Joie de Vivre Quiche

Whee!  The quiche worked out great!  It could definitely use some tweaking, but I am pretty happy with the result. I made it this morning, had a piece for breakfast, and ate another for lunch.  I don’t even want to know how many points it has.  Points are not relevant when you’re discussing French food, anyway.

First, before I get all hypercritical about the results, let me just say it’s very, very edible.

Quiche, plated

One Slice Gone

Now.  Down to business.

The short crust technique that Child (et al) calls for in this recipe is a bit different from how I make pie crust. And my pie crust is all kinds of awesome.  Just ask my husband, who complains regularly and loudly about the complete dearth of pie crust in our house. But, hey, I can’t just have all that butter and lard hanging around. Bad things would happen.

So, back to quiche.  Which is like pie, but not pie, and not enough like pie for me to have spent all this time talking about pie.  And, damnit, now I want pie.  I will have to stick with quiche.

I promised myself I would be true and faithful to the Book and not make any changes to the recipe, like subbing something I thought would taste better (even though I didn’t even know what the original recipe tasted like yet) or leaving out a step that seemed annoying or redundant.  And I did pretty well with that.  There was a slight alteration with equipment, which one can hopefully forgive since I wasn’t about to go out and buy a quiche pan just to make a quiche.  Not when I have forty seven pie plates and cake pans and tart pans and who knows what else hanging around this kitchen.  So I made do with a 9″ springform cake pan.  It’s not ideal, but it worked well enough that I’ll use it again next time.  I also fudged one little ingredient.  See, the spinach quiche recipe refers to the Leek quiche recipe for the proportions of egg and cream.  And the Leek recipe refers to the Quiche Lorraine recipe.  And the Quiche Lorraine recipe has a baconless variation that says you can either use part cream and part milk, or all milk.  So even though the Spinach quiche via the Leek quiche called for all cream, I didn’t have any cream and didn’t want to waste half-and-half on a quiche, so I used all milk.  Ahem.

So, first, there was a partially baked shell.

Partially baked shell

Actually, first there was defrosting and de-liquiding of the frozen spinach.  Then there was dough.  Then there was refrigeration.

Ingredients

And THEN there was a partially baked shell.

It came together like this:

2 cups of sifted AP flour, 1/2 tsp of table salt, and two pinches of sugar, mixed together in a bowl.

Then there is a large quantity of butter that shows up, cut into small bits. The butter should probably be chilled for a couple of minutes after cutting it up into bits. Oh– and here was my only “I thumb my nose at you, Julia Child!” moment. She says to use 1/4 pound (1 stick, or 8 TBS) of butter and 3 TBS of VEGETABLE SHORTENING. Ack. Vegetable shortening does not exist in my world. So I used all butter. (Perhaps I could have used some lard, but I did not.) Anyway.

Butter!

Now you gently and quickly rub the butter bits with the flour between your fingertips. The idea is to encase the butter in a sheath of flour so that, when it bakes, it makes lovely flaky crust. That’s a lame explanation but I’m ready to move on with this blog post.

Cutting in fats

Rubbing butter and flour together

Rubbing butter and flour together

Please do not look at these photos as a definitive example of how to do this. This is the first time I’ve used my fingers to make crust. And while the crust was good, it was not perfect (though I think the problem was with the pre-baking, not the rubbing). Still, let me just disclaim right here that I have no idea what I’m doing rubbing butter and flour between my fingers. The Book said to do it. And I quote:

Il faut mettre la main à la pâte!

See?  So we Rub.

Eventually (it took me about 10 minutes), we have this:

Flour and fat combined using fingers

a blurry picture of flaky, shaggy dough bits.

Next, you add 5 T of ice water. It’s best to sprinkle it over the dough as you gather it with your hand shaped like a backhoe.

Moistening dough

If you just pour the water in, the dough on top will be puddly and sticky and you’ll have to work the bowl too much to get the bottom dough incorporated. Sprinkle.  I don’t know how to say “sprinkle” in French, but do that anyway.

Gather the dough on a board and make it into a ball.

Gathering dough ball

Then you fraisage.

Fraisage is a French word that means “a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches.” Basically.

Frissage

This was very hard for me, because while I like to make bread and have done the fraisage thing many times (on BREAD DOUGH), I have never, never, never EVER ever never fraisaged (is that even a word?!) a crust.  That goes against everything I have ever learned or heard or known about crust-making.  It was hard to trust the Book.  But I did it.

Finally, you pretty up the dough ball and smooth it out with just a couple of quick kneading-like movements. And then you pose for the camera.

