Ok, regular petits et grands choux (I just called you small and large cabbages…in French! I’m all about the culture) must acknowledge I love me some quiche. And while I completely dig a buttery, beautifully flaky crust, that crusts digs me, enough to permanently deposit itself on my thighs. So I’m all over the alternative crust bandwagon. The original recipe that inspired my version appears in the December 2018 Cooking Light magazine.
One of the things that excited me most was the chance to use a hen of the woods mushroom that found its way into my kitchen. I think my daughter picked it up. This super-crazy mushroom occupies center stage on the cutting board.
Nuts, yes? But so delish. The aroma wafting through the air screamed classic, earthy mushroom goodness. (So often, store-bought mushrooms bring more texture than flavor to a meal.) You just cut all the little floaty things off the top, then dice the the bottom small. The recipe actually calls for 4 cups, so I added a package of store-bought mushrooms, chopped up.
Sweet Potato Crust Quiche: How To
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, slice the peeled sweet potato thin. I used 2 smallish-to-medium ones here. Line a pie plate with them, then bake at 400º.
Cook times, by the way, represent my biggest departure from the original. The original said to bake the slices for 15 minutes. Mine were nowhere near done, so I gave them another 15. THEN I could gently press them against the sides and bottom of the sprayed pie plate.
While the crust bakes, you sauté the mushrooms.
Also, mix eggs with milk (I used cashew) and grated mozzarella with thinly sliced chard. You could also gently sauté the chard leaves with the mushrooms. I like a lot of greens, more than the recipe called for, so I ended up with a green top rather than that nice yellow egg mixture to bind everything together. That said, I did like that the chard kept a little texture—not much, but I’m not big on mushy anything, and particularly greens. I also threw in some Parmesan not called for in the original, because I love cheese and think it makes a quiche more luscious.
Now, you have all your layers.
Add the sautéed mushrooms as the first layer. I’d added finely chopped chard stem to the sauté mix, btw; that’s what the little red things are. Also, be sure to salt and pepper everything.
The egg mix goes on top of that.
Then you bake it for about 20-35 minutes, til the eggs are set.
The finished product looks overly dark. Frankly, the pesto called for in the original, which I added, is a mistake. I thought it might be; pesto and sweet potatoes? Weird. But otherwise, this worked out to be a lovely brunch. Most interesting take-away here: the sweet potato crust. You can fill this with pretty much anything. In fact, I’ll experiment with a southern-inspired version later this week, and if it works, I’ll post. Meanwhile, enjoy this comfy, healthy, paleo/gluten-free/vegetarian take on quiche goodness.
I love rice: long grain, short, jasmine, sticky, wild (which isn’t really rice, btw). But I find I’m eating it less and less. Maybe it’s aging; despite my previous admission to loving carbs, I find I’m eating them less.
Now fried rice has long been a comfort food for me, using real leftover rice, and especially if I’m watching something on TV or a movie (and these days, is there a difference??) and somebody busts out the Chinese take-out. But because I eat less rice anyway, the chances of me having a leftover batch to fry up are close to zero. Cauliflower fried rice works as a natural, super-easy substitute.
But look: Cauliflower rice can easily taste like b.s. Real rice squashes under your teeth in a pleasant way. Cauliflower rice, particularly if you go too crazy with the food processor, gets mealy. I don’t buy the frozen version, because the freezing process plays havoc with the water content of foods. So something naturally prone to mealiness will only get more so.
The trick for me is to roast the coarse cauliflower rice ahead of time. Then, at the end, simply toss it with some veggies that you’ve sauteed while your “rice” roasts. Voila: Cauliflower rice with very little hands-on time.
Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Step by Step
First, heat your oven to 400º. While it preheats, chop up your cauliflower florets in a food processor. Before processing, cut the florets to be fairly uniform size. Don’t overprocess so that they become crumbly or actual rice-sized if you want them to have some texture. Toss the “rice” in a bowl with some sesame oil, spread on a parchment covered sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes, until they get some color.
As the “rice” roasts, get your veggies ready: sliced scallions (keep the white and green parts separate), minced ginger and garlic, and julienned or chopped carrots, peppers, and snow peas. (Or other veggies you have in the fridge and want to use up; just be sure to cut fairly uniform shapes.) About 7-10 minutes before the cauliflower is finished roasting, heat your pan, then add oil. Peanut provides classic Chinese flavor, but a taste-free oil like canola or avocado also works nicely. (Don’t use olive.) Add the scallion whites, garlic, ginger, and the julienned stuff. Add soy sauce and sake, which will bubble up and be all steamy and fragrant.
Right about the time you achieve maximum bright colored, still crisp sauteed veggies, your timer will ring. Dump the roasted rice right into the pan. Add chopped cilantro (the stems are really nice here; no need to separate them from the leaves if you don’t want to) and scallion greens.
