Leftovers are new again

I moved to Los Angeles last Saturday, and am searching for a job. It’s both disheartening and uplifting, as no one has called me to say “You’re perfect! I want to pay you!”, but I’m starting to believe these cover letters I’m writing, and getting more bold in saying “Look, I don’t have a line of boring linear experience, but I’ve done some pretty neat things and I’m a bright young thinker who’s eager to please.” My frugality these past months has allowed me a few weeks of freedom from anxiety as I search, and I’m amusing myself with the process. Last night I dashed off an unlikely application in which I called myself an ethnographer of modern life, sans pith helmet.

The rest of my time is spent in the kitchen, making banana pancakes, lemon-artichoke-feta pasta, and crazy tropical beet salad, with dried papaya and banana chips over spinach and pickled beets. I made fresh challah with the most marvelous (secret) recipe, although the apartment had no measuring tools or even mixing bowls unpacked, so it wasn’t quite as wonderfully light and moreish as usual. This caused a third of each loaf to be left over, and I didn’t cover them, so I had a cutting board full of hard bread pieces last night. 

By the time the others woke at 6:30, though, all those remnants were already soaking in a french bath of bread pudding goodness. I was impressed at what 45 minutes on 350 with 

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

can do to some hard, dry leftovers.

Image

The bread pudding, which I explained as a sort of french bread casserole, turned out beautifully and fueled more than one med student through their morning lectures on various rashes. I hope I have done my part today helping some future patient with Targetoid Hemosiderotic Hemangioma.

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Recipe: Caramelized Onion Quiche

Jimmy is the new kid in town. When he wakes up tomorrow morning, there is an 80% chance that he’ll be brave and strong, and a 20% chance that he’ll be cowardly and weak. The local bully, Jesse, enjoys fighting new kids, but only the weak, cowardly ones. Jesse won’t be able to figure out whether Jimmy is brave or cowardly, but he will be able to observe what Jimmy eats for breakfast. As a general rule, brave, strong new kids prefer beer, while cowardly, weak new kids prefer quiche.

I’ll spare you the choice theory part of the Beer/Quiche Game, mostly because I don’t understand it at all. I heard this game from my friend Y, who loves riddles, and who often, in jest, uses the Beer/Quiche dichotomy to categorize the men in his life.

Dearest Internet, there is nothing weak or cowardly about this flavorful, savory, slightly tangy quiche. But just to be safe, serve it with a cold summer ale.

Caramelized Onion Quiche
Adapted slightly from Simply Recipes

1 pie crust (store-bought is fine, but this recipe is really tasty)
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb red onions
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
3 large eggs
nutmeg
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (or whatever sharp cheese you like)
salt and pepper

1. Caramelize the onions. Cut onions in half, root to tip, and peel. Then cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Melt butter in a large skillet and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir frequently so the onions caramelize without burning. This will take a while. After 40 minutes or so, add the balsamic vinegar. Continue cooking until onions are completely caramelized.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare the crust and parbake it.

3. Make the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, and a pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with foil, to catch any custard runoff. Sprinkle half the cheese over the bottom of the parbaked crust. Spread onions loosely over the cheese (so the custard can fill up the nooks and crannies). Top with remaining cheese. Pour custard over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. (If edges of crust begin to burn, cover with foil.) Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing.

Recipe: Strawberry Summer Cake

I would not be exaggerating if I told you that this is the best dessert I’ve ever eaten.

It’s sweet – very sweet, but not sickly sweet. It’s a complex sweetness: butter, fresh fruit, and maybe just a little bit of sugar coming together to make something astonishing. I strongly suggest you make this soon, at the peak of summer, because fresh, fully ripe strawberries atop this moist, sweet cake make for a very special, very summery treat.

Strawberry Summer Cake
from Martha Stewart via Smitten Kitchen

10-inch cake/pie pan (the standard 9-inch pie pan won’t work – your cake will overflow)
6 tbsp butter (plus extra for buttering the baking pan)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1/2 c milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350. Butter your cake pan.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, cream butter with 1 c sugar with an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed and mix in egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients a little bit at a time. Transfer batter to pie pan.
Arrange your strawberries on top of the batter, but don’t worry too much about how they look, because they’ll probably get enveloped by rising cake batter as they bake.


Now sprinkle the remaining 2 tbsp sugar over the strawberries and the batter.


Perhaps just a bit more…

That’s the ticket.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes; then reduce oven temperature to 325 and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Recipe: Berry Rhubarb Pie

I don’t know if I can adequately explain how much I love summer in the Midwest. You’d think, coming from California, that I wouldn’t be so enthralled by sunshine. You’d think I’d be used to it. I suspect there are two reasons why I still feel so elated when summertime rolls around each year.

The first is that summer is qualitatively different in the Midwest. In California, rain comes in the winter, and the summer is dry and hot. Summer means sunshine, but it also means a brown, dead landscape. But in the Midwest, the summer months are peppered with powerful thunderstorms, so when I throw open the kitchen door to let in the sunshine, I see this:

The whole world is green.

And then, of course, there’s the sheer contrast. In California, we have two seasons: warm and sunny, and grey and rainy. It’s mild and pleasant, and one never needs a down coat, but I never truly appreciated the sensation of sunshine on my skin until I moved to the Midwest and experienced winter.

Rhubarb is another Midwest summer standby I never knew about growing up. It looks like red celery, but it tastes perfectly tangy and it bakes up into the most beautiful pies. Rhubarb has a short season, so make this soon, if you’re so inclined, and content yourself with the knowledge that, though rhubarb season will be ending soon, it’s not yet midsummer, and there are many more adventures to be had.

Gimme the recipe!

Recipe: Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Total Time: 1 hr 10 min
Prep 15 min
Inactive 30 min
Cook 25 min
Yield: 24 hearts

Ingredients
3/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus a little for sprinkling
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt; then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and roll shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a desired cookie cutters. (I did small and large, both came out nicely.) Place the cookies on an ungreased sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Or, eat them hot like I did.

Note: The edges of the shortbread are ever so slightly sharper if you chill the cookies before baking them.
You can cut out the cookies days ahead and bake them the day you serve them. (Fancy, huh?)

Silver

Graduation!

So, we just graduated. And it’s like, “What now?” “Where did our community go?” “How will we stay in touch?” “What does the future hold?”

All those terrible life-searching questions.
But, in my mind, a more important question might be: How did those shortbread cookies you made yesterday turn out?

Quite well, thank you. Would you like to see?

My Shortbread Cookies