Saturday, November 27, 2010

To Give Thanks

A Rare Sight in Texas

On Thanksgiving Day

A Thankful Vegetarian's Quiche

I’m having one heck of a week over here, my dears.  I’ve had food poisoning, or something approximating it, since last Saturday, but I think I’m on the mend.  There have been fevers and a lack of energy, and in the morning, after crawling out of bed, I’ve had to take frequent couch breaks to deal with the weakness and exhaustion.  It’s a strange thing that happens to me once or twice a year; there’s just something about my body that lets intestinal trouble linger.  I’m never completely incapacitated by it, but I’m definitely slowed down and feel generally lousy.

It’s hard to be ill when you live alone because there’s nobody to take care of you.  I like to be pampered when I’m sick.  If I had my choice, I’d have someone bringing me icy-cold ginger ales and new books to read while I rest in bed.  In lieu of luxurious sick-day treatment, I’ve just tried to take it easy.  Thankfully, I think Tuesday was the worst of the illness: that day, I came home early from work, stripped off my clothes, and climbed in bed.  I slept until about 9:30 that night, then I woke up and watched Law & Order: SVU for two hours.  I did manage to write a blog post after that—does that count as productive?  Then I went back to bed.

My Thanksgiving was mixed this year.  It’s a cruel twist of fate when you have flu-like symptoms on the nation’s food holiday; I was kind of upset about this.  But like I said, Tuesday was the worst day, and I managed to gather my strength and bake a quiche for the feast.  This quiche is quite tasty, if I do say so myself.  I had been invited to celebrate the day with a friend and her friends, and I wanted to bring something delicious, hearty, and vegetarian to share.  A quiche seemed perfect: it’s pretty and celebratory, rich and flavorful.  This particular specimen featured a well-seasoned combination of onions and red peppers, with touches of oregano, sage, mustard, and balsamic vinegar.  I think the mustard and vinegar are inspired touches, adding an unusual depth of flavor to the filling.  The crust is on the rich side even for pastry, using a full stick of butter, and for the cheese, I used a smoked cheddar.  The recipe originally calls for Gruyere, but due to my illness, I turned to the refrigerator and used what I had on hand.  I think it works: the smokiness adds another layer of flavor to an already-interesting dish.

Thanksgiving dinner was lovely.  The highlights included cranberries in three forms, all of which were seconds-worthy.  There was a cranberry salsa which combined sweetened cranberries with cilantro, jalapeno, and lime juice—it was like cranberry sauce, Tex-Mex style.  There was another cranberry dish, this one a sweet salad of sorts with citrus in it.  Finally, there was a cranberry-raspberry pie, which was sweet-tart heaven, though it made me long for a scoop of vanilla ice cream to eat alongside.  There were six of us who feasted together, and two turkeys, which is kind of nuts for five people if you don’t count me.  My quiche wasn’t very popular, which may have had something to do with the two turkeys.  I had a shudder-worthy moment when the first guest dug into my quiche like it was a casserole, taking a big old scoop right out of the middle.  I guess my crust wasn’t obvious enough.  But the quiche and I recovered, and our dinner table conversation was interesting and everyone seemed to have a good time.

I felt grateful to have somewhere to go this year for Thanksgiving.  Last year I spent the holiday by myself, and while it wasn’t bad, I feel like Thanksgiving is a holiday that needs to be shared with other people.  It’s not feasible for me to spend every big holiday with my family, so I’m happy when someone adopts me into their family for an evening.  My friend Amutha is fast becoming a very close friend, and this year I gave thanks for our friendship and the generosity of strangers who accepted me into their festivities.  I always feel like I have much for which to be thankful, and in the end, it always comes down to life, love, and food.  That’s all I really need.

Thanksgiving Quiche

Adapted from Sunlight Cafe by Mollie Katzen

Serves 6-8 if accompanied by side dishes

My only complaint about this quiche is that it weeps after it’s been cut.  I used lowfat milk in the custard, but I think in the future, I’ll use either 1/2 cup milk or 1/2 cup each milk and something richer, like heavy cream or half-and-half.  The texture of the custard is good, but I really don’t like the weeping.  It threatens to make the crust soggy and it looks unappetizing.

Custard issues aside, this quiche was really quite tasty and I do hope to make it again.  I ate it for lunch and dinner on Friday, and I’m going to eat more quiche tonight.  It’s my version of eating the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (one stick) cold butter, sliced

Up to 3 tbsp. cold water, milk, or buttermilk (I used 3 tbsp. buttermilk)

1)  In a food processor, mix together the flour and salt.  Add the butter, then pulse several times to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.

2)  Add the liquid, 1 tbsp. at a time, and pulse to combine.  The dough is ready when you can pinch it and it sticks to itself.

3)  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gather it into a ball.  Roll it out to fit your pie pan (I used a 9-inch pie pan here), then gently lift it and place it in the pan.  Use your fingers to nudge it into place and repair any holes or tears.  Create an even edge as much as you can—the filling is generous and will fill a 9-inch pie pan up to the top.  I admit that I’m not the most talented pastry chef, but even my crust turned out well here.

4)  Tuck the crust in the fridge and start working on the filling.

For the filling:

1 tbsp. olive oil

3 medium onions (about 3 cups), sliced

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. dried sage

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 medium red bell pepper (about one cup), sliced

1 cup packed shredded smoked cheddar cheese

3 large eggs

1 cup milk (see headnote)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1)  Add the olive oil to a medium skillet and put it over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the salt, herbs, and mustard.  Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  (Now is a good time to make the crust, if you haven’t done so already.)

2)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

3)  Add the vinegar and bell pepper to the onions and turn the heat up to medium.  Cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

4)  Place the pie pan, with crust inside, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle the cheddar over the bottom of the crust, then scrape the vegetables over the cheese.

5)  Whisk together the eggs, milk, and black pepper.  Carefully pour this over the vegetables.

6)  Bake the quiche for 35-40 minutes, until the custard is set.  (MIne took about 40 minutes to bake.)  Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.


Shannon said...

what a delicious quiche! i have become a bit better about taking things in stride... like seeing someone dig into your quiche like that ;) the taste will be just as good! glad you're on the mend, hopefully you're back up and at it full-stream ahead!!

Rosiecat said...

Yes, it's hard to let go of control and let people be themselves. I struggle with this a bit when cooking with other people, but I try to remember that their company is worth letting go of my need to control everything.

But the quiche incident...I wasn't prepared for that one! Oh well. Luckily, I'm klutzy and inelegant more often than not, so that makes me more sympathetic in those moments :-)