You can top with toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, or cashews. Cauliflower fried rice makes a lovely vegan main, or a light, healthy side for the protein of your choice, particularly if you’ve done a classic Chinese-inspired cooking treatment (like this tea-smoked chicken, for instance). Below, note the radish and pea shoot salad on the side: just thinly sliced radish and pea shoots, no dressing, and you’re good to go. Enjoy.
I love corn, I love cornmeal, and I adore polenta. Steve wants nothing to do with it. So more for me.
But everyone knows that polenta is a giant pain in the ass because of all that blasted stirring. I’ve made it in the crockpot; it eliminates the stirring, but also stiffens up the polenta so it’s like those little tubes you buy of ready made polenta at the store. This, my friends, is not the polenta of the Italian grandmother you may have had, or in my case, pine for on occasion. (I had a German grandmother on one side who could bake but preferred riding horses, and a French/Danish/Irish one on the other, who made weird multicolored popcorn balls and sauerkraut. Never polenta.)
Bon Appetit was one of my early cooking teachers, and it remains one of my favorite arrivals. I still like print magazines and probably always will. Leafing through the October issue, I saw what looked like a lovely bowl of polenta and a pan of roasted mushrooms. Most intriguing, the polenta was baked in the oven right alongside the veggies. The recipe subhead reads: “Call it cheating—we call it 30 minutes you don’t need to spend standing at the stove.”
Count me IN.
Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: The Prep
Look, why just roast a pan of mushrooms when you also have some eggplant and red bell pepper to use up? And why only add thyme when you also have some rosemary growing in a pot? These are questions I ask myself frequently, especially after a recent mild talking-to that Steve and I gave to ourselves about better using the virtual fruit of the refrigerator.
I cubed the eggplant and pepper; I’d bought the shrooms sliced, so they were good to go. Roasting veggies is not a recipe thing, people. You put them in a bowl, add some oil, fresh herbs and garlic if you’re so inclined, seasonings. Then spread them on a sheet pan and roast them. One new wrinkle that the recipe provides, and that I decided to give a try: Begin the roasting process at a measly 325º. I typically go for the max carmelization delivered by a hotter oven, but….why not?
Veggies in oven, I heated broth and water together to a boil. The recipe specified water only, but long ago I learned that if you can sub something for the water, do it; more flavor.
I whisked in the polenta, covered the pot, then put it right in the oven. The nice low temp ensured that the polenta would cook gently all by itself. Then I sat down and played the piano for a while, because that is an amazing thing to be able to do while you wait for the timer to ring.
Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: Finishing
After about half an hour, the polenta was ready to come out. When I looked at it and shook the pan, I thought….this cannot be! The polenta was still liquid. But then I stirred it and found that it had indeed started to thicken to the perfect polenta consistency. I removed it, gave it a good whisk, and left it on the stove top.
Now I cranked up the oven—the recipe actually instructs, “Crank up the oven”—to its highest temp, which on mine is 550º. Zoinks! The vegetables crisped up after about 10 minutes.
Then we went on a walk for about 40 minutes, with of course everything out of the oven. In that time, the polenta had set up beautifully: pourable, but not a soup, just that wonderful hybrid of liquid and solid that means ideal polenta. Without the walk, I would have kept the stove on its very lowest setting to give the polenta just a little more incentive to thicken. But seriously, it was lovely.
So before proceeding to the evolution and execution of this Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry, I must take a moment to pay homage to my guy, Tim Gunn. For the rest of you: I love Tim Gunn.
I’ve suffered through many a grim episode of Project Runway just to watch him stroll into the studio, impeccably dressed, marvelously discerning and insightful, and most of all, respectful. I’ve been trying to mastermind a Tim Gunn for President of the World campaign for, like, ever. Sigh. Tim, you will also be the secret to making the world fabulous, better dressed, and kinder in my book. Now a lot of times on Project Runway, one of the contestants will come up with a real Fashion Don’t. And Tim will say, “I’m concerned,” and the way he says it…
…you know that he is the only thing between that contestant and an icy and heart-freezing look from Nina Garcia…
….who would disdainfully raise her eyebrows if Botox hadn’t robbed her of that ability long ago in a way that is all the more soul-destroying because in that moment, said unfortunate contestant realizes that he/she/they simply don’t exist for her and never did.
And then Tim will say, in this wonderfully hearty and stirring way, “This is what we call a Make It Work Moment!!”
Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Mistake
Well, making this Sweet Potato Kale Curry was a total Make It Work moment for me. Because I did a very dumb thing, which was: I didn’t get all my ingredients out before hand. I say why one should never do this. Physician, heal theyself!! Or be forced to get through a Make It Work Moment.
I got my new (October 2018) issue of Clean Eating, and there’s this awesome article on spice blends. And there’s also a recipe for Squash, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry. (I’d give you the link here, but the recipe’s not online yet.)
