Bean Pie!

I keep a mental list of foods I want to create at some point in my life. This is not an organized list, mind you, and it’s rather unrealistic and full of food-snobbery. It mostly contains intricate recipes with far-out ingredients, recipes that would take way too much time and money to ever really attempt.

Baked Eggs with Polenta with, of course, bacon

I used to think eating runny eggs was akin to slurping up snot. I was disgusted at “birdies in a nest” and couldn’t stand the sight of a half-cooked yolk breaking open and spilling all over the bread. I wouldn’t touch it. I preferred my eggs as firm omelets or hard-boiled. And then I grew up.

Now, while I still like the occassional firm, over-stuffed, cheesy-veggie omelet, I eat all kinds of eggs. Over-easy, sunny-side-up, baked, poached, you name it. I’ve even eaten raw-egg mayonnaise. Haven’t started drinking raw egg yet, but, come on, what do you think my name is, Gaston? I’d even have to admit, I love, love the taste of a partially cooked egg yolk broken over a slice of buttered French bread. Give me that and a cup of smooth pea soup, and I could die happy.

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Chestnut Soup

I’m not sure if these chestnuts were roasted on an open fire and frankly I do not care. My doctor advised me to start getting up and walking around a little. I’m sure that shelling chestnuts is not an activity he has in mind. But soup-making, especially when it involves little more than opening a few jars, seems like the perfect exercise.

I’m beginning to feel a bit better, actually, (knock-on-wood) and I’m itching to start back in the kitchen. This chestnut soup, so super easy, almost doesn’t qualify as “cooking” but it was easy on my back and, as I was told the other day, soup is good for everything. It was the first recipe I looked at when cracking open my newest cookbook, Splendid Soups by James Peterson. I put a lot of research into buying Peterson’s book (usually my book-buying is effortless and impromptu.) A few weeks ago, I decided I just needed to have a soup cookbook—one that would take me above and beyond my already somewhat attuned soup-making know-how. I asked on forums, I called friends to the task, I google-searched and google-searched, only to find mediocre soup “bible” tomes, ones that focused on easy, Americanized, everyman soups.

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Dulce de Leche

When you can’t get off the couch, when anything but a horizontal position sends shooting pains to your feet and knees, when you are so angry about the pain that you get up, sure that you are better, and proven wrong, need to be carried back to bed by your boyfriend, when this happens, there’s not much do to.

You could start up your laptop and check and re-check all your favorite food blogs, hoping beyond reason that they will all create new posts every hour upon the hour so that you have something new to read. You could have your boyfriend bring you all your cookbooks, surround yourself with them on the couch, drop glistening tears on the shiny pages which tease and taunt you with their lovely recipes that require standing, and good health, and therefore you cannot make. You could watch the Food Network and “Guy’s Big Bite” until you want to pluck every bleached blond hair from his ridiculous head. Then perhaps Barefoot Contessa will come on, and your boyfriend could walk in on you in the living room, your face tear-streaked and a whimpering smile on your face, and you could explain to him that the love between Ina and Jeffrey holds no bounds. You could go uninhibitedly mad.

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Quiche for the Blues

Normally I wouldn’t turn to any food in particular for comfort. The term “comfort food” to me means wintry or warming, not something that I would literally need to eat in trying times. I do like to eat—or pig-out—when I’m down and out, but in those times I’m not picky and will eat just about anything. When I have the blues, a good strawberry is just as comforting as a bowl of chowder or a chocolate bar, usually.

I say usually because it turns out I do have a comfort food. Quiche. We made a quiche last weekend and the buttery crust and custardy filling was so delicious and comforting that I was eager to have another after my accident this week. Thankfully, Jim knew this without my even mentioning it, and promptly made me a bacon, mushroom, and Gruyere quiche Wednesday night. It was delicious and cheesy; the bacon bits peppered throughout the quiche were heavenly.

But you’ll have to take my word for it since I didn’t photograph it—I haven’t gotten off the couch since Tuesday—and don’t have the exact recipe. I will, however, give you the recipe for our first quiche—a broccoli and smoked provolone wonder. This one is verdant and light. It was actually my favorite, though Jim thought it a bit too light, not a man’s quiche. Maybe it’s not a dinner on it’s own, but it’s certainly a hearty lunch or side accompaniment.

