in your pie pan. Give the rim a little decorative pinch if you feel inclined to make it a little fancier. Distribute the veggies evenly around the bottom of the dish. Gently pour the filling over the veggies. Cut or crumble your feta cheese (I crumbled mine) and drop it into the filling as evenly spaced as you can make it. And again, feel free to adjust the amount of cheese you want in your quiche. I love cheese, and the feta I had was super fresh, made on a nearby farm, so I put lots in my quiche!

Bake for 30-40 minutes. The center should be solid and the crust and top should have a light golden brown color to them. Once it’s done, let it sit out to cool or a few minutes before you dig in and enjoy. Quiche tastes great at any temperature so this is a wonderful dish to make ahead for a party or for a nice brunch the following morning.

While the quiche was in the oven I prepared a lovely carrot salad, adapted from a recipe by (my favorite) Mark Bittman. This is also a dish that can be made ahead. If you do make it ahead though be sure you stir it every so often because the vinaigrette will settle to the bottom.

Carrot Salad

1 lb. carrots, grated

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp ground cumin, or to taste

about 1 tsp honey, optional

freshly ground black pepper and salt

Grate those carrots. To make things faster you could buy pre-grated carrots…

Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, and spices. Toss all the ingredients together and serve. So simple yet so scrumptious!

I hope you enjoy this lovely taste of summer!

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Mole in Chicago and Hummus at Home

Late winter/early spring. For the last four years this is the time of year I have always dreaded. No, not because the snow is gone and the flowers and baby animals are emerging. That part is quite wonderful. I dread it because for these few months I will be planning, schmoozing, and traveling non-stop for auditions for ballet companies. Companies hold auditions now to look for dancers that they wish to hire for next season. In the ballet world, employment revolves around the performance season which runs from fall to spring, not unlike a school year. For the end of this season I will be an apprentice with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (YAY!) but nothing is guaranteed that I will have that job again next season. Hence why I am now auditioning like crazy. Now that I have broken into the professional realm of the ballet world hopefully it won’t be as hard for me to stay there as it is to get in. Only time will tell…

This past weekend I made a quick 24 hour trip to Chicago for an audition on Saturday afternoon. After the audition I met up with my good friends from high school that now attend Northwestern University. I was crashing at their apartment for the night. Connections are key at this time of year too. Not only will it help you get you more quickly noticed at an audition, but if you know a friend in a city you are traveling to, staying with them considerably cuts down on travel costs. Thanks goodness for friendly friends! Anyway, After the audition we went into downtown Chicago, bought a few things at a record store and had a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant: Buena Vista.

It was a teeny tiny little restaurant. The dining area was incredibly small, the legal maximum occupancy was only 19 people to just give you an idea. The kitchen was almost the same size as the restaurant. To get to the restroom, I had to walk through the kitchen. I can’t say that is highly comforting as a diner (someone could misbehave on their way back to pee) but at the same time it was pretty fun to see a behind the scene look at this small family run restaurant. When we walked in the owner’s family (I’m assuming) was sitting at a table near the kitchen finishing up their meals and speaking rapidly in Spanish. If I owned this place or knew the owner I’d be eating here every night too. The food was simple yet delicious. right after we sat down we were brought two homemade salsas, one regular and one green, and a bowl of homemade chips. We then ordered some guacamole to munch on too as we picked our entrees. I decided to go with the enchiladas de mole. Steaming, they came out sandwiched between some refried beans and seasoned rice. Every individual part of that meal was delicious. The enchiladas were filled with incredibly tender chicken. There was not much more to the meal than what met the eye but there didn’t need to be. It was so deliciously simple and comforting that I was for the moment distracted by how much my mouth was burning from the spice.

I finished off my time in Chicago with some quality college entertainment (you know) and then left to fly home the next morning. Once I returned home it was time to prepare for the Superbowl! I landed around 3:30 so there wasn’t much time for me to cook before heading to a friend’s apartment to watch the game but I of course wanted to contribute something. A few days before I was browsing through my Mark Bittman cookbook “The Food That Matters Cookbook” and found a recipe for hummus. In the cookbook it takes the hummus one step further and instructs you on how to serve it hot. However since I was to be transporting my batch I just left it room temperature. I have been wanting to make my own hummus for years but I didn’t have a food processor or a blender. Now that I am back at home, the kitchen supplies at my disposal have been opening the doors to my culinary adventures left and right.

