These last couple of weeks have been hard. A lot of difficult news; friends who are sick, their children who are sick, friends of friends who have died way too young. A lot of uncertainty and doubt. Sometimes it’s hard to understand what the whole meaning of this life is. But as I stop to think about it, the cycle marches on. And nothing brought that home like ending this last turbulent period with a dear friend’s baby shower on Saturday. It was a day of hope, a day of celebrating future life. Even knowing all the obstacles and uncertainties, maybe because of them, being born into this world is something we know is special. We exult life at every turn and in all of its forms, whether it’s coming or going, a rejoicing of a union, or a milestone.
I had the honor of cooking for this special gathering of thirty women on my friend’s rooftop. Starting in my small kitchen in the East Village the night before the shower, making a big batch of Sicilian pesto out of fresh mint and almonds, the world somehow already started to seem like a better place. And by late the following morning with three steaming quiches filled with smoked salmon, watercress and dill spilling out of my oven (not all together of course, the kitchen and my oven did not miraculously expand), the alchemy of the kitchen and the energy of the event I was cooking for had worked their magic. I was not forgetting; I was appreciating what was there and letting the brightness of the present and the future shine through.
The quiche I made for my ladies is adapted from one of my favorite recent cookbooks LA TARTINE GOURMAND by Béatrice Peltre. I love her French-inspired Mediterranean dishes, and her beautiful, clean photography. She eats like I like to eat, healthy, but sometimes a bit decadent in the French way—with cream and cheese—yet using all whole, quality, fresh ingredients.
I also wanted to leave a shout out to the blog Happy Yolks, where I found the recipe for another dish I made at the shower and am currently obsessed with, Grilled Carrots Over Lentils With Horseradish Yogurt Sauce. It’s delicious and the presentation is gorgeous! You can catch a glimpse of the dish in photos above.
SMOKED SALMON AND WATERCRESS QUICHE adapted from a recipe by Béatrice Peltre in LA TARTINE GOURMAND. I have been finding the most beautiful watercress at the farmer’s market and even at my local health food store, but you could substitute baby spinach. Beatrice makes incredible gluten-free crusts in her book, but in a nod to time and kitchen space I bought frozen spelt crusts from Whole Foods, which are remarkably good. Just make sure to choose ones that are not cracked, it’s near impossible to make them stick together again. The original recipe calls for poached salmon, but I just love the deep flavor of smoked salmon for brunch.
9-inch spelt crust, or other savory crust
1 egg white
4 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces watercress
1 large leek, white part only, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
⅔ cup heavy cream
a dash of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
4 ounces smoked salmon, shredded with fingers
Preheat oven to 400 F. If using frozen crust, pull out of freezer and let defrost just enough to prick all over with a fork. Cover with parchment paper and weigh down with beans or weights. Prebake for 8-10 minutes. Brush the crust with egg white and return to the oven for 4-5 more minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add watercress and sauté 2-3 minutes until soft. Transfer the watercress to a colander, squeeze out excess water, chop and set aside. In the same pan, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat, add leeks and shallot, cook for about 4-5 minutes without browning.
In a bowl, beat eggs with cream and milk using a whisk. Season with just a dash of salt and pepper. Add dill and cayenne, stir.
Cover the bottom of your prebaked crust with leeks and shallot, followed by the watercress. Top with shredded bits of salmon and pour the egg mixture on top. Bake quiche for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden and the flan is set. Let rest for at least ten minutes. Can be served warm or at room temperature.