My latest drug cocktail of Zyrtec and Flonase, prescribed by a licensed MD, rather than my retired 80 year old mother, is not working. Ugh. I am utterly sleep-deprived. Alas the boys and my mom still have to eat, and although Kurt is a very good cook in his own right, he’s a by-the-recipe-book kind of guy and if we don’t have EVERY ingredient on hand, he’s not going to attempt a meal. Unfortunately, Ken HATES eating at restaurants (what kid hates eating out?); my guess is that he has to wait too long for the food to arrive and when he’s hungry he has to eat RIGHT NOW.
So for the last two days, I’ve faked my way through dinner. Not a canned-soup-and-mayonnaise fake, but I knew I didn’t have the energy to chop, grate, broil and boil my way to a regular entree, two sides and a starch. I have certain foodstuffs always on hand: in my fridge, there are butter, cheeses, eggs, vegetable and beef stock concentrates, in my freezer, goodies like 1/2 inch slabs of pancetta (a Giada tip) and pie crusts, and in my pantry many odds and ends of beans and grains like lentils, rice, quinoa, barley, split peas and black eyed peas. There’s a no-fuss meal to be found somewhere amongst the staples.
So this is what I made; on Tuesday, we had a pancetta and gruyere quiche (I proposed an arugula and goat cheese salad, but they told me not to bother) and tonight we had an “Odds ‘n’ Ends” multi-bean/grain soup with baguette and olive oil. (Yeah, these are leftover pictures, so use your imagination).
I think everyone should know the basic quiche formula; in essence, it’s an omelette in a pie crust! I didn’t even make my own crust, although I have all the ingredients, because I had a box of store-bought crusts in the freezer– for emergencies! I took one crust out to thaw. (If you buy the ones already in the pie pan, you can keep it in the freezer til you’re ready to fill the quiche and bake). The basic custard filling is:
- 2 cups half and half
- 4 extra large eggs
- 1 cup of grated cheese (I used gruyere that was leftover from some other dish)
- 1 half-inch thick slice of pancetta, small/fine dice (if I had had bacon, it would have been Quiche Lorraine)
- salt, pepper, onion powder and thyme to taste (BTW, for Lorraine, switch from thyme to nutmeg)
So I thawed the dough in the morning in the refrigerator. I took out all my ingredients including a single crust to come to room temperature for about 15 minutes. I preheated the oven to 375 degrees. While the dough was warming up, I grated the cheese, then diced and fried the pancetta, leaving it to drain on paper towels.
In a large (I used a four cup OXO) measuring cup, I poured out 2 cups of half and half, cracked in the four eggs and added some salt, pepper, onion powder and thyme. Not too much salt since both the cheese and pancetta are salty, but it’s also quite a bit of half and half and eggs to be seasoned. I whisked it all together right in the measuring cup, making sure all the yolks were broken up and the mixture was well combined.
I unrolled the pie crust and slapped it into a pyrex pie plate, pressing all around the surface to make sure there were no air bubbles. I sprinkled the pancetta bits along the bottom and followed with a layer of gruyere. I slowly poured the liquid over the cheese and pancetta, and carefully placed it in my pre-heated oven. Bake for 45 minutes, then check through the oven door (don’t open) to see if the quiche has puffed up and browned a bit and if the crust has likewise browned. If so, open the door and jiggle the pie pan. If there’s too much movement, continue to bake and check every 5 minutes. When the quiche seems firmer (less movement), you can take a thin knife and insert it into the middle of the quiche; if it comes out clean, the quiche is set. Take the quiche out and let it rest 15 minutes before serving. Note: if the crust seems to be browning faster than the custard is setting, turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
For the odds and ends bean soup:
- 1 1/2 cups of mixed grains and dried beans (I used equal amounts of red lentils and split peas, and more of quinoa and barley since these two grains heft up after cooking– I wanted a thick soup!)
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 9 cups of water
- 2 TB concentrated vegetable stock (I’ve been using the Williams-Sonoma brand in the bottle, but am looking for a less expensive alternative)
- Salt to taste (but not til the end)
- Splash of cider vinegar (or to taste)
Look over the grains/beans to check for stones, rinse and drain in a large mesh strainer or colander, then place into a soup pot. Cover with the water, add the chopped onion, and the seasonings. Do not add the salt or stock (which I assume has salt) at this time as salt will toughen the beans. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. You may want to stir once or twice to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
After 45 minutes, check the water level, adding more if needed. Add the vegetable stock and some salt. Stir well, then cover and continue to simmer another 20 minutes. Check the beans (particularly the split peas) for doneness. Add more salt if needed and a splash of cider vinegar. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes, longer if beans and grains are not tender.
I served the soup with a baguette and a good olive oil (California Olive Ranch– I could drink it straight) both to top the soup and for dipping the bread.
Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight– there are way too many GREAT dishes and desserts I want to test out before the holidays…