Tag Archives: spring

The beauty of an unplanned meal

I am a planner. I like to organize things and catalog them and plot them out on a timeline if they will let me. I am a librarian, after all. At work I have a master To Do list on my computer that is then broken up into sub-lists, including To Do This Week, To Do This Term, To Do This Summer, you get the idea. I also have a Projects list on a whiteboard in my office, just in case my other lists distract me from what’s really important.

This extends to my personal life as well, and definitely to my kitchen. I have a list of my goals for the year next to my bed, so that I can read them every night and stay motivated. I never (well, hardly ever) go to the grocery store before planning out the week’s meals and making a list. When I first started cooking, I always, always followed a recipe. It didn’t even occur to me, in fact, that there was any other way. And I liked how following a recipe gave me a consistent, predictable result.

Thankfully, I have learned by now that so much of cooking is unplanned. It’s about tasting and adjusting and customizing. Especially since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest where there is so much fresh, local produce, I have embraced seasonal cooking, which means you have to be ready to do what you can with what you’ve got at any given time of year. I encountered a perfect example of this one weekend recently when David and I went to our first farmers’ market of the spring.

spring vegetables

It is still indoors, in a warehouse-like building on the fairgrounds. The outdoor market won’t return until later this month, but spring was definitely making its presence known. The booths had more life, the whole place was humming, there were spring onions. Spring onions! They even have the word ‘spring’ in their name. So, of course, we bought some. We also gathered a hodge-podge of other vegetables, whatever spoke to us, as well as a dozen pullet eggs, which are the petite eggs of a hen under 1-year-old.

ingredients

I didn’t know what I was going to do with our random purchases and I started to feel a little Type-A panic about it. But when we got home and unpacked everything it became clear: a spring quiche was in order. It was the best kind of unplanned meal – fresh ingredients combining with a well-stocked pantry to create something delightful.

finished quiche

Hearty Farmers’ Market Quiche

Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling modeled on Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes one 9-inch quiche

In the spirit of spontaneity, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this recipe can be endlessly adapted and tinkered with. In fact, that’s what a quiche is for, in my opinion. Especially when it comes to what vegetables and cheese you use. You can use almost anything you can imagine. Just keep the proportions of vegetables and cheese to eggs and milk about what they are in this recipe and you will be sitting pretty.

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and chilled or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk, chilled (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 4 cups) Russian kale, ribs removed and then chopped
  • 4 spring onions (white and green parts divided), chopped
  • 5 large eggs (or equivalent in pullet eggs)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare and prebake the crust:

In a medium bowl whisk together flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add the butter pieces and cream cheese and work into dry mixture, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, until most butter and cream cheese bits are pea-sized.

Whisk together the milk and oil, and then add all at once to the flour and butter mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients with a fork until the liquid is just incorporated. Do not overwork – the dough will not totally come together, it will stay sort of shaggy.

Dump the dough into a clean 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Try to get it as even as possible, but don’t worry about it too much – no one will ever see it!

Put the crust in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

Once your crust is frozen, line it with foil and fill it with beans or some other pie weight. Bake for 8 minutes. Then remove pie weights and foil and bake for another 4-6 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add kale and the white parts of the spring onions. Cook until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spring onion green parts, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, then stir in the feta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the crust is done prebaking and the filling is prepared, raise the oven temperature to 375°. Spread vegetable mixture over the bottom of the crust, and then pour in egg mixture.

Bake the quiche for 45 minutes or until quiche is set and the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Lunch, Main Course

The epiphany of homemade pizza

Hello friends, I have a sad confession to share with you. For 30 years, I’ve been scared to make my own pizza. Ok, maybe ‘scared’ isn’t the right word, but certainly ‘reluctant’, even ‘unwilling’. And, sure, there were probably some years somewhere between 0 and 10 that I didn’t think much one way or the other about making my own pizza. But since then it has always been a beloved and yet mystical substance that only restaurants (and occasionally my mom) could make. I rarely even considered making it myself.