Well, just a couple of days ago, Steve went to visit our friends at Frog Holler Farm, and he came home with this lovely butternut squash. Also, that morning, he mentioned we had some kale just kind of sitting in the fridge, and I nearly always sub kale for spinach, because the texture holds up better. Chickpeas? Tons of cans lying around. Ditto coconut milk. Also, it was an overcast rainy day and so really perfect for some curry.
So I start merrily following the recipe. First up: A really terrific homemade turmeric blend. This is a direct copy of the original recipe at Clean Eating (and I’ll link to it when it’s available); I’ve reproduced it below in half the amount.
There’s a little blurb in the magazine on the joy of turmeric, and this particular blend is generous with a bunch of other stuff, so mainly the turmeric adds color, because on its own it’s got kind of a weird dusty flavor. So I mixed that up straight away.
I heated the coconut oil, chopped up half an onion. We’re going gangbusters so far.
Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Joy of Improv
Then I say, “Hey, babe, did you bring in that squash from the farm?” “It’s in my car.”
I start to exit stage left—and then remember we left the car in Ann Arbor (the details are not that interesting). With the squash in it.
But I did have some sweet potatoes on the counter. So I thought, ok, a sweet potato will Make It Work. Phew! I peel and cube one, throw it in the onion pot that already also has some garlic and the spice blend in it, and add some broth. Everything’s bubbling away making a cozy sound.
Off to the garden to pick a bunch of basil, then wash it along with the kale. I happily chop my troubles away as the sweet potatoes cook up on the stove.
It’s time to add half of them to the blender with a can of coconut milk. Which…we don’t have.
How can this be? I’ve looked a at least 4 cans of coconut milk in my pantry for ages, thinking, why did I think I would use a small case of of coconut milk? (Because I was at Costco, that’s why. That place makes me think I’d better stock up for that army of epicures who are bound to kick down my door, demanding facsimiles of southeast Asian delicacies.)
I search my pantry and my apoteca, which is this kind of cool roll out door that holds the stuff that won’t fit in my smallish pantry, increasingly wild-eyed. There is no damn coconut milk.
Bauer, you can Make It Work! I told myself, feeling plucky despite my trembling lower lip. Quickly, I improvised. I had frozen a bunch of buttermilk in little 1/4 cup batches in the fridge. I threw four in the blender, along with a handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut, and a little almond milk. I blended in the sweet potatoes.
It actually worked. The buttermilk is thick and not out of place in a curry. The almond milk and coconut lent some nuttiness and sweetness.
So that was cool. I poured my coconut milk substitute into the sauce pan, being careful not to boil it (so it wouldn’t curdle), added the kale, and went to find the chickpeas.
Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: Continued Thrills
You probably saw this coming. I had dried chickpeas for days, which frankly were not going to do me a damn bit of good. But a can of cooked chickpeas? You know, one from the batch I’d bought at Costco that took forever to get rid of?
Forever, apparently, passed me by. Not a cooked chickpea in sight.
But in my frantic can search….what to my wondering eye should appear? Oh, for pity’s sake.
Well, I had a half cauliflower on hand. So I roasted it…
….because at this point, the dream of sweet potato kale curry for lunch had evaporated and I just ate some sort of snack.
I also had packs of rice and quinoa from Costco, which are just sitting there like all the six packs of things I get from Costco, so I threw one of those in.
My Make It Work Moment tended to be just like the ones on Project Runway—about an hour long. But I did make it work. I don’t recommend you reproduce my angst. Please get ingredients out ahead of time. Making It Work is gratifying, but slightly stressful. Then again, sometimes that frisson of panic is exactly the seasoning a dish needs. Bon appetit.
There’s a reason I had to come up with a decent-tasting tempeh stir fry.
Read about it, along with the step by step instructions, unless you want to just jump to the recipe. Also know that, if beef is your thing—or chicken or shrimp—this will work just fine.
I’ve been very open about my no-beef policy. But guess what picture stops my little heart every time I see it? (In a good way, mind you, not a CPR-requiring way.) Beef stir-fry. I see them all the time, the strips of meat looking all dark and salty next to bright green broccoli or asparagus and shocking red strips of bell pepper. And I think, hmmm, I want that. But….beef! Ick.
I’ve never been a huge burger fan, either, so this stir-fried beef visual craving is just plain weird.
(I’m not, by the way, going to try to convert any of you beef lovers out there. Truthfully, I don’t eat beef because the texture freaks me out, and I just don’t like how it tastes. BUT at a recent show at the California Academy of Sciences, this incredible museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, I saw the difference between the carbon footprint of a hamburger vs a turkey burger or veggie burger. Let’s just say I felt quite, quite smug and righteous, because that carbon footprint for one beef burger is Massive. Lessening your beef consumption really can make a huge positive difference to the planet. I mean, I believe the planet’s going to take care of itself; it’s just going to get pretty gnarly for us as a species to continue to live here, particularly with some of our more insane practices. One of which is destroying the rain forest—which we really require in order to breath—so MacDonald’s can make more money. And c’mon, those burgers are total crap, and also, how much money do those guys need? If you do eat beef, support a local ethical cattle farmer. They exist! That way, you help out a local farmer, which gets a big yay in my book, and you put higher quality fuel in your body. And if enough folks will make the switch, the rain forests and subsequently Planet Earth have a better shot at being healthy as well.)
Tempeh Stir-Fry: Why Tempeh?
According to many vegan cookbooks, the go-to alternative to beef is wheat gluten or seitan, which is pronounced very close to the name of the Great Deceiver Himself. Appropriate, because are you seriously going to chew on a big old piece of gluten? I mean, that just seems so, so wrong. Tofu I like, but it’s tofu. Nobody’s going to convince you it’s anything else, and I recognize that for most of the world, tofu is to them what beef is to me, i.e. a really bizarre texture and something most folks just don’t want to put in their mouths.
Tempeh Stir-Fry: The Marinade
So tempeh. Tempeh comes out of the package looking a bit weird and pebbly. You could just fry it, but you will probably be sad. Let’s admit that, in the flavor department, tempeh makes you wish for bland. Because bland is more interesting than tempeh. Here it is after marinating, and it STILL looks pretty boring.
But that marinade is the solution. And while I’m still experimenting, so far in my experience, only a soy-sauce based marinade does the trick. Tempeh needs the salt pretty seriously, or at least the salt flavor. A low sodium soy sauce will do the trick just fine. Give it at least four hours to soak, but for this recipe, I let it sit for 36 with no detriment.
Since Cold sesame noodles have sustained me through many a New York night. After all, weekly Chinese takeout stands as a hallowed tradition in any New York apartment without a decent kitchen—basically, every apartment I ever occupied during my years in the city.Read this little prologue, followed by a step by step, or jump to the recipe. Once I moved away, in 1999, I pretty much gave up cold sesame noodles. The ones I’ve sampled here in the midwest are pretty, pretty bad. I did have a bang-up recipe for them years ago, from fellow New Yorker Jane Brody’s Good Food Book. But once my daughter left home and the divorce went through, I found I was the only person craving them. My son never developed the taste.And yet, when friends recently popped by in this hottest of summer, I happened on the following version (with modifications, including very little sesame to speak of) and thought, what could be finer?
Note that there is no sesame in this version other than in the oil; I used peanut butter, so honestly, that title is a TOTAL shell game. Ha! I’ll best you yet, Google. OK, that actually isn’t possible. You can buy sesame paste—NOT tahini, which has a different preparation—at Asian markets, and you could replace the peanut butter with that. But you can buy peanut butter anywhere, and you could really use any nut butter you fancy or have on hand, I’m guessing, except coconut, which is distinctly sweet. OK, that paragraph was a lot longer than anticipated.
Here’s my adaptation of the “Saucy Asian Noodle Salad” from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates (Clarkson Potter, 2003). And here’s the cookbook if you want to check it out.
Step One: Prepare the dressing
The original version of this suggested marinating tofu. I blew this off as I’d decided to (forgive me, vegan and vegetarian friends) tea smoke some chicken as the protein. Here’s the formula:
4 parts nut butter
2 parts each soy sauce and citrus juice (I used limes, and liked them, though the original called for lemon; orange would also work)
1 part brown or coconut sugar (or skip it if you’re sugar averse)
1/2 part each rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil
grated fresh ginger and sriracha or gochujang to taste
Either way, add the nut butter last. If you want to marinade tofu or tempeh, use the dressing ingredients first without the nut butter. Then, after an hour or so, remove the tofu or tempeh and mix in the nut butter. Waiting to add it to the end makes it a lot easier to mix. And DO NOT use the marinade on any sort of raw meat, or you’ll have to discard it.
Step Two: Noodles and veggies
I used about 1.5 ounces of pasta per person, and I went with the recommended soba; both the texture and flavor work nicely. As an alternative, fresh egg noodles—the Asian kind, not the fat German or Eastern European ones—or ramen will do in a pinch. Grate about 1 carrot and 1 radish per person, and add a handful of chopped or baby greens per person as well. Since I had dandelion and baby bok choy on hand, but once again, any flavorful tender greens should do the trick.
Step Three: Mix it all together.
Exactly what the header says. Top with toasted sesame seeds, chopped nuts, crumbled seaweed, minced cilantro—whatever floats your boat. I was going to use sesame seeds, but Steve seems to have eaten them all, and by then I was all, dammit, I’m hungry. Just take the picture already.