For some reason I was under the impression that life quieted down after the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/New Years blitz that is November, December and January.
But no, I was wrong. Just when I finally got every last holiday decoration put away and stopped finding pine needles in every crack and corner, here comes the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, the Grammys, President’s Day weekend, the annual making of the cassoulet (a story for another time), and now the Oscars. Really, I am exhausted and need a break from all of this excitement. Thank goodness I’m not Irish, I can’t take another holiday right now.
Anyway, one more event to plan for and I’m done for a while and can enjoy a little peace and quiet and maybe get my garden going. But until Monday, I have to think about what to do to celebrate the culmination of months of over the top advertising campaigns, shameless promotion, and a stack of Variety magazines and Hollywood Reporters that I am sure took several small forests to print. What does one cook to celebrate such things?
What! Wait a minute. Did you say George Clooney? Oh, well, . . . that changes everything. Okay, I will be planning a menu to celebrate the achievements of all of those people who put their hearts and souls into making us laugh, cry and think about the world we live in in a different way and who help make our lives a little more interesting and entertaining (and who put George Clooney in any and everything) through the medium of film - a much easier thing to plan a menu around.
Since it is already the middle of the week (I just finished cleaning up after the cassoulet) I want a menu that is quick and easy, yet glamorous enough to sit and eat in front of my television, and for which I can purchase all of the ingredients at the Sunday Farmers Market.
With asparagus and sugar snap peas just coming into season, radishes and cucumbers available almost year round, eggs always in great supply and baguettes galore, I know exactly what I will make – crust-less asparagus, leek and gruyere quiche, a chopped salad with peas, cucumbers and radishes with tarragon vinaigrette, crusty bread (Homeboy and Top Bakery have baguettes that are great) and an apple tart from Jinou’s Edible Art with a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for dessert. All easy, all done in under an hour. Leaves plenty of time to ooh and aah over the glitz, the glamour and, of course, George! See you on Sunday.
Crustless Asparagus, Leek and Gruyere Quiche
1 lb asparagus, rinsed and stems removed
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 oz fresh spinach, rinsed and dried
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup half and half or cream
1 cup shredded Gruyere (or really any other cheese, a chevre or Parmigiano Regiannio would be nice)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for a minute or two. Remove from the water and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Add the spinach and cook until it is wilted, but still green—just a couple of minutes.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half. Add 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese as well as the cayenne, salt, and pepper.
In a tart pan, evenly distribute the spinach/leek mixture over the bottom. Pour in the egg mixture, slightly stirring to make sure everything’s well distributed. Arrange the asparagus around the top in a circular pattern (or just line it up), and then top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
Place the quiche in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a nice golden brown.
Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Chopped Salad of Peas, Cucumbers, and Radishes with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Adapted from Bistro Cooking at Home by Gordon Hamersley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 Japanese or Persian cucumbers cut into a large dice
8 radishes cut into very thin rounds
3 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed and cut into thirds
About 4 cups mixed greens
In a small bowl combine the mustard, vinegar, shallot, and tarragon. Slowly whisk in the olive oil pouring it in a slow steady stream until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the cucumbers, radishes, and peas together in a serving bowl with enough of the vinaigrette to coat well. Allow the flavors to combine for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the greens with a large knife so that they are about ½ inch pieces. Toss the greens with the cucumbers, radishes, and peas, adding more vinaigrette if necessary to coat all. Serve immediately.