Vegan Quiche Filling

A few weeks ago, I had a special guest over for dinner: my American pen friend Amy, whose family hosted me in their Michigan home the summer I turned fifteen.

This was a life-defining trip for me: it was my first time in the US, a.k.a. the coolest country in the world in the eyes of this French teen, and Amy’s parents made it count in a way I’ll forever be grateful for, taking us on roadtrips in their minivan (with a television and VCR inside!) to Canada and to New York City (New York City!), and generally making sure I had a grand time.

Everything was a source of gleeful amazement to me, from the size of the backyard to the whole-house air-conditioning, from the gigantic malls to the extra frilly decorations in every girl’s room I visited, from the frozen waffles I was allowed to have every morning (every morning!) with bottled chocolate syrup to my first PB&J (which I did not “get” at the time), from the powerful smell of popcorn in movie theaters to the different kinds of fast food (burgers! tacos! pizzas!) Amy’s father picked up on his way home from work most nights.

Nobody would mistake it for the classic egg-and-cream quiche filling, but it hit all the right notes: creamy but pleasantly set, richly flavorful on its own but subtle enough to let the other ingredients shine.

Amy and I got along famously, but we lost touch as teenagers will — and probably did even more easily in that pre-Internet era. In recent years I searched for her on Facebook every once in a while, but turned up empty. Eventually it is she who wrote in, letting me know she’d soon be traveling through Europe and stopping for a few days in Paris. Would I be up for a little reunion?

The least I could do was invite her to dinner and she said yes, noting that she was now a vegan. I wanted to make her something homey and French, something I would serve to any of my old girlfriends, and decided on a quiche filled with greens, in the style of this greens and walnut quiche.

Obviously the egg-milk-and-cream filling would not do, so I looked for a vegan alternative and was intrigued by this idea of a filling based on chickpea flour, thickened to a custardy consistency on the stove, and flavored with spices and nutritional yeast, the go-to vegan ingredient when a cheesy note is needed.

The filling was very easy to prepare — I made it and my olive oil tart crust the day before — and it garnished the quiche in the most satisfying way. Nobody would mistake it for the classic egg-and-cream custard of course, but it hit all the right notes: creamy but pleasantly set, richly flavorful on its own but subtle enough to let the other ingredients shine.

Join the conversation!

Have you kept in touch with your foreign exchange friends, and what would you serve if you had them over for dinner now? Have you ever made a vegan quiche, and what type of filling did you use?

Continue reading »

Belgian Waffles (Liège-Style)

I spent my childhood eating Liège waffles we bought at the grocery store. Those thick and cake-like grids studded with sugar crystals seemed to me infinitely superior to the thin waffles stuffed with vanilla cream that my sister prefered and I ignored disdainfully.

I hadn’t eaten such waffles since my teenaged days — I stopped buying supermarket pastries years ago — but they made a major comeback into my life earlier this year, when a tiny Comptoir Belge opened a stone’s throw from my house, at 58 rue des Martyrs.

This stand offers Belgian waffles in the style of Liège, cooked fresh while you watch and sending seductive, buttery wafts right up to the little carousel on Place Lino Ventura, a powerful marketing ploy indeed. And the first time I tried them, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

The artisanal and freshly cooked Liège waffle is a study in contrast between the crisp shell, the tender and yeasty insides, and the thick sugar cristals that melt and caramelize.

A far cry from its distant plastic-wrapped and palm-oiled grocery store cousin, the artisanal and freshly cooked Liège waffle is a study in contrast between the thinly crisp shell, the tender and brioche-y insides, and the thick sugar cristals that melt and caramelize in the waffle iron.

And since I recently received from Cuisinart (see note at the bottom of this post) a fabulous griddler with waffle plates, it wasn’t long until I tackled this monument of Belgian gastronomy.

In my research I found dozens of recipes, with such widely varying proportions my head spun, and my solution was, as it always is, to draw up a spreadsheet comparing the different ingredient amounts in proportion to the flour weight (you can take the cook out of the engineer, etc.). This led me to formulate a recipe that would be best suited to my taste, i.e. less sweet and less butter-heavy than average, while still retaining 100% of its deliciousness.

The resulting waffles are an absolute delight, the recipe is easy, and the dough freezes perfectly well, allowing you to invite your sister over for an impromptu snack one afternoon and, with hardly a finger lifted, have her discover in turn how a Belgian waffle really should be eaten: still warm, caramelized, chewy, irresistible.

