Saturday, November 30, 2013

Crustless Quiche

If you love quiche like I do, but sometimes just aren’t quite up to battling with the crust, particularly during this frantically busy time of the year, I have good news for you.  I give you the crustless quiche.  Just as delicious as quiche with crust, but lower in carbs, calories, and spent time.  It will serve you for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, can be made with almost any ingredients that you have on hand (as long as you have the basic eggs, cheese, and cream), and looks as if you have spent far more time than you did in its preparation.  Pair it with a cup of soup, small salad, muffin or roll, and you have a tasty and impressive meal.  Wipe your brow when people commend you for all of your hard work, and tomorrow maybe they’ll give you the day off.

I made the recipe as follows, but feel free to add anything your heart desires (or refrigerator holds).  Here are some suggestions:

Cooked and (well) drained spinach
Artichoke hearts, diced
Hearts of Palm, sliced
Ham, cubes or strips
Peppers, red, green, or yellow, diced
Leeks, julienned
Diced brie
Diced, cooked chicken
Shredded cheeses of your choice (2 cups)
Roasted Red Peppers (Melissa’s, of course)

Crustless Quiche

1½ tablespoons dry plain bread crumbs
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped scallions
1 cup (about 5 large) sliced mushrooms
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup shredded Fontina
1 cup shredded Gruyere
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Butter a 9-10 deep dish pie pan or quiche dish, then sprinkle all over with bread crumbs.

Sauté onions and scallions with a tablespoon of butter in a 10 skillet over medium-high heat until transparent, about 5-6 minutes.  Carefully place over crumbs in pie/quiche pan.  In same pan used for onions, sauté mushrooms in a similar fashion, and put on top of onion/scallion mixture. While you are doing this you can either fry the bacon in another pan on the stove, or microwave it, allow it to cool and them crumble it or chop it with a sharp knife, and spread it evenly over the onions and mushrooms in the pan.  Top all of this evenly with the two cheeses.  Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, and pepper.  Pour slowly over the cheeses. Bake until top is golden and custard is set in center, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting into wedges.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunset 44 Bistro’s Bread Pudding

Before I knew any better, I was not a fan of bread pudding.  Bread and pudding just never seemed to go together.  That would be akin to combining potatoes and cake.  Oh wait, there are potato cakes.  Well, then, corn and pudding.  Nope, there’s a corn pudding as well.  Well, you know what I mean.  I was young and innocent!  My youthful version of pudding consisted of milk and powder from a package, vigorously whipped into a gelatinous state.  That was as adventurous as I got.

Marrying Mr. O-P changed all of that.  He loved bread pudding and had an excellent recipe.  All it took was one taste and I was sold.  Since that time I have been trying as many varieties as possible.  When this recipe from Sunset 44 Bistro appeared in the November 12th edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I knew it was in my future.  I think it is probably one of the best bread puddings that I’ve ever tasted.  I made the recipe as is with the exception of substituting challah for the sourdough.  Over the years I’ve become a bit of a bread pudding snob and feel that challah is the best choice for the job.  I make my own just for this purpose, but bake it in a loaf pan rather than taking the trouble to braid something that I’m just going to cut up anyway.  You can find that recipe here. Or buy one at your local market.  Challah not available?  A package of croissants will do in a pinch.

Sunset 44 Bistro’s Bread Pudding
Yield: 12 servings

5 large eggs
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 cups of 40 percent cream
1 cup whole milk
½ tablespoon vanilla
Butter, for the pan
12 ounces day-old sourdough rolls, cut in 1-inch cubes
12 ounces white chocolate chips

For serving: caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream

About 18 hours before baking, quickly whisk eggs and sugar until light, fluffy, pale yellow and a ribbon falls from the whisk. Whisk in cream, milk and vanilla.

Butter a 9-by-13 pan and arrange bread cubes inside it. Pour egg mixture over top, spreading to distribute evenly, wetting all the pieces. Top with white chocolate. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 18 hours.

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Remove plastic wrap. With your fingers, gently lift bread pieces a bit, loosening the mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour or until custard is tender but set in the center. (The bread pudding will puff near the end.) Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until top browns. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

To serve Sunset 44-style, drizzle a plate with caramel sauce. Cut bread pudding into rounds, using the scraps to press into additional rounds. Place a warm bread pudding in the center of the plate and top with a scoop of ice cream. 

Recipe adapted for home kitchens by the Post-Dispatch.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gingered Cranberry and Kumquat Relish


If you think that you're ready for Thanksgiving, I suggest you think again. I don't believe that there was one year that I didn't miss something. One year it was gravy (the GRAVY!!), another it was sweet potatoes (that, thankfully I could freeze for Christmas Eve), still another it was the leaf-shaped pumpkin muffins that I labored over (and we enjoyed for breakfast the following day, well, week, if you must know).  It became almost a tradition for me to fail to put out the cranberries. So much so that, one year, I'd prepared little labeled jars of cranberry sauce to send home with guests for use the next day on turkey sandwiches. Another year, as a way to remind myself, I made three varieties, convinced that at least one would make it to the table.