Making quiche is very easy, especially if you are lazy like me and buy the pre-made frozen crust (in my defense, they have a fabulous brand of pie crusts at Whole Foods). There are a few steps to remember—like pre-baking the crust and cooking the vegetables to tenderness before adding to the quiche—but past that, it’s one of the quickest, most satisfying dishes you can whip up on a weekday.

Once you have the method for a basic quiche down, the substitution possibilities are endless. I loved the smoked provolone with the broccoli, but would like to add bacon to it next time. I’m also thinking about trying a sun-dried tomato and anchovy one soon, or maybe a Spanish chorizo and hominy one, or maybe…. well, I’ll leave that to future posts.

Broccoli and Smoked Provolone Quiche

serves 2 hungry people with some leftovers//adapted from The Good Egg

Ingredients

  • 1 9-in pie crust
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3 large eggs (farm-fresh if available)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 generous cup grated smoked provolone cheese (between 4 and 5 oz.)
  • salt and pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 375°. To prebake the piecrust—cover pie crust with tin foil, lightly pressing down to mold onto the sides and bottom of crust. Place beans, rice, or baking weights on foil to cover bottom of crust (so that the crust won’t puff up during the prebake.) Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Uncover, discarding foil and beans. Prick any air bubbles and then bake crust for 5 more minutes in oven.

Meanwhile, in a skillet coated with olive oil, saute onion, pepper flakes, and garlic over medium-low heat until onions are beginning to brown. Steam broccoli in steamer basket or double broiler until almost-tender. Transfer broccoli to onion skillet and saute for a few more minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble quiche—pour onion-broccoli mixture into bottom of pie crust. Top that with the grated cheese. Pour egg mixture over, making sure to spread evenly. Season with more salt and pepper if desired and transfer to oven. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Car Accidents and Winter Squash Soup

Before I begin my post, I’d like to introduce my blogging buddy Deborah, from Taste and Tell. We got paired up in the Adopt-a-Blogger event and I couldn’t be happier. In the “about me” section of her blog, the first sentence reads “I am not a food snob. I just love to eat and love to cook.” I love that. Her website is full of wonderful recipes, some advanced, some easy, all delicious. I especially love her Shaggy Dog candies and her Tuscan Pasta with Sausage. Check her out!

On Tuesday, I was in a car accident. I was driving on the highway to work when the car in front of mine stopped short. I braked and stopped in time. But before I had time to pat myself on the back for leaving enough space between my car and the car ahead of me, the guy behind slammed into my Honda’s rear end. I got a bit banged up, hurting my hip and taking the ambulance to the hospital, but I’m okay albeit very sore. I’m home and not getting up off the couch, with some nice painkillers to leave me woozy and a box of chocolates. I’m game for watching TV and reading but I don’t think I’ll be doing much more than that for a few days. Luckily, I have a boyfriend who cooks me eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner and I even have a few posts that were sitting on the backburner—including this delicious squash soup.

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There Will Be Blood Oranges

I like to keep this food blog about food and just that. I don’t like to bring too much of my other interests into it—I don’t talk *much* about my favorite TV shows, authors, or political candidates. You came to see what’s cooking and I respect that. But, sometimes I experience something that’s just too good to not talk about. That happened this weekend—and since I also experienced some food that is certainly worth mentioning—I figure there’s no harm done in a movie-plug.

There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis, is in my opinion, the best movie in years. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Reviewers have been raving, and the movie sales are going swimmingly despite it being in limited release. The movie is a spectacle to watch and the acting is untouchably superior. I could watch Daniel Day Lewis all day long, whenever he’s on screen it’s impossible not to be in awe. And the story, though grim, is exciting and eye-opening. There Will Be Blood is an American epic of an oil-man and of the ill-effects, and the nation-building, of capitalism and greed at the turn of the century.

