Over the years, Brion and I have vacationed many times in the Carmel / Monterey area on the California coast. As a rule, we make Pacific Grove ‘home base’ and from there do numerous day trips. About a 20 minute drive inland from Monterey Bay is the tiny agricultural town of Castroville. It is surrounded by robust fields of artichokes. When you enter into the town you will see a sign that says ‘Artichoke Center of the World’.
As the Italians migrated in large numbers to the United States in the early 1920’s, they brought with them some of their cherished and favorite foods. One of them was the globe artichoke. Landowner, Andrew Molera was approached to grow artichokes. The idea was encouraging because they were very expensive and looked like he could make better money than with his current crop of sugar beets.
The loamy, well drained soil and cool foggy summers were a good match for this crop. More than nine decades later, nearly 100 percent of America’s fresh artichoke supply comes from California and nearly two thirds are still grown in Castroville.
Today, I’m using artichokes in a quiche with a potato pastry. This type of pastry was very popular during WWII, as rationing was tightened. It enabled homemakers to stretch their flour ration with potatoes from their gardens. I think potato pastry makes the perfect crust for this kind of quiche. The Red Pepper Puree is the ‘icing on the cake’, as they say.
In a bowl, combine potato, flours & salt. With a pastry cutter, add butter. Knead dough lightly on a floured work surface. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes then press into quiche pan. Preheat oven to 425 F. 'Blind' bake until lightly golden.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Place salmon fillets on a lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes. Flake cooked salmon & set aside. In a large skillet, saute mushrooms, onions for about 5-7 minutes. Dice artichokes into quarters & add to skillet along with garlic; cook 3-4 minutes & remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, fresh basil & spices.
Spread half if the Gruyere cheese on bottom of quiche crust. Top with flaked salmon & sauteed vegetables. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over all. Top with remaining Gruyere & Parmigano-Reggiano cheeses. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until quiche is 'set'.
Meanwhile, place the roasted red peppers in a food processor & process until almost smooth. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with quiche.
A nice alternate crust would be one made with cheddar cheese.
I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette.
In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry.
Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.
Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day. Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.
I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.
The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.
In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.
Pizza al taglio (Italian for pizza ‘by the cut’) is a variety of pizza baked in large rectangular trays and generally sold by weight with prices marked per kilogram or per 100 grams. This type of pizza was invented in Rome, Italy.
Roman pizza al taglio came into existence in the 1960’s. These large slabs of pizza are generally thicker and softer. The main emphasis being not so much upon the visual aspect of the pizza, rather the taste and convenience of the process being the priority. The rectangular pizza shape makes it easier to cut and divide the pizza to the buyer’s desire.
Years ago, growing up on a farm, pizza was not a usual meal for our family. This was until my mother acquired a nice, little, glossy covered recipe book put out by Fleischmann’s Yeast Company. Among numerous good recipes it contained one for PIZZA! My mother baked bread every week so she had yeast baking down to a science.
I really don’t recall what it was topped with, just that it was sooo…… good! Brion and I refrain from ‘ordering’ pizza very often. Not because we don’t like it but rather just the opposite — we love it. The only problem is the calorie count is just too high. That being said, it doesn’t stop me from making a homemade version from time to time.
Today I used the crust recipe from that Fleischmann’s book and a copycat filling from Boston Pizza’s BBQ Chicken pizza. Yum!
Measure into bowl, 1 cup lukewarm water. Stir in 1 tsp sugar; sprinkle with the pkg of yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, THEN stir well. Add 1 tsp salt & 1/4 cup oil; stir in 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in additional 1 1/4 cups flour. Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth & elastic. Place in a greased bowl; brush top with melted butter. Cover. Let rise in a warm place free from draft until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Toppings / Sauce
In a skillet, saute onion, red & green pepper & mushrooms in a small amount of butter. Shred mozzarella & cheddar cheeses. Chop cooked chicken. To BBQ sauce add water to make sauce consistency.
