Bacon, Cheddar & Spinach Buttermilk Scones

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If you’re American, these might resemble those amazing Red Lobster biscuits you’ve eaten that come with every meal. If you’re not American, just be glad that you’ve never been to a Red Lobster restaurant before. It’s where Lobster souls go to die. I always try to get inside the tiny mind of the lobsters and wonder if they just sit there all day thinking of ways to kill themselves. There are far better places to get your shellfish. For instance, the sea! So, skip the misery of it all and just stay home and make these instead. The secret is in the buttermilk. They take all of 5 minutes to whip up, too. You lose Red Lobster. You lose.

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SCONES:

2 c. AP flour

1 t. sea salt

1 T. baking powder

1 t. sugar

6 T. cold butter

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar

4-5 strips of crispy bacon

1 large handful baby spinach

3/4 c. buttermilk

425 F / 220 C

  1. In a food processor combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and butter. Pulse until the mixture forms a coarse crumb texture.
  2. Add cheese and bacon. Pulse only a few times as to not break up the bacon too much.
  3. Then, add the buttermilk and pulse until a dough forms.
  4. Add the handful of spinach and very loosely pulse until JUST combined. You don’t want your scones to turn green.
  5. Dump onto a lightly floured surface and roll to about 3/4″ thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many as you can until you have to reroll the dough. Be careful to not overwork the dough when rerolling it or your scones will be tough. Be sure to work quickly. Once the buttermilk touches the baking powder, the rise action will begin.
  6. Place them on a baking sheet topping with a light sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

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I have no control when it comes to macaroni and cheese. I would gladly hold my mouth open wide, giant spoon in hand, as you dumped a truck load of it into my mouth. Screw the repercussions of eating 100 pounds of cheese and pasta, I’m there!

Unfortunately, if I took that attitude to the kitchen with me every day, I’d be really really fat. I’m personally a fan of the creamy kind and that’s probably a result of overdoing it on the Velveeta as a kid, which looking back is the equivalent to eating melted rubber. I might as well have been gnawing on a Stretch Armstrong or something. Consider this your all natural savior to the rubbery stuff.

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CREAMY MACARONI & CHEESE (serves 2):

2 T. butter

1 t. corn flour or AP flour

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. shredded cheddar or whatever cheese you prefer + 1/4 c. for later

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1/4 t. ground mustard

1 1/2 c. cooked elbow pasta

  1. In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour after it melts completely.
  2. Add the milk and 1/2 c. cheese until the mixture comes to a simmer/boil and thickens.
  3. Add seasonings.
  4. Pour over cooked pasta and pour into ramekins and sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.
  5. Place nuder broiler for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Olive Oil Focaccia w/ Rosemary, Tomatoes and Garlic…and Soda

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Yet another bread recipe pulled from my favorite book of bread! Except this time, it’s more like it came from it’s next best relative, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day.

Today is cold and rainy and just, blah. I’ll happily admit that I dream of days like this because it’s the perfect excuse to just be one with the kitchen. Cookbook out, music on, oven heated and scale at the ready, I decided to make focaccia bread.

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The beauty of artisan bread is that it’s often no-knead, and this book calls to the laziness in all of us. Even the most inexperienced baker can make this happen. Add some olive oil, herbs, tomatoes and garlic and you can impress the socks off anyone. The dough itself has a looser crumb with inconsistent air pockets, which is desirable in an artisan bread.

It’s another one of those recipes on a long long list of others that lets you make it anything you want it to be. In the spirit of being cozy indoors, I resorted to ingredients that are familiar, classic and easily enjoyed by every taste bud around.

DOUGH: (makes 2)

1 3/4 c. lukewarm water

1/8 c. olive oil

1/2 T. Yeast

3/4 T. Kosher salt

1 T. sugar

3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

TOPPINGS:

Halved grape tomatoes

Fresh rosemary

Minced garlic

Sea salt

Shredded parmesan

  1. The book uses a method they call dump and stir. To a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add the water and yeast. Measure out the rest of the ingredients and add those in too. Mix on medium speed until fully combined.
  2. Cover the mixer bowl and let sit 2 hours. It won’t rise as much as other doughs, but should look activated.
  3. After the two hours, dump onto floured surface and rotate into a ball. Transfer to a floured pizza stone or baking sheet. Flatten the ball into a disc gently with your fingers about 1/2 inch thick. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Using your fingers again, gently push the dough further out until it is half the original thickness. Scatter the toppings to your own taste over the top and let rest and rise for 20 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven.
  5. Bake for 15-25 minutes until golden brown. The time will depend on the thickness of your bread. Mine took 18 minutes total.

