Same ingredients, different meals
I live alone, which means I mostly cook for one. Sometimes that means making big batches of something-or-other, parceling it out into meal-sized containers and freezing it for later. Other times – say, when I succumb to an eyes-bigger-than-stomach moment at the farmers’ market – that means coming up with several ways to use the Big Bags of Stuff ™ I bring home before they go bad.
Last weekend it was spinach: A big bag of dark green, big-but-tender leaves that whispered “choose me, choose me!” when I passed by the Salad Farm stand. Never mind that I was still finishing off the mixed lettuces I’d bought the week before; this was spinach
, and I love fresh spinach with a passion equal to the loathing I had as a child for the slimy green variety that came out of a can.
I also brought home more nice brown eggs from Turpen Farm, and a package of thick-sliced, smoked bacon from Wood Family Farm. So right there I had the makings of two very different, but equally delicious meals: A traditional, Southern-style wilted-bacon and spinach salad, and a fantastic spinach-and-bacon quiche.
This might be the place to explain to new readers that, I am not a “health food” cook, nor am I even slightly interested in losing weight. If you’re looking for fat-free recipes, I fear you’ve come to the wrong place. I come by my middle-aged figure honestly, from a hearty appetite and the Kight family gene poole; old photos of my great-aunts show them built just as I am, in the shape that used to be called “matronly,” and they all lived well into their 90s. Those genes have also served me well in other ways: My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are low-normal, to my doctor’s occasional chagrin. So, yes, I eat bacon and eggs, butter and cream and full-fat yogurt – not daily, but when I feel like it – without the slightest food-guilt.
And while I do believe that fresh, local food is better for me than most of what I find in the supermarket, that’s not my main reason for eating it. Plain and simple: It tastes better.
But I digress. On to the recipes, with a minor caveat: These are things I make from memory. I eyeballed the measurements in the kitchen this evening. Fortunately, they aren’t critical – you can add a bit here, subtract a bit there, substitute as you like, and (except as noted) it won’t affect the outcome in any unpleasant ways.
Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing
Ingredients (per serving):
- Fresh spinach, rinsed and torn in bite-sized pieces
- Crisp-fried bacon (2 slices per person) broken in pieces
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar OR
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon hot bacon grease (pour the rest off and keep it in the skillet in which you cooked the bacon)
- One egg, hardboiled and coarsely chopped
- A few shavings of aged parmesan or peccorino romano cheese
- Freshly ground pepper to taste (no need for salt; the bacon provides that)
Arrange the greens on a large plate. Scatter bacon pieces on top.Whisk the vinegar and sugar (if used) into the hot bacon grease in the skillet; while still hot, pour over the salad. Sprinkle hard-cooked egg and cheese on top, and season with a little pepper. Eat. Enjoy.
Spinach and Bacon Quiche
- Crust for one pie*
- 1/4 pound thick-sliced bacon, fried till just shy of crisp
- One leek, sliced into thin rounds and sauteed until just soft. Or mild onion, if you don’t have leeks.
- 1/2 cup aged Swiss cheese, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
- About two cups of raw spinach, rinsed, dried and coarsely chopped
- 3 whole eggs
- 2 cups of milk or cream.
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated.
- Ground pepper to taste
I use cream, because it produces a silky, luxurious quiche. Feel free to use milk if cream is too rich for your tastes, but at least make it whole milk; low-fat milk results in a watery, unappetizing custard. You can also use half milk and half yogurt or sour cream, but use the real, nothing-but-cultured-milk variety that doesn’t contain gelatin or agar.
Preheat oven toi 375F. Line a pie plate with prepared crust (you’ll want something deeper than a standard aluminum pie pan for this; I use a deep pyrex plate handed down from my mother).
Arrange bacