Quiche with hash brown crust

Quiche with potato crust
With a record high of 114 degrees today, I’ve decided to forgo my late-morning walk and midday backyard gardening. With the air-conditioning cranked on high, I’m retreating to my kitchen instead. My friends think I’m crazy to bake on a scorcher like today, but as longer as I keep the A/C to oven temp ratio just so, it becomes a normal baking day just like any other – and the ideal opportunity to whip up something special like this brunch classic – with a hash brown twist.


Quiche with hash brown crust

  • Servings: One 9” Quiche
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A flavorful savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies; Also tasty for dinner with a lightly dressed salad.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed and blotted dry with paper towels
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup meat such as bacon, ham, or chicken (I used sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 ½ cups vegetables, thawed if frozen (I used frozen artichoke hearts and spinach)
  • 1 cup cheese, divided (I used mozzarella)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 (rounded) Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, toss hash browns, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Press in the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie plate to form a crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crust begins to turn golden brown and crisp along the edges. Remove from oven and gently press on crust to compact slightly (I use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup). Let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, sauté meat until beginning to brown. Add vegetables and sauté until all moisture has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and then arrange on top of crust. Cover with half the cheese.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs with half-and-half. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetables.
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until top is set and egg mixture is slightly wet when pierced with a sharp knife (egg will continue to cook). Cool 5 minutes, slice and serve plain, with tomato sauce or guacamole.

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Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

Carrot Salad on Creme fraiche

I’m never going to eat like an Ascetic.  I will never “eat to live.”  I like the flavors too much, the textures, the history and culture imbued within a recipe, the miraculous synergy in combining disparate ingredients.  I’m in love with food magic.

I’ve started up with a personal trainer again.  A VEGAN personal trainer.  She blanched when I confessed to my culinary vices, my food blog, my ability to eat an entire pie on a long, lazy Sunday.

She has her work cut out.  I’ve decided to help a bit – just a bit – by adding a few veggie-rich meals to my unmistakably carb-heavy diet.  I need help – creative vegetable combining is not my forte (yet).  Give me flour, sugar and butter and I’ll whip you up something crave-worthy.  Give me a head of cabbage and I’ll probably make coleslaw.

That’s where my most recent purchase comes in – Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.  If this first recipe is any indication, I’m. In. Love.

Carrots, Olives and Dates? Who would have guessed – absolute food magic.


Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

I wish I could claim this as my own creation, but alas, it's not. This is a slightly adapted version of Joshua McFadden's recipe and so much more than the sum of its parts.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rainbow carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Urfa Chili
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Nicoise or other nice black olives
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Castelvetrano or other nice green olives
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons white Modena Vinegar (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ cup lightly packed roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

  1. If the carrots are large, split them lengthwise. Cut them on a sharp angle so you have angled ¼-inch thick carrot pieces. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, combine a bit of olive oil, ½ cup water, Aleppo pepper, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add the carrots. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots are just crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain carrots and cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine olives, dates and carrots. Toss with vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt, black pepper, Aleppo pepper and vinegar until the flavor is super vibrant (you know you’ve hit it when you says “oh wow!”). Add parsley and a splash of good quality olive oil and toss again.
  3. On a large platter, smear crème fraiche in a round, flat, circle. Pile salad on top, leaving a bit of crème visible. Garnish with shaved parmesan and a grind or two of black pepper.

Personal Pound Cake

Mini Pound Cake Recipe

Candied Orange and Honey Walnut Mini Pound Cakes

She unlocks her front door, kicks and stretches her way out of her work clothes and bra, throws on yoga pants and a tank and stumbles barefoot into the kitchen.

A bad day, she knows, requires a balm – one made from the holy trinity of butter, sugar and flour…something quick, that doesn’t require a cookbook, that’s single-girl serving sized. Something to soothe.

She’s perfected just that sort of recipe. She calls it her personal pound cake – It’s 1/8th of a standard recipe, just enough for one person; enough to palliate without overdosing. One bowl and five ingredients comprise the basic cake; the perfect canvas for improvisation. From there, she can add berries, almonds or lemon zest. She can soak it in rose syrup or blanket it with cream cheese frosting. She can use it as a base for scoops of chocolate ice-cream or warm peach compote – personalizing it to target whatever ails her.

Tonight, and more nights than she’d like to admit, this is her medicine. Others mix up a drink, she whisks up one of these.