This year, even if I forget (I will NOT!), it is no problem; because this recipe is not only easy, but takes no time to make, requires no cooking, and the food processor does most of the work.  I've adapted it from the original that appeared in the November 2001 issue of Bon Appetit. You'll have to stop yourself from eating the entire bowl.

This relish is welcomed equally at Thanksgiving and Christmas (it is an excellent accompaniment to the Christmas ham).  To serve, just swap out the autumn greenery for a few evergreen sprigs.  Voila!

Gingered Cranberry and Kumquat Relish

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
16 kumquats, stemmed, rinsed, patted dry
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup
Melissa's crystallized ginger

Using on/off turns, coarsely chop cranberries in processor. Coarsely chop half of kumquats, removing any seeds in the doing. Thinly slice remaining kumquats, removing any seeds, and set aside.  Toss the chopped kumquats into the food processor with the cranberries and pulse twice.  Coarsely chop the ginger, and toss it into the food processor; pulse twice. Pour contents of food processor into a medium bowl.  Sprinkle sugar over the top of the mixture, and stir to incorporate (as mixture sits, sugar will dissolve). Cover relish and refrigerate at least 4 hours. (Cranberry relish can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated.)

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Meyer Lemon Applesauce

It is both apple season and Meyer Lemon season, so when I saw this recipe in the November 6th edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I could not resist!  As I am intensely busy with Thanksgiving prep, though, I decided to just toss all of the ingredients into my 1.5 quart crockpot, set it to low, and let it go all day.  I used a combination of Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, and Melissa’s Organic Crimson Gold Apples.  It was so good that we were fighting over the last spoonful.

Meyer Lemon Applesauce

Yield: 3 cups
4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ½-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the apples, sugar, water, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the apples are very soft and some have broken down completely, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the applesauce warm or chilled. The applesauce will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for 1 week.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Side Dishes - Potatoes

I love potatoes and look for any excuse to make them.  I particularly love mashed potatoes (What can I say? I’m a simple girl at heart.), especially when they are submerged under a river of deep, rich, gravy.  But sometimes I like to mix things up a bit, and what better time to do so than when serving a holiday meal?  Here are four different ideas for potatoes, from the elegant to easy make-ahead, that will draw raves from your guests.  You can access the recipe by clicking on the name of the dish beneath the picture.

A real holiday dazzler, everything can be made a day ahead; brandy takes these over the top.

These can be made two hours ahead and, really, who doesn’t love anything with bacon?

Thin layers of russet potatoes, sandwiched between a single layer of wild mushrooms, and topped with a mixture of creamy Fontina and nutty Gruyere make this a dish worth remembering.

Blanch and peel the onions the day prior and these go together in a flash; deceptively easy and dangerously delicious.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Julia M. Usher's Ultimate App

As I have mentioned before, I am a cook, not a baker. Oh, I bake a great deal, mostly out of necessity, but I'm just not passionate about being locked into formulas when I can run free in the land of a pinch of this and a dash of that. The truth is, baking scares me a little. Sure, I can mix up a batch of drop cookies with ease, but as cookie baking season approaches, the drop cookie just doesn't cut it. This is the season of the shaped, cut-out, sugar-dusted, stacked, rolled, glittered, assembled, gold-leafed, and otherwise artistically decorated cookies. It's terrifying!

I'm no stranger to the decorated cookie. Many of my efforts were miserable failures. You may recall my attempt to rubber stamp cookies. Then there were fortune cookies (that I eventually did indeed figure out, no thanks to Martha S. whose directions were all wrong), and finally cookies with royal icing and edible wafer paper.  We're talking weeks of my life that I'm never going to get back. 

If you fear cookie baking like I do, then I have good news.  That doyenne of desserts, the countess of cookies, Julia M. Usher, has an app. I was given a free download in exchange for an honest review and, is fantastic!  This knocks every other cookie and baking app right out of the ballpark. Trust me when I tell you that it will be the best $7 that you spend this season. 

First of all, it is divided into three sections, beginner (yay!), intermediate, and advanced. Next there are ingredient and shopping lists for each cookie recipe, plus tips, techniques, detailed instructions, beautiful photos, a comprehensive list of sources for ingredients and supplies, and VIDEOS!  You can watch Julia create some of the most amazingly beautiful cookies right before your eyes.  It's as if you have your own personal pastry chef teaching you how to create edible works of art, step-by-step. I was mesmerized. 

Take a look at some of the images from this beautifully produced app:
The various categories help you hone in on what you want to create. 

In her videos you can learn all aspects of decorating.

This cute caterpillar cookie is for beginners and is really quite easy to make. 

Here is an image from the video in which Julia teaches you about color dusting. 

Lastly, look at these stunning cookies!

I don't know about you, but before I finished reading all of the recipes. I had the oven preheating and butter softening on the counter. Let this app be your gift to yourself this season, and prepare to dazzle with these deliciously decorative delights!

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