Through a combination of being really lazy and really busy, I haven't been cooking that much at home lately. Or at least anything new or interesting (I mean, how many vegetable pastas do you want to see, right?). So I haven't been posting very frequently, either. Thank goodness for my lunches with Melissa, from Smells Like Brownies, or I wouldn't be posting at all! We made this savory tomato cobbler on a rainy day with terrible lighting, and it was just the right kind of comfort food.
Caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes get bound together with the help of a little flour, and flavored with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. I love using multi-colored cherry tomatoes, so pretty!
Then the mixture goes into a baking dish and into the oven. We used the same cast iron skillet that we caramelized the onions in.
While the tomato mixture cooks, roll out and cut out some biscuits. The dough, made savory with the help of sharp white cheddar and black pepper, will have been resting in the fridge while the filling was put together. You want that butter cold in order to achieve maximum flakiness. We used whey in place of buttermilk, because we will never run out of whey (so much whey).
It's time for another collaboration with Smells Like Brownies (although we actually made this back in June, oops!) - not vegetarian this time, but rather pescetarian. A hearty tomato based broth filled with all kinds of seafood - Cioppino. Melissa actually chose this dish for her blogging group, the Secret Recipe Club. For more info on that, check out her post here.
Making the broth takes up the most time in this recipe, but you want to let it simmer and develop deep flavor, so it's worth it. Olive oil, garlic, shallot, oregano, and a bay leaf go in first; followed by bell pepper, tomato paste, and red wine. Oh yeah, and red pepper flakes - watch it here, this is where you determine your spice level. Next comes canned tomatoes in their juices, clam juice, lemon juice, and veggie broth (not stock). Let it do it's thing for 30 minutes before adding in some mussels.
I meant it when I said this soup was full of all kinds of seafood. While the mussels simmer away; prep the rest of the seafood - scallops, red snapper (or something similar, like halibut), and shrimp. Who knew a bunch of raw seafood could look so pretty?
After the rest of the seafood is cooked through, top with fresh basil and parsley and dig in. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping and eat right away! This Italian stew is perfect for any time of year - hearty and warming, but not heavy - so enjoy!
As promised - what to do with leftover quiche base, if you have any. Make mini quiches! So easy and totally portable - once these are cool, you can just pick one up and eat it on the go.
All you do is thaw some frozen spinach, squeeze the liquid out of it, and split it between mini tart pans or ramekins. Then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese, pour the quiche base over it, and bake until set. Voila! A healthy little snack or breakfast and no wasted custard.
Mini Spinach Crustless Quiches
a Well Dined original
makes 4 mini quiches
1 cup leftover quiche base (from this recipe, for example), or 1 egg mixed with 3/4 cup cream and seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg
10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Divide the spinach between four mini tart pans or ramekins. Sprinkle with the cheese, then pour the custard over the top. Bake at 375 deg F until set, about 15 minutes.
Ah, summer - a time for all the fresh produce you can get your hands on. I particularly like the combination of tomatoes and corn, which you can see here, here, and here. Add in some herbs from the garden, eggs from the farmer's market, and a flaky pie crust for an awesome summer quiche.
Quiche is best served right around room temperature, so it would be pretty easy to bring this to a potluck or dinner party, as long as it doesn't sit out for too long (2 hours max) and isn't out in the heat.
I hope everyone had a fun holiday - we certainly did! We grilled and played games (these ones to be precise) and watched Jaws (the original, duh). My special contribution (because there always has to be one) was this gorgeous gelatin mold with champagne and fresh berries. It is light, refreshing, not too strong, and totally gorgeous. It looks really impressive, but it's actually pretty easy to make!
The base is sparkling wine (I used Prosecco), peach schnapps, plain gelatin, and a little sugar. I'm trying to be really accurate in my title here, so I had to change it from "Champagne Jello Mold", which was my first instinct. Jello isn't even a real word! It's Jell-o, a brand name that got appropriated to mean all gelatin (like Popsicle or Coke, if you live in the south).
I had heard of this place in some magazine or other because of the homemade poptarts. So when I was in Reston and craving some mid-day breakfast, I decided to try it out. It's kind of like an upscale version of an old-fashioned diner. If that makes any sense.
The menu is a mini newspaper (or bulletin, if you will) that also has some articles on the namesake and how the restaurant was founded. They have boozy milkshakes (very on trend right now), so I tried the Bananas Foster with banana rum and caramel. Very good.
Then I tried the signature breakfast combo - The Big Mark - which comes with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, hashbrowns, toast, and a poptart (I chose the brown sugar bacon flavor). Everything was great except for the sausage, which was way too spicy for me. The poptart was indeed tasty, but I thought it needed a higher filling to crust ratio.
I brought a couple more flavors of poptart home (blueberry cheesecake and strawberry, I believe) to sample a range and so that Jasper could try them. Again, they were good but we both agreed they needed more filling.
Here's the fun news for breakfast-loving me - they are opening up a location at Mosaic, which is very close to me! I might even sample some non-breakfast items... maybe... probably not.
