Saturday, July 9, 2016

Spinach and Feta Quiche

This tastes great when it's hot out of the oven, even better the second day.

Step 1:  Prepare the shortbread crust.

 Preheat oven to 325°F.  While the oven is heating, combine in a bowl:
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour (or a mixture of white, whole wheat and/or multigrain flour
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Cold water as required
If the butter is hard, microwave it for about 15 seconds. Cut into the flour with your hands or a pastry-blending tool, and add water a bit at a time till you have a dough that's just starting to hold together (it'll be a bit crumbly, but that's okay).

Press the dough into an ungreased pie pan, lining the pan to just below the rim. With a fork, poke  some holes in the bottom of the crust so that steam can escape. Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 2:  Prepare the filling.

In a pot or frying pan, heat:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, virgin or extra-virgin
When the oil is hot, add:
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, thoroughly washed (baby spinach works great here).

Toss around in the hot oil till the spinach is just starting to wilt.  Remove from heat and pour off excess liquid.

In the same bowl that you used for the pastry shell, combine:
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced fine
  • At least 1/2 teaspoon oregano, fresh or dried 
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Optional spices:  Dill, minced onions, basil.  Because of the saltiness of the feta cheese, we don't recommend using garlic salt, onion salt or any other salt-based seasoning in this recipe.

By this time, the sautéed spinach has cooled a bit.  Add it to the mixture of cheese, eggs and spices, and mix thoroughly.

The pie crust should also be ready by now. Pour the mixture into the partially baked shell and return to the oven.

Bake for at least 35 minutes.  Be aware that it can take 45 minutes or even longer, depending on your oven. Do not underbake!  When the pie is ready, the center will be quite firm to the touch and a very, very pretty shade of green on top.

You can serve this immediately, but it'll cut more easily if you let it cool for a few minutes.

Cooking axioms

Assorted snippets of cooking wisdom from Astreja K.:

  • If a recipe calls for shortening or margarine, cut to the chase and go for butter.  Unsalted is best.
  • Cookies should be baked at 325° F or lower, especially if they contain baking powder or baking soda.  Sodium bicarbonate changes to sodium carbonate (ack! washing soda!) at higher temperatures.  So there you have it:  The real reason Auntie Em's gingersnaps taste like soap.
  • Cool down and wipe down your cookie sheets between batches.  Run them under cold water if they're too hot to handle.
  • Your best bet for getting cookies off the pans in one piece is parchment paper.  When the cookies come out of the oven, let them stand for about two minutes.  Place the cooling rack face-down on top of the cookies while they're still on the cookie sheet, then flip the pan and the rack over together, then lift off the pan and peel the parchment paper off the bottoms of the cookies.  (You may even be able to reuse the clean side of the paper for another batch.)
Things that aren't cookies:
  • There is no such thing as Too Much Garlic, except perhaps in chocolate cake.
  • There is no such thing as Too Much Vanilla, either.
  • Cook slowly and turn up the heat only if you have to.  It's easier than finding a place to dump whatever you just burned.
  • That said, if you're trying to burn something on purpose (For example, onions for French Onion Soup), a little salt will cause them to brown faster.
  • Read that last one again:  A little salt. Salt is the one spice that can severely wreck a recipe. Always err on the side of caution here.
  • However, when brewing coffee, always err on the side of excess.  You can water down the strong stuff, but you can't save the weak stuff.
  • Use nylon utensils, not metal ones, with your non-stick cookware.
  • The infamous Rule of Three:  When you can't decide what to make for supper, pick three ingredients at random from your fridge and/or cupboard.  Once you have the basic outline, you can cheat by adding flour, water, spices and other necessities.  Examples:
    • Carrot-Potato Pancakes (Grated carrots and potatoes, a couple of eggs, flour and spices.)
    • Lentil Soup with Tea Biscuits (Lentils and spices for the soup; flour, margarine and baking powder for the biscuits.)
    • Vegetarian Chili (Kidney beans, canned tomatoes and an onion.)
    • Corn Fritters (Frozen corn, flour, eggs and spices, fried in a bit of oil.)
    • Antibiotic Soup (All the onions and garlic you've got in the house, plus marjoram, a bay leaf and any other spices that look interesting.  Great stuff when you've got a cold.)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Minestewni for a cold, cold winter day

Here's an easy chunky minestrone that comes together fast (and disappears just as fast -- the pot we made at 4:00 this afternoon is already more than half gone).


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Spices to taste (Thyme, oregano, parsley flakes, celery salt, garlic powder or flakes, salt and pepper, or a tablespoon or so of mixed Italian spice)
  • 1 carton ready-made broth (we used chicken broth, but for a vegetarian version of this soup you can substitute vegetable broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large (796 mL) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup small pasta shells
  • 1 small (398 mL) can Italian butter beans or other large, flat beans (Romano, broad beans or similar)
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep pot.  Sauté the chopped onion in the oil for a few minutes.

Toss the spices with the onion and oil, then pour in about a third of the carton of broth and toss in the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Gradually add the rest of the broth, and then add the tomatoes.

Cook the soup base for about 20-30 minutes at a high simmer, stirring once in a while and making sure that the tomatoes aren't sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the tomatoes change from red to orange-red, it's time to finish the soup.  Add the pasta shells and let them cook until almost done (about 6-7 minutes).  Add the beans, including the liquid from the can.  Bring back to a boil and cook until the beans are heated through and the pasta is soft.  Remove the bay leaf and discard.

Serve immediately, but be aware that the shells will continue to expand and you may end up with a pasta dish instead of a soup.  If for some reason you need it to be soup, just add more broth to the mixture to thin it out again.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pumpkin Curry Bisquette

This soup falls into the quick-and-easy category, but it has a certain elegance -- A je-ne-sais-quoi-ness, if you will, even though there's nothing the least bit mysterious about the ingredient list.

Pumpkin Curry Bisquette

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 scallions, chopped.  You can either put the green bits aside and sprinkle on top of the soup, or sauté them with the white part.
  • 1 clove garlic, minced.  This is a case where more is not better.  Use only 1 clove, not 2 or 17.
  • Curry spice of your choice (at least 1 tbsp but probably more)
  • 1 small can (398 mL / 14 ounces) pure pumpkin (don't use pumpkin pie filling!)  You can cook and purée about 2 cups' worth of fresh pumpkin if you just happen to have a Jack O' Lantern lurking by the front door, but expect to spend at least another half hour putting this together.
  • 2 cups light cream (10% half-and-half or 18% coffee cream will both work)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Over medium-high heat, melt butter in a pot.  Add the scallions, the garlic and the curry spice and cook for a couple of minutes.

Dump in the pumpkin purée and combine well.  Continue to stir until heated through.

Gradually stir in the cream until the texture is smooth and velvety.  Add salt and pepper, and more curry if you think the soup needs it.

Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and serve immediately in small bowls.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Berry Flaxseed Bread

Here's a very simple quickbread recipe that's based mainly around eggs and ground flaxseed.  If you want to add fibre to your diet, or you want something that tastes a bit like a bran muffin but don't want to eat wheat, try this.

Berry Flaxseed Bread

  • About 300 grams of ground (not whole) flaxseed
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups assorted berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries will all work; frozen fruit is OK to use, too).
  • ⅓ cup mild-tasting vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower or corn oil are all good)
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅔ cup water
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Next, line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and oil the paper with a bit of vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (flax, baking powder, salt) and then toss in the berries.  Mix thoroughly.

In another bowl or a large measuring cup, beat the oil, eggs, and water together.

Add the oil/egg/water mixture to the dry ingredients and stir quickly with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Pour into the prepared baking pan and press into the corners.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.  You can subdivide this as soon as it's out of the oven, or wait until it's cool.  If you divide it into 10 pieces, each piece will have about 30 grams (roughly 1 ounce) of flax.  This can be eaten as is, or with butter or margarine.  It also freezes very well.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Om Nom Nom! Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This recipe came off the back of a bag of no-name oats, and on the way to the oven it changed a little bit.  Instead of coconut, it has raisins -- A whole cup of them, in fact.  Oven temperature went down a whole 50°F, from the original 375°F down to 325°F, which is the Official Maximum Cookie-Baking Temperature around here.

On with the show!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups old-fashioned (large-flake) oats
  • 1¾ cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup dark (Thompson) raisins
Start by softening the cup of butter.  If you have a large bowl that can go in the microwave, put the butter in it and zap it for 15-20 seconds, then flip it over and zap it again for another 15-20 seconds.  If you can't use the big bowl in a microwave, put the butter in a microwaveable dish and then transfer it to the mixing bowl afterwards.  It should be just starting to liquefy, a mixture of melted and softened butter.  (The melted butter is is a big part of what gives the cookies their chewy and crispy texture.)

Add the white sugar and the brown sugar to the butter and cream them all together.  Add the egg and then the vanilla.  Mix well.

