Archive for April, 2015

Spinach, Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche // Savta’s Lemon Bars

san francisco brunch

San Francisco loves the b-word. Brunch is a staple activity in the lives of city dwellers – an experience as over the top as it is expensive, as dreaded by chefs as it is adored by literally everyone else. Dutiful patrons wait in line for hours in pursuit of bottomless mimosas, lox eggs benny, and the like. Before you know it, it’s 2PM, morale is low, and you’re ready to take extreme measures to get to the top of that list. Bribery is an option. So is identity theft. But the real question is, how can we make “Jasmine, party of 6” disappear?

Then, you come back to earth. Brunch is supposed to be lighthearted and delicious, not vengeful and conniving! What is it about the promise of cornmeal pancakes or seasonal flatbreads or anything remotely brunchy that brings out the worst in us? Desperation? Greed? I don’t like seeing that part of me come out, but I also really like brunch.

noe valley brunch

Simple solution? In the wise words of the Pinterest community, “do it yourself!” Here’s why:

  1. There’s no wait when you brunch at home.
  2. You can finally order everything on the menu, because you made the menu.
  3. The drinks are as strong as you want them to be.
  4. PJs are an acceptable wardrobe decision.
  5. There’s no guilt in taking your sweet, sweet time.

Now, I admit that there’s something seriously plush about chocolate chip pancakes magically appearing before your very eyes, eating until you can’t eat anymore, and then having your plate whisked away at the wave of a hand. Under certain circumstances (most often the hung over ones), this kind of thing has its place. But under most circumstances (even some hung over ones) you’re probably better off taking matters into your own hands.

Such was my decision this weekend, when I had brunch plans with some lovely ladies I went to high school with. We had a lot to catch up on, and anxiously standing in line before aggressively shoveling fried potatoes into our faces didn’t seem like the ideal setting. So, I took to the kitchen and made us a brunch worthy of Thrillest SF’s top brunch list.

simple brunch recipes

The formula to the perfect brunch is as follows: sweet + savory + bubbly + caffeine.

You want something elaborate enough to put your weekday peanut butter toast to shame, but simple enough that you can throw it together under that haze of whatever happened the night before. In my case, that involved going to the Symphony (because I’m a classy lady)…followed by drinking a lot of beer at a dive bar (because I’m actually not).

You also want something pretty, because if brunch isn’t pretty, it’s pointless. This is one of life’s simple truths.

lemon bar recipe

What’s better than bottomless mimosas? Sabering your champagne bottle, that’s what! It’s the best party trick in the book and will make you look very, very cool. This is a proven fact.

Other facts that were proven this weekend are that quiche is the best food on the planet and that all desserts should be lemon bars.

Let’s start with quiche. There is simply no combination more perfect than flaky piecrust, stinky cheese, rich cream, and fresh vegetables. The inside is fluffy and springy. When eaten fresh, each forkful trails stringy cheese from the slice behind it. Simply put, it’s pure decadence and I want to eat it every day for the rest of my life.

mushroom spinach quiche recipe

These lemon bars are sweet and sour with a nice buttery cookie bottom and a gooey custard top. They don’t hold their form like many I’ve had, but what good is dessert if you can’t lick your fingers?? I’ve recently become less inclined toward super sweet things (ew, adulthood), but these are a different story. They’re all at once indulgent and refreshing – the perfect dessert to accompany your morning, noon, and night.

sienna mintz

The point to all of this is that brunch is a very important meal. It sounds silly, but it really is a special occasion – a tradition that you only get once, maybe twice a week. So take your time with it! And don’t spend that time waiting in line for an overpriced meal. Spend every waking hour of brunch in the presence of good drinks, better food, and great friends.

Spinach, Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche

  • 1 frozen unbaked pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms of your choice, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups half and half cream
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pierce the bottom of the piecrust a few times with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool. Turn the oven down to 350ºF.
  2. Heat the butter in a large skillet. Sautee the spinach and mushrooms until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, and cheese and add a bit of salt and pepper.
  4. Place the pie crust on a cookie sheet and gently pour in the egg mixture until it reaches the very top. Carefully place the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at 350ºF for 40-50 minutes. The top should be slightly browned. Let cool for at least 20 minutes to allow the eggs to set before serving in slices.

