Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recipe: Embarrassingly Easy Quiche

I am bitter about this quiche because it’s so good. Why have I wasted so much time making real quiche when I could done this all along?

Tools: Oven, pie plate


½ cup bread crumbs

Butter to grease pie plate

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk or light cream (or any combo of liquid dairy products you like)

1.5 cups grated cheese (any cheese you like)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried parsley

½ cup flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Generously grease the pie plate with butter

3. Pour the bread crumbs into the pie plate, and shake them all around until they have coated the butter completely and look like a very thin crust.

4. In a large bowl, mix eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, dairy, garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder. (I let my three-year-old do this.) Reserve half a cup of cheese for later.

5. Mix in flour and parsley.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the pie plate.

7. Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top.

8. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until middle is set and top is brown.


1) The crust won’t look like it’s going to work but it really will work.

2) You can add anything you want to this quiche, it’s a good base – tomatoes, onions, leftover chicken, broccoli. It is also good on its own.

3) Depending on how much your quiche rises, you may have exposed bread crumbs on the pie plate that brown a lot. Just use a wooden spoon or something to brush them off before serving.

4) Seriously, why did I ever make a pie crust for quiches?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Recipe: Vaguely Asian Roast Chicken

Chicken breasts have vanished from Dushanbe’s grocery stores. I’ve roasted a lot of chicken as a result, and this is the recipe I’ve come to rely on. It takes a little extra work, but it’s well worth it for the deep flavor (not easy to achieve in a frozen broiler chicken produced in Brazil), crispy skin, and dark brown color. It's still delicious even if you make every substitute in the recipe.

1) You can't make gravy from these pan drippings. It just tastes wrong. It’s a very moist chicken, though, so it doesn’t really need the gravy.

2) If you like brown rice, this recipe can go in the oven simultaneously with Alanna Kellogg’s foolproof oven-baked rice and in our house it usually does. (Yes, I found that site by googling my own name. What of it? It’s a great recipe resource.) You can also whomp a head of cauliflower in half, drizzle any random kind of marinade on it (I like a mix of olive oil, salt, mustard, and cider vinegar), and put that in the oven for the last 30 minutes of baking time to produce an entirely no-stovetop meal.)

3) There are so many parentheticals and substitutions in this recipe that it’s barely a recipe at all. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.


  • 1 whole frying chicken – I use the one kilo broiler chickens you can get here
  • 1 Tbl soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (substitute cinnamon if you don't have it)
  • 8 thin slices of ginger (if you don't have fresh ginger, put a half teaspoon of ginger in with the salt)
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced thinly
  • 1 persimmon, cut in quarters (optional, and you can use an apple, pear, or skin-on orange instead)
  • 1 1/2 Tbl soy sauce
  • 1 Tbl hoisin sauce (if you don’t have it, substitute half honey and half soy)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (substitute sunflower oil and ½ tsp paprika if you don't have it.)

Tools: Pan to roast the chicken in – I usually use an old aluminum brownie pan.


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. If you’re using a Tajikistan-purchased chicken, examine it for pinfeathers, and burn off any you find using a match. Then use kitchen scissors to cut off any random bits of skin or fat that seem like they don’t belong on your roasting chicken.

3. Mix soy sauce, salt, and spice powder together to make a wet paste.

4. Run your hand around under the chicken’s skin to loosen it.

5. Rub the soy paste on the flesh of the chicken under its skin. Make sure to get the drumsticks. (This part always makes me feel like I ought to be estimating a dowry payment and meeting the bird’s parents, not popping it in the oven.)

6. Tuck the slices of garlic and ginger against the chicken flesh under the skin. Again, don’t forget the legs.

7. Put the quartered persimmon into the chicken’s cavity. (Cavity is a very weird word in this context, I must admit.)

8. Pull all the skin back over the exposed chicken flesh, and put the chicken in the oven.

9. Mix together the soy, hoisin, honey, and sesame oil to make a glaze.

10. After the chicken has been in the oven for 50 minutes, pull it out. (leave the oven on, the chicken will go back in shortly) Paint the glaze all over the chicken skin, and on any chicken meat that has become exposed while cooking.

11. Put it back in the oven straight on the rack (not in its pan) with the pan on the shelf underneath so it doesn’t completely mess up your oven. Tongs will help with this. (This will make the skin crispy. Sometimes I do this, and sometimes I put it back still in its pan to save the difficulty of putting a hot chicken back into the oven without a pan. Depends on how badly I want the crispy skin, or, honestly, whether I am making this for guests.)

12. After ten minutes, pull the chicken out. Let it rest for five minutes, and carve it. (That’s how it works for the scrawny chickens you get here. Those of you cooking plumper chickens will need to test for doneness by examining the juices or using your meat thermometer or whatever.)

Final note: You can eat the persimmon if you want to. I don’t really like the flavor, but everyone else in my house does, even the toddler. I just put it in there to keep the chicken from drying out. I am wondering if soaking the persimmon in some kind of juice – orange or apple, maybe – would be tasty.

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

This is my version of a soup I loved to eat when I lived in Cairo. I'd get it at the university cafeteria along with a small bowl of deep-fried croutons.