Now's a good time to start preheating the oven to 325°F.

In a not-quite-as-big-but-big-enough bowl, combine the oats, the flour, the baking powder and baking soda, and a tiny bit of salt.  Because of the oats it won't fit through a sifter, but you can sift it through your hands instead or you can toss it around a bit with a spoon.

Add the raisins to the dry mixture and mix until the raisins have a good coating of flour on them.

Finally, add the dry mixture to the bowl with the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture.  You'll probably have to do this in 2 or 3 goes, adding the dry stuff bit by bit.

Put a piece of ungreased parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Take a handful of dough about the size of a golf ball (or the size of a ping pong ball, if you don't like golf).  Place the ball of dough on the paper and flatten it into a disk that's about half an inch thick.  About 12 of these should fit on a medium-sized cookie sheet.  Don't crowd -- Although they don't spread much, they do spread.

Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are starting to brown.  When they come out of the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack along with the parchment paper.  If you have a rimless cookie sheet, you can just drag the whole paper onto the rack, cookies and all.  If your cookie sheet has an edge, try putting the rack upside-down on top of the cookies and then flipping the rack and the pan over together so that the rack is on the bottom.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Best Orange Cake in the World

This tasty little number was discovered by Astreja K. in the pages of that Canadian classic, the New Purity Cook Book, in the summer of 1976.  Over the years, She cut out a step or two in the workflow, tinkered a bit with the baking settings, and made the cake even more orangey.  This is the result.

Astreja K.'s Amazing Orange Cake

  • 2 large navel oranges with rough peels
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature (½ cup for cake, ¼ cup for icing)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • Approximately 3 cups icing sugar

Before you start, lightly grease an 8" x 8" square pan and line with parchment paper.  (The greasing helps the paper stick to the sides of the pan.)

Rinse the oranges in hot water for a couple of minutes, giving them a good scrubbing and removing any blemishes and stickers.  Using a coarse grater, strip all the peel off both oranges into a large bowl but try to get just the outer layer and not too much of the white rind that's underneath the peel.  For a more interesting look, use one very orange orange and one yellowish-orange orange.  Put the oranges themselves aside for a few minutes.  Mix up the peel to muddle the colours together, then transfer a bit less than half to a small bowl.  (This is for the icing.)

Divide the butter into the two bowls:  ½ cup into the original large bowl, ¼ cup into the icing bowl.  Put the icing bowl aside for now.

Add the 1 cup of granulated sugar to the large bowl, and cream together with the butter and the orange peel.  Add the eggs (one at a time) and continue beating until thoroughly blended.

Cut the oranges in half and juice them into a large measuring cup.  The goal is to get about ⅔ cup of juice, but if you're not quite there you can also add some of the pulp from the oranges.   You can even add extra pulp, up to about 1 cup total of juice and pulp.

In yet another bowl, sift or stir together the 1½ cups of flour and 2 level teaspoons of baking powder.

At this point, you can get the oven ready.  Set the rack right in the middle, and preheat to 325°F.

Now you put it all together.  Add the flour and the juice to the butter/sugar/peel mixture:
  • ⅓ of the flour; mix well
  • ½ of the juice
  • Another ⅓ of the flour
  • Rest of the juice
  • Rest of the flour
Mix well after every addition.  Don't worry if it looks like the orange juice is curdling; it'll be fine once everything's combined.

Put the mixture into the pan, making sure you get it into the corners.  (Use the back of a tablespoon to push it around the pan.)  Bake for about 35 minutes, then check for doneness by lightly pressing on the top of the cake. If the dent doesn't bounce back, the cake isn't quite done. Turn the oven down to 300°F and check it every 5 minutes till done.

Remove cake from oven and let sit for 10 more minutes, then invert onto a large cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper.

Let the cake cool completely! It'll take at least an hour and a half, so relax. Put up your feet and listen to a couple of CD's.

While you're waiting, you can finish the icing. Cream the butter and orange peel together.  Gradually add icing sugar to taste and consistency.  Do not add any milk or other liquids – Only butter, sugar and orange peel.  Apply to the cooled cake with a knife or an icing spatula, occasionally rinsing the tool in hot water if you opted for a thick, heavy icing.

This is a very tolerant cake, suitable for fridge, freezer or straight out to the table.  It freezes very well, icing and all, and if you put it in the fridge the icing takes on a nice fudge-like texture.

And since neither cake nor icing calls for any milk, you could probably create a completely lactose-free version by switching the butter for a suitable non-dairy margarine.