Martha’s Mom’s Crustless Quiche

Martha, my friend who gave me the delicious pasture-raised eggs, highlighted in the last post,  just sent me this recipe that her mother used to make. The recipe allows for a lot of creativity and endless variation. And, Martha says; “People also like it because you don’t have to make a crust…a big obstacle for some cooks.”  So, if you’re one of those who don’t like to make crust, maybe this is the quiche for you. I’ll bet it even tastes great with a crust too!

Crustless Quiche

Grease a 10″ pie pan.

Place in the bottom of the pan:

4 oz. shredded cheese – any kind (swiss, jack, cheddar, mozzarella, or even ricotta)

7 slices cooked bacon, or ham or sausage

a few sauteed mushrooms, or other cooked vegetables, like peppers, broccoli or zucchini or carrots

Place in blender:

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 or 5 eggs

1/2 cup flour

2 T butter

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups milk

other seasonings to taste

Blend for 60 seconds.

Pour into pie pan over other ingredients.

Bake in 350° oven for 35 – 45 minutes, or until firm.

Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Keep unused portion refrigerated.

Reheats well in microwave, one slice at a time for about a minute.

Eggs Side-by-Side

This Sunday is Easter and many of you will be buying eggs to color and perhaps fix for Easter breakfast. Do you know where the eggs you buy come from? Do you know what the hens were fed and how they were housed?

Some hens are raised in cages and are fed a blend of grains, soybeans, and vitamins. They lay eggs whose yolk is light yellow in color. I won’t even go into some of what I consider less than savory practices of raising chickens this way. This is where the vast majority of the eggs you can purchase at your local grocery store come from. Don’t assume that the eggs you purchase at the Farmers’ Market are not raised this way. Ask what the hens are fed and if they are kept in cages.

Completely at the other end of the spectrum are eggs from hens that spend most of their time outside, pecking around on grass and eating insects. These hens produce eggs that have bright yellow and sometimes almost orange colored yolks. Studies have shown that these eggs are higher in omega-3s and vitamins A, B12 and E and lower in fat and cholesterol.

Eggshells can be brown, blue or white. Most commercially produced eggs have either white or brown shells. Eggshell color only indicates what breed the chicken that laid the eggs was. It doesn’t indicate what the chicken was fed. In other words, eggshell color really doesn’t matter when choosing eggs.

To my mind the best eggs come from the chickens that roam around eating grass and insects. They are the kind of eggs I was raised on and that I still enjoy the most. There is nothing tastier than a truly fresh egg, gently fried in butter and served with a nice piece of toast to use for “yolk-dipping”.

I recently received a dozen of these luscious pasture-raised eggs from a friend who raises her own chickens. I photographed them to show you how visibly different the yolks are and how beautiful the variations in eggshell colors can be. The blue colored eggs come from Araucana hens.

The next time you shop for eggs consider not just price, but what the hens were fed and how they were housed.  Choosing eggs from hens that are pasture fed is not only a healthier choice for you and your family, it’s a more humane choice for the hens.

Here’s wonderful little quiche recipe you might try for Sunday brunch or an evening dinner.

Crab Quiche in Bacon Crust

Pastry for one crust pie

4 slices of Applewood smoked bacon

1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

1 leek, sliced thinly, sautéed in oil

¾ pound crab meat, flaked

3 eggs, beaten slightly

1 ½ cups milk

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon grated lemon peel

½ teaspoon Worcestershire

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, if you’re using fresh thyme use 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Cook bacon until crisp; drain thoroughly. When cool, crumble; press gently into bottom and sides of the pastry that lines the pie pan. (At this point you can cover the pie crust and refrigerate overnight, if you wish.) Arrange crabmeat, Gruyère cheese and sautéed leek in bottom of pie shell. Beat eggs slightly; add milk, fresh parsley, nutmeg, grated lemon peel, Worcestershire, thyme and pepper. Pour over crab in pie shell. Bake in a very hot oven (450°) for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake 30 minutes longer or until filling is set. Cut in 6 wedges.

Modified from a recipe in Sunset Breakfasts & Brunches © 1966

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta – Light, Creamy and Perfectly Delicious!

Early Sunday morning my sister Judy and I headed for the downtown Sacramento Farmers’ Market. This morning’s market visit was to buy fruit and vegetables for the week and to also get some Meyer lemons for a recipe that we were going to make that morning.

I had recently found a recipe for Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta. It was included in a recent article by Marlena Spieler, a freelance writer for sfchronicle.com, called Former thief\’s new squeeze: Meyer Lemon Ladies.  Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert made with cream, milk, sugar, and gelatin and literally means “cooked cream”. It originated in the Northern Italian region of Piemonte. and is traditionally served with wild berries, caramel, chocolate sauce or fruit coulis. The only way I had previously tried it was topped with fresh mixed berries. Which I might add was very good. But, since Meyer lemons are currently in season I really wanted to try this version.