Transparency note : The griddler and waffle plates were sent to me to review by Cuisinart France through their PR agency. I will note that this was actually the model I had set my heart on and was about to get as a birthday gift from my parents when I had the opportunity to receive it for free. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Liège-Style Belgian Waffles

Continue reading »

October Favorites

An apple tree in the garden of La Grenouillère, where we escaped one sunny fall weekend.

An apple tree in the garden of La Grenouillère, where we escaped one sunny fall weekend.

A few of my favorite links and finds for the past month:

~ EDIBLE FRENCH was featured in the New York Times T Magazine.

~ I was also invited to talk about EDIBLE FRENCH on one of my favorite radio shows, Even Kleiman’s Good Food on KCRW.

~ A new photography book explores chefs’ favorite tools and what they mean to them.

~ Cooking smells as pheromones for the home.

~ What breakfast looks like if you’re growing up in Tokyo, Istanbul, or Reykjavik.

~ 25 Hindi expressions related to food.

~ If you’ve enjoyed my Parents Who Cook interview series, here are more words of wisdom collected by Leah Koenig.

~ An inside look at Trader Joe’s and its business practices.

~ Emily Blincoe’s color-coded food photography.

~ Mark Bittman on feeding children and creating a home where cooking is the norm.

~ Does it really make a difference if you use room-temperature eggs in your baking?

~ Who says French isn’t easy? Here’s a quick flowchart to decide whether you should use “tu” or “vous”.

~ Some of the biggest mistakes you may be making when baking cookies.

November 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for November is a picture of a chunky pumpkin soup I love to make in the fall, and would be a lovely way to use that carved pumpkin flesh from your Halloween celebrations.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

Continue reading »

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Soup

The natural consequence of buying fresh vegetables to eat is that you may end up, at some point, with not-so-fresh vegetables to eat.

However diligent your meal planning, it is difficult to nail it perfectly. And if you leave room for improvisation and sudden crushes in your shopping habits, or subscribe to a weekly produce basket, the end of the week is likely to find you with soft carrots and wilting greens from time to time.

The sturdier produce will keep fine from one week to the next; if you own The French Market Cookbook you’ll find a guide to produce that keeps and produce that doesn’t in the intro section. But for the more fragile vegetables, and if you like to start the week on a clean slate or need to make room for your overenthusiastic farmers market run (ahem), what’s the solution? If you answered “garbage can”, come see me at my desk before recess. The correct answer is soup.

Soup is an extraordinary catch-all for vegetable odds and ends, and it is the easiest and most rewarding way to transform scraps no one really wants to deal with into something warm and inviting. Although it’s hard to truly botch a soup, my years of soup-making experience have taught me that there are a few rules that make the ride smoother and the result tastier.

Choosing your vegetables

Naturally, I am talking about using vegetables that are past their golden days, yes, but haven’t reached the stage of putrefaction: wilted and limp is fine, moldy and mushy-brown is not. And when in doubt, toss it out.

You can, in theory, throw into the soup pot whatever needs using up, but it pays to select your vegetables with an eye towards variety and balance. I enjoy my clean-out-the-fridge soups the most when I’ve used a mix of colors (green, orange, tan, white…) and flavor families (sweet, earthy, verdant, onion-y, aniseed-y…), and included vegetables that grow both above- and below-ground. Some fruits, such as apples and pears, fare well in there too (bananas not so much).

To achieve that, you can of course complement the selection with a few freshly bought vegetables and/or freezer-stashed ones. In fact, if you find yourself with clean-out-the-fridge soup material in too small a quantity to actually make clean-out-the-fridge soup, or if you’re simply short on time, you should clean and chop those vegetables as if you were about to cook the soup, and stash them in the freezer instead.

To give you an example, my most recent edition this past Monday contained a few stalks of (wilting) Swiss chard, a quarter of a kabocha squash (the rest had been roasted), a small bunch of thin (and limp) carrots, the outer leaves from a head of cauliflower (stashed in the freezer), the stalks from a bunch of curly kale (leftover from making cheesy kale chips I’ll soon tell you about), a few bulbs of baby fennel (freshly purchased), a good red onion, a couple of potatoes, the end of a bunch of chives, parsley stems, and some tarragon.

The vegetables should be cleaned thoroughly — no need to dry them as they’ll just be wet again in a moment — and cut into even-sized chunks. Medium pieces — say, 2-cm (1/2-inch) cubes or slices — save chopping time and work fine if you plan to purée the soup. If you prefer a chunky, non-puréed soup, aim for a finer dice.

Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

Continue reading »

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.