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If you’re watching the clock while your bread rises like I was, you can make up a batch of this. It’s refreshing and a definite step away from the typical cola you might have in your fridge. It’s simply rosemary, honey, crushed ginger and soda water. The recipe is for one glass so, if you love it, increase the portions and make a pitcher.

ROSEMARY, GINGER & HONEY SODA:

1 sprig of rosemary

1 thumb size piece of ginger, crushed or pressed with your palm

1 star of anise

2 T. raw honey

2 T. hot water

soda water

ice

  1. In the cup that you want to drink out of, combine everything but the soda and ice. Let the honey dissolve in the hot water.
  2. Add ice and soda water.
  3. Drink!

 

Honey Vanilla Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Cream

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Every time I watch the Great British Bakeoff I get myself all excited about what the contestants are baking. So excited, in fact, that I end up making my own versions of their bakes. If you’ve been sticking around for my posts you’ll know this isn’t the first time that I’ve let my obsession get out of hand. You get cake, I get my fix, it’s under control. I swear.

Tamal was making a grapefruit polenta cake, which looked delicious. I, however, don’t love citrus flavors in cakes and made mine with honey and vanilla instead. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been state side during the cold months and I’m loving using these warm cozy flavors again. I’m sure Tamal would understand.

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The rustic and traditional elements here are what I love so much about this cake. Polenta is grainy by nature and gives the cake a cornbread-like texture, but unlike cornbread, is actually enjoyable. The honey cools it down while the vanilla warms it up again. Top it with some mascarpone cream and oh la la.

Last week I made some mini Battenberg cakes, which were a bit tedious at times. This recipe isn’t like that. It’s basic and lovely and if you can do the basics right, this cake beats all. So give it love, give it time and go the extra mile for quality ingredients if you can. You won’t regret it.

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POLENTA CAKE: adapted from this recipe

5 T. granulated sugar

3/4 c. whole milk

1/4 c. whole cream

1 T. vanilla extract

1 sliced vanilla bean

1/2 c. unsalted butter

3/4 t. salt

1 c. instant polenta (I used Delallo brand)

1/2 c. honey

4 eggs, separated

1/4 c. melted honey (for brushing)

350 F / 180 C

  1. Preheat oven and grease a 9 x 9-inch pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, vanilla bean and vanilla extract on low-medium. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Once simmering, remove the vanilla bean and, whisking the whole way, add the polenta and continue whisking for about 30 seconds. It will thicken quickly.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into glass bowl. Add honey, egg yolks and 3 T. of sugar.
  5. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and the remaining sugar to soft peaks.
  6. Fold whites into polenta mixture with a spatula until fully incorporated.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and can hold the push of a finger.
  8. Brush top with melted honey and let cool. Serve with mascarpone cream.

MASCARPONE CREAM:

5 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/2 c. whipping cream

1 t. vanilla

2 T. icing sugar

  1. Combine ingredients in stand mixer with whisk attachment and beat until thick and fluffy.

 

Winter Squash Pizza w/ Whole Wheat Crust

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There’s been an absence of savory flavors around here and it’s about time I fix that before I one, go into a comatose or two, get diabetes. In an effort to avoid either situation, I made pizza. A healthy(ish) pizza to boot!

For Thanksgiving last year, I was still in Thailand. There wasn’t a turkey in sight at the store so, I settled for something a little less traditional, pumpkin lasagna. It was my way of bringing Fall to a tireless streak of tropical weather. And ya know what? It was delicious. I mentally filed my sauce recipe away for another day and today is the day. I made a few switcheroos this time around but it’s just as good.

The flavors here are classic cold weather flavors and since it’s winter and anything above 60 degrees is cold to my tropically adjusted body, this seemed ideal. In my post about soda bread, I mentioned a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The crust used for this is from their master recipe. If you don’t own this book, own it. You won’t be sorry.

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CRUST: (makes 2 pizzas)

1 1/5 c. warm water

3/4 T. active dry yeast

3 c. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. all purpose flour

3/4 T. salt

375 F / 190 C

  1. In mixer bowl or glass bowl pour in the water. Add the yeast and leave to activate while you measure the flour and salt.
  2. Measure out the dry ingredients and add to mixer bowl.
  3. With dough attachment or wooden spoon mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Securely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 2-3 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when it deflates in on itself.
  5. On a lightly floured surface roll half of the dough into desired shape, about 1/8″ thick.
  6. Dust a pizza stone with some semolina flour or AP flour and arrange the dough on the stone. Pre-bake for 8 minutes.