Personal Pound Cake

This recipe requires a 3”x5” mini loaf pan. I use the disposable aluminum ones available at most grocery stores for quick clean up. A kitchen scale makes quick work of measuring ingredients. The trick with this recipe is to personalize it with your favorite add-ins.


Ingredients

  • 2 oz. (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch salt
  • 2 oz. flour
  • add-ins of your choice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Whisk together butter and sugar (If your butter isn’t softened and you’re impatient, soften it in the microwave, keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t melt).
  2. Whisk in egg and salt. (I add a pinch of flour at this point to help avoid separation that can happen when adding egg to butter).
  3. Stir in flour. Add your flavors of choice and spoon into loaf pan (no pan greasing or flouring required).
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, slice and indulge.

Honeyed-Walnut Variation: In a small pan over medium-high heat, combine 4 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts and 2 Tablespoons honey. Cook until nuts are toasted and honey is thick and bubbly. Cool and add to batter.
Candied Orange Variation: At the time you add the egg , add 1 Tablespoon Orange Flower Water. After stirring in the flour, stir in 2 Tablespoons chopped candied orange peel.

Personal Pound Cake Recipe

 

Best Banana Cherry Muffins

Moist Banana Cherry Muffins
I forgot how exhausting it is to be a member of the gainfully employed. I barely survived my first week. If you asked me to recall the high point and low point, I’d say the high point was discovering the twice-weekly lunchtime yoga class in the California sunshine. Sign me up.  The low point was waking up in the wee hours at 6:00 a.m.  Just one short week ago, I was falling asleep about that time.

I’ve tried to soften my 6:00 a.m. blues by pampering myself each morning with a cardamom-rose latte (my new favorite) and a warm, freshly baked treat, like these remarkably moist banana cherry muffins. They help, but I still miss the warmth of my 6:00 a.m. bed.


Best Banana Cherry Muffins

These exceptionally moist and flavorful muffins were adapted from my favorite banana bread recipe.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
  • ½ cup chopped fresh or frozen and drained cherries, plus 3 more for topping
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, egg, and yolk. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just blended. Fold in walnuts, cherries and bananas.
  2. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Top with a quartered cherry and chopped walnuts. Bake 25-30 minutes until muffins are brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool and enjoy.

Cuban Pork Mojo

Cuban Pork Loin Mojo
It’s late Sunday morning and fifteen of us are huddled on the street corner, cameras in hand like a gaggle of paparazzi waiting to catch a celebrity’s morning-after walk of shame. Except this isn’t Hollywood – and we’re not professionals.

This is California Center for Digital Arts and we’re practicing shutter speed priority photography – stop action, blurred action, panning. I learned this long ago – so very long ago – in the days of film and chemical processing and my trusty Canon AE-1. We’re standing on a street corner simply shooting random cars and bicycles passing by.

I’m going back to photography basics because, frankly, I’m bored with the photos I’m churning out these days – and the work of most other amateur food photographers as well. I’m having trouble finding the soul in the ubiquitous bright, side-lit, flat-laid, slightly blown out (IMHO), Foodgawker-esque photographs most amateur food photographers (including me) produce –insipid images devoid of soul.

My food photos may not get better. What I’m currently churning out may be my limit, but the class made me happy, made me remember, just for a few hours, to look at the world with a photographer’s eye.

Did it help? If this photo above is any indication, then, no, it didn’t – same bright, side-lit, flat lay, lackluster nonsense. The pork loins, conversely, were divine – flavorful and mouthwateringly succulent.


Cuban Pork Mojo

This flavorful, garlicy-citrus mojo acts as a marinade and a sauce.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • zest from one orange
  • zest from one lime
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ bunch cilantro
  • 2 pork tenderloins

Directions

  1. In a blender, puree all ingredients except pork. Transfer a half cup of sauce into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
  2. Place pork tenderloins in a dish and cover with remaining mojo sauce. Cover dish and refrigerate at least 8 hours up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a bit of oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade, scraping off excess. Add pork to skillet and sear until well browned on all sides. Transfer skillet with pork to oven. Roast until meat registers 145 degrees F. Remove pork from skillet, tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Warm reserved mojo sauce in the microwave. Cut pork crosswise in ½ inch slices, drizzle with warmed mojo sauce and serve.


Panning

“Panning” practice