Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bright Lights Chard Quiche From Scratch

Yesterday we went to a good friend's house for brunch.  I had half of Martha Stewart's pate brisee in the fridge so I knew a quiche was the way to go.  But I didn't want the heavy bacon/ cheese/ ham/ potato/ prosciutto/ more cheese kind.  Rest assured, I know that there is a time and a place for that kind of quiche, but the rainbow chard "Bright Lights" in my garden has been very, very good to me and I wanted to make a quiche that showcased this beautiful dark leafy green, allowing it to be the center of attention.  I adapted this recipe from Martha's website. 

Despite being in the fridge, the dough quickly became too soft to roll out.  Rather, my kitchen was too much of a hostile environment for the dough.  It must've been about 400 degrees in my kitchen.  So after a few attempts at rolling the sticky mess, I resorted to pressing it into the pie plate.  I'm sure I broke someone's cardinal rule about pie dough pressing, but it worked for me!  The only thing I'd do differently is build the sides higher so the shell could hold more liquid.

I blind baked the pie by cutting out a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the dough and filled the pie with about a pound of dried kidney beans and baked at 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.  After removing the parchment paper and the beans, I continued baking the crust for 5 minutes until lightly golden.  

While the crust cools, move on to the filling, which couldn't be any easier.  Five eggs. 

One cup heavy cream and one cup of milk. 

Three tablespoons of flour. 

Whizz one egg and the 3 tablespoons of flour until a paste is formed.  Ignore the bit of eggshell.

See?  It disappears!

Add the final four eggs and whizz. 

Drop in one teaspoon of salt.

Add the cup of cream and cup of milk while the processor is running.

Add about a teaspoon of dried thyme.  Or really any other herb you like.

And some freshly ground pepper. 

Whizz one last time, and you have the liquid part of the quiche filling. 

Once the pie shell has cooled, it's time to put the last bits together.  I used about 1/4 cup of cheddar.  Not much cheese at all. 

Chop the stems off the chard and use them for something else.  I chopped them finely and sauteed them with some olive oil and garlic and then put them into an omelette this morning.

Pass a knife through the chard leaves, making wide ribbons. Pack that chard and cheese into the pie shell, alternating as you go.

Once you think you have enough chard, go ahead and pack another handful or two right in there.  I basically halved all of the other ingredients in Martha's recipe, but I didn't cut back on the chard at all.  

Then pour your liquid over the greens. 

And tamp down the chard to make sure it's covered with the liquid.  Then pop it in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 375, then reduce the heat and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes at 350.  

The final result.

Isn't this gorgeous?  But wait.  Once you cut into it, the show really begins.

Just look at the ribbons of chard!  Doesn't this look like the veins in blue cheese?  Seriously.  Isn't this incredible looking?  And it tastes just as good as it looks!  Not to mention you get your daily fill of dark green leafies!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Relief in Varzob

Summer in Dushanbe is not for the faint hearted.  Typically there's not a stitch of rain for months on end and it's dry and dusty.  We made plans last week to head into the mountains --which make up about 95% of the terrain in Tajikistan-- to catch some relief at one of the resorts along the river just outside of the city.

We waited on our front stoop for our friends to arrive so we could caravan because I'm a freak when I'm driving outside the city for the first time by myself.  Just a tad paranoid.

My girls were ready to hit the road!  As an aside, why is it so hard to get both of my girls to smile at the same time in a photo?   

 Or keep their eyes open?  I need to learn the tricks of photoshop.

Here I am following L on a road that was thankfully NOT graced with road police.  L has diplomatic plates and I don't.  Let's just say I've trained the girls well when we get pulled over by the road police.  They roll down their windows, greet the police with their Tajik as salamu alaykum and big grins.  Works every single time.   Not so much when I'm alone in the car and do it. 

It's a short twenty minute drive outside of Dushanbe, following the winding river north.

Past the lake.

And more winding river.

And picturesque villages along the winding river.

Past the little village of Shaftmijgon.  

Until we reached the final destination, our little hideaway in the mountains.

Even outfitted with a kiddy pool!

After hours of swimming fun, and by fun I mean fighting over the floaty devices, it became clear that someone wanted to go home.

Seriously, Mom.  Before I lose it.