Mains

 

As the winter equinox draws nigh more fortifying meals are going to be the order of the day for the winter months ahead. There are always those favorite tried and true hearty soups and robust stews to fall back on, but adding a little variety to your winter repertoire is sure to liven things up just when it’s needed t the most.

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Quiche usually conjures up thoughts of summery fresh herbs and vine ripe tomatoes, but putting a heartier wintery quiche on the table in the dead of winter will be one of those “aha” moments that is sure to please!

The recipe that follows is ripe for interpretation. Feel free to use what ever winter produce available and by all means include an assortment of herbs and spices to compliment your produce choices. I assure you It will be a lovely hearty meal that you can serve with nothing more than a winter salad with a zesty lemon garlic vinaigrette!

Winter Quiche

I have used a tradition pastry for this quiche, but If that seems like to much of a bother, by all means use a quick mashed potato crust instead,( recipe here) substituting acorn squash fort the potatoes in the quiche recipe that follows.

f Pastry shell  I recommend making it a day in advance so the dough is well chilled before rolling it out the following day.

Needed: a deep 10 or 11 inch pie dish.

  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • ¾ cup of vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 2 ¾ cups unbleached all- purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup ice water

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the well chilled butter, shortening, and salt. Mix on low speed for 2 or 3 minutes until softened. Turn the speed up to medium and mix another 1 or 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed.
Turn the speed down to low and start adding the flour in three batches while continuing to mix on low until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Then begin adding small amounts of water while continuing to mix. Add more water as needed until the dough begins to come together. Then continue adding very small amounts of water until the dough holds together, but do not over mix.

Transfer the dough to a well floured work surface and kneed until the dough holds together while forming it into a ball. Divide the dough in half and flatten both halves into discs about 1 inch thick. Wrap the discs tightly in cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, transfer a round of dough to a well floured wooden cutting board, or a pizza peel. Begin rolling out the dough slowly. As the dough warms it will soften and roll out easily into an 11or 12 inch circle. Make sure to toss flour under the dough as you work so it will move freely when you slide the pasty centered into the pie dish. Work the dough evenly up the sides of the pie dish. Then make a scalloped edge around the rim of the dish. Chill for 1 hour before b blind baking. Put the remaining round of dough in the freezer for later use.

Preheat the oven to 350 f / 180 c

Lightly brush the interior and edges of the pie shell with with melted butter. and line the interior of the pie shell with parchment paper. Then fill the shell with pie weights, being sure to press them up against the sides of the dough to hold it in place as it bakes.

Blind bake the pastry shell for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment along with the pie weights and return the pie to the oven for another 10 minutes until just lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool.

Winter quiche filling:

  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (omit if using a potato crust
  •  use a large butternut squash as an alternate for potatoes,  peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ¾ inch slices on the diagonal
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and cubed
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms,  stems removed, and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, sliced
  • 1/3 cup dry vermouth
  • 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, pits removed, and halved
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ cups whole milk
  • 4 organic eggs
  • ½ ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmigiana cheese

Pre heat the oven to 350 f / 180 c

Fill a sauce pan with several cups of water fitted with a steam baske. Fill the steaming basket with the potatoes (or butternut squash), carrots, and turnips and cover with a lid. Place the pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and steam the vegetables until they are al dente. Promptly remove the pan from the heat. Remove the steam basket of vegetables and set aside to cool.

Place a large skillet over medium heat. When hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and saute until it is lightly browned. Remove the pancetta and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until wilted. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the shiitake mushrooms and saute until they begin to give up their liquid and are lightly browned. Add the thyme and rosemary and continue sauteing while adding the vermouth and saute until the vermouth is reduced. Add the sun dried tomatoes and olives and toss until well combined.

Add the steamed vegetables and toss until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

When you are ready to bake the quiche spoon the sauteed vegetable mixture into the pasty shell and arrange evenly.

In a small bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, and nutmeg until combined. Pour the milk egg mixture over the top of the vegetable filling and jiggle until the egg mixture settles in evenly.

Add the feta, pushing it into the quiche filling. Scatter the parmigiana over the surface of the quiche and transfer to the oven.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the egg mixture is just set. Promptly transfer the quiche to a cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Serve while warm with a salad of choice.              Bon appetit !