With only a handful of ingredients and requiring only a total of 10 minutes to make this was one of the easiest and most rewarding things I have made in a while. By the time the game was over last night ALL of my hummus was gone. (There were only 4 of us there eating it.) I’m not sure I will ever go back to store-bought hummus. Here is the recipe, with a few adaptations I made. Give it a try!

Hummus

3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup water

1 or 2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil, or to taste

1/4 cup tahini, or to taste

salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Put the chickpeas, water, garlic, olive oil, and tahini in a blender or food processor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Puree for a minute or two until the mixture is very smooth. Add the lemon juice and blend again until it is incorporated. At this point you can adjust it to your liking by adding more of any ingredient to change the taste, consistency, or both. I just kept taking little tastes and adding more of this and that until it tasted just the way I like it. In the cookbook, Mark Bittman gives recommendations of other ingredients to add like roasted red peppers and spices to change up the flavor of the hummus. Being the first time I made it I just stuck with the original flavor. Next time I think I’ll add something to kick it up a notch. Maybe some roasted garlic. Yum. I took it to my friend’s apartment with some pita and chopped veggies and like I said, it was all gone by the time I left. Hope it’s as successful for you if you decide to give it a try!

 

 

Leftovers Reimagined

The past few days I have been left to my own devices in my parent’s house. My parents and my little sister (who is still on break from college) have all left for a few days to go soak up some sun in the Turks and Caicos. I’m incredibly envious but at the same time I am reveling in the independence. There is something incomparable to the feeling I get taking care of a house/apartment in which I am the only occupant. Well really just the kitchen. (I could do without bathroom cleaning).

I love cooking for others and feeding them delicious foods, but it is hard for me to really experiment with my cooking like that. What if something goes horribly wrong? I can’t expect others to eat my disasters. If I am cooking for just myself though, it’s likely that I will just eat the disaster anyway. At least the salvageable parts of it.

The past two nights I have made myself meals that have been a combination of leftovers and freshly cooked foods. Sunday night I was in the mood for a nice warm soup. I didn’t want to just heat up something from a can but I also didn’t want to spend all day stewing up a thick and heavy soup. I noticed that there was an abundance of carrots in the fridge… carrot soup it was! I made a beeline to the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook to see if they had a nice recipe to give me a little guidance. Sure enough, they did.

Since it was just me eating, I halved the recipe and it made the perfect amount. I ate two large bowls and still had a full serving leftover to save in the fridge for another night. I followed the recipe basically as it was given. I left out the potato, chose non-fat plain yogurt for my dairy addition, and used cashews instead of almonds because I felt that they would add a richer flavor. This is where the leftovers come into play. A few nights ago my mom made oven roasted shrimp and broccoli. So delicious and so simple. All it is shrimp, broccoli, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and a little lemon juice tossed in a baking dish and slid in the oven to get all happy. Because it was such a hit, there was only a small bit leftover. I picked out al the broccoli for a snack earlier that afternoon so the only parts left were the shrimp and the seasonings. I tossed that into my soup and added a little fresh ground ginger. Done! It was so delicious and the shrimp added a nice little textural surprise and, not to mention, some protein. So yummy. Moosewood sure knows their veggies!

Tonight’s leftover rework was for the bean burgers. There were just two lonely burgers still chilling in the fridge. I wanted to give them some love. The ingredients for my freshly cooked addition also were scraps left in the fridge. I feel rude calling them scraps since they made something delicious, but there just wasn’t enough of each individual ingredient to make them the star of their own dishes. The trio? Button mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and baby spinach. I started by sautéing the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil. Once they just about were coated in the olive oil I poured probably 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar right into the pan. I let them cook and shrivel up for a bit while I rinsed the tomatoes and cut them in half.  I threw those in, added a little salt, and kept the heat between medium and medium-high so the tomatoes would soften and get a little glazed. Just about a minute before I turned off the heat I tossed in the spinach. As soon as the spinach started to wilt I turned off the heat. I poured my creation right on top of a bean burger that I quickly heated in the microwave. Who need ketchup when you have this lovely medley? It was just the right amount of juice from the tomatoes, meatiness from the mushrooms, green from the spinach, and the little touch of sweetness from the balsamic that reduced as it cooked. I kept eating the topping more quickly than my burger so I kept going back for more. I love toppings. By the time my bean burger was gone, so was the entire pan of veggies I had just cooked up. What a scrumptiously simple creation.