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Fresh from a Slump

I hit a slump last week. I had been on a high since Christmas. I got some compliments on my homemade gifts, and I got to make dinner for my family. I was on a roll with some delicious soups. I even sold my first chutney! Then I made one so-so dish–chicken fricassee—and then felt a cold coming on. I was over-tired, groggy, blah. I cooked another “meh” dish—“pistou” shrimp. After that I nearly had a melt-down. I had followed the recipes to a tee. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I began to pull out my hair. I breathed hard out my nose and said “herrrumphh.” I’m not good with failure.

I was going to bag the cooking for the rest of this week, but thankfully Jim coerced me to change my mind, though he was unconscious of doing so. See, he had no idea how much I was struggling, even commending me for being such a “big girl” and taking my “meh” dishes in stride. I was just too tired to outwardly make a fuss over the dishes (which must really mean I’m sick) and I didn’t complain, smiling grimly and eating my dinner, too tired to start anything over, but repeatedly telling myself that I needed a rest. Jim, the healthy boy he is, couldn’t wait for the next night, excitedly talking about recipes, looking at me with puppy-dog eyes and asking what’s next.

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Buon Viaggio Risotto

My younger sister leaves for a semester abroad in Florence tomorrow—and although I may be a smidgen jealous—I’m bowled-over excited and happy for her. As an older sister, I still think of Kathy as a little baby, and something about her getting on a plane to fly thousands of miles away, all by herself, to have six months filled with adventures in Italy, chokes me up a little. I’ll probably be fretting and nervous the whole time, waiting for a call or email to see how things are going, wishing I could be in control. I bought her travel guides for Christmas. If it were up to me, I would have planned her itinerary.

But, when thinking of her trip, after the jitters wear away, a wave of excitement washes over me. I took a trip to Italy years ago, and it changed my life. I know the same will happen to her. Italy—the food, the people, the pleasures—are so wonderful, so memorable, so different than American life, that I don’t think anyone could spend a measured amount of time there without being forever changed. Already, I can’t wait for her to get back, to see what she’s wearing and to hear her stories, but since she’s not even gone yet, we had to stop fantasing over her return and celebrate her voyage! Continue reading “Buon Viaggio Risotto”

Hoppin’ John Soup for Good Luck

I have to admit it, when I first heard that Hoppin’ John was eaten on New Year’s throughout the American South for good luck, I thought it was preposterous. Firstly, the idea that collard greens will bring you good fortune sounds about as senseless to me as owning a money tree plant, (though, come to think of it, that may be exactly the reason why I’ve never won the lotto!) Secondly, the dish is based on deception, black-eyed peas are actually beans, and while I like deception as much as the next guy, I don’t tend to associate it with good luck.

But, hey, I was born in Ohio, I’ve traveled to the South many times, and I’m not going to let some stuffy New-England sensibility ruin my new year’s good luck. Oh no. I did, however, switch from making the traditional Hoppin’ John dish of beans and rice (and ham hock) to a wonderfully comforting, meal-all-in-itself soup.

The taste of the soup is delightfully “South,” and for some reason the collard greens conjure up images of lily pads and murky lakes for summer swimming (translating, nonetheless, into a great taste!) I hardly ever cook with already-cooked ham, using it mostly for lunch sandwiches, but it is a perfect compliment for the salty beans and collards. The recipe I was adapting from called for two cans black-eyed peas, but because I could only find one at the supermarket, I substituted black beans for the second can, blasphemy aside. After trying it, however, I thought the black beans lent a lot of flavor to the soup and wouldn’t make it again without them.

Happy New Year (I keep on saying that, huh) and Good Luck!!

Hoppin’ John Soup

6-8 servings//adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3/4 pound cooked ham (with rind), diced
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (15oz.) can black beans
  • 1 (15oz.) can black-eyed peas
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 lb. collard greens, stems and ribs removed, chopped
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Method:

In large saucepan or soup-pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add ham and sauté until a great aroma is released and the ham rind begins to brown a little, about 10 minutes. Add thyme, chicken stock, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the black beans (smashing them with the back of your fork to mash them up first) and the black-eyed peas. Cook, over low heat, for about 30 minutes.

Add chopped collard greens, simmer until greens and peas are tender. Stir in vinegar and simmer 5-10 minutes. Serve hot. Leftovers will be even better.