Thursday, March 28, 2013

Goat cheese and smoked salmon quiche has a hash-brown crust

I thought I'd come up with an original idea: goat cheese quiche in a hash-brown crust. Inspiration came from a light lunch in a New York City restaurant (the quiche) and a leisurely breakfast at my daughter's apartment (the hash browns).

I Googled "goat cheese quiche" to get an idea of the proportions of egg to cheese to milk, and what popped up? Lots of links to Martha Stewart's goat cheese quiche with hash-brown crust.

I borrowed her recipe for the crust, substituting oil for butter and greasing the pan well instead of laboriously lining it with parchment. (I also used a pie plate instead of Martha's springform pan.) For the filling, I riffed on a recipe I've had for years, swapping goat cheese for the sour cream and adding fresh dill, green onions and smoked salmon. Martha, never one to shy away from excess, calls for 11 eggs in the filling of her quiche. I used four.

You can vary the filling any way you like, perhaps using cooked crumbled bacon or sausage or sauteed spinach or mushrooms or roasted red pepper. Just make sure that you cook the vegetables until as much liquid as possible evaporates. Otherwise, the quiche may be watery.

Yield: 6 servings

16 ounces frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed completely
5 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil or melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup milk
6 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
2 ounces smoked salmon, flaked into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a deep-dish pie plate.

Squeeze as much moisture as possible from the potatoes; place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, oil or butter, salt and pepper. Add to potatoes; mix well. Pat potatoes into pie plate, making a compact, even layer across the bottom and up the sides. Bake until the potatoes are firm and start to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 4 eggs with the milk. Break the goat cheese into small pieces and add it to the egg mixture, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the dill and green onion.

When the crust is done, remove the pie plate from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour the egg mixture into the crust. Scatter salmon evenly into the filling. Return to the oven. Cover the edge of the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent burning. Bake until the filling is set, puffed and starts to brown, about 35 minutes. When done, a knife inserted into the center of the filling will come out clean.

Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Note: The salmon, cheese, dill and green onions provide so much flavor that the filling doesn't need salt or pepper.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saying 'thank you' with coconut-chocolate banana bread

We have the best neighbors -- when our area was buried under a foot a snow on Sunday, the man across the street hauled out his snow-blower and cleared everyone's driveways, walkways and sidewalks.

I decided to say "thank you" with baked goods. I took inventory of my pantry, paged through my cookbooks, and came up with this sweet, coconut- and chocolate-flecked banana bread. This recipe can be doubled easily; if you make two loaves, use three whole eggs rather than two eggs and two yolks.

Yield: 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil, vegetable oil or melted and cooled unsalted butter
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate or mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

If using coconut oil, melt in the microwave on low power, checking every 10 seconds. The oil should liquefy, but do not let it get hot.

In a medium bowl, stir together banana, oil and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until combined. Fold in flaked coconut and chocolate. Scrape into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Springtime herbs give flavor boost to matzo balls

Spring herbs make a natural addition to matzo balls, the soup dumplings that are part of many Passover menus.

I've been making this matzo ball recipe ever since the then-owners of Pumpernickle's Delicatessen in St. Louis shared it years ago. The herbs are a more recent addition.

I love the flavor of dill in chicken soup, and chives and parsley also are delicious. The matzo balls in the photo are flavored with chives, which are sprouting in a pot on my patio despite the lingering cold. You could use other herbs as well -- basil and chervil come to mind.

When you make this recipe, don't skip the resting time for the uncooked matzo ball mixture. Otherwise, the matzo balls will cook up leaden, not fluffy.

Yield: about 14

1 1/2 cups matzo meal
2 tablespoons chopped dill, parsley or chives, or a combination
6 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cold water

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt and matzo meal in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk until well combined. Sprinkle herbs into bowl; whisk to distribute the herbs.

Combine eggs, oil and water in a medium bowl.Whisk until combined completely. Add to dry ingredients; mix with a large spatula until only a few small lumps remain, making sure there are no streaks of egg white. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a brisk simmer. Oil your hands lightly. Use your hands or an oiled ice-cream scoop to scoop up about 3 tablespoons of the mixture; roll lightly between your hands to form a ball. (The matzo balls will double in size as they cook.) Drop into the simmering water. When all the matzo balls have been formed, cover the pot and simmer for 35 minutes. To test for doneness, cut a matzo ball in half. The color should be consistent -- if the center is darker, return to the simmering water and cook for 5 more minutes.

To serve, drop the balls into hot chicken soup. If making ahead, transfer matzo balls to a bowl of ice water; keep at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate overnight. Reheat for a few minutes in a pot of hot chicken soup. Matzo balls also can be frozen on parchment-covered cookie sheets, then stored in plastic freezer bags.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"Passover Made Easy" is imaginative, attractive and frequently gluten-free

"Passover Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes" takes potato starch to a new -- and delicious -- level. The bonus? Most of the recipes in the book are gluten-free, so even if you don't observe Passover, this book is worth a look.

