Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of the things I really enjoy making is Quiche. I always have ingredients on hand to make one and it is a good way to use leftover bits of cheese and vegetables--the combinations are endless. Quiche is a good "crossover" dish. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, or a light supper. It's great during the changing of seasons when you are having those, can't figure out what to cook days. It is equally delicious piping hot from the oven or well-chilled for a picnic.

Because I have made so many quiches over the years, I have many memories attached to the dish. I once worked as the Cafe Cook in a very large Natural Foods Store, where one of my jobs was making the quiche of the day. I was given creative license and proceeded to put together many combinations of ingredients. People loved my quiches and I was very proud of them.

A recent memory involves a former coworker, Sam, who had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation and was out of work for about three months. His wife, Judy, also worked with us and I talked (listened) with her, daily, about Sam's progress and setbacks, and her own emotions, as he convalesced.

Prior to Sam's becoming ill, the three of us often had lunch together in the breakroom. One day, Sam became quite fascinated by a slice of leftover quiche I had brought for lunch. He'd never heard of it and asked a lot of questions. He asked for a recipe, which I provided. Over the next several days he would come by my office and ask questions like, "Can you use sausage?" "Can I use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables?" I assured him that yes, he could.

It was not long after that Sam was diagnosed and began treatment. He became very sick and lost an alarming amount of weight very quickly. As Judy and I talked, I suggested things he may be able to eat. One day I made him a quiche. A couple days later, Judy told me that it had been the first thing Sam had been able to eat, enjoy, and keep down, in weeks. I continued to make quiches for him on a regular basis.

I was very humbled, when Sam was well enough to come back to work, and told me, "That quiche was a life saver."


1 pie crust

8 oz. cheese

3 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups cream

vegetables and seasonings of choice

Prick the pie crust, all over, with a fork and bake for five minutes only, in a preheated 450 degree oven. Grate or crumble the cheese and place over crust. Placing the cheese directly on the crust forms a barrier and prevents the crust from becoming soggy. Arrange seasoned, sauteed vegetables of your choosing on top of the cheese. Mix together the eggs and cream and pour over the vegetables. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350, and continue to bake 15 to 30 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of the quiche comes out clean.

This quiche is made with cheddar cheese, leftover hash brown potatoes and spinach.

Go ahead and experiment with quiche baking. It's fun. . .broccoli and blue cheese, spinach and feta, apple and white cheddar, carmelized onion, the list goes on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cornbread Tuna Melt

Here's a quick and easy one, for those busy evenings. Make a batch of cornbread, even a box of Jiffy mix. While that is baking, make up your favorite tuna salad recipe. When the cornbread is done, cut into servings and top with a scoop of tuna salad. Top with a slice of tomato (avocado is delicious here) then cheese and melt under the broiler.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer Squash Pickles

Summer Squash Pickles

8 cups sliced summer squash
2 cups sliced sweet onion
1 Tbsp. sea salt (or kosher salt)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. mixed pickling spices

Combine the squash and onions in a very large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside for one hour. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the squash and onions and bring to a simmer. Pack into hot sterilized jars, following lid manufacturer's directions for sealing and adjusting the lids. Process in boiling water for time recommended

These pickles are delicious with roasted meats.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Clinging to the Final Throes of Summer

I am not one of the people who look forward to the end of summer and the beginning of fall, with the cooler temperatures. I love summer and I never want it to end. I wince at the first sight of a pumpkin.

A trip to the Farmers Market, last week, yielded what is probably about the last of the summer vegetables, which I made into soup for the winter. I got out my biggest pot and starting building the layers.

First the tomatoes

Then the onions

The okra

Potatoes go in

Tiny sliced eggplant are layered on

Corn is added

And lastly, the squash

I covered the pan and brought it to a simmer. After the vegetables started softening, I added some sea salt, and after about an hour, I had soup ready to be canned. In the winter, meat, grains, garlic, spices or other ingredients can be added to make a more substantial soup or stew.

The soup

Friday, September 18, 2009

Home Canned Summer Tomatoes

What is better than a vine ripened summer tomato? Rather, what is second to a vine ripened summer tomato? Jars of vine ripened summer tomatoes, home canned. Popping open one of these beauties, in winter, when it is freezing outside, releases the aroma of summer tomatoes and the memory of sun filled days.

I want to share my enthusiam for home canning, and some advice from my experience. I do my canning following the guidelines of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Please educate yourself on safe food handling and canning practices before beginning a project such as this. There is a lot of work involved, and the last thing you want is having your jars of food spoiling.

Begin with perfect fruit and wash thoroughly with fresh water and a vegetable brush.

To peel, plunge the fruits into boiling water, then into cold water, the skins will slip right off.

Core the tomatoes, slice if desired, and bring to a boil.