Tips from America’s Test Kitchen:

  • Partially pre-baking the piecrust prevents the base of the crust from being soggy and doughy.
  • They found that baking the quiche at 350ºF keeps the veggies from becoming rubbery while allowing the egg custard to cook slowly and the top to become slightly browned.
  • Placing the crust on a cookie sheet before pouring the filling prevents messy spills in and out of the oven.

 

Savta’s Lemon Bars

This recipe belongs to my Savta (grandmother in Hebrew). She is a gift to earth from the baking gods, so this recipe is close to perfection.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups + ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine butter, 3 cups flour, and confectioner’s sugar until dough holds its shape when squeezed together. Press into the bottom of a 14”X8” baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While cookie base is baking, beat the eggs and granulated sugar for one minute. Add lemon juice and zest and combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ½ cup flour and baking powder. Add to lemon mixture in batches, combining well between each addition.
  5. Pour lemon custard over cookie base. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

 

Rainbow Ratatouille

ratatouille

I’ve been keeping something from you. It’s something I love very much – so much that my first instinct isn’t to shout its praises from the hilltops, but, instead, keep it close and share it only with a select few. But the time has come, and I’ve realized that it’s not fair to keep this something all to myself – that you, too, should have it in your life. This something is ratatouille.

Ratatouille is all at once refreshing and soul warming, light and hearty, healthy and indulgent. It’s a recipe that changes with the seasons and with your vegetable inventory. I’ve tinkered with oils, ovens, produce, and pans. Every batch comes out different, but it’s always got that somethin’ somethin’ that makes it ratatouille.

You can eat it out of a bowl, pour it over cheesy polenta, mix it up with some quinoa, or top it off with a fried egg. You can spice it up, keep it mellow, or settle somewhere in between. What I’m getting at here is that there are very few rules with ratatouille. If you’ve never made it before, then, perhaps follow this recipe. But next time, I dare you to tinker with it, adding and subtracting based on whatever catches your eye at the farmers’ market, whatever vegetable is your current obsession, or really, whatever you want.

spring ratatouille

Ratatouille is my favorite way to eat seasonally. I’ve made it with fresh heirloom tomatoes in the summer, skin-on Delicata squash to bring in the New Year, and now with spring peas and stalks of asparagus like you wouldn’t believe. Here is that last iteration, which is hearty and sweet, just like springtime. The ingredients in bold are must keeps…everything else is up for discussion.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 eggplant
  • ½ head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 9-ish stalks asparagus
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs thyme, stems on or off
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 1 24 oz. jar basil tomato sauce – I like Rao’s (or make your own!)
  • Small handful curly leaf parsley, stems removed
  • ½ cup English peas
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º.
  2. Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Chop the cauliflower into small florets. Combine with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large baking dish. Bake until tender, 15-20 minutes.
  3. While the eggplant and cauliflower are cooking, dice the onion and slice the pepper into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a large wok or pot until melted and hot. Add the onion and pepper and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent.
  5. Meanwhile, cut or break off the purple ends of the asparagus stalks. Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces. Slice the carrots into small pieces. Add to the pot and stir to combine.
  6. Slice the zucchini in half, then chop into small pieces. Mince the garlic. Add the zucchini, garlic, eggplant, cauliflower, thyme, and bay leaf to the pot, seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder as you see fit.
  7. Once zucchini begins to soften, add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add the peas and parsley. Let the ratatouille simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Serve immediately!

Other great ratatouille vegetables to consider:

Winter squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, summer squash, mushrooms, fennel, leeks, Lacinato kale

 

Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread

chocolate walnut shortbread

Sometimes, you crave something and nothing, nothing, nothing in the world will be right until it is yours.

Sometimes, you forget about something you once adored, only to re-discover it and love it even more.

Sometimes, you have something to prove, but only to yourself, and you won’t be satisfied until you prove yourself right.

And, sometimes, you become obsessed with something and can’t imagine life before it was in yours.

