Monthly Archive for January, 2010

Myth-buster: Quiche IS for Real Men (and so is the color pink)

Despite the fact that it was a cold rainy day North of the Golden Gate Bridge it was not like any other ordinary Sunday because it was Joe Kelly’s birthday brunch. Not only had he and his Sweetheart Ingrid been busily getting the house in order for this celebration, they had also managed to turn out an impressive spread in honor of this auspicious occasion. Aside from the mimosas, the orange currant and blueberry scones and a winter berry fruit salad, they had made QUICHE. While there were three quiche/tart options on display I thought it only just to share with you one recipe each from the two cooks. After all, this WAS history right? This proved that it was a myth that real men don’t eat quiche…because this guy from San Rafael doesn’t just eat it, he makes it…and he’s ALL quite a man. Come to think of it, I’ve even spotted him in a pink polo before so he is up there with the all time myth-busters. Thank you Ingrid and Joe for sharing these recipes with me and my readers.

Caramelized Leek, Goat’s Cheese and Spinach Tart

Pastry Ingredients

8 oz flour

4 oz butter

2-4 TBS Iced water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place flour and butter in food processor until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With motor running, add iced water, a little at a time, until pastry comes together. Gather into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. (While this sets up in the refrigerator, you can start your filling.)

Roll pastry out on lightly floured surface, place into pie dish and trim off excess pastry. Line with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the weights/rice and the paper and bake for an additional 10 minutes at a reduced temperature of 315 degrees.

Filling Ingredients

2 TBS Olive Oil

1 leek, thinly sliced

1 head fennel, thinly sliced

5 oz baby spinach leaves

2 ½ oz goat’s cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup Swiss cheese, grated

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup Half & Half or whip cream


In a large-size pan, heat oil and then add leek and fennel. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until leeks are caramelized and set aside. Then add the spinach and cook until it wilts. Spread leek and fennel over pastry shell and top with spinach and goat’s cheese. In a medium-size bowl, lightly whisk eggs and add in cream. Blend in the Swiss cheese. Make certain that the ingredients are not too hot before adding the eggs, cream and Swiss cheese. Pour eggs and cream into the pastry shell and bake for 40 minutes or until set.

Basic Quiche

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup Half & Half

2 cups grated cheese, Swiss or Gruyere cheese is fantastic

(see filling recommendations below)

Filling recommendations

· Spinach, mushroom, onion, Swiss cheese. (Saute onion, spinach, and mushrooms separately before adding to egg mixture)

· Broccoli, ham, onion, Cheddar cheese (I ask the the local deli to slice two thick slices of ham to get the correct thickness)

· Bacon & onion (cook bacon and crumble, sweat onions until translucent)


You will want to either make the pastry dough as above or purchase and pre-cook a pastry shell according to package directions (I do not recommend placing ingredients in an uncooked pie shell, it will become like a sticky paste. Saute or steam any vegetables to be used as filling. In a medium-size bowl mix eggs, Half & Half, cheese. Pour into pastry shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.

And as for that cold rainy day I mentioned, ya know, the one North of the Golden Gate Bridge? Well this photo captures the feeling pretty well….too good not to share it.

Attribution: Refraction of Golden Gate Bridge:Wikipedia

Attribution: Refraction of Golden Gate Bridge:Wikipedia

Italian Wedding Soup – A Soup-ified Delight

While some of you may imagine that this is a cleaver way to discuss marriage, it is really more about a ‘marriage of food’. That said, I must confess, I had *never* heard about this soup when I lived in Italy – I only discovered this tasty dish a few years ago.

What I can tell you is that the term “wedding soup” is a classic mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (“married soup”), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together. Upon further digging, Càrola Francesconis’s masterful ‘La Cucina Napoletana’, dives deeper into the history of this soup-ified dish — she explains:

Minestra Maritata is a traditional Neapolitan greens and meat soup, which owes its name to the fact that the ingredients go well together — si maritano bene, i.e. they are well married. It’s also a very old dish; some food historians say it derives from the Spanish olla podrida (a liquid stew with many meats, link in Spanish) while others say it derives from Roman traditions. The Italian recipes for Minestra Maritata I have seen call for a variety of meats, which are boiled, shredded, and returned to the pot with the greens. The American versions of the recipe often call for meatballs.