Huitlacoche omlette

Huitlacoche omlette

An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.

Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.

Huitlacoche

Huitlacoche

Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.

Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.

With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.

Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!

 

My huitlaoche alternative

Makes enough for 3 servings

A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.

  • 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided

     HuitlacocheT

    Huitlacoche

  • 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
  • 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
  • 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
  • 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)

Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.

Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.

When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.

When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.

To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.

Grilled Corn omlettes

For each omlette:

  • 3 organic eggs
  • pinch of  salt
  •  a splash of water
  • 1 teaspoon salted butter
  • 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
  • 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
  • salsa verde (see recipe here)
  • sprigs of fresh cilantro
  • Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.

Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.

Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.

Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.

 

Buen provecho!

 

from Nigella Lawson’s new book   Cook, Eat, Repeat

 

Fish Stick Bhorta

 

Nigella’s recipe for Fish Stick Bhorta, inspired by controversial British journalist and political activist Ash Sarkar’s Fish Finger Bhorta, is sure to dust up some controversy of its own in the media, but no matter. Nigella has this uncanny way with words that turn her books and recipes into a page turners! Her inquisitive enthusiasm for food and cookery is nothing short of compelling for anyone who loves to cook and eat.

I am sure you are asking yourself, as did I, what is a Bhorta anyway? The short answer is a Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian highly seasoned mashed up of vegetables stir-fried together in mustard oil. That description is most likely not going to convince you to give this recipe a try, but I was won over on the first go around.

Cook, Eat, Repeat was written during the pandemic and focuses on inventive home coked meals for one or two people, with ample leftovers, made with what is on hand. Cooking your way through a year of relative isolation has had its challenges as well as its rewards for all of us. But having had the time to experiment, savor, and reflect on how and what we eat and how we prepare our food enriched our daily lives during a year of uncertainty.  

Fish Stick Bhorta

Serves 2 with some leftovers

For the pickled onions, make in advance

  • ½ red onion
  • red wine vinegar or lime juice

Make your pink-pickled onions as far in advance as you can: at least 2 hours and up to 24. Cut your red onion in half- or use a whole onion if you prefer, as you will easily find yourself adding them to much else- into fine half moons. Put these in a jar with a lid, or simply into a bowl that you can cover. Pour over red wine vinegar (or lime juice) pressing down the onions until they are all just immured. Put the lid on the jar or cover the bowl and leave the onions to steep.

For the Bhorta

  • 2 regular onions (approx. 10 ounces)
  • 2 small red (birds eye) chiles
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 12 fish sticks
  • 3 tablespoons cold pressed vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons English mustard ( Colman’s) from a jar
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
  • 4 oz young spinach
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chipped cilantro, plus more to serve

preheat the oven to 425 f

Peel and slice your 2 regular onions into fine half moons, seed the chiles (or not if you prefer) and slice them thinly, and peel the garlic. Peel the ginger and grate it finely to give 1 tablespoonful.

When the oven is hot, and your ingredients are assembled and ready, put the fish sticks on a baking sheet and cook for approx. 20 to 25 minutes, which may be slightly longer than the package directs, but will ensure the bread crumb coating is really crisp.

Meanwhile warm the oil in a large skillet or wok, and cook the onions over medium low for 20 minutes stirring regularly, by witch time they will be pale gold and soft.

Add the sliced chiles and cook, string all the while, for 3 minutes, then stir in the grated ginger, minced or grated garlic, and cook, still stirring, for another 2 minutes. Spoon in the mustard and salt, stirring to combine, then add the spinach leaves and let them wilt in the pan for 2- 3 minutes, stirring regularly, then squeeze in the juice of the lime.

Take the pan off the heat while you get the fish sticks. Break them up a bit with a spatula then add them to the frying pan or wok. Toss everything together, breaking up them up further and mashing them into the frying pan, then sprinkle in the cilantro.

Serve topped with the pink-pickled onions, adding extra chopped cilantro if wished.

 

Simplified Winter Cassoulet

Simplified Winter Cassoulet

 

With winter’s weather bearing down in earnest hearty meals are de reguer and I can’t think of a better meal to make than a cassoulet. It is my very favorite winter meal bar none!