The recipe didn’t disappoint. It was easy to prepare. It was light, yet rich and creamy. Overall it was perfectly delicious. I have a feeling that this will be one of those recipes I use over and over again. I’ll definitely try it again, a little later in the season, topped off  with some fresh blueberries or strawberries.

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta

Serves 6 – 8

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup + 2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup Meyer lemon juice (4-6 Meyer lemons)

2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest

1 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt

Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup cold water in a small bowl; let it soften for 5 minutes or until no dry spots remain.

Combine sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan; bring to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Add cream, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let cool slightly.

Put yogurt in a mixing bowl and whisk to loosen it up. Add the cream mixture, little by little, gently stirring after each addition to break up any lumps of yogurt before adding more cream. Do not over stir.

Pour mixture into a 5-cup bowl or mold. I used 7 individual ramekins. Tap the bowl on the counter to remove air bubbles. Cover and chill until set, 6 hours or overnight.

As you can see I finished mine off with Meyer lemon peel. I’m in love with this recipe hope you will be too.

Thank you’s go out to Marlena for sharing this jewel of a recipe, and to my sister Judy for actually making it while I was working on several vegetable dishes for a dinner we were going to later in the day.

Green Garlic and Baby Bok Choy

Saturday, my sister Judy, who was visiting for the weekend, and I headed over to the Davis Farmers’ Market for some of Pilar’s famous tamales for breakfast and to look for some vegetable plants. The first thing on our agenda was to head on over to Pilar’s cart and get our pork tamales. It didn’t take us long to eat them, they’re so yummy it never does.  With satisfied tummies we meandered through the market to see what looked good and to find the best selection of vegetable plants, which was the other reason we ventured to Davis. We found a nice selection of healthy looking plants and Judy bought several varieties of tomato, a Japanese eggplant, and some herbs. On our way back towards the car we decided to shop for some veggies to accompany the steak we were planning to grill that evening for dinner. We picked up some very nice fingerling potatoes; some spring garlic and some baby bok choy.

For those of you who may not know what spring garlic or green garlic is, it is young garlic that is harvested before the cloves have begun to mature. It resembles scallions, with a deep green stalk and a pale white bulb. The flavor is still garlicky, but it’s milder with less of a bitter bite. When cooked, green garlic’s flavor sweetens. The whole plant, including the leaves, can be used. Some cooks use green garlic instead of mature garlic or scallions for a different flavor in a favorite dish. It can be used raw or cooked. I happen to love green garlic and look forward to its appearance each spring at the Farmers’ Market. This is the first week I have noticed it.

That evening Judy clopped the green garlic and sautéed it in a little olive oil, then she added the bok choy leaves that she had separated from the stalk, added a little chicken broth, covered the pan and let the veggies steam until just done. Meanwhile I steamed the little fingerlings until they were pierced easily with a fork then placed them on a clean cotton dish towel, covered the potatoes with part of the towel then smashed each potato with my hand until they were about ¼” thick. Then with a spatula I moved each potato pancake to an awaiting fry pan with hot olive and cooked them until they were browned and crisp on both sides. Both veggies were the perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak.

If you think you’d like to try green garlic watch for it at your Farmers’ Market now. The season is very short.

Northern California Asparagus Festivals

March 20, CUESA Asparagus Festival
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco

The Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) in San Francisco who’s mission is is to promote a sustainable
food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs is celebrating Asparagus next Saturday, March 20.  Here’s a list of the events:

10 am – 1 pm – The CUESA kitchen team will sell open-faced grilled asparagus sandwiches with fresh goat cheese on Acme bread for a $1 donation.  While you’re in the kitchen, visit the Asparagus Education Booth to learn all about how this early spring vegetable is grown.

11:00 am – Asparagus cooking demonstration
Peter Rudolph, Madera Restaurant at the Rosewood Sand Hill

11:45 am – Asparagus cooking demonstration
David Bazirgan, Chez Papa Resto

All programs take place in CUESA’s Dacor teaching kitchen, in front of the Ferry Building on the north side.


April 23 -25, The Stockton Asparagus Festival
Stockton, CA

The Stockton Asparagus Festival is celebrating it’s 25 year Anniversary this spring and you won’t want to miss it.  It was lauded by Sunset Magazine in March 2000, as ”#1 Best of the West Food Fest” and has upheld that status since then.  There will be music, kids entertainment, eating competitions, cooking demonstrations and much more. If you love asparagus and festivals you’ll definitely want to mark this on your calendar. You can find more information here.


Early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized Asparagus. Me too!