Yes, you guessed it- while I am of Italian decent, I AM American. My version of this dish keeps to some of the core concepts and consist of green vegetables (I like to alternate between endive and escarole or cabbage, lettuce, kale, and/or spinach) and meats (usually meatballs and/or sausage but shredded chicken is also a nice substitute) and is mixed into a clear chicken-based broth and finished off with a small sized pasta (such as tubettini or macaroni).

Italian Wedding Soup

Meatball Ingredients

1 lb ground chicken
3/4 lb chicken sausage or mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup white bread crumbs (or two slices of white bread with edges removed
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese + extra for serving, finely grated
1/4 cup milk
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
2 tsps salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Soup Ingredients

2 TBS olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 ½ cups carrots (approx 3-4 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup celery (2-3 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
12 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups small pasta, such elbow macaroni
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
12 oz baby spinach, washed and trimmed
* crusty bread (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Using a heaping teaspoon, drop 1 1/4-inch size meatballs onto a foil lined pan. (This recipe yields approx 40 meatballs.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In a medium-large size pot boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in colander when ready. Ladle pasta into warmed soup bowls, add soup and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes. Then add in the carrots and celery and saute until softened approximately 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the dill and spinach and meatballs and simmer for 3 minutes. Spinach should be wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a ladle of pasta in the bottom of each warmed dish. Then add in the soup and sprinkle with a little cheese. Serve with a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!

And for my Italian friends, here is something fun that I found while researching this soup, which I am sure you can appreciate. Anna Amalia, gives three versions of the Italian Wedding Soup recipe — one in Neapolitan, one in Italian, and one in English. It seems that while once quite popular in Naples, Minestra Maritata has fallen from popularity due the long list of ingredients called for, and because it is considered to be a heavy soup by modern standards.

****MINESTRA MARITATA di Anna Amalia *****
‘A menèsta ‘mmaritata

Cu nu poco ‘e tiempe e pacienza putite priparà ‘na pietanza ca è ‘o vanto d ”a cucina napulitana.. addo’ carne e verdura s’ammarìtano.. Oggi poco s’aùsa p”a troppa ‘mbuttitura ca nc”e vo’, ma pe’ chi ‘a vo’ pruvà, ‘a ricetta è chesta ccà:
Mettìte a vòllere cu acqua abbundante ‘n’uòsso ‘e presutto, nu salamino (200 g), custatèlle ‘e puorco (300g), 3 sacicce, ‘na còtena, e mièzu chilo ‘e carne ‘e puorco, ‘e carne ‘e vaccìna, nu’ bello pièzzo, 2 cipolle,’na pastunaca, ddòie cape d’àccio, e facitele còcere pe’ ‘nu paio d’ore. Quanno è cotta, levàte ‘a carne, e, dint’o’ stesso broro, facìte còcere dui chili ‘e verdura ammiscàta, e cioè: cicoria, cappuccia, vruoccòle e vrùcculille, già lavata.Quanno ‘a verdura s’è cotta, sì vulìte magnà tutte cose ‘nsieme, ‘nce menàte ‘a carne ‘a dinto, e si’ nò, v”a magnàte come sicondo piatto. Sotto ‘a menèsta mettìtece pane de’ casa abbrustuluto.

Minestra maritata

Con molto tempo e tanta pazienza potrete realizzare un vecchio vanto della cucina napoletana, e campana in genere: questa minestra in cui carne e verdure si “maritano”.
Oggi è un po’ in disuso per il numero e la scelta degli ingredienti necessari, che ormai non fanno quasi più parte della nostra cucina quotidiana.
Per chi pensa di poterseli procurare, ecco comunque la ricetta: Lessate in abbondante acqua un osso di prosciutto, un salamino di circa 200 g, 300 g di costolette di maiale, tre salsicce, qualche cotica , 500 g. di carne di maiale e un pezzo (5-600 g) di carne di manzo. Unite anche 2 cipolle, 1 carota gialla, due coste di sedano e lasciate cuocere per un paio d’ore. Scolate quindi tutta la carne e tagliatela a pezzi. Nello stesso brodo di cottura delle carni lessate 2 kg di verdure assortite, precedentemente lavate, tra cui la cicoria, la cappuccina, i broccoli e i broccoletti. Quando le verdure saranno cotte, unite anche la carne al brodo, se desiderate mangiare tutto insieme, altrimenti servite la minestra di verdure con dei crostini di pane casereccio abbrustoliti e la carne a parte, come secondo piatto.