(Potato starch is just what it sounds like -- a pure white powder made from potatoes. It's often used as a thickener, but the authors of this book frequently employ it as a flour. You can find potato starch in the spring at supermarkets that carry Passover foods, and Amazon sells several brands.)

Leah Schapria, author of, and Victoria Dwek, managing editor of the kosher food magazine Whisk (published weekly by Ami Magazine), have compiled 60 interesting recipes in this attractive new book ($15.99 Mesorah Publications, Ltd.). The dishes that rely on potato starch include crepes (which double as egg-roll wrappers and lo mein noodles), crackers, chicken nuggets with apricot dipping sauce, banana french toast,  frozen lemon wafer cake, and chocolate-nut biscotti.

The book is beautifully photographed, and each chapter begins with step-by-step explanations of how to plate one of the dishes, which is a nice touch.

My only quibble is that the book seems geared toward experienced cooks; the ingredient lists and directions can be inexact. If you need details -- what type of chocolate to use in a cake, how much oil to pour into the pan when deep-frying, the size of a squash best-suited for a specific recipe --  this book probably isn't for you. If you're an experienced cook who's looking for something new and unusual, however, I think you'll find a lot to like.

These nuggets are a family-favorite meal that can be enjoyed year-round. The authors suggest also using the batter to make fried fish or onion rings.

(To see a recipe for Spaghetti Squash Kugel from "Passover Made Easy," click here.)

Yield: 4 servings

For sauce:
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed (see tester's note)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch coarse black pepper

For chicken:
1 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons oil, plus more for deep-frying
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets, cut into nuggets

Prepare the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine jam, sugar, ketchup, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Prepare the chicken: In a medium bowl, stir together potato starch, salt, paprika and baking powder. In a small bowl, stir together water, 2 teaspoons oil and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chicken.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat. When oil begins shimmering, add chicken nuggets a few at a time, letting excess batter drip back into the bowl. Fry nuggets in batches if necessary, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes; drain on paper towels.

Remove crushed garlic from sauce. Serve nuggets with dipping sauce or toss sauce and nuggets together in a hot skillet.

Tester's note: The recipe suggests preparing the sauce while the nuggets are frying. I made it in advance, which gave the flavors time to meld. In addition, I put the garlic through a press rather than crushing it.

Recipe adapted from "Passover Made Easy" and photo from "Passover Made Easy" used by permission of the publisher.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Savory Spaghetti Squash Kugel is gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher for Passover

Recipes that swap spaghetti squash for spaghetti are often unsuccessful. Despite their similar appearances, the two ingredients taste nothing alike.

This recipe, however, is an exception. The flavor of spaghetti squash blends perfectly with an abundance of onions and a touch of garlic in a satisfying, savory side dish.

Kugels are a Jewish dish that can be sweet or savory and usually feature egg noodles or potatoes. Some are made with dairy ingredients, while others, meant to be served with meat, contain no milk. I've seen dozens of variations -- I've even judged a kugel contest -- but this version was new to me.

It's one of 60 recipes in a new book, "Passover Made Easy," by Leah Scapira and Victoria Dwek. (For my review of the book and their recipe for Schnitzel Nuggets With Apricot Dipping Sauce, click here.)

The authors give two methods of precooking the squash: baking it for an hour or microwaving it for 10 minutes. I went with the microwave. As I was getting ready to scoop out the seeds, my eye fell upon a dipper-type ice cream scoop. I gave it a try and was happy to discover that it removed the seeds easily and quickly.

Yield: 6 servings

1 large spaghetti squash (see tester's note)
1 tablespoon oil
2 onions, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper or less to taste

To precook squash in the oven: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash squash and place in a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice squash in half and remove seeds. Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees.

To precook squash in the microwave: Cook for 1 minute to soften. Cut in half and remove seeds. Place cut-side down in a dish with 1/2 inch of water. Microwave for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute onions until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

Using a fork, scrape the strands of squash into a large bowl. Add onions; mix well. Add eggs, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Pour into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake until kugel is crispy on top, about 1 hour.

Tester's note: The original recipe didn't specify the size of spaghetti squash. I used a small squash and baked the kugel in an 8-by-10-inch dish. If you use a small squash, you might want to reduce the number of eggs to 3 or use small eggs and reduce the amount of black pepper to 3/4 teaspoon.

Recipe adapted from "Passover Made Easy" and photo from "Passover Made Easy" used with permission of the publisher.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coconut-banana muffins are dairy-free

These muffins are loaded with ripe, sweet bananas and a triple dose of coconut -- coconut oil, coconut milk, and sweetened flaked coconut. What they don't have is even a trace of dairy.

Coconut oil is trendy right now, touted for its health benefits and sold in most supermarkets. You'll see two types, extra-virgin and refined. I used extra-virgin, which has a slight coconut flavor and a lovely coconut fragrance. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. I found that melting it in the microwave gives the muffins a better texture. Follow the instructions and watch carefully so the oil doesn't heat up. If you don't have coconut oil, you can substitute vegetable oil or melted butter, but the flavor and texture might be a bit different.