Well, about three weeks ago I had an epiphany. A pizza epiphany. And ever since I have been a pizza-making fool.

broccoli rabe pizza

It all started a few weeks ago at the farmers market when the broccoli rabe showed up. I was SO excited. I absolutely love that Seattle farmers markets are open year-round, don’t get me wrong, but I had gotten a little board with the slim winter pickings, truth be told.

So, when the broccoli rabe showed up – one of the first spring veggies to appear in the stalls – I went a little crazy. One week, I bought three bunches of it on Saturday and by the following  Saturday there was still one poor, languishing bunch left in the fridge. I would not allow myself to waste this precious spring gift, however, so that day I cast a wider net than ever before in my search for recipes that use broccoli rabe. What I found…*drumroll please* was this recipe for Pizza w/Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions. It was right there all along, on one of my favorite food blogs! I decided to give it a try and let me tell you, it was a good decision.

broccoli rabe

I was flabbergasted at how good  it was. Flabbergasted and hooked. The next weekend I made pizza again, this time with different toppings. And you can guess the rest… Weeks worth of pizza later, I am here to share with you. I’m sorry I selfishly kept it to myself for so long. I could blame grad school, but it could also be (hypothetically speaking) that I was too busy eating pizza to type.

After several iterations of homemade pizza, I have isolated what it was about it that was frightening me: the crust. Pizza crust engenders such strong opinions – I’ve seen the argument of thin crust vs. thick crust nearly come to blows. Also, in all the movies and T.V. shows where you see people making pizza, they are always tossing it up in the air! I was always completely sure I am not coordinated enough to do that. Really though, it is surprisingly easy to make a crust that is the best of both worlds and will satisfy 90% of pizza eaters (100% in this house) without any tossing – or even very much kneading.

pizza crust

Now, I should make a small digression to note that I am aware that making pizza can be an art form. (My favorite pizza restaurant in Seattle, Delancey, certainly takes it to another level. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Serious Pie and am planning to go there as soon as humanly possible.) That is not what this pizza is, just so we’re clear. It is a totally acceptable substitute though – when you don’t want to go anywhere, want a home-cooked meal, or are considering just ordering delivery.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my current obsession. First, I give you an easy crust recipe that makes enough dough to make two perfectly sized pizzas (you can freeze half the dough for later use, it freezes beautifully). The crust is thin, but still soft and chewy, and slightly sweet. The perfect accompaniment to the crust is the broccoli rabe toppings I list below, but go nuts! Use any topping combination your heart desires, you will not be disappointed. Below the recipe, I also list some other pizza recipes/topping combos that want to try. If you have a good combo, let me know!

pizza!

Broccoli Rabe, Onion, & Olive Homemade Pizza

Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen and A Cozy Kitchen
Crust makes enough for 2 14(ish)-inch pizzas; toppings make enough for one piled-high pizza, or two slightly spartan pizzas.

I use instant yeast in my pizza dough because I like not having to wait as long. But, you can totally use regular active dry yeast in this recipe – you will just have to wait a little longer for the dough to rise. Also, a note on the olives: niçoise olives are the best for this combo, but I’ve used other types of cured olives and they all worked wonderfully.

Pizza Crust:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Wait 5-10 minutes and allow the yeast to activate (you don’t have to do this with instant, but I’ve found that it moves things along).

Add the olive oil, and honey and stir until the honey dissolves. Then, add the flour and salt. Mix together until a dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl and, on a floured surface, knead 8-10 times or until it comes together into a smooth ball shape.

Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean, dampened towel. Place in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut in half. At this point you can freeze one or both of the balls by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. Roll one or both to desired size, then transfer to pizza pan.

Pizza Toppings & Assembly:
  • 4-5 spring onions OR 2 shallots, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off stems
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (depends on how spicy you want it – 1/2 tsp is pretty spicy, which we love)
  • Pizza dough for one recipe (above)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 5-10 niçoise or greek olives, pitted and chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Sauté onion over medium-low heat with enough olive oil to coat lightly, a pinch of salt, and the leaves of the thyme sprigs. Stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes until brown (even a little crispy is OK).

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and coat it with olive oil. Add the broccoli rabe, season with salt, pepper, and the hot pepper flakes, and sauté until the broccoli rabe is tender (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté, tossing, for a 15-30 seconds.