Although it isn’t officially Spring, it sure feels like it. Days have been warm and sunny. The trees are blooming, and the fields are filled with flowers of mustard and wild radish. There are even California poppies blooming here and there.

It’s a time when the earth is waking from her winter sleep. A marvelous time when there are not only an abundance of flowers blooming there are wonderful vegetables that only come with spring.  And that includes one of my favorites, asparagus.

A member of the lily family, asparagus, (Asparagus officinalis), comes from the Greek word asparagos, which first appears in English print around 1000 A.D. It is known to be native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture and cleansing and healing properties. It has been grown in Syria and Spain since ancient times and in the 16th Century, asparagus gained popularity in France and England. The colonists introduced it to the US. Today people throughout Europe, Asia, and North America enjoy fresh asparagus in a variety of ways.

Asparagus can be used as an ingredient in a main dish, served in salads and soups, and makes a delicious appetizer. It can be steamed, sautéed, grilled, stir-fried, baked or broiled. Not only is it delicious, it’s low in calories and sodium, and contains no fat or cholesterol. Asparagus contains Glutathione, one of the body’s most potent cancer fighters and Rutin, which is valuable in strengthening blood vessels.

Early asparagus can be very thin; fatter, juicier spears come in later in the season. Thinner asparagus is better suited to sautés, sauces, or grilling. Later, fatter asparagus is better served whole. Look for asparagus that is smooth-skinned and bright-colored. The heads should be compact and tightly formed. If the heads are not compact and tightly formed the asparagus was harvested too late, and will likely be tough, taste grassy and bitter and may discolor when cooked.

Here’s a recipe that just shouts Spring.

Asparagus in lemon and herb sauce

Serves 4 -6

20 to 30 stalks of asparagus, 6” long

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup warm Chicken Stock

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 tablespoon finely minced chives (optional)

1 tablespoon finely minced dill (optional)

Clean the asparagus, removing the tough ends. Cook asparagus in boiling water until tender; be sure not to overcook. The stalks should still be slightly crisp. As soon as the asparagus is done, run it under cold water. Keep warm while making the sauce.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the egg yolks and cornstarch. Add the lemon juice and whisk until the mixture is quite smooth.

Add the warm stock and place the saucepan over medium heat. Cook the sauce until it is quite thick, whisking vigorously all the time. As soon as the sauce has the consistency of custard, remove the saucepan immediately from the heat and continue whisking until the sauce has cooled.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper and add the optional, chives and dill. Place the asparagus on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over it without covering the tips. Serve immediately.

From: The Seasonal Kitchen, by Perla Meyers

For another delicious way to cook asparagus check out my recent post  Grill\’n Between Storms.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Asparagus

Eggs

Lemon

Chives

My “Magic Three” Saved The Day Again.

There are three ingredients I can almost always count on having on hand in my kitchen, fresh carrots and celery and onions. This handy trio is the basis for many of the recipes I throw together, especially when there isn’t anything else in my veggie bin. Today was one of those days so, I started thinking about what I wanted to throw together using the “magic three”.  I decided to make a peasant-style risotto, which is a favorite that I haven’t made in quite a while.

This recipe is great because it’s so basic it can be easily modified. You can add little bits of veggies you might have left over from earlier in the week. Things like a couple pieces of asparagus, a little broccoli, green peas or mushrooms would all work. You can also add just about any kind of cooked meat or sausage. Spicy sausages really taste great in this.

I had a couple of chicken thighs that needed to be cooked so I coated them with some olive oil and grilled them. I love grilling. It’s quick and doesn’t take an extra pan. I cubed the grilled thighs and set them aside.

Next I chopped one medium carrot, one stalk of celery and one small onion. I also added about 12 chopped crimini  mushrooms since I had them and they needed to be used. The rule of thumb I try to  to keep in mind regarding the “magic three” is that the individual amounts should about the same. You could also add some fresh chopped thyme or sage at this point. Next, measure about 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth into a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave until hot but not yet simmering. Keep warm.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove top. Add the “magic three” ingredients any other veggies you have, and the chopped herbs if you decide to include some and saute gently until the onion is golden, about 3 minutes.

Add 1 cup Arborio rice (or I use California short grain white rice) and stir with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes or until the rice is well coated with oil.

Next, increase the heat to medium-high and add 1 cup of the hot broth, stirring constantly. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add another 1 cup broth and continue stirring. Repeat as necessary for approximately 16 – 20 minutes, or until the rice is al dente, or firm to the bite, or softer if you’re like me and prefer it that way. Yes, this does take a lot of stirring, but if you pour yourself a nice glass of wine and put on some great tunes to sing along to the time just flies by.

When you have the rice just like you like it remove the risotto from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and any cooked meat you might want to add. In my case this is where I added the chopped grilled chicken. Serve the Risotto immediately.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Carrots

Celery

Onions