I know it's way too hot out to be making this sort of thing, but I don't care. It is sooooooo good. This is a French onion soup inspired macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions, boatloads of cheese, and a buttery breadcrumb topping with thyme. Yum, yum, yum. Oh yeah, and a little bit of white wine (shoutout to Broken Dreams - my fave white of the moment). I made this with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies and it was one of those magical recipes that is so much fun to make and doesn't stress you out during the process (though that may have been the wine taking effect...).
Step one is to get the onions going, of course. Can't have French onion soup without onions! Pop those bad boys into a heavy bottomed pan with olive oil, butter, and thyme. Is there any better flavor combo than onions and thyme? I like to start them at medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low once they are translucent.
After 15 minutes, they should look kind of like this. Add a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of salt and keep cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Remember to take out the thyme stems when they are done.
I'm really trying to be better at waking up early enough to get to the Farmer's Market. I love the scene with all the booths and crowds of people, all the adorable puppies and babies. The Mosaic Market even has live music and food trucks. But I am not very good at cooking by the seat of my pants, so after I pick out some yummy looking veg, it usually ends up getting tossed into a pasta. Even more so when the market offers amazing artisan pasta from Pappardelle's Pasta. C'est la vie!
My first batch of veggies (asparagus, tomato, and leek) went into a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce with the garlic chive artisan pappardelle. I cooked the leek down in butter and olive oil, then added some white wine, lemon juice, and pasta water along with chopped tomatoes. When that had cooked to a good sauce consistency, I tossed in blanched asparagus and the cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente). I finished it off with lemon zest, Parmesan, and black pepper and served it with salmon.
I still had tomatoes and a random eggplant that I picked up for no reason, so I decided to do a riff on this pasta. I really should have used a whole wheat pasta, but I just love gemelli and I can't find it in whole wheat anywhere. It's the perfect short shape because it has good structural integrity (meaning it cooks evenly and doesn't get mushy edges).
Anyway, I roasted the eggplant while I caramelized an onion (I really wish I had a red onion, but I didn't). After adding garlic, a splash of sherry, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, I added some chopped tomato and a pat of butter (trying to get the essence of the Marcella Hazan sauce without cooking it for 45 minutes). Then I added in the eggplant, cooked pasta (1 minute shy of al dente), and a splash of pasta water and let it come together. Then I topped it with fresh basil and black pepper and served it with some hanger steak from the market (one of the few places where I can find it - there's only 1 per cow and they sell fast).
Last month, my local Almuni group volunteered to work at the Capital Area Food Bank Urban Demonstration Garden. The CAFB works with over 500 partner agencies to distribute food to people suffering from hunger. The purpose of the Urban Demonstration Garden is to promote nutrition education and demonstrate ways to grow food in urban settings. They hope to teach their partner agencies to become more efficient by growing food at a low cost and to bring produce into areas that previously had no access.
The garden demonstrates how to build containers and beds out of recycled materials (for cost purposes). They are different sizes and heights to demonstrate different uses - higher for people in wheel chairs, for example.
Our main task was to help dig rows for in-ground beds - hard work! The garden is entirely dependent on volunteers for all of it's work. So please, if you are able - give a little of your time to help them out. Just be prepared to sweat.
To learn more: email MJ Crom at email@example.com.
Now that we are nearing the end of Spring (that never really felt like Spring, dangit) - it's time to preserve some of that delicate seasonal fruit. I'm talking strawberries and rhubarb, people. I tried out three different jam recipes in the same day, because I am a crazy person (and because I bought way too many local strawberries at the farmers market).
First up is my mother-in-law's fresh strawberry syrup recipe (pictured in front and in the bowl on the right) - if only I had access to Oregon berries like her! Jasper loves this recipe, so I make a TON and freeze it to use all year (if it lasts that long). He loves to put it on sourdough pancakes and vanilla ice cream, I like it swirled into plain Greek yogurt. This is a raw fruit jam recipe (with more berries and less sugar to make it more of a syrup than a jam), so the taste of the fresh berries really comes through.
Next is a Raspberry and Rhubarb Jam with Cardamom (pictured in the middle and in the jar on the left) that was supposed to use apple juice, but I had cranberry on hand so I subbed that and it added a lot of cranberry flavor. It tastes very fall like to me because of the cranberry and spices. This is the only jam that I canned, so I will probably save it for the fall. If you want more of the rhubarb flavor to come through, use the apple juice instead.
And last is a Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Strawberry Jam thickened with Chia Seeds (pictured in the back and in the jar on the right). This is touted as a healthy recipe because the fruit is raw and it uses raw honey as sweetener. Because you use chia seeds to thicken it, instead of pectin, you can use much less sugar than you could for a traditional jam. This one came out pretty tart for me, but Jasper really likes it. The concept works really well, so I will probably be trying out different fruits. This recipe actually said to just puree the raw rhubarb, but I was pretty skeptical about that, so I simmered it in a little bit of cranberry juice first (since I was already doing that for the other jam).
Let's get jammin! I really crack myself up...