While those two elements are working, roll out the pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch disk of pizza dough and transfer to pizza pan. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil, leaving a 1/2-inch boarder dry.

Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the oiled surface. When the onions are done, spread them over the cheese, then top with the broccoli rabe and the olives. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over the pizza.

Put the pizza in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice, slice and serve.

Other scrumptious homemade pizza combos:

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The best kind of tourist: Seattle Staycation (part 2)

Well, the glorious spring break I told you about last time has come to an end, and the impending wave of homework can be seen once again, cresting on the horizon, threatening to drown me. (just kidding…sort of)

The last week of my Seattle Staycation was so much fun though, I am grateful I get to re-live it by telling you about it here.

space needle view

The day after I left off my last post, I headed downtown to be a tourist and that theme continued throughout the week. Now, I love going to new places and seeing new cities, but when I’m a tourist I always find myself overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how little time I have to do it all. This is often compounded by the fact that I tend to get lost – a lot – thus leaving me with even less time to experience everything the place has to offer. And at the end of a long day of walking and tourist-ing around, no matter how nice the hotel is that I’m staying in, I always just wish I could sleep in my own bed.

Well, this time I got to be the best kind of tourist: one that wasn’t pressured to see every single thing in one day (since the sights and I will both still be here next time.) One that didn’t get lost (well, I did still get lost a couple times…but I was able to get back on track faster!) And one that, at the end of a long, fun day was able to go back to my own home and sleep in my own bed.

top pot doughnut

So, getting back to my adventures…that up there is a Top Pot doughnut. Yum. Unsurprisingly, much of my activity during this week of hometown touristing was focused on food. In addition to doughnuts, I ate some lovely homemade pasta at a tucked away place called Il Corvo while I was downtown. But! I also did other things. Fun, intellectually stimulating, culture-y things.

Olympic sculpture park

I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is right on the waterfront in downtown Seattle (read: beautiful). Even better, the day that I went happened to be gorgeously sunny – one of a few sunny days that we had here that week. I like to think the gods knew I was on spring break.

Elliot Bay

I also went on an entertaining and education tour called Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, during which I learned lots of fascinating things about the history of Seattle and what it was like to live here in olden times.

One of these factoids that stuck with me was about how in the late 19th and early 20th century, most of the roads in downtown Seattle were built about 20 feet above the sidewalks because the city ran out of money to raise the sidewalks above sea level after they had already raised the roads. This meant that people literally had to climb huge ladders in order to cross the street, and that most businesses had both a lower door (level with the sidewalk) and an upper door (level with the road). When the city finally did build up the sidewalks, they made them hollow so that people could still use the lower level sidewalks and entryways. In order to let light into this underground area, they built skylights that are still there today, though the old glass has turned purple.

underground skylight from below underground skylight from above

Having sated my appetite for history with that tour, I then headed up to the observation deck of the tallest building in Seattle, called Columbia Center, to get the ol’ adrenaline going (man did it, this sucker is TALL) and saw some breathtaking views.

view from columbia center

On another equally lovely, sunny day David and I rode a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride alone, and stunning views it afforded us, was almost enough to warrant the trip. While there we ate an amazing lunch at Cafe Nola and spent a couple of hours wandering around The Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve and garden open to the public.

bloedel reserve reflecting pool

Those were the highlights, and though there is more I am going to have to end my gushing here. Suffice it to say that my Spring Break Seattle Staycation was a total success. By the end of it I felt relaxed and refreshed and, best of all, I had increased my knowledge of, and love for, my new city by leaps and bounds.

view of downtown from the ferry

On the last day of my respite we visited the Ballard Farmers Market where I bought a bunch of the first broccoli rabe of the season. As much as I have embraced and enjoyed the winter offerings of the farmers market, I was giddy at the sight of some spring veggies.

broccoli rabe

I used the broccoli rabe right away in a simple pasta dish in which it is blanched and then lightly sautéed along with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes. It is a perfect quick dinner to welcome spring.

Since I pretty much followed the recipe for this dish from Simply Recipes to the letter, I will just point you there: Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Happy spring!

finished pasta dish

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Pacific Northwest