SAUCE: (for 2 pizzas)

1 roasted acorn squash

1/2 c. whole cream (or more if you prefer)

1 1/2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

  1. Roast acorn squash in foil drizzled with olive oil at 350 F / 180 C for about 30 minutes.
  2. In a food processor, combine all ingredients.
  3. Set aside.

TOPPINGS: (for 2 pizzas)

1 raw beet, peeled

1 c. cubed cooked sausage (I used Al Fresco Red Pepper and Asiago)

2 1/2 c. fresh spinach

1/2 c. goats cheese

chili flakes

pine nuts

ASSEMBLY:

  1. On pre-baked crust, spread half the squash sauce on the crust and then top with half of the remaining toppings, except the chili flakes and pine nuts.
  2. Bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes at the same temperature of 350 F / 190 C.
  3. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chili flakes, pine nuts and additional salt and pepper over top.

 

 

Olive and Parmesan Soft Pretzels

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This is one of those bread recipes that I hinted at in my soda bread post that involves a bit more time and effort. I had planned on doing these yesterday but ended up having one of those days where you just don’t give a damn. So, I’m doing it today instead, which by the way, I’m still not giving a whole lot of damn. Let this be further proof that making your own bread is worth it even on the lazier days.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t crave a pretzel. When I say pretzel, I do mean the Americanized version of it. Though German pretzels do have their place, today isn’t it. This recipe is a step up from the ones you dip in wannabe cheese at baseball games, though. They’re salty, nutty, rustic and a bit rough around the edges, which is right up my ally.

I used this basic pretzel recipe from ChowHound and added a few extra things to it in the recipe below. In total, this will take you a few hours. If you choose to add different flavors, add them AFTER the first rise! Just off the top of my head, you could add: fresh herbs, cheese, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, dried fruits, candied peels, seeds, nuts, chocolate, etc.

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*I may have photographed my pretzel upside-down. Oops.

PRETZELS:

1 cup warm water

2 1/4 t. active dry yeast

Vegetable oil

2 3/4 c. bread flour

1 T. granulated sugar

1 t. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

6 c. water

1/4 c. baking soda

1/4 c. green olives, measure then finely chop

parmesan cheese for sprinkling

  1. Prep: Lightly grease a glass mixing bowl. Line 2 baking sheet with greased parchment paper and a layer of greased plastic wrap overtop.
  2. Add yeast and water to a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes until it becomes frothy.
  3. Meanwhile, combine your dry ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. When the yeast has proofed, add to the mixture on low power. Once combined, move to medium power and knead for about 8 minutes until your dough becomes shiny and smooth.
  4. Take dough out and shape into a ball. Roll it in your greased bowl so it is covered on all sides and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in warm place for 40 minutes to 1 hour. It should double in size.
  5. Once doubled in size, dump the finely chopped olives over top and punch down the dough. Gently squeeze the dough until the olives are evenly incorporated. Divide the dough into 16 evenly sized pieces.
  6. Roll each piece out to about 16 inches and form a pretzel twist (Bring two ends up and twist two times. Bring the twist over the middle of the piece and press lightly where they meet.) Pictures in link above.
  7. Place all 16 pretzels on the greased sheets you prepared earlier and let sit in warm spot for about 20 minutes. They should be bouncy and airy to the touch.
  8. Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once it reaches a boil, add the baking soda. The water will fizz a little bit. Preheat your oven to 425º F / 218º C for step 10.
  9. Place 2-3 pretzels in the pot and boil each side for one minute, 2 minutes total per pretzel. When done, remove the pretzel and move to a wire rack until finished.
  10. When each pretzel has bene boiled on both sides, place on baking sheets and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 8-10 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. They should be brown with a chewy thick crust.
  11. Cool on wire rack until ready to eat.

 

 

Garlic, Onion & Thyme Soda Bread w/ Rosemary Olive Oil Goat Cheese Spread

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I realized that I haven’t made any bread yet, which is unlike me because I love bread. I love eating it, I love dipping it, but more than anything, I love making it. There’s something very loving and ritualistic about baking bread that amuses me.