2 cups red lentils
2 medium tomatoes
1 small onion
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon chili powder
7 cups chicken stock
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Plain yogurt, cilantro, for garnish

Tools: Heavy pot, stove


1. Finely dice onion. Fry it until golden in the olive oil, in a heavy-bottomed pot big enough to hold ten or eleven cups of soup.
2. Add the chili powder, and cook for about two minutes, until the onion is coated in spice and you can smell the chili powder.
3. Dice the tomatoes. Add them to the onion and chili and turn heat down to low.
4. Rinse the lentils carefully, checking for stones.
5. Add the lentils, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and chicken stock. Turn heat up to medium-high.
6. Cook until lentils have dissolved and it looks like soup – will take 20-30 minutes, but cook it as long as you want until it’s the right texture.
7. Just after you remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice.
8. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in the center of each bowl, and a spring of cilantro.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Amazing French Toast

This is perfect, amazing French toast. It tastes really, really good, and you can make it the night before and put it in the fridge. Then in the morning you can stick it in the oven, and impress your houseguests an hour later. They will whimper, I promise. This French toast has never failed me.


1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¼ teaspoons salt

1 ½ cup of sliced fruit of your choice

6-8 pieces of thick sliced bread


Saucepan, casserole dish


1. Boil butter, and sugar together for 1 minute. It won’t necessarily turn into a sauce, more like lumpy sugar in a bunch of melted butter.

2. Pour the butter sugar mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Try to pout it evenly but it doesn’t matter that much.

3. Put a layer of bread slices on top of the butter sugar mixture. Only one layer.

4. Beat eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt together and pour over the bread.

5. Put a layer of fruit on top of the bread.

6. Refrigerate covered if you want to keep it overnight. Otherwise, stick it in the oven.

7. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


My dad is Pakistani, and Muhajir, which means his family fled India during partition because they were Muslim. My dad was seven when they left. His family left their entire lives in Delhi; they took what they could carry and reestablished their lives in Karachi by selling his mother’s jewelry.

As a result, my dad grew up poor. Not Slumdog Millionaire poor, but poor enough that their concerns around food centered on 1) Is there enough and 2) does it taste good? Freshness, overall quality, authenticity, or healthiness were secondary at best.

Pakistani men do not learn to cook, but my dad did. He was the kind of person who could learn by watching, and he learned a few recipes from his mom. When he went to Canada for his PhD, he depended on those recipes. He made curry and he made muttar keema – hamburger and peas.

The curry was by far the most versatile. In his student apartment in Montreal, he’d buy and curry (cheap) fresh river perch and vegetables. By the time I remember, when my dad was a college professor with a mob of adoring students, he’d make chicken curry for all his students at the end of every semester. He was famous for its delicious taste.

Curry was his go-to dish in the face of weird American food; in fact, in the face of any dinner problem. He could eat – and feed his helpless kids – curry for a week without getting tired of it. A student proudly brought us fresh-killed venison or pheasant? Curry. Buffalo, catfish, ostrich? Curry. Mom was away and no one bought groceries? Curried chickpeas and potatoes. Freezer-burned chicken? Curry. You get my point.

My dad has Alzheimer’s now, and he can’t cook any more. He’s a picky eater, sometimes, and I worry about vegetables and fiber. So every Sunday I make big pot of bean and vegetable curry, and he has it all week for lunch. Every single time we heat up his plate of curry and rice he looks delighted.


Big pot


Two medium onions

Two medium tomatoes

5 Tsp curry powder (some people mix their own curry powder. Dad did that sometimes. Mostly he just bought one he liked.)

2 cups chopped vegetables (frozen or canned is fine)

1-2 cups protein (cooked meat or poultry, canned beans, or tofu – starting from raw meat is a different recipe)


  1. Chop the onions and the tomatoes; keep separate.
  2. Sauté the onions in butter or oil of your choice until they start to get translucent.
  3. Add the curry powder, and sauté until the powder has absorbed all the oil and you can smell it strongly.
  4. Add the tomatoes; cook until they fall apart and look like sauce.
  5. Add you veggies and protein; simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Reasonably Healthy Muffins

I made these this morning for a playdate that turned into a brunch. The many, many little boys loved them. This started from an old Betty Crocker muffin recipe, but I tweaked it to add flavor and fiber and make each muffin a little bigger.




1 egg

1 cup milk

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup grated apple (I leave the skin on when I grate)

2 cups flour

1 cup oatmeal

¼ cup sugar (I might use a little more next time)

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 400

2. Beat the egg

3. Stir in milk, oil, and grated apple.

4. Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl.

5. Mix dry ingredients into wet just until it’s all combined – lumps are okay

6. Fill 12 muffin cups 2/3 full

7. Bake 10-15 minutes

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recipe: Cauliflower Soup

I love this soup. It’s light enough for summer, or you can garnish with cheese and make it hearty for winter. It has a surprising amount of flavor for a soup with so few ingredients. I am not a cold soup person at all, but I like this one cool on summer days. This a pretty healthy soup, too – half a cup of cream in six or seven cups of soup isn’t much.


Immersion blender (also known as a hand blender or a stick blender)


5 cups chicken stock

One smallish head of cauliflower

1 tsp nutmeg

2 large bay leaves

½ cup cream


1. Clean the cauliflower and cut it into florets. Size and regularity doesn’t matter, because they will be pureed.

2. Combine the cauliflower and the chicken broth in a pot with a heavy bottom. Add the bay leaves and the nutmeg.

3. Simmer until cauliflower is very soft.

4. Take out the bay leaves. This is important.

5. Turn the heat on the burner down very low.

6. Use the immersion blender to puree the cauliflower in the stock. Keep blending until it’s very smooth.

7. Gently stir in the cream.

8. Taste, and add water, cream, or milk as needed.