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The Best Cheese Quiche

18 Sep

Cheese QuicheFor years I struggled to make a decent quiche. It would always come out of the oven looking beautiful, but then as soon as I cut it, the filling would start to “weep.” The bottom crust would get soggy, and I would inevitably be very disappointed.

This problem was solved by my friend Elaine Webber, who taught me this foolproof method. By putting the cheese right on the piecrust and then putting hot vegetables on top of it, you melt the cheese slightly and form a bit of a barrier between the crust and the egg-and-milk mixture that keeps the crust from getting soggy. The result is delectible.

You can easily vary the vegetables — leave out the onion and use chopped spinach, for example, with or without mushrooms. The only essential steps are to cook the vegetables and assemble the quiche while the vegetables are hot.

Of course you can make your own piecrust, but it’s much easier to use frozen. Be sure to get  the deep-dish variety, and even then you may have too much custard. If that’s the case you can save the leftovers and make crustleess mini-quiches by  combining cooked vegetables, grated cheese and the custard in cupcake tins and baking until they are puffed and set.

Ingredients:

1 frozen deep-dish pie crust (or make your own if you’re energetic)
1½ cup chopped or sliced onion
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
4 large eggs
1½ cups milk
2 Tbs. flour
½ tsp. dry mustard
Pinch dried thyme
Pinch black pepper
1½ cups (packed) grated sharp cheddar cheese
Paprika

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute the onions and mushrooms until soft and the mushroom liquid is evaporated. Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour and seasonings. Spread the cheese on the unbaked piecrust, then spread the vegetables on top. Wait a few minutes, then pour the egg mixture over. Sprinkle paprika on top. Bake 45 to 60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serves 6

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Cheese Souffle

14 May

Cheese SouffleTonight starts the Jewish festival of Shavuot (Weeks). It’s customary to eat dairy foods. You may ask why. You won’t get an answer here. There’s no definitive answer. There’s a lot of speculation, too detailed and esoteric for me to get into now. My answer must echo Tevye: “Tradition!”

Here’s a nice recipe for a delicious dairy supper. It isn’t a true souffle, which would involve starting with a white sauce, adding cheese and egg yolks and then folding in beaten egg whites. This is a lot easier because you start with stale bread cubes. It’s actually more of a savory bread pudding, but what comes out of the oven looks and tastes a lot like a souffle, so go ahead, call it a souffle!

I always turn bread that’s past its prime into bread cubes. I keep them in a large bowl on the counter to dry out, tossing them occasionally. If there’s a big holiday coming up that calls for a turkey, I’ll use it for stuffing. Otherwise, when I get enough I make a bread pudding of some sort. The dry bread cubes will keep for weeks as long as they don’t get wet!

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. butter (optional)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
4 scallions, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs. white wine (optional)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 to 6 slices stale white bread, crust trimmed and cut into cubes
4 eggs
2 cups milk
¼ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dry mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

If you plan to use the mushrooms, scallions and wine, melt the butter in a skillet, add the mushrooms, scallions and wine and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid is evaporated.

Trim the crusts from the stale bread and cut it into cubes. Grease a casserole or soufflé dish and place the bread cubes in it. Add the mushroom-scallion mixture and the cheese. Beat the eggs well. Add the milk, thyme and mustard, and the Worcestershire sauce or cayenne pepper if you use it. Pour over the bread cubes and mix lightly to be sure all the cubes are coated with the egg-milk mixture. Wait at least 10 minutes, preferably a little longer, for the egg-milk mixture to be absorbed into the bread. (You can leave it to soak as long as overnight, but cover it and put it in the fridge if you are going to wait more than an hour or two, and then bring the dish back to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the soufflé for 35 to 45 minutes until it is puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It will sink a little as it cools.

Serves 4

Lentil-Veggie “Meat”balls

14 Feb

Veggie Lentil Meatballs in panI’m running this recipe — which was featured as one of the best vegetarian recipes of 2012 by Huffington Post — on Valentine’s Day, because  it’s a good one to make to show someone how much you truly care! It’s not that it’s particularly difficult to make, but there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of cooking and then cooling, so it takes a lot of time and some effort — and dirties a lot of pots and bowls in the process.

It also makes an enormous amount, something I didn’t consider when I made it for the first time. We ate our fill and froze the rest. Freeze them in a single layer, and after they’re frozen, you can pop them into a quart-sized freezer bag. Thaw and serve at room temperature or reheat in the oven or microwave.

These tasty veggie balls are good plain or with a sauce. I served them with a dab of store-bought pesto and oven-roasted sweet potatoes.

Ingredients:

2 cups lentils
¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. tomato paste
8 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup fresh parsley (or 2 Tbs. dried)
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

Combine the lentils and 2 quarts of water in a medium stockpot and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow them to cool.

Add ¼ cup olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. When the mixture is cool, add the lentils, eggs, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts. Mix thoroughly until everything is incorporated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Veggie Lentil Meatballs with pestoDrizzle the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the surface. Roll the lentil-veggie mixture into round golf-ball sized balls, packing the mixture firmly. You may need to periodically wet your hands. Place the balls in the prepared dish, leaving ¼-inch of space between them. Roast the balls for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until they are firm and cooked through. Allow the balls to cool in the dish for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 or more

Amish Cabbage Casserole

28 Jan

Amish Cabbage CasseroleOne day I wanted to make a spinach and cabbage salad, so I sent Joe to the store to buy a small cabbage. Alas, all they had was a large cabbage, so after I made the salad, I still had about three-quarters of the cabbage left. I didn’t want to make another slaw, and I didn’t want to just boil it up, although I do like plain, buttered boiled cabbage. I wasn’t in the mood for the old standby sweet-and-sour cabbage and tomato soup. So I looked online and found this recipe for a cabbage casserole, which turned out to be quintessential comfort food, perfect for a dreary winter day like today. It’s also very easy to make, though you’re left with a lot of pots to wash. If you don’t like the idea of using canned cream of mushroom soup, you can make your own sauce using fresh mushrooms and a very thick white sauce (you’ll want it to be as thick as canned cream of mushroom soup). The original recipe called for American cheese, but I think cheddar or Colby cheese gives a better flavor. This can be served as a side dish or as a main dish.

Ingredients:

1 medium head cabbage, shredded (about 12 cups)
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 medium onion, chopped
5 Tbs. butter, divided
6 oz. cheese, shredded or cut in cubes
¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Boil a large pot of water and cook the cabbage until it’s tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion in 4 Tbs. butter until soft and golden. Add the soup and cheese and heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted. Place the cabbage in a greased 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over it; stir well. Add salt and pepper if you want to (most cheese is salty enough that you don’t have to add additional, but a little pepper is good.)

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and stir in the breadcrumbs. Continue stirring until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole bubbles and the breascrumbs are browned.

Serves 6

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

1 Jan

Mac n' cheese I got this recipe from the New York Times, and loved it because it’s so easy – no need to cook the mac or make a cheese sauce. The original recipe said not to use skim milk or lowfat cottage cheese, but that’s what we usually have on hand and so that’s what I usually use – and it comes out great. The recipe uses so much cheese that I figured I’d save calories where I could! I use an immersion blender to mix the milk, cheeses and spices.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs butter or margarine
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups milk
1 tsp dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked
¼ tsp paprika

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan with 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine (or use cooking spray).

In a blender, or with an immersion blender, purée the cottage cheese, all the cheese except for ¼ cup,the  milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper together. You’ll use the reserved ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine the milk-cheese mixture and uncooked pasta (or you can combine them right in the baking pan). Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover the pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and paprika and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake uncovered 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.