In order from top to bottom: salt and chocolate, my pistachio KitchenAid stand mixer, the ability to make shortbread, and walnuts.

pistachio kitchen aid

Much to my palate’s and my ego’s delight, these factors collided in happy harmony, the results of which were these Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread cookies.

chocolate shortbread recipe

I’ve been on a salt kick recently. Not just any salt – Maldon salt. I first read about it in Bon Appetit, and then tasted it at Chewse, where we sprinkle it generously on buttered bread, simple salads, dark chocolate, et al. The crispy pyramids are flaky, crunchy, and mild – the perfect finishing touch to just about any food I can imagine. After buying a box of my own and flaunting the stuff in its own little finishing salt dish, I’ve periodically forced everyone who has entered my kitchen to try a pyramid out for taste.

maldon salt

My KitchenAid mixer, a shiny beacon of pistachio goodness, was gifted to me by my lovely grandmother, when I moved into my first big girl apartment. After playing with my new toy (much to my friends’ delight) day and night, I did what most kids do, leaving it to collect dust and take up space on the counter. It moved with me to my next Boston apartment, where it collected more dust, and was eventually packed up and shipped home, across the country.

easy shortbread recipe

Waiting in line at Tartine is a rite of passage every San Franciscan must endure. The delightful scents of churning butter, baking bread, and sugar on sugar on sugar waft out onto the street, where ravenous hipsters and tourists alike wrap around the block like pastry-jonesing ducks in a row. After waiting in said line for longer than I’d care to admit, we collected our earnings (a medley of shortbread cookies and chocolate mousse things) and absconded to Dolores Park like the “good hipsters” we are. I’m glad we went, but the honest to goodness truth was that I thought I could’ve done better. For all you Tartine fans out there, I know this is big talk! Maybe we ordered the wrong stuff – they were out of Pan de Chocolate, okay?! – or, maybe I’m an only child with an inflated ego and nothing to lose, but I was determined to make shortbread cookies worthy of such a tremendous wait.

ice cream sandwich cookiesalt chocolate

The final piece to the puzzle is walnuts. Walnuts are good. This I knew and have always known. But, only recently did I really really fall for their crunchy, buttery, earthy goodness. In my book, walnuts belong in my oatmeal, in a jar on my desk, on my salad, in my pasta, and now, all up in my dessert. I hereby sanction a recall of the phrase “icing on the cake” in exchange for “walnut in the cookie.” Make these Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread cookies and you’ll know what I mean.

log cookie recipewalnut shortbread recipe

Well, I’m proud to admit that these cookies turned out great. They’re not too sweet and just salty enough. The little Maldon pyramids sprinkled on top have the slightest little crunch. The butter packed cookies have that satisfying shortbread break with each bite, but just enough give to fold around a spoonful of ice cream for DIY ice cream sandwiches.

the pantry raid

And, the good news is, I made these with my eyes half closed! No seriously, I’m not bragging here. They’re so easy to make that I actually managed to do so before work! Let it be known that I am not a do-anything-before-work person. No running, no errands, and certainly no baking. But I’m telling ya, these cookies are so easy and quick to make you’ll actually want to wake up a few minutes before the sun just knowing that their salted walnuty chocolate goodness is in your future.

maldon salt dessertchocolate salt walnut recipesienna mintz blog

Ingredients (makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 handful raw walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon salt, plus more for sprinkling
  1. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
  2. In another medium size mixing bowl, combine brown and granulated sugars.
  3. Use a hand or stand mixer to cream the butter in a large mixing bowl for about two minutes.
  4. Add the sugars and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about two minutes more.
  5. Pour in the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on low in five-second intervals. Pulse like this five times, then turn the mixer on low for about 30 seconds, or until the dough has formed.
  6. Add in the chopped walnuts and salt and mix to combine.
  7. Transfer the dough to a cutting board or clean counter top. Separate it into two balls and roll each ball into a 2-3 inch thick log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours
  8. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
  9. Unwrap the logs and use a sharp knife to cut each log into ¼ inch thick slices.
  10. Place slices a few inches apart on a parchment paper or silicon pad lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Maldon salt.
  11. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes. Cookies should still feel soft when you take them out of the oven. Let rest for a couple minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
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