Ball of dough, ready for chilling

Wrap and chill. The Book says 2 hours or overnight. I was exhausted already, so I opted for overnight.

This morning, fresh and full of coffee, I took my little ball of dough out of the fridge and rolled it out.  I made it big enough to fit my [very nonstandard springform] quiche pan.

Short-paste shell

Shell

Shell

And then other things were happening in the kitchen, like kids wanting breakfast and telephones ringing and all sorts of chaos, so I do not have photos of my very clever weight-system for baking the unfilled crust. I used a slightly smaller cake pan (8″) on top of the crust, which everybody does, but since I do not have any dried beans in my house, I put two water-filled ramekins in it to hold the whole shebang together. And then I dutifully baked it at 400F for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes, I took the weights out, pricked the bottom of the crust a few times with a fork, and let it bake about 2 minutes more.

Partially bake shell

While that was happening, I assembled the filling ingredients.

Three eggs:

Eggs

A shallot, diced fine and sauteed in 2T of butter:

Sautee shallots

Not pictured are 2 cups of milk, a defrosted and drained package of frozen spinach, some nutmeg, salt and pepper, and 2 oz of Gruyère cheese.  Well, they are pictured here, just already mixed with the other ingredients.

The filling

Except the cheese.  It goes on top.  Like this:

Ready for the oven

Back to the shell, though.  When the shell was partially baked, I removed it from the oven and took off the springform ring. It seemed unnecessarily precarious to try to get the shell off the pan bottom, so I put the shell still on the metal bottom right into a 10″ pie plate. If you look closely, you can see the metal under the shell in the previous picture. This arrangement held everything together nicely and -bonus- the pie plate also caught a tiny bit of filling that overflowed when I put this contraption back in the oven. I will use that technique again.

And then I baked it for about 30 minutes at 375F, and life was mostly good.

Finished spinach quiche

Finished quiche

The filling was set perfectly, but the all-milk was a little… milky.  It was kind of bland, especially when you had a bite of all filling and no crust. Next time I will either use half and half or suck it up and go buy cream. It’s good- don’t get me wrong, but it could be so much good-er.  It also needed a bit more salt.  Again, that could be due to the lower fat content.

The side of the crust was fabuloso. (Sorry, I think that might be Italian.) The bottom, however, was a little underdone. Next time, I will bake the shell longer before adding the filling.

What a shame that I will have to make this recipe again.

Spinach quiche

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Salsa!

I did some canning this year, but it’s been more of the small-batch, gourmet, let’s-see-if-we-can-win-a-ribbon-at-the-county-fair* variety than serious, I-don’t-want-to-starve-this-winter, marathon mega-canning.  I’ve come to terms with my neurotic food hoarding as well as my ridiculous overzealousness when it comes to new things to try in the kitchen, so this year involved an impressive but sensible number and variety of jars.

Tonight’s festivities centered around a zesty roasted salsa, my take on the venerable Ball book’s “Zesty Salsa” recipe.  I did go a little overboard with the roasting, which is not called for at all in the Ball recipe but a step which I, personally, find almost obligatory these days.  After discovering the absolutely breathtaking sweetness of roasted onions and the depth of flavor that dry heat lends to peppers, I wouldn’t make it any other way.

This is the third year I’ve made this recipe.  It’s not difficult, but it is quite time consuming, especially with all the chopping and roasting that’s involved.  Personally, I think it’s all worth it.  If you aren’t impressed by roasted veggies, then you probably ought not try this recipe, or you’ll be very tired and somewhat underwhelmed after it’s all over.  But if you’re in the know, by all means – give it a try.

I heated my oven to 450 degrees F, then lined two baking sheets with aluminum foil.  I took a bunch (yes, that is a very imprecise number) of Roma tomatoes and halved them, then placed them cut-side down on the sheets, cramming as many on each sheet as would fit.

Roasted tomatoes

I roasted them for 30 minutes, at which point I took them out and tossed them into a paper bag.  I sealed up the bag and let it sit in a large bowl (to catch leaks) for another 15 minutes, or however long it took them to cool off so I could handle them.  The bag causes the tomatoes to steam somewhat, making them super-easy to peel.

Meanwhile, on the same pans, I placed two yellow onions, peeled & quartered, and two red onions, also peeled & quartered.  The onions were very large, a bit bigger than my fist.   I also put about a dozen cloves of garlic, UNPEELED; then there was room for about three very large bell peppers (halved, seeded and de-veined) and a handful of semi-hot peppers (whole).  Roast the onions and peppers for another thirty minutes.  Take the garlic out after about 15 minutes or it will get mushy.

Roasted peppers

The recipe then becomes as follows:

  • 10 cups roasted Roma tomatoes, peeled after roasting and most of the seeds removed (I wasn’t overly picky about removing the seeds)
  • 5 cups roasted onions, a mix of red and sweet yellow, chopped.  I got about 4 cups out of the onions I roasted, then added another large red onion, raw, chopped, to make 5 cups.
  • 5 cups roasted bell peppers, seeded & chopped.  Again, I had to cut up a few other raw peppers to make the five cups.  I peeled the roasted ones.
  • 2-ish cups of roasted semi-hot peppers, peeled, seeded & chopped.  If you like things hot hot hot, leave some seeds in.  Or add hot pepper sauce.  Or use hotter peppers.  I was going for zesty rather than eye-watering, so I took the seeds and veins out.
  • a dozen cloves of roasted garlic, peeled & chopped.  I like roasted garlic.  If you roast it longer, it will get soft like butter and you can use it as such.  That’s a different recipe, however.
  • a Tablespoon of dried cilantro, or a couple Ts of chopped fresh cilantro.
  • 1 1/4 cups of apple cider vinegar.
  • 1 tsp salt.  I don’t think it even needs this much, to be honest.  The original recipe calls for a T and I think that is serious overkill.

Start your jars going in the waterbath canner and get the lids heating up (don’t boil them, of course).  Put all the ingredients into a large pot and start cooking.  When the pot reaches the boil, reduce heat slightly and cook at a strong simmer for about 10 minutes, until any raw veggies are softened and the salsa thickens up a bit.  Turn off heat.

Fill jars with hot salsa, leaving 1/2″ headspace, and process in the boiling water canner for 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts.  I got 7 pint jars and 1 1/2 of those 8-oz jelly jars out of this recipe.  The jelly jars are nice to give as gifts, or if you just want “a little bit” of salsa.  I wouldn’t bother with the quarts unless you go through some serious quantities of it at one time.

Roasted Salsa

*We did.  Three, as a matter of fact!

Salsa

Tonight I am making a second batch of “Zesty Roasted Pepper & Garlic Salsa”. It’s really, really damn good. In my opinion, of course. But if you were to eat some, I’m fairly sure it would be your opinion, too.

Yum

The recipe is based on the “Zesty Salsa” recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Judy Kingry, Lauren Devine) and was the perfect way to use up the overabundance of peppers and tomatoes on my counter.

Semi-hot peppers

At a friend’s suggestion (yes, yes, you get credit for this, L!) I roasted most of the peppers, some of the onion, and all the garlic (using one head of roasted for each clove of minced that the recipe called for). The results were smooth, smoky, rich and comfortably spicy. It’s so fine, I feel completely compelled to share.

Roasted pepper-garlic salsa

Zesty Roasted Pepper Garlic Salsa

  • 10 cups peeled, diced tomatoes (about 6-7 pounds tomatoes)
  • 7 1/2 cups chopped peppers: I used approximately 5 cups of a combination of roasted, skinned jalapenos, hot cherry peppers, hot italian frying peppers, yellow and red peppers. The rest were unroasted, seeded and diced semi-hot peppers.
  • 5 cups chopped onion: I used about 1 cup roasted red onion, 3 1/2 cups chopped fresh yellow onion, and 1/2 cup chopped fresh red onion
  • 5 heads of roasted garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T dried cilantro flakes (totally optional)
  • 1 T salt (I like kosher, but use what you have)

A few notes on the ingredients:

If you can, use Roma (or a similar paste-type) tomatoes. Globe tomatoes are pretty watery, which means your salsa will be watery, too. However, both paste and globe tomatoes are tasty, and I don’t mind watery salsa. You can also squeeze your tomatoes before measuring them if you want to reduce the amount of liquid.

To roast peppers, you can hold them over the flame of your gas stove or put them on the grill, but I like the oven. I can do a lot of peppers at once without a lot of hassle. Basically you just put your peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet, stick them in the oven at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so, and that’s it. The skins will turn blackish in spots and will split and blister. This is perfect. Let them get mushy and look like used-up balloons. Take them out of the oven and put them directly into a paper bag, close up the bag, and steam them for about 10 minutes more before peeling/seeding and chopping them. A tip: cover your baking sheet with aluminum or tin foil before roasting to make clean-up easier. Oh, and wear gloves when you’re peeling and chopping them.

