Saturday, April 26, 2014

Crustless Kale Quiche

Talk about a tongue twister!  It’s worth the effort to say, and the little bit to make, because this Crustless Kale Quiche hits the spot.
I’ve only made this once … and I’ve already eaten almost half of it.  The kale adds a little bitterness and chew to what would otherwise be a run-of-the-mill spinach pie.  Nutmeg, currants, and pepitas add an almost sweet, Middle Eastern flavor profile.  The three eggs are just enough to combine the ingredients without becoming heavy or custardy like a regular spinach quiche.  Don’t get me wrong – a traditional spinach and swiss cheese quiche is wonderful, but this one is lighter, with an unexpected combination of flavors that will have you craving it again.
I ate this hot, and I ate it cold, cut right out of the fridge.  I ate this with a big slab of goat cheese on top and I ate it plain.  I’m going to eat more of it with dinner tonight and see if I can’t discover some new way to enjoy it.  If you want your greens, with a little extra zing, try this instead of a salad tonight!
Crustless Kale Quiche
  • 1 pound bag of frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 3/4 cup pepitas (or try pine nuts or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter) plus more for greasing the pie plate
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins (next time I’m trying golden raisins!)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • Goat cheese, to serve, if desired
  1. Wash the kale and remove from the stem, tearing it into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces.  Saute on medium heat in a large pot with a lid.  Don’t add any extra water or oil – just the damp kale by itself.  Stir occasionally until it gets soft, about 15 minutes.  When it appears soft and has reduced in volume, pour in the bag of frozen spinach.  Stir to combine and replace the lid.  Cook on medium-low for another five minutes until the spinach is thawed.  Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350*F.  While the spinach and kale are cooling, heat the coconut oil over medium and add the pepitas.  Stir frequently for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and currants.  Stir for another 3 minutes.
  3. Squeeze out as much water from the kale mixture as possible, then dump it into a large bowl.  Pour over the pepita mixture and combine.  Add nutmeg and salt.
  4. Beat 3 eggs well and mix into kale mixture.  Grease a pie plate, then fill with the kale mixture.  Smooth it down so you have a flat top.  Bake for 35 minutes or until not wet in the middle.  Serve warm or cold, with goat cheese or without.

Sweet Pea Soup

I call both of my girls “Sweet Pea.”  My Mom called me “Sweet Pea” too.   So when I was working on a recipe to use up the last of my buttermilk and stumbled on this tempting combination of peas and mint, I couldn’t help but give it a cute name:  Sweet Pea Soup!
Peas and mint are a natural springtime match-up.  This soup comes together in half an hour, and with another half hour to chill,  it will be ready to eat.  I used both frozen peas and pea pods (which are all over my Farmer’s Market, and probably yours, too.)  If you can’t find pea pods, just double the frozen peas and use a full pound.  The recipe calls for you to strain the blended soup, which gives it a more silky, smooth texture.  You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, or if you like a little thicker body to your soup.  Either way I think you’ll love it, and so will all the “Sweet Pea’s” in your life!
Sweet Pea Soup
  • 1 cup pea pods, any kind
  • 1 onion (sweet Vidalia would be nice, but I just used a regular white onion), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces frozen peas
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 handful mint leaves (save a few pretty ones for garnish)
  • salt to taste
  1. In a large pot, heat the pea pods and onion in the butter.  Cook over medium heat for ten minutes until the onion is getting soft.
  2. Add the frozen peas and chicken stock.  Cook on medium for ten minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat.  Pour in buttermilk and mint.  Blend with an immersion blender, or transfer to a large blender and blend in batches until smooth.  Taste and add salt to your liking.
  4. Strain the soup through a mesh sieve (or not, your choice.)  Cool in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Serve chilled, with additional mint leaves for garnish.

Tzatziki Wrap

What a fun word to say:  Tzatziki!  With spring in full swing now, I am in love with using fresh herbs in as many ways possible.  This recipe for my Tzatziki Wrap uses a small handful of dill. Dill is a lovely thing to grow in a windowbox, if you can, or in your garden, because it goes with so many other flavors and cuisines.  If you have leftover dill after making the tzatziki, use it on fresh or smoked salmon.
Tzatziki is just a fancy way to say “yogurt dip.”   It is found in Greek and Mediterranean dishes, and goes well with all grilled meats—chicken, beef, lamb, salmon—as well as vegetarian dishes like falafel.  Blend this up in your food processor in five minutes, and enjoy for lunch or a light dinner tonight!
Tzatziki Wrap 
(Makes two wraps)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Greek yogurt or regular.  Avoid nonfat as the texture is too runny)
  • 1 big handful dill sprigs, any tough parts trimmed away
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 1 cup baby spinach, or a few leaves of romaine lettuce
  • 1 cooked chicken breast
  • tortillas or pita bread for wrapping
  1. Make the tzatziki:  In a food processor or blender, blend the yogurt, dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic together.  Cut the half a cucumber in half again, and add one half to the blender and combine.  (You should now have one-quarter of a cucumber left.  Math!)  Refrigerate the tzatziki until ready to use.
  2. Slice the peppers and cucumber into very fine strips.  If you are using romaine lettuce, wash and dry the leaves and stack them on a cutting board.  Cut the leaves into fine strips.  Mix the peppers, cucumber, and lettuce in a large bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Very thinly slice the chicken breast.  Prepare your tortilla or pita bread for filling.  (I always warm up tortillas in the microwave, covered with a damp paper towel, so they’re pliable and won’t break.)  Fill tortilla with chicken breast slices, vegetables, and a big drizzle of tzatziki.  Roll up and eat, with more tzatziki if you like.
  4. Cutting carbs, or do you have leftover wrap filling?  Toss with tzatziki and eat it like a salad!  It also goes great as a dip—try with carrots.

