Pear, Fig & Onion Quiche

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It’s been such a busy month, I haven’t had a second to breathe! Finally, though, middle school, elementary school, and now preschool have started, and I’m back to teaching at the university as well. That doesn’t sound like things are going to get less hectic! However, at least now there’s more of an enforced bedtime around here, and a chance to sit and look over what I’ve been wanting to post.

This recipe was an easy favorite of the last few weeks. I made it for a shower of a dear friend; it sounded like the perfect shower food, and perhaps a little too indulgent for just a weeknight meal. The recipe comes from Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen cookbook, but he titles it Pear and Blue Cheese Quiche. The blue cheese flavor was soooo mild, though, that I hardly think we need to mention it in the title, since it will turn away all those who think they hate the stuff, when they probably won’t be aware that it’s in there if they try it. So, I’ve retitled, and also added figs, simply because I could get them, and I don’t know of anything prettier on the top of a festive summer food.

Pear, fig & onion Quiche

Crust
1 c. (140g) all-purpose flour
1/3 c. (55g) cornmeal
1/2 t. sea salt or kosher salt
8 T. (4 ounces/115g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg

Filling
1 T. olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (I used two small red onions, hence the name!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large, firm, ripe pear, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) cubes
1 c. (130g) diced cooked (boiled) ham (or bacon, or omit for vegetarian)
1 1/2 c. (375ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
8 oz. (225g) cream cheese
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. (150g) crumbled blue cheese or Roquefort (or goat cheese)
2 T. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 T. fresh thyme (my addition)
2 fresh figs, sliced, for decoration (also my addition)

  1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, by hand with a pastry blender), combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the butter and beat on low speed until the butter is broken up and the mixture is sandy. Add the egg and mix until the dough begins to clump and come together. Use your hands to gather the dough and shape it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
  2. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s 14 inches (35cm) across. Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of a 9- to 10-inch (23 to 25cm) springform pan to catch any leaks, and then transfer the dough to the pan. Press the dough against the side, allowing it to come a bit more than halfway up the sides of the pan. If there are any cracks, patch them with a bit of dough from the edges—you don’t want the filling to leak out during baking. Chill the dough in the pan while you make the filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  4. To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots with some salt and pepper until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the diced pear and ham.
  5. In a large bowl, blend together the cream, cream cheese, a few gratings of nutmeg, the eggs, and the yolks until smooth. Stir in the blue cheese, the pear and ham mixture, and the parsley and thyme.
  6. Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in the filling, using a spoon to make sure the ingredients in the filling are evenly distributed. Please figs in a pattern on top, if using. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned, the filling still jiggles, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool until firm enough to slice, then serve warm or at room temperature.

    Pear Fig Quiche

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Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

Pork Carnitas with tortillas
I don’t love the slow cooker for many meals: it seems like meat that goes into this incredible invention somehow comes out tasting very similar to any other meat that goes into it. For texture and flavor, it often disappoints. So, I’m always a little wary of recipes for the slow cooker (I know, there’s millions of recipes that could potentially prove me wrong, but every time I go to try a new one, I feel like I’ve reached the same conclusion, again).

However, whenever I find a recipe that wants me to bake something at a low temperature in a dutch oven for several hours, I immediately just want to use a slow cooker instead. So, I pulled mine out while pulling together these pork carnitas yesterday, used some ideas and techniques from both Williams-Sonoma Taco Night and America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution, and came up with a recipe I will definitely use again. This would be another great taco for Cinco de Mayo, or any old Taco Tuesday, or any day of the week!


Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

1-3 lb. pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
1 onion, thinly sliced, lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, skins removed and smashed
2 t. vegetable oil
2 oz. (60 g) achiote paste (essential ingredient! get from a Mexican market or AmazonPrime)
1/2 c. pineapple juice
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (only use if you want heat–my kids won’t eat it if I do! but the flavor is fantastic.)
salt and pepper

Prepare slow cooker by spraying it with nonstick oil (a tip from Beth Hensperger–it helps with clean-up).

Place sliced onion, smashed garlic, and oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss to coat, and then cover with plastic wrap and microwave at high for five minutes. (This initial cooking helps eliminate the raw flavor of the onions and garlic by quickly cooking them. If you would rather, you can also do this step by sautéing over medium heat.)

In another small bowl, combine the achiote paste, chipotle chiles, and pineapple juice. Whisk to combine, although some bits of paste will not mix entirely–this is fine!