Roasted Jalapenos

To roast garlic, I whack off the top of the garlic head so that I can see a little bit of each clove. Place the trimmed heads in the center of a piece of foil, close up the foil to make a little packet, and stick that in the oven along with your peppers. It takes about 40-50 minutes to roast the garlic this way. Remove the packet from the oven and let it cool. Open the foil, take one of the garlic heads and squeeze the base of it gently to push the garlic pulp up and out of the skins. The garlic will be soft and practically spreadable (some people do like to use roasted garlic as a spread, in fact).

If you are one of those insane hot-foods people you can also add some hot pepper sauce to your salsa, though I think the best flavor comes from using hot peppers instead.

To make your salsa, dump all of the ingredients into a big pot. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the flame and let it cook at a strong simmer/gentle boil for about 10 minutes. The salsa will thicken a bit. Cook it until it’s the texture that you like (though I’d advise against cooking it terribly long, as it will just get mushy and icky).

Cooked salsa

Put the hot salsa into prepared canning jars, cover them with lids and rings, and process. I did the first batch in a water bath canner for 15 minutes, and the second batch in the pressure canner at 10 psi for about the same time. I like to use the pressure canner just to get all the processing done at once, though it’s plenty acidic to do in the boiling water-bath. The recipe makes 8 – 9 pints.

Enjoy!

Finished salsa

A Gift for Every Occasion

Here’s an idea that took care of at least two of the 9,320,235,412 pieces of art the kids have generated thus far:

1. We started off with a watercolor painting that the girls did on regular old copy paper. I laminated each painting with laminating sheets, cut the laminated pages in half, and creased each half to make a “cover” for a book.

Kid's watercolor paintings

2. I cut some more copy paper – about four sheets for each book – just slightly smaller than the cover, then creased and stapled them inside the cover to make the “pages”.

Journal

3. Since the girls were using these particular ones, I covered the staples with clear packing tape to help prevent them from getting scratched. Et voila! A sweet little book for them to write in or give away as a gift.

Finished Journals

They each gave one to Grandma for her birthday. I am still patting myself on the back for (a) coming up with such a clever gift that is both sentimental and functional, and (b) getting rid of some of the kids’ artwork without feeling guilty about it. Score!

No Poo For You

Well, I am proud to report that I have not used commercial shampoo for one whole month.

No, really! And I don’t have dreadlocks, either. In fact, my hair is the softest it’s been my entire adult life, not to mention it feels thicker. I would suggest that it’s easier to style, except I don’t really style my hair. But it does have a little wave to it that I haven’t seen in decades.

Back in the days when I haunted the Mothering boards, I remember reading about No Poo in the Natural Family Living forums. It sounded interesting, but I was too tired to drag supplies from my kitchen pantry and into the shower. I was generally too tired to drag myself into the shower, truth be told. Maybe I did go a little bit No Poo in those days, but it wasn’t a planned regimen, and it didn’t have quite the same effect.

Now, I’m all about the No Poo. It’s awesome. I’m also No Deodorant (I’ve been No Antiperspirant for about five years). It feels so good to keep all those chemicals off my skin. It’s also very self-satisfying to make my own cosmetic/hygiene supplies, but that’s just the homesteading geek in me.

As for the No Poo, it’s so easy to do. All I’ve done, really, is to stop washing my hair with industrial solvents and switch to a gentle baking soda scrub with a cider vinegar rinse. That’s it. And instead of washing my hair daily or every other day, I do it twice a week. The other days, I simply rinse it in cool water, and brush it well every morning & evening. Taa daa!!

Why no poo? Well, it’s simple, really. The whole notion that you have to clean your hair with shampoo is a stroke of marketing genius. We’ve been conditioned (haha- get it?) to believe that our hair is not clean unless it has been scrubbed and scoured daily with a smelly bottled substance. And as long as you use conventional shampoos, you’d be right. This is because your hair “cleaner” is actually a hair “stripper”, stripping the natural oils from your hair and scalp. Why do you think we have natural oils on our hair and scalp? Mother Nature is not wasteful. Well, okay, maybe the gall bladder is a little passe’ these days. But, generally, she doesn’t do things without a reason. The reason you have those oils is to protect your hair, and also to repel bacteria, dirt, and other undesirables from your scalp. Your body is smarter than you are, and it knows that you need those natural oils. So, after you get your head all “clean”, it goes into panic mode and produces more oil to protect you from yourself your head. It’s a supply-and-demand thing. The more you “clean” your hair, the “dirtier” it will be, because your body will just keep making more and more oil to keep up.

When you first kick the shampoo habit, your body will be confused. It is smart, but you are being unpredictable, so it will take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months for your head to catch on to this new way of doing things. Don’t give up. I almost caved into the shampoo temptation several times, because I decided to quit shampoo in JULY, when it is rather warm and humid and when I sweat like a fat man on a hot roof in a most unladylike manner. But I stuck it out, and am now enjoying the softest, healthiest hair ever.