I’m aware that most people don’t actually want to spend half their day nurturing a blob of dough, which is why there are alternatives! Obviously, you can just buy some bloody bread and call it good, but that’s sissy talk. There’s an amazing book that I was given by someone very dear to me called, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It is the answer to all your bread prayers if you’re someone with little time to spare for baking. I can’t recommend this book enough. You get yeast-risen dough in half the time and only a fraction of the work. The other option is to make bread that doesn’t use yeast at all. Instead, it uses bicarbonate of soda. Also known as quick-bread, there is no wait time for this. Make it, shape it, bake it, eat it. Easy.

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The bicarbonate of soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk and pushes the dough up and out, making it rise. If I could compare it to anything, I’d say it has more of a biscuit-like texture happening inside. A delicious, crunchy, biscuity bread. Yes.

This recipe is a page out of Paul Hollywood’s book of expertise on all things bread. I imagine if there were a bread god, he’d be it. I’ve spiced his traditional recipe up with some herbs and cheese and to be honest, there’s hardly any left. Its almost shameful consdiering I made it only an hour ago and I’m the only one home. Carpe diem.

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P. S. If your interest in bread stops here, well done, and enjoy your soda bread. If you’re looking for something more challenging, stick around for a fruity brioche bun in the near future.

 

SODA BREAD (base recipe by Paul Hollywood)

250g plain white flour

250g plain wholemeal flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 T. fresh chopped thyme

1 t. chopped garlic

1/2 of an onion, diced

About 400ml buttermilk

390° F / 200° C

  1. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Form a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in most of the buttermilk.
  3. With your hands, combine the ingredients into a uniform dough. If the mixture feels too dry, add more buttermilk.
  4. Once combined, dump the dough out onto a floured surface and gently bring it together into a circle, pushing it down to form a large disk (about 7-inches).
  5. Place on lightly floured baking stone and score it into quarters by cutting deep into the bread, but no all the way through. Dust with flour.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it.

 

GOAT CHEESE SPREAD:

85 g. goat cheese

2 T. cream

1 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 T. grated parmesan

1/4 t. salt

1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped finely

  1. Combine all ingredients by hand, in a mixer or food processor until smooth and creamy. Optional: Place in a dish and drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Top with a sprig of rosemary.

 

Baked White Bean & Spinach Dip

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This is delicious. It’s a cold and rainy day and there’s nothing more perfect than a hot and cheesy dip on my plate right now. Let me talk you through some options before you make this.

You can:

Option 1: Eat it all by yourself and admit it to no one.

Option 2: Share and consequently suffer with silent regret as you watch it disappear by no hand of your own wishing that you would’ve just kept it your cheesy little secret.

The choice is yours. Sometimes less is more.

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WHITE BEAN DIP: (makes 2-4 servings)

2 T. oil

2 T. butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 onion

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

2 T. flour

1 c. cream

1/4 ricotta or mascarpone cheese

1/4 c. fresh grated parmesan

1/4 t. dried mustard

pinch of nutmeg

2 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach

1/2 c. white beans (cooked or canned)

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella or provolone

  1. In a large pan melt butter and oil together on medium-low heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Once onion soften add the flour to make a roux.
  3. Stir in the cream.
  4. Let simmer until it thickens to a sauce. Add the cheese, mustard and nutmeg.
  5. Add the spinach and beans and stir. Remove from heat when the spinach has reduced in size by half.
  6. Broil under the grill at 400 F / 200 C for 5-10 minutes depending on how dark you like your cheese to be. It should be bubbling.
  7. Serve with toasted bread, crackers, veggies, whatever!

 

Pumpkin Ravioli with Ricotta and Sage Filling

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In Thailand when my boyfriend and I had first moved into our house, our kitchen left much to be desired. Why? Because we didn’t have one. It was an empty room of only possibilities with the occasional gecko on the wall. We did, however, have a little electric wok that was leftover from me living in an apartment.

As two people from western countries, we don’t always jump at the chance to eat Thai food. Sometimes we just needed a break. In that case, we ate pasta. The ingredients were easy to get our hands on and didn’t require a ton of effort in the heat. More importantly, it wasn’t rice. And just like that, our little wok found it’s purpose. I made cream sauces, tomato sauces, butter sauces, curry sauces, I did it all. When we finally got around to making a proper kitchen we could barely say the word ‘pasta’ without a long tiresome sigh of disinterest.

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Time went by and we eventually began to refamiliarize ourselves with the pasta section in our grocery store. To be honest, it was mainly because we had discovered they started selling lasagna sheets during our absence. When you live in a foreign country and something familiar hits the shelves, it might as well be Christmas. Slowly but surely, we made amends…and lasagna.

After all that you’d think I would’ve abandoned pasta entirely. Nope. Eating endless pasta was one of the first memories the two of us ever made together in our little Thai house. As a result, pasta still touches my plate from time to time.

So, this post is my ode pasta. May our love-hate relationship forever burn in my memory. The good news is that making pasta this fresh breathes a new life into it. I already feel better about it. Give it a try.

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI

1/2 c. pumpkin puree

1 T. olive oil

3 c. flour

2 eggs

  1. Measure the flour first and put into a mixer bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center and pour the other ingredients in the middle.
  3. Mix (by hand or mixer) until it has combined and turn it onto a floured surface.
  4. Knead for 3-5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and almost shiny.
  5. Chill for at least 1 hour to rest the dough.
  6. Once the dough is chilled, remove the dough and cut into quarters. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Lightly flour both sides and then move to the roll setting on the pasta machine. Start on one of the higher settings like 6 or 7 and move down until you reach your desired thickness. I ended up happy going from setting 7 to setting 5, and stopping at setting 3.
    • Optional: If you are making spaghetti or fettuccine, follow the same process, but then run the dough through the spaghetti/fettuccine attachment once you’ve reached your desired thickness and move to step 10.
  7. For ravioli, roll two identical size sheets out and place teaspoon size spoonfuls of filling across the dough about 1 inch apart.
  8. Lay the second layer over the top and pat around the lumps of filling, making sure to push the air out.
  9. Using a pasta cutter or a cookie cutter (any shape) cut out the ravioli making sure to leave enough space around the filling. If not totally sealed, pat it down with your fingers.
  10. Either boil right away for 1-2 minutes and put in your favorite sauce or refrigerate in an airtight container for later use. It’s best used within a week of making.

***After about 12 raviolis, I used the rest of my dough to make spaghetti and fettuccine noodles. If you do the same, cut the filling recipe below in half.

FILLING:

7 oz. Ricotta

1 egg

1/4-1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese

2 t. dried sage

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients and use as filling for ravioli.

 

Parmesan, Ham & Swiss Chard Quiche

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Quiche. It’s not the drab posh dish that some might think it is. Not only is it delicious, but it has endless possibilities. Recipes with that kind of leg room are worth keeping. Not to mention, it’s one of those one-size-fits-all type deals since you can eat it at breakfast, lunch or dinner. But wait, there’s more! You can even eat it cold.

In the past, I’ve baked my quiche in one swift move without blind baking. That was stupid. As a dedicated and loyal watcher of The Great British Bake Off I’m now no fool. The golden rule for anything with a crust is, no soggy bottom. Don’t even try to cut corners because you’ll  be crying tears of regret into your squishy soggy bottomed quiche if you do!

For this recipe, I used what I had on hand, which turned out to be lovely. I ended up with a nice rustic blend of ingredients and even managed to incorporate the sweet onion chutney I made a couple of days ago. I always feel the weirdest sense of accomplishment when I use leftover ingredients.

Use what you want or follow my ingredient list, but even the simplest of quiches are delicious. Happy quiching.

If you’re like me, you’ll take the quiche out of the oven with one hand accidentally hoisting up the free-form bottom while fumbling (and burning) the other in order to save the whole operation.

Don’t do that…

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CRUST:

7 T. cold butter

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 t. salt

2-3 T. ice cold water

350° F / 180° C

  1. In a food processor (or by hand) pulse the flour and butter together until it forms a crumb like texture.
  2. Slowly add the cold water until the mixture comes together and holds its shape when pinched. You may not need all of the water.
  3. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle on a floured surface. Place it in the your pan, pressing it against the edges. Trim the excess pastry and poke the bottom with a fork a few times so that it doesn’t bubble up in the oven.
  4. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes. Visit The Kitchn if you’re unsure of how to do this.
  5. When finished, set aside for later.

 

QUICHE FILLING:

2 T. olive oil

1/2 c. chopped smoked ham

2 cloves minced garlic

1/4 c. diced onion

1 1/2 c. chopped swiss chard

1 T. sweet onion chutney (optional)

1/2 c. parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

4 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 c. cream

350° F / 180° C

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté together the garlic, onion and ham. When the ham has darkened in color add the chard and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove from the heat and add chutney and 1/4 c. of the parmesan. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the sauteed mixture and mix well.
  6. Pour the mixture into the pre-baked crust and top with the remaining parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until there is no wobble.