Cassoulet is a classic French white bean stew with an assortment of herbs, meats, and poultry all baked together in an earthenware pot. It is undeniably delicious and the perfect antidote for winter’s bitter chill.

 

That said, making a classic Langeuuedoc white bean cassoulet requires copious amounts of assorted meats, sausage, duck confite and fat along with a considerable investment of time and expense.

Winter Cassoulet

Winter Cassoulet

Deconstructing the concept however, as radical as that may seem, can produce an as hearty and flavorsome cassoulet with all the allure of the original sans excess fats and expense.

In the recipe that follows I have included a modest amounts of pancetta and sausage, but they may be omitted without sacrificing flavor. It really is all about the quality of the beans, vegetables, and seasonings that brings this cassoulet to life with or without including meats.

Be sure to source your dried beans for freshness and quality. My favorite supplier is Rancho Gordo in California at ranchogordo.com (click here). All of their dried beans are top quality. Supplies do vary so it’s a good idea to subscribe to receive harvest updates and availability.

 

A simplified Winter Cassoulet

For the beans:

  • 1 pound dried white tabais, canellini, or great northern white beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 thin slices pancetta, finely diced (or substitute 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, added later)
  • 3/4  cup diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt plus more as needed after the beans are cooked
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 quarts stock or water, plus more as needed

Pick through the beans and rinse well. Place them in bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak for several hours or overnight. Then drain the beans and set side.

Add the olive oil to a stock pot set over medium low heat. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and saute until fragrant and just beginning to color. If you are omitting the pancetta, add the smoked paprika along with onions and saute until wilted. Then add the garlic and saute until softened. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf and saute until well combined and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Stir in the drained soaked beans and promptly add the hot stock or water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook the beans until they are softened but still holding their shape. Cooking times will vary depending on the age of the beans, but generally about 1 ½ or 2 hours should do it. Taste the beans and add salt to taste and set aside.

While the beans are cooking you can go ahead and prepare the sausage if using as well as the radish leaves or kale.

For the sausage:

  • 1 pound Polish or Kielbasa sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Heat the oil in a skillet and when hot add the whole sausage and seer on all sides until nicely browned. Then add the wine and cook until the wine has mostly evaporated. Remove the sausages and slice on the diagonal into 1 ½ inch pieces and set aside. 

Add a little stock to the  skillet and swirl to gather up the juices and scrape them into the pot of cooked beans and stir well.

For the Greens:

  • 2 large bunches of radish leaves or kale, well rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Note: If you are not using sausage  you may want to use both radish and kale leaves seasoned with 1 teaspoon of crushed marjoram leaves and ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. when hot add the chopped greens and saute just until wilted. Season with salt and set aside.

For the topping:

  • 1 cup bread crumbs, or panko
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced flat leafed parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Toss the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, and salt together. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 F /150 c with the oven rack set in the middle position. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any overflow while the cassoulet is baking.

Assembling the cassoulet:

Select a large earthenware casserole dish. Using a ladle add a layer of drained cooked beans in the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer some sausage pieces ( If using) over the beans, and add a layer of the sauteed greens. Continue to layer the ingredients in the same order, ending with a layer beans with a few pieces of sausage  (if using) for the top layer.

Spread the crumb topping evenly over the casassoulet. This will form a nice crusty topping to the finished cassoulet.

Run a spatula round the casserole to create a crevasse. Then spoon some bean cooking liquid into the crevasse all the way around the casserole dish. Giggle the dish several times while continuing to add more liquid until the liquid has nearly reached the rim of the dish. This will ensure an evenly moist cassoulet when fully baked.

Bake for 2 hours, turning the casserole dish from front to back after the first hour to ensure even baking.

Should the crumb topping brown to quickly during baking cover the casserole loosely with foil.

Remove the cassoulet from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes before serving,

Serving:

Placing the hot cassoulet in the center of the table is sight to behold as the aroma beckons! Let everyone serve themselves family style.

 

Serving a simple wintery greens salad including some mustard greens, Belgian endive, and a baby arugula leaves completes this meal beautifully.

Bon apettite!

You might also like to try A Summer Casssoulet (click here for recipe)

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