Spinach, Onion, and Cheese Quiche

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This past 4th of July, my boyfriend and I drove upstate to visit his mother’s side of the family. The countryside was beautiful, the people were lovely, I shot a gun for the first time in my life (!!!) but of course the real star of the weekend was the food!

Quiche probably isn’t the most patriotic meal, but my boyfriend’s Aunt W made us a great breakfast the morning of July 5th with quiche as a centerpiece and it was delicious.

I’ve made quiche several times before (and blogged about it here as well, once) but I’ve never been able to truly wow myself with my own efforts. Either I didn’t have the right recipe, the right crust, or the right baking time/temp–in any case, my quiches were underwhelming and occasionally watery??? I’m not sure if I didn’t cook the vegetables enough or what, but sometimes my quiche came out watery. It sounds gross and it was not the most appetizing. Boyfriend ate it without a complaint because he is contractually obligated to do so.

ANYWAY, it didn’t happen this time! I also deviated from the recipe which called for using a pie pan. I usually use a regular glass pie pan as well, but this time I used a cast-iron skillet which was a wonderful housewarming gift from a good college friend who recently visited us in NY. I don’t know what it is about cast-iron but it makes everything seem more authentic and I can pretend like I’m a real professional cook. It also looks better in pictures.

Aunt W says: “This recipe is very forgiving. I often substitute if I do not have exact ingredients. I really like to use this pastry shell for quiche. I like the flavor and the flakiness the the oil gives.”

My thoughts: The pastry shell is indeed super flaky, no doubt about it. A great oil crust. I’ll use this oil crust recipe again, maybe for other items as well. And the recipe was quite forgiving. Instead of 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream, I just used 1.5 cups milk (didn’t have any cream). I also quickly cooked up spinach and onions instead of broccoli, and used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I didn’t put in any meat.

Pastry Shell (can mix in the pan, but I mixed in a bowl then pressed into the pan with fingers)
1.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
2 Tablespoon milk

Measure all ingredients into 9” pie pan (I used a 10″ cast-iron skillet) and toss together with a fork. Press into shape and flute edges.

Quiche egg filling
3 eggs
1 cup light cream
1 cup milk (I omitted cream and used 1.5 cups milk)
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
about 1 cup of whatever cheese (Aunt W had used grated swiss, I used shredded mozz and grated parmesan)

Mix the eggs, cream, salt, pepper together. Hold cheese.

Veggies
1 clove garlic
1/4 of a large onion
2 cups of loosely packed spinach

Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a pan; saute garlic and onion until slightly translucent. Add in spinach, cook until just wilted, do not overcook.

Put it together:
Scoop veggie mix into the bottom of the pastry shell. Sprinkle cheese. Pour in egg/cream quiche filling mix.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Saag Paneer (with modified Paneer)

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I couldn’t be bothered to get out boyfriend’s Fancy Camera, so for this post we have regressed to iPhone photos. My apologies.

I’m luckier than most: the first time I ever had Indian food, it was homemade by the family of one of my dad’s co-workers. My family was invited to their house for dinner, and I remember a veritable feast of dishes that didn’t look like any type of food I’d ever seen before–to be fair, I was like 8 years old at the time and my culinary experience to date included Chinese food (my mother’s cooking) and “American Food” AKA McDonald’s. That first sip of mango lassi is LIFE. CHANGING.

After that, my dad would occasionally take us to Indian lunch buffets, his go-to whenever my mother was gone. Indian food (especially Indian lunch buffets) always occupied this magical space in my little kid mind: I had absolutely no idea what any of the food was made of, but I didn’t really care because it tasted fantastic.

However, I’ve never attempted to actually cook Indian food until this year. There still remained this aura of mystery and magic around it that made me apprehensive because I was convinced it was complicated, hard, time-consuming, and I knew my meager cooking skills wouldn’t be able to handle it. Throughout college I became more and more confident in the kitchen (especially when I moved out of housing/meal plans and into an off-campus apartment), and when we moved to NY earlier this year, my boyfriend and I attempted a butter chicken recipe (link) that turned out pretty good! And no one collapsed or had a nervous breakdown in the making of it.