Preheat oven to 400 F. When dough is doubled in bulk, punch down. Press into a 16 x 12 x 1" baking pan. Spread BBQ sauce & water mixture over crust. Top with sauteed vegetables, chicken, mozzarella & cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
Are you aware that today, May 20th, the USA celebrates ‘National Quiche Lorraine Day’. It is one of their many ‘fun food holidays’. Who makes up these holidays is not clear but it gives a great excuse to enjoy this classic quiche.
In a strict sense, there are no national holidays in the United States. Each of the 50 states has jurisdiction over its own holidays. The federal government proclaimed ten holidays that most states observe on the same dates. These are called ‘legal’ or ‘public’ holidays.
Fun food holidays usually originate from and are promoted by industry groups, clubs, health organizations and occasionally individuals.
Over 50 years ago, Julia Child introduced us to French cuisine with her cooking series, The French Chef, on PBS television. Among the many dishes she introduced was the original or classic Quiche Lorraine.
Quiche Lorraine (named for the Lorraine region of France) was originally an open pie with a filling of custard and smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to this quiche. Today we have many variants to the original that include a wide variety of ingredients. Myself, I could eat quiche anytime, for any meal. This fun food holiday sure seems like a great idea. To our quiche Lorraine I am adding some mushrooms for a little extra flavor since we both enjoy them.
In a skillet, fry bacon. Remove from skillet & lay on paper towel. In bacon drippings, saute mushrooms, onions & garlic until moisture evaporates. Crumble bacon. Grate cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper & thyme. In the bottom of quiche shell place half of the grated cheese. Top with bacon, mushrooms, green onion & garlic. Carefully pour egg mixture over all. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until quiche tests done in center. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
If your using milk it will take a bit longer to bake but does cut down those calories.
No barbecue is complete without adding a few salads. More than just greens topped with a dressing, there are many versions of coleslaw and pasta salads as well as vegetable and gelatin salads. Without a doubt, you can make them as simple or fancy as you like or have the time for.
Every family seems to develop its own salad favorites. For our family, it was my mother’s ‘German’ version of potato salad. This was not the ‘Hot German Potato Salad’ whichyou most often see in recipe books. Her’s was a very basic potato salad, not a lot of ingredients, but the dressing was what made it special to us. Like so many German recipes it had that sweet-sour taste.
Over the years, either in the commercial food industry or at company barbecues, etc. I have used and shared her recipe many times. It has never failed to draw great reviews but strangely enough I think my husband is the only person I’ve known who didn’t care for potato salad in any fashion.
There are endless ideas for barbecue salads. In today’s blog I thought it would be nice to post a medley of five different kinds. I think you will find they are reasonably quick and easy to prepare as well as good accompaniments to most any meat being barbecued.
Cook potatoes in salted water. Cool, peel & cube. Combine potatoes, eggs, & onion. Blend together dressing ingredients & pour over potato mixture; mix well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Just before serving time, add sliced radishes & more salt if necessary. Mix well.
Chick Pea Pasta Salad
Cook pasta according to pkg. directions. Drain & rinse under cold running water until cold. Combine pasta with next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat evenly. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Arrange greens on serving plate & top with chick pea mixture or mix greens into salad, your choice.
Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
In a skillet over medium heat, melt sugar stirring constantly. Add nuts, stir until nuts are coated. Remove nuts from skillet; spreading them out on a sheet of aluminium foil to cool. In a large bowl, combine greens, dried fruit & Gorgonzola cheese; refrigerate. At serving time, combine salad with dressing, toss gently; add candied nuts & toss again.
Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
Cook barley to desired tenderness. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients; toss well. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour dressing over salad; toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. At serving time, drizzle with dressing choice & top with toasted seeds.
If you like raw cauliflower, try adding a cup of it sliced along with some crisp, crumbled bacon bits to your potato salad. It adds a whole new dimension to an old favorite.