While working on your tomatoes, sterilize your clean jars in simmering water and keep hot until ready to pack. Follow manufacturer's directions for the lids, some want to be boiled, some not, depending on the sealing compound used.

Process your jars of tomatoes according to the recommendations of your area. I live at a higher altitude, so have to process a little longer than some may.

The pops and pings of the jars sealing is musical and satisfying.

I bought 2 twenty-five pound boxes of tomatoes at the Farmers Market for $8 each and I got 10 quarts of tomatoes from each one. I already had the jars, most passed along to me from my Mother-in-law, Phloxy, who no longer cans. With the cost of lids (cheap) and fuel, I still spent less than $1 per quart of tomatoes.

And I have provenance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cobb Salad

I finally made it to see Julie and Julia today and I loved it! Really though, what wouldn't I love? Julia Child is a longtime hero of mine, add a food blogger becoming a stellar success, and Meryl Streep on top of that?

I didn't know when I decided to make Cobb Salad last night, for the first time, there would be a restaurant scene in the movie, with Cobb Salads ordered all around. I didn't even know, yet, I was going to see the movie today. I am so glad my husband asked me out, on a rainy afternoon, to see a matinee.

I used the traditional ingredients for the salad; chicken, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, tomato, egg, plus lettuce. I handled all my ingredients very carefully. I bought a head of Romaine lettuce, which I washed, snaped into pieces (never wrung, twisted, or cut with a knife) then spun dry. I wrapped it in kitchen towels, then refrigerated until it became extra crisp. I cooked the bacon, then chicken breasts, which I cut into strips, on my stovetop grill pan.

I did not use a traditional composition for the salad. In the original, the toppings were diced and arranged in rows covering the lettuce. I didn't chop the ingredients too much so I could have more control of fork by forkful tasting. I wanted to choose just the right amount of say, chicken and tomato, bacon and avocado, egg to cheese.

Here is the dressing I made, which maintains the Worchestershire of the original, but not nearly the amount of oil.

Cobb Salad Dressing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
Whisk together all ingredients except the oil. Then, add in a slow, steady stream, the olive oil, whisking briskly, until all is blended.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Eggplant has been especially beautiful and abundant at the Farmers Market this summer and I have bought many sizes, shapes, and colors of it. Moussaka is an eggplant dish I have been familiar with, but not eaten or cooked before. With all these gorgeous eggplants around, it seemed the perfect time to try it out.

I turned to the internet for a recipe and found many variations and much passion for this dish. The only constant, really, is the eggplant. Bechamel or cheese? Cinnamon or no cinnamon? Sultanas? Lamb or beef?

I decided on a Tyler Florence recipe which uses feta and parmesan cheeses rather than bechamel, and also a small amount of cinnamon. I tampered with his recipe of course. I used 1 pound of ground beef, rather than 2 pounds of ground lamb. I grilled the eggplant, rather than fried it. I used fresh, rather than canned tomatoes, and I did not peel my eggplant. I still consider it Tyler's recipe and I was surprised and delighted by how delicious it was.

3 - 3 1/2 pounds fresh eggplant
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, sliced into thin circles
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 pound fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Slice the eggplant, lengthwise, into 1/4 inch slices. Salt and pepper both sides and grill, on a lightly oiled grill, until tender.

While the eggplant are cooking, heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, lemon, oregano, and parsley. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the ground beef, stirring to break up the meat. When no longer pink, stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish with a third of the eggplant, leaving no gaps. Spread half of the meat sauce over the eggplant. Sprinkle with half the feta and Parmesan. Repeat the layers again, ending with a final layer of eggplant. Cover the top with a layer of bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

October Beans

During my trip to the Farmers Market yesterday, I saw that the cherries, peaches, and melons of summer had given way to field beans, cabbages, sweet potatoes, and scuppernongs. Tomatoes are still abundant and I saw a large field of ripe, red tomatoes being picked, on my way to the market.

I was happy to see the October beans and bought a bag full. The shells are very easy to open and the beans look like you hope they will, ivory colored, with red splotches and specks, just like the shells.
The beans have a creamy texture and a mild nutty flavor. I was disappointed the first time I made them and discovered they don't keep their pretty color when cooked. The specks disappear and they turn a brown color, not that different looking than a pinto bean, but their taste and texture is more like a great northern or navy bean. The October bean's delicious taste more than compensates for the fading of its beauty.
I enjoyed my visit, as I always do, to the Farmers Market. I like hearing the mountain bluegrass music, seeing all the displays of fresh fruits and vegetables, preserves, jellies, sourwood honey, mountain crafts. I love the lively atmosphere, lack of pretension, and friendly people.
When I came home, I cooked a simple country supper of October beans with country ham, braised cabbage, baked golden sweet potatoes, sliced tomato, and cornbread muffins.