Rub the entire pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper, then place in the slow cooker, at high heat. Add the onion mixture, and then pour the pineapple juice mixture over the onions and pork. Toss to combine, if needed, then place the lid on top and cook at high for four hours. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook at least 2 hours, or up to four.

Once the meet is finished cooking, shred it with two forks. If desired, place in a shallow dish and put under a hot broiler for 3-4 minutes, to blacken the tips of the meat (or in a hot frying pan for about the same amount of time). I just think it looks prettier this way!

Serve with pineapple-jicama salsa, corn tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro. Enjoy!

A Perfect Spring Meal

I’m a little late on the au courant cookbook scene, having just checked out Ottolenghi and Tamini’s Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, but I’m so pleased with the first dish I made out of it that I’ve been exploring more recipes ever since. The night I made burgers, we also had homemade bread and butter, as well as a big bowl of fruit, and I thought 1) I wish this meal would magically appear on my table again tomorrow night  and 2) the sunshine, this meal, and my family have made this night perfect. So far, these burgers are still my favorite dish from the book, but there’s still more I’m trying . . .

Turkey & Zucchini Burgers

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (scant 2 cups)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T. chopped mint
  • 2 T. chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. fresh ground pepper
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 6½ T. sunflower oil, for searing
Yogurt Sauce
  • scant ½ c. sour cream
  • scant ⅔ c. Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. grated lemon zest
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1½ t. olive oil
  • 1 T. sumac (I omitted, because I have to search harder to find this here)
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. ground pepper

    Set oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

    Make the yogurt sauce by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well, and then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Place all the burger ingredients, except the oil, in a large bowl. Mix well, using your hands, making sure to get all the ingredients well incorporated, but don’t over-work the meat; fold gently and quickly.

    Make the meat patties: a 1/3 cup measurement will make 9 burgers. (You can make your burgers as large or small as you like, but will need to adjust the cooking time.) Note that the mixture will be quite wet.

    Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, adding half of the oil once it is heated up. Once the oil is sizzling, brown the patties on both sides, for about 2 minutes per side, working in batches, and adding more oil as needed.

    Set the browned burgers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until an instant thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Serve with yogurt sauce on top. Enjoy this delightful meal!

Spicy Pork Posole

I first had posole soup at a Chicago restaurant my sister took me to, and I’ve been meaning to make it home ever since, and finally found a good recipe. This recipe is from Everyday Food, but for some reason cannot be found on their website (?!!?), so I’m typing it up. I love the hominy in it. If you haven’t tried hominy yet, you’re in for a big treat. It’s corn that’s been alkalized, so it puffs and has a completely different texture and taste than corn does. The closest thing I can compare it to is garbanzo beans, but if that makes it sound gross, ignore that, because it’s not. Anyway, my Cape Verdean friends in Rhode Island use hominy in some of their great dishes, but posole is the only other dish I’ve seen it in (you can read this as a call for more great hominy recipes, if you have some). This soup is also a great, easy weekday dinner that uses many kitchen staples. Incidentally, you can leave the spice out by using only the adobo sauce, and not the chile, if you prefer the soup to be mild.

Spicy Pork Posole

2 T. olive oil
1 pork tenderloin (1-2 lbs.)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 c. water
2 (15 oz.) cans chicken broth, or 3 1/2 c. homemade chicken broth
2 cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, with juices
1 chipotle chile in adobe sauce, chopped (with 1 T. sauce, if you prefer)
1/2 c. chopped cilantro, stems removed
lime wedges, diced avocado, sour cream for serving (optional, but really a good idea)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the pork tenderloin to the pan, allowing it to brown on every side, rotating it every 2-3 minutes. Remove the pork to a bowl.

2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan, salt and pepper according to taste, and then, stirring frequently, cook until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add water, chicken broth, hominy, tomatoes, chipotle chile, and pork (with any accumulated juices) and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, and allow to simmer until the pork is fully cooked (between 5-10 minutes. You may want to check it with an instant-read thermometer. It should be from 160-170 degrees).

3. Remove the pork from the soup and shred it (use 2 forks and scrape the pork down with the grain). Return to soup, adjust seasonings, and allow to simmer until ready to serve. Stir in cilantro just before serving, and pass chopped avocados, sour cream, and lime wedges with the soup, if desired.