Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Recession-Proof Recipes: A Foraged Feast

I remember Alton Brown once referred to quiche as "Refrigerator Pie," and while that phrase gave me the heebie-jeebies, I now see what he was getting at.

Quiche may sound a little stuffy or unapproachable, but if you think of a quickie egg custard in a pie shell as a tasty carrier for a world of little tidbits hanging around the fridge... that quiche suddenly goes from stuffy to sensible.

Have a random bit of cheese? Maybe there's a few herbs in the crisper? A mushroom or two? Some shriveling cherry tomatoes? What if all you have are onions? Never fear... dinner is close at hand.

The secret to making quiche a quick, easy and economical dinner is making sure you have a pie crust in the freezer. I know of no hungry person who's interested in rolling out a pie crust. Leave the crust-rolling and freezing to some lazy weekend day. Or just buy a pack of reliable frozen crusts from your favorite store.

When you meet up with that inevitable "there's nothing for dinner" day, just remember the handy pie crust in your freezer and do a quick forage through the fridge.

Mushroom Quiche and Lemon Greens

I always like to pair a richly flavored quiche with a crisp green salad.

Luckily, salads can also be great friends for the fridge forager and the hawk-eyed produce aisle sale watcher. One of my favorite salads of late has been the "bitter greens with a lemon vinaigrette" version. Something about a bitter green just loves the tangy bite of a fresh-squeezed lemon. Arugula, spring dandelion... even spinach works well for this recipe.

A word to the would-be lawn foragers: Picking baby dandelion greens from your own yard can be a terrific way to make a salad on the cheap, but you really have to be sure that 1. the dandelions haven't bloomed yet (for some reason, the blooms make the leaves inedibly bitter) and 2. nobody's chemically treated the lawn for at least three years. Nobody's looking for a mouthful of Roundup in their salad.
Forage Quiche
Quiche Base
1/2 cup cream, half & half or milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust

Add-ins
Grated cheese (up to 1 cup), sautéed onions, leeks or mushrooms, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs or a teaspoon of crumbled dry herbs, roasted red pepper slices, cooked spinach or arugula, cubed cooked ham, bacon bits, cooked spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes or sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped roasted vegetables.

1. Heat oven to 375°F. If you prefer a crispier crust, pierce the shell several times with a fork and pre-bake it for 25 minutes before proceeding to the filling step.

2. In a suitably sized bowl, whisk together the cream (or half & half or milk) with the eggs. Add the salt, nutmeg and pepper.

3. Spread about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of add-in fillings across the pie crust. Pour the egg custard mix over the fillings and place the quiche on a baking sheet.

4. Bake until the quiche is set in the center, about 35 minutes. Let it cool on a rack for 15 minutes to an hour before serving. Leftover slices are great for lunchboxes.

Lemon Green Salad
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 pinch sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups tender greens
6 halved cherry tomatoes (optional)
6-8 hard cheese shavings or crumbles of goat cheese (optional)

1. Whisk together the lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in the olive oil in a stream until incorporated as a vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little more sugar, if desired.
2. Toss greens and vinaigrette in a salad bowl.
3. Top with cherry tomato halves and cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

Labels: , , , ,

5.15.2008

May, and the crisper goes mad with spring fever

shallot_gone_wild

J left on Sunday for sunny Spain, and it's been cold and gray here in New York ever since. (Check the weather reports and you'll see this statement is not simply the skewed view of a pining girlfriend.)

While I labor in the industrial zone in Queens, he sends me notes that go like this:
I made a picture of today's picnic lunch for you, but my internet connection isn't good enough to upload it. The place where I bought the food was like the prepared food area of a Whole Foods, only better appointed and staffed by grown-ups. They had several counters, each with some sort of focus (breads, savories, pastries, chocolates). The items on sale were priced by the kilo, save some things that are typically sold in slices, such as tartas and quiches.

When I selected my veggie quiche, the quiche-lady wrapped it in butchers' paper, tied the parcel with a string, then handed me my food and a small placard on which she wrote the price in grease pencil over a space labeled with her counter's name (there was one slot for each section). When I was done, I took my parcels and the placard to the door where I was charged for everything at once, after which the clerk erased (i.e. wiped clean) the placard and placed it in a stack to be returned to the counters. The quiche, which I ate in the big park by the Prado, was excellent.

Yours,
J.

Ah, for a leisurely life of sunny picnics and charmingly wrapped quiches!

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, my crisper drawer is mad with spring fever. I brought home fresh spinach, strawberries and local grouper for a solo Friday night fish feast and discovered that every shallot bulb, garlic clove, onion, shallot and scallion in the bunch sprouted green tops and depleted the white bits I'd normally use in my sauté.

Sitting in the cool darkness of the refrigerator floor, how do they know it's springtime? They didn't do this to me two months ago. Suddenly, it's May, and all the aromatics in the household are suddenly inspired to burst into fresh sprays of chartreuse sprouts. I've been wishing for some space to garden, but this wasn't quite what I'd had in mind.

I was disoriented and dismayed until I remembered that green tops are just as yummy and useful as white bulbs. So then, marching on to dinner:

grpr_brwnbtter
Montauk Grouper
with a quick brown butter sauce, sliced green shallots and fresh cilantro chiffonade

strwbrry_salad
Spinach-Strawberry Salad
with toasted walnuts, Israeli feta and a balsamic vinaigrette

chc_chp_cookies
Three small chocolate-chip cookies*

Easy, quick, delicious, seasonally appropriate (except for the cookies, but when are cookies ever in season?), and a good use of my newly discovered refrigerator garden.

I won't join J. in the sunshine for another week, and every day until then is scheduled for darkness and rain. That said, as long as the market is full of fresh produce and my refrigerator remains rich in garlic and shallot sprouts, I can't help but feel the daily pulse of spring on my dinner plate.

*Cookie Tip for Single People: Next time you bake chocolate-chip cookies, make extra dough, chill it down, form the cold dough into fat discs the size of slightly squashed golf balls and keep 'em securely wrapped in your freezer. That way you can just take out two or three at a time. Bake frozen cookies in an oven preheated at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Presto! Fresh, hot cookies with no need to commit to a whole dozen.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

5.12.2006