The Method

Actually executing the No Poo Process is ridiculously simple. Go to your cupboard or pantry. Pull out your baking soda, put a couple teaspoons (maybe a tablespoon, if you have a big head) into a small cup or container, and mix enough water into it so you can pour it over your scalp. Hint: use warm water, or it will be quite the shocker when you are in the shower. While you’re in the kitchen, fill another small container with some cider vinegar. If you have long hair (shoulders or longer), you’ll probably want about 1/4 cup or less. If you have shorter hair, maybe 1-2 tablespoons. If you’re butch, use your best guess. If you’re bald, you can skip this step completely, because it’s to condition your ends, not your scalp.

Now. Into the bath or shower you go. Wet your hair like you normally would. While you’re doing this, take a last look at that plastic bottle of industrial solvent that you are never again going to pour onto your sweet little scalp. Go ahead, give it a sneer. Stick your tongue out at it, or make some other insulting gesture if you like. This is important, because you are freeing yourself from the shackles of commercial consumerism (not to mention taking a huge chemical load off your body). Once your hair is completely wet, grab your container of (hopefully warm) soda water. Pour some on your scalp, just a little bit near the crown. Set the bottle down. Use your fingertips to massage your head. Make little tiny fingertip circles, don’t just rub back-and-forth (you’ll tear at the hair follicles). Start at the crown and work your way out. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but find a consistent routine so you don’t miss any spots. Some people suggest outlining a circle on your crown and then filling it in. Me, I am greasiest at the hairline, so I work from my center part out towards my ears. Then, I rub from my center part back. If you get to a spot that doesn’t feel a tiny bit gritty from the soda, pour on some more. The soda is a gentle cleanser whose job is to clean your scalp.

Once you are thoroughly massaged, you can rinse out the soda. It will rinse faster and easier than any shampoo you’ve ever tried. Once it’s out, take your cider vinegar. I like to dilute mine with an equal amount of warm water. Pour it over the ends of your hair (not onto your scalp). Since I have shoulder-length hair, I pile all my hair on top of my head and then pour the vinegar over it. Scrunch it in. Then, proceed with the remainder of your shower routine while the vinegar conditions your hair. Some people leave it in for an hour. I find three to five minutes is plenty long. I wash the rest of myself, shave my underarms, and then rinse out the vinegar. The smell is completely gone once you rinse it out, so don’t worry about smelling like a pickle.

That’s all there is to it. Of course, your hair will continue to produce oil at industrial rates for a short time, until it adjusts to the kind and gentle No Poo routine. If you find your hair is intolerably greasy during the transition period, you can give it an extra wash. Use more soda, or play around with the amount of vinegar you rinse with. You can also try brushing your hair out with a comb, which will pull oils from your scalp and onto the hair shaft (actually very desirable). For me, the first two weeks were…. well, I’ll be honest. They were pretty gross. I felt good the day I washed my hair, but in between, I felt like a dirty hippie. It didn’t help that I had been working out in the garden a lot and getting pretty dirty and sweaty. The third week was much nicer, though. And this last washing, which marked A Whole Month Of No Poo, my hair felt like silk in my hands. I’m glad I stuck it out.

Besides being good for your skin, which is your largest organ and a direct route for chemicals to infiltrate your body, going No Poo has other tangible benefits, too. It’s economical, for one. A really expensive bottle of ACV – like Bragg’s, for example – is about $5 or $6 in my grocery store. I can get baking soda for about 79 cents for a one-pound box. This means that it literally costs me a couple of pennies every time I wash my hair.

I also love finding ways of doing things that don’t require industrial products. While you might argue that baking soda is an industrial product, it is, at least, an edible one. I could take a swig of my shampoo and probably not harm my insides too terribly much. I can bake muffins with my shampoo.  Who doesn’t like muffins? And, if I were really industrious, I could probably ferment my own apple cider vinegar. This gives me the satisfaction of (a) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose production is harmful to the environment, and (b) avoiding mainstream manufactured products whose ingredients are harmful to me.

Don’t worry. I will still love you if you grab the Garnier or pour on the Pantene. But seriously, folks. Challenge your world view of what is *truly* necessary for a healthy, clean and satisfying life. Take control of your health and hygiene, and you may find it not only cheaper, easier, and healthier, but possibly better, too.

And if you find that No Poo is Not For You, it’s alright.  You can still put that baking soda and cider vinegar to good use in your kitchen.