“Despite our vast generational and cultural differences, we cultivate an unassuming and organic kinship, and I hold strong to my belief that food is better served, shared.”
Last November, I moved back to Northside after a three-year hiatus. With my eye on the prize— a beautifully spacious, functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen designed for both the cook and the entertainer—I packed my boxes with a somewhat new identity: stay-at-home mother, committed partner and homeowner. Since, neither my “new” identities nor kitchen have disappointed. In fact, they have in tandem allowed me to hone in on a skill and passion that, once upon a time, felt intimidating but now finds itself at the forefront of my daily work and lifestyle: cooking.
Enter two neighborhood boys (cousins- Ru and Kalope- ages 9 and 11) whom my partner, Sarah, and I have befriended since landing upon our Fergus Street address. Many an evening, their small fists, sounding ironically like the hands of giants, beat against our door. “Whatcha cookin’?” they ask, followed quickly by, “Can we help?” If I am 100% honest, sometimes I’m just not interested. Sometimes, I’m even slightly put-out, like, “Oh my gooooodddd!!! Stop knocking on my mother*cking door! Can’t you see I’m in the middle of an argument with the woman I love?!?!” Other times, I’m like (high five), “Heck Yeah! Come on in!” And together, we cook.
In my Northside kitchen, nestled paradoxically between Chase and Pullan, our lives collide in unexpected ways. Despite our vast generational and cultural differences, we cultivate an unassuming and organic kinship, and I hold strong to my belief that food is better served, shared. We make bean pie. A quiche. The occasional smoothie. We taste our collaborative concoction, and we like it. Sometimes, we even love it. (So much so that we once created a rap song as homage to the aforementioned bean pie we prepared and ate together in our own backyard.)
When it comes to cooking, the recipe for success is deeper than pointing out a locally situated farmer’s market; it’s beyond a list of fresh, quality ingredients proceeded with step-by-step instruction. The seemingly simple task of getting a meal on the table is actually quite complex; its origin is in direct proportion to what’s literally and philosophically within reach. So, for reasons that feel urgent and relevant, I want to simultaneously share solid, unpretentious recipes and use food as a political springboard for dialogue in our community; one which at best, has only scratched the surface in public forums; always seeking to be understood rather than seeking to understand.
While I’d love to encourage folks to “shop locally,” I cannot, in good conscience, offer said directive without consideration for the bigger picture. That said, I solemnly promise to not judge you for the label (or lack thereof) on your containers or produce, nor the location at which they were purchased. I hereby submit to the human trump card that plays deep into the underbellies of our individual experience and understands we carry with us only what we know. Our privilege, as it relates to food, is diverse and expansive; never a relative “better”, simply a realistic “different.”
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse Quiche Lorraine)
Featured this month is a simple and easy-to-follow recipe for quiche. I start with quiche, because it’s an ideal vessel for experimentation and allows for modifications based on what’s in season or what’s already housed in your own fridge and pantry. It can transport, with goodness, a multitude of ingredients—meats, cheeses, vegetables, herbs and spices—to better and tastier places. My hope is that it reads basic, accessible and versatile and finds new folks in the kitchen, around the table and part of a conversation. Simple or complex (recipe or dialogue), the choice is yours.
What stands out in this recipe is the ratio of eggs to heavy cream. I’ve always assumed that a quiche’s star ingredient was egg, only to find a texture too firm or a flavor omitted. I was shocked to realize that it’s actually about the ratio of egg to cream (think custard). When a balance is struck, the result is a fluffy, flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth dish that comfortably feeds a group of five to six without draining your time, bank account or confidence in the kitchen.
Adapted from Emeril Legasse’s Quiche Lorraine recipe, the ingredients can be used to make more than one meal. With only four modifications, each time I put fork to mouth, I am reminded that sometimes it’s just best to shut up, sit back and let the food speak for itself.
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks*
1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream or half n’ half
¼ tsp of salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups of cheese, shredded
(I prefer swiss, an equal combo of mozzarella and parmesan, or cheddar- the sharper the better.)
1 rolled-out and refrigerated piecrust
(I use either Pillsbury or Kroger brand boxed pie crust, which can be found in the refrigerated section next to canned biscuits and the like.)
8 fresh basil leaves, optional
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line the pastry with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans (any kind, the heavier the better; can be purchased for $1.50 or less and used over and over). Depending on pie dish, ensure that entire rim of crust is completely lined and covered and lined with foil. Bake until the crust is set and slightly toasted, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and whipping cream. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set (yet still slightly wiggly in the center), 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove from the oven, top with fresh basil leaves (if desired) and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving.
*For you carnivores out there, fry up 6 strips of chopped bacon until browned and crispy. Drain on paper towel. Cover bottom of pre-baked pie crust with cooked bacon and top with egg/cream mixture. You can kick it up a notch by greasing your pie pan with the bacon grease before pre-baking your crust.
Got a recipe, thought or comment? Wanna cook? Email me at email@example.com
By Un Jin Krantz