Saag Paneer was always one of my favorite dishes, and after looking up some recipes online, it seemed really doable. The only thing I was missing was a food processor or hand blender to help everything into a finer, creamier texture. It just so happens my birthday was a week ago, and I was lucky enough to receive an immersion blender as a birthday gift from my boyfriend’s parents! Ahhh! It’s so perfect!

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This is a staged photo because I forgot to take a picture while I was actually blending and only remembered after I washed the blender and I didn’t want to get it dirty again.

Saag Paneer (link)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces paneer, (or see my notes below regarding a substitute), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (16-ounce package) frozen chopped spinach (I just used a bunch of regular spinach)
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 (1-inch thumb) ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green serrano chile, finely chopped (seeds removed if you don’t like it spicy!)
1/2 teaspoon store-bought or homemade garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

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Very yummy cubes of cheese

In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes if you’re using the homemade kind. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.

Chop the spinach up finely with a sharp knife.

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Chop it up finer than this. If you have a food processor or heavy duty blender that will probably work better.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chile. Now here’s the important part: saute the mixture until it’s evenly toffee-coloured, which should take about 15 minutes. Don’t skip this step – this is the foundation of the dish! If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin. If you haven’t already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add a little salt and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off. At this point, I used my immersion blender to further blend up the spinach

Turn the heat off. Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve with rice and/or naan (I only had brown rice).

I made a few changes to this recipe out of necessity:

  • Definitely did NOT have time to make homemade paneer, and no idea where to get it around my area. Did some research online and replaced the paneer with queso fresco, a mild, firm cheese from Latin America that is sold in abundance at the (Hispanic-leaning) grocery store closest to my apartment. I’ve had actual paneer before and I think this was a perfectly suitable substitute. Here’s (link) where I got the idea from.
  • Also didn’t have garam masala. This recipe includes directions for making your own garam masala, but I didn’t have cardamom and the grocery store close to me didn’t have any either. So I just included a bit of cinnamon and ground cloves instead. I think this, more than anything, is something I could definitely improve on the next time I make this recipe–my dish was a little lacking in the spice-aroma arena, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was missing this.
  • And I had to make do with non-fat yogurt because the store didn’t have full-fat yogurt! How can you carry a non-fat item without its better, yummier, full-fat cousin? I am a big fan of eating the full amount of fat allowed in every kind of food

Radish Pizza with Feta, Parmesan, and Mozzarella

I had a bunch of leftover radish from a soup made earlier last week, and wasn’t too sure what to do with them. I’m not sure how I got the idea of putting them on pizza, but pizza is easy, quick, and a great leftover lunch the next day–googling “radish pizza” came up with this, this, and this, so I knew at least that it wouldn’t be absolutely disgusting.

Modifying/combining what I read online, I came up with this: a whole-wheat crust topped with olive oil & garlic, feta, parmesan, mozzarella, and thinly sliced (as thin as I could get them with my dull knife, at least) radishes. A lot of the recipes I linked had some kind of green or light salad tossed on the pizza, but I opted to put my green stuff on the side.

Whole wheat dough, shaped and ready to rise:

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The recipe I used for dough actually doesn’t require any rising, but I let it sit for about 20-30 minutes away, and it got nice and puffy and was very easy to roll out on my Silpat.

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If you have a mandolin (lucky you), you could use that to slice the radishes paper-thin, but unevenly-sliced radishes ended up okay too. I should have named this blog “poor recent graduate cooks with basic kitchen implements” instead. But the yellow spatula was mildly cuter, and I love spatulas.

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The radishes were slightly sweet and juicy out of the oven. I just topped the spinach with cranberries, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a very, very simple salad.

Pizza Crust (adapted from here):
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2.5-ish cups of flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup of all-purpose, and more all-purpose until the dough felt “right” to me).

Toppings
tbsp olive oil mixed with 1-2 tsps minced garlic
6-7 thinly sliced radishes
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper

Verdict: Ehhhhh. Not a very auspicious start to a cooking/food blog, but this pizza was “a bit bland,” stated Boyfriend, a little sheepishly, but he’s biased because radish + feta is a real leap away from his usual heavy-handed diet of meat, pasta, and tex-mex tacos. I should have sprung for better cheese (or at least used a cheese with more bite); mozzarella was a poor choice. It was still good heated up in the microwave the next day for lunch though.