Pickled Red Beet Eggs

I remember as a kid being very sad one Easter Sunday.  It was because, when I peeled one of the eggs I worked so hard to paint and dye and sticker-ize and bedazzle—all that work—the inside looked just like a plain, un-dyed egg!  (I hope my Mom told me that beauty is only skin deep.)  But later on in the day, I was delighted when my Mom took the big container of Pickled Red Beet Eggs out of the refrigerator! When you cut into one of these purple beauties – surprise! – the color went all the way through to the yolk!
This recipe is a great way to use up those hardboiled eggs.  I’ve found my kids like dyeing them way more than they like eating them, so I am usually guaranteed half a dozen eggs to use in this dish.  This is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe that came from my Mom and her mother, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  You can adjust the ratio of vinegar to sugar, but I like how these are sweet-tart and firm.  Some people add very thinly sliced onions to the beet brine, and others add whole cloves.  I like them with just these 4 ingredients.
You’ll want to let these soak for at least 2 days.  I wouldn’t let them sit more than a week, but I really doubt they’ll last that long!  Make sure the eggs and beets are in a deep and narrow container so everything is submerged – if you go shallow and wide, your eggs won’t color evenly and you’ll have to rotate them at least 2 times a day.  So raid the kids’ Easter baskets and start pickling!

Pickled Red Beet Eggs
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cans sliced beets (not pickled beets)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (you can use white or apple cider)
  1. In a sauce pan, place eggs in one layer.  Fill pan, covering the eggs with an inch of water.  Cook on high until a boil is just reached, then immediately remove from heat and cover with a lid.  Set a timer for 13 minutes.  When the time is up, drain the eggs and fill the pan with ice and water.  Let cool.
  2. Peel the cooled eggs and put them in a deep container with a lid.  Dump the two cans of beets and their juice into the container, followed by the sugar and vinegar.  Swirl around to dissolve.  Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 days, making sure the eggs are submerged (or turning them if they are not.)  Cut eggs in half and serve with beets.

Dijon Dill Green Beans

If I remember correctly, this is a recipe from the South Beach Diet book.   In any case, regardless of origin, these Dijon Dill Green Beans are delicious and healthy…and sure to please!
The Dijon dill dressing is very light and won’t hide the sweetness of the green beans.  I’ve used both dried dill and fresh, and they both taste great, so don’t fret or make a trip to the store if you only have dried.  Low-carb, low-cal, and tasty for sure, this veggie side will taste great with whatever main dish you’re making tonight!
Dijon Dill Green Beans
  • 1 pound green beans, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or one scant teaspoon dried dill)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • squeeze of lemon, optional
  1. Prepare the green beans:  (If using fresh, take off the ends and cut into 2-inch lengths.)  Steam or microwave the beans until they are still a little firm.
  2. While the beans are cooking, heat a large pan over medium and add the butter and dill.  Stir to keep the dill from burning and cook for a few minutes until the butter is bubbly and starting to brown.  Add the Dijon mustard and salt and pepper.
  3. Drain away any excess water from the beans, then add to the dill mixture.  Stir to coat the beans, then serve hot with a squeeze of lemon or another pinch of salt.
Leftovers?  I ate mine cold, with a can of tuna mixed in and (surprise!) a little more lemon juice squeezed over the top.  Yum!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

For last week’s recipe, I needed a carton of buttermilk.  I still had quite a bit left, and I knew I wanted to use it all up, so I found a few recipes that fit the bill.  None, however, sounded as tasty as this one for Irish Soda Bread!
A “soda bread” is simply a quick bread that uses baking soda and /or baking powder to rise, as opposed to yeast.  That means you don’t need to wait for it to rise, or worry about the yeast being old and feeble (or killing it with water that is too hot … or not hot enough to wake it up … Have I mentioned lately I hate baking with yeast?!?!)  This recipe comes together in a food processor, but if yours isn’t big enough to fit all the ingredients, or you just like using a pastry cutter, you can certainly put some elbow grease into it and do it the old-fashioned way.
This recipe is based on a Martha Stewart recipe, but I made a few changes.  The biggest change is that, unlike regular soda bread that is kind of bland and dotted with raisins, this one has chopped currants throughout, so it is more of a currant-flavored bread.  Also, the original recipe called for caraway seeds, but I used anise seeds instead.  This bread keeps on the counter, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil, for a few days.  Cut a big slice, cover it with butter, and match it up with your favorite coffee or tea.
Irish Soda Bread
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 4 tablespoon cold butter, cubed
  • 1 10-ounce box currants (or use 2 cups of raisins)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.  Butter a large round Pyrex baking dish, all the way to the top.
  2. In the bowl of a large food processor, blend together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and anise seed.  Add the cold butter cubes and pulse to blend.  Add in the currants and blend again.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the buttermilk, egg, and baking soda.  Add this to the food processor and blend again until thoroughly mixed.  It will be wet and sticky!
  4. Scoop the bread dough into the buttered Pyrex dish and smooth into a mound.  With a brush or the back of a spoon, brush the top with the 3 tablespoons of buttermilk.  Bake for 70-80 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.