You also could substitute cow's milk for the coconut milk, but again, you'll lose a bit of coconut flavor. Regular and reduced-fat coconut milk is sold in cans in ethnic markets and many supermarkets, usually the section for Thai foods. You can refrigerate the leftover coconut milk -- you'll have about a cup left -- and use it in curries or even puddings.

Yield: About 12 muffins

1/2 cup coconut oil
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (9 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups or use paper liners.

Place coconut oil in a glass bowl. Microwave on medium-low power (30 percent or defrost setting) for about 4 minutes or until oil liquefies and warms slightly. If oil is hot, set it aside until it cools.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, coconut milk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

Using a wooden spoon, stir granulated and brown sugar into oil. Whisk in banana mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk just until combined. Don't overmix or the muffins will be tough. Gently stir in flaked coconut and chocolate chips

Scoop a scant 1/2 cup of batter into each muffin cup. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with just a few clinging crumbs, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then remove muffins to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Copyright 2013 by Judith Evans. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Smoky sweet potato hash for supper, breakfast or brunch

I know it's not a good idea to go grocery shopping when you're  hungry, but I probably shouldn't shop when I'm full, either. That was the case on Saturday, when I hit the supermarket on the way home from a culinary event.

I picked up the basics -- milk, eggs, bread, fruit, veggies -- but I was having trouble deciding which meats looked appealing. Then I spied a package of smoked pork chops. These weren't the mass-market brand, which tend to release a ton of water when you put them into the pan. Instead, they were from a Missouri smokehouse, Burgers'. If you make this recipe -- or anything with smoked pork -- seeking out artisan-quality meat will be worth the effort and any additional price.

The chops went into my cart, and later, into this hash. It's a hearty meal with a satisfying combination of  flavors and textures. To reduce cooking time considerably, start the potatoes in the microwave, then saute them with the onions just until they brown. The pork was so tasty that I didn't want to overcomplicate the dish with herbs or other seasonings, so I stopped at salt and black pepper. And cooked in a covered pan on a blanket of hash, the eggs develop a soft, almost custardy consistency.

Yield: 2 servings (see note)

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 smoked pork chop (about 8 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 4 eggs

Wash sweet potatoes and pierce the top of each two or three times with the tip of a paring knife. Microwave on high until tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes, depending on their size. Cut in half lengthwise and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Peel, discarding skin; cut sweet potatoes into 3/4-inch cubes.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or a nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring frequently, until it softens. Add cubed sweet potatoes; cooking, stirring gently, until they begin to brown. If sweet potatoes stick to the skillet, add up to 1 tablespoon additional butter.

Meanwhile, cut pork into bite-size pieces, discarding excess fat and the bone. Add pork, pepper and salt to the skillet; stir well.

Make two or four shallow indentations in the hash. One at a time, break eggs into a small cup and slide into the indentations. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook until eggs are done, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Note: This recipe can be doubled and cooked in a 12-inch skillet. You'll need to microwave the potatoes for about 12 minutes.

Copyright 2013 by Judith Evans. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bean salad for a crowd features artichokes, hearts of palm

Hearts of palm and artichoke hearts in bean salad? You bet -- they're just two of the ingredients that make this version unique.

The recipe is a slight variation of one that Neiman Marcus shared with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a few years ago. (For that recipe, click here.) Like the original recipe tester, I thought the salad had too much dressing or not enough beans. This version, though, is just right.

I made this salad for a recent gathering of 16 women and had leftovers. I continued the picnic-in-winter theme with Slow-Cooker Barbecue Beef Sandwiches, made with 6 pounds of chuck roast instead of arm roast, and Deviled Eggs.

This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but it goes together quickly. To make it even easier, buy quartered artichoke hearts and pieces of hearts of palm, then cut into small segments if necessary.

Yield: About 12 cups

For salad:
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can pinto beans or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1  (14- to 15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1  (14- to 15-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and cut in thirds on the diagonal
2 cups diced celery
1 cup finely diced or thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

For dressing:
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 roasted red pepper, chopped coarsely (see note)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the salad. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add grean beans and cook just until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water. When beans are done cooking, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice water. Let cool, then drain well, pat dry and cut into thirds on the diagonal.

Place green beans in a large bowl. Add canned beans, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, celery, red onion and 1/4 cup parsley. Toss to mix well.

Prepare the dressing. Combine all the ingredients in a blender; process until well combined, about 30 seconds.

Pour dressing over salad mixture and stir gently but well. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Return to room temperature before serving. (Salad keeps well for up to a week.)

Note: If you don't want to buy an entire jar of roasted red peppers or roast a pepper yourself, check the olive bar in your supermarket.

Copyright 2013 by Judith Evans. All rights reserved.