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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Of Cooking to Share and Small Crustless Delicacies

Because I love to cook and because sharing the food I cook with my sweetie (who happens to be vegan) is part of that love, I cook mostly vegan these days.  Far from limiting, the vegan diet encourages use of a wider array of grains, vegetables and seasonings than I ever used when I ate and cooked meat dishes.  Additionally, as a devoted problem-solver (every challenge is a puzzle asking to be solved!), this kind of diet presents the opportunity to take meat- or dairy-laden recipes and turn them into delicacies someone with vegan sensibilities can enjoy.  I have had a lot of success in this arena.  I have been able to share favorite dishes from my childhood with the love of my life (see my chile relleno adventure here) and I have delighted in concocting recipes for things he has not been able to enjoy since going vegan (see my gumbo adventure here).  My most recent adventure concerns quiche.

Once upon a time I ate my fair share of eggs.  But even in my heyday of embryonic chicken gobbling, I seldom sampled a quiche. At 8 or 9, I had a memorable sit-at-the-table-till-you-finish-it experience with an undercooked quiche where I gagged on every gelatinous bite.  Some 10 years later, a dear friend cured me of my quiche boycott with her firm and fully-cooked toad-in-the-hole quiche baked in a cast iron skillet. Over the next 10 years, due to once cracking an egg and finding partially-developed baby chicken bits therein and to many times feeling overfull, greasy and lethargic after eating an omelet (or quiche or fried egg breakfast), eggs in general grew steadily less appetizing to me.  By the time I fell head over heels for a vegan, eggs and dairy were already on their way out of my diet.  Well, this past Saturday, I found myself salivating over a beautifully-plated quiche at a local cafe and knew it was time I attempted an eggless version.  As usual, I cobbled my recipe together from several others gathered online, the ingredients I had on-hand, and from personal inspiration.  Here it is:

Tiny Crustless Vegan Quiche

First off, I didn't want to spend half my time just making a crust when I might not even have a successful filling, so I googled and googled and found this recipe on Susan V's excellent blog, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I knew I would be using a different array of vegetables, but her tofu batter sounded promising and I love the idea of using my cupcake pans for something savory. We had just taken a jaunt across the Mississippi to Gretna's Hong Kong Market and had procured a load of produce, including several leeks. I have not used leeks very often and eagerly took some pointers in prepping them from the eternal Julia Child (via Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of her Leek and Mushroom Quiche recipe).  I describe below what I actually used and did, but also include thoughts on my results and how I will probably tinker with this recipe in the future.

Preheat oven to 370°
Batter:
1 package Silken firm tofu
1/4 c. almond milk
2 T. nutritional yeast
1 egg's-worth of EnerG egg replacer, prepared according to package
1 t. tahini
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. turmeric
1/4 t. thyme
1/4 t. rosemary
1/4 t. coriander
1 t. kosher salt

Vegetables etc.
(a)  3 leeks, cut into 1/4 in. coins
      1 T. Earth Balance soy butter
      1/2 c. water

(b)  2 white potatoes, diced
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      1 T. olive oil

(c)  1 bunch spinach, stemmed and chopped
      1 T. olive oil
      2 t. cooking sherry

(d)  2 roma tomatoes, diced

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. I blended the tofu, almond milk, nutritional yeast, egg replacer, tahini, onion powder, turmeric and salt with a whisk. This combination is pretty much straight from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen recipe (linked above), though I substituted almond milk for the soy milk and egg replacer for the cornstarch. In the future I will be omitting the milk altogether and letting the juices of my cooked vegetables add their moisture. Additionally, I will either use both the egg replacer and cornstarch or double the amount of egg replacer.  My quiches held their shape, but could have been firmer.

2.  Next, I added the thyme, rosemary and coriander.  I would have included them in the picture above, but they were a last minute inspiration.  I recommend the addition.

3.  Then I took a knife to this bounty of lovely vegetables:
Chopping's my favorite part!  Although note, my eyes were bigger than my quiche cups - I ended up only using two of those potatoes.

4.  Leeks:  I put the sliced leeks in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan (as recommended by Smitten Kitchen, linked above) with a tablespoon of soy butter, 1/2 cup of water and just a pinch of salt.  I boiled those suckers with the lid on for a good 10 minutes and then simmered them with the lid off until almost all of the liquid was gone and they were very soft.  I let them sit a bit and added them to the batter.


5.  Potatoes:  I sautéed the potatoes in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until tender, then I added the minced garlic with salt and pepper to taste and cooked a wee bit longer, until the garlic had lost its bite.  I let them sit just a few moments after turning off the heat and then added them to the batter.


6.  Spinach:  First, I set aside a few pretty, whole leaves for garnishing the tops of my quiches.  Then, using the same pan in which I cooked the potatoes (there were still bits of precious minced garlic clinging here and there), I added another tablespoon of olive oil and sautéed the spinach for a couple of minutes.  I added the sherry and sautéed some more until most of the liquid was gone.  I let the spinach sit and then added it to the batter.  (Sorry, no picture.  Cooked spinach, while scrumptious, is not very pretty anyway.)

7.  I sprayed my cupcake tins with oil and spooned in the filling liberally.
8.  Finally, I garnished each cup with some fresh spinach leaves, the chopped tomato and a couple turns of my pepper grinder.  This recipe filled 1 and 1/2 cupcake tins (that's 18 tiny quiches).

9.  I followed Susan V's recommendation of turning the oven down to 350° as soon as I put in the tins and I checked them first after 20 minutes.  I ended up turning the oven back up at that point and cooking them for 15 more minutes, or 35 total.  Next time, I will probably just leave the heat at 375° and check them after 25 minutes.

And here's the finished product, served on a bed of boston lettuce.  As I said, a tiny bit soft, but soooooo delicious!  I count them a success.

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