Un piccolo consiglio: perché il piatto sia più leggero, bollire da solo l’ osso di prosciutto per qualche minuto, buttare l’acqua di cottura, e poi cucinare il tutto come prevede la ricetta.

“Married” Soup

With a lot of time and patience you can make this old soup recipe, the pride of Neapolitan cooking, where meat and vegetables are “married” togheter. Today, this soup is not very widely used on account of the vast number and choice of the necessary ingredients, which do not play a part anymore in our daily cooking. For those who are able to procure all the ingredients, here is the recipe: boil in lot of water, the bone of a leg of ham, a salame sausage of about 200gms, 300 gms of pork chops, 3 sausages, some pork rind and 500 gms of pork and beef. Also add 2 onions, 1 yellow carrot, 2 sticks of celery. Leave the lot to cook for a couple of hours, then drain the meat and cut into pieces: In the same meat stock, boil about 2 kg of assorted vegetables, amongst which cicory, “cappuccina” i.e. a type of salad, broccoli and brussel sprouts. When the vegetables are well cooked, add the meat to the stock.

Cremas- A Haitian Indulgence

While we are nearly mid-way into 2010 I have surprisingly not had the time to post any of my recent cooking adventures- that said, many of the new ‘concepts’ have not been what I would deem as worthy successes. Happily, this morning when I logged onto email a post from my Twitter pal @ilinap hit me as the perfect post. I reached out to her and asked if she would share her thoughts/words/philanthropic outreach/recipe with all of you. Graciously, she said ‘yes!’.

This post is more than just a fun recipe, this post can help a group of people. Each comment on her site earns a dollar to help Haiti and you get to learn a bit more about a wonderful, sweet local beverage. What you may not know is that ‘Dirt and Noise’ has a regular Friday feature called 5:00 Friday where Ilina posts a fun new drink recipe. This week she took that concept and blended together (pun intended) a way to use her Friday indulgence to help others.

A bit of Ilina’s excerpted post:
I grappled with posting today. I mean, I feel kinda lousy throwing back a cool cocktail while millions of people are struggling for a simple glass of water in Port Au Prince, Haiti. It is hard to belt out a guffaw and embrace glee while I know so many people are hurting in the throes of despair. There’s not enough hyperbole to go around to adequately explain the situation down there. A mere 90 miles from our shores.

Today I’d like to use 5:00 Fridays to give a nod to Haiti’s culture. With this drink, you’d better make a couple batches and invite over the neighbors. Better yet, invite the neighbors and collect a cover charge at the door. Donate the cash to the people of Haiti. I’ll even donate a buck to UNICEF for every comment on this post.

This drink is like a delectable milkshake without the hassle of a blender. What I love is that the Haitians like to serve this rich concoction with pastries or cakes. I’m all about indulging my inner sweet tooth (and outer love handles).


2 (12 oz) cans of evaporated milk
4 (12 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 (15 oz) can cream of coconut (NOT to be confused with coconut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 anise star
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 lime (zest and juice)
1/5 80 proof rum (You read that right. A fifth. The whole bottle)

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot and pour into tall glasses filled with crushed ice. Sprinkle with a bit of nutmeg to fancy it up.

I raise a glass to the people of Haiti and all those reaching out and flying in to help them. Peace. Click her to

Thank you Ilina for your post. Friends and family, please click here to comment and donate (at no cost to you) one dollar to Hati.

And if you want to do more- there are many ways to contribute (as taken from both Ilina’s site ‘Dirt & Noise‘ and Jane Maynard’s “This Week For Dinner‘:


International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
: (Text “HAITI” to “90999” to donate $10 to the Red Cross.)

Haiti Reborn: An local organization accepting donations to help earthquake relief efforts

Doctors Without Borders: Another organization already in Haiti and working directly with victims of the earthquake

Partners in Health: Based in Boston, Partners in Health (PIH) have been working in Haiti for many years to establish rural health clinics for more information

Yéle Haiti: Wyclef Jean’s organization. They have many directly-linked projects to community groups in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. (You can text “yele” to 501501 to automatically donate $5 to the éle Haiti Earthquake Fund. The 5 bucks will be charged to your regular cell phone bill. It doesn’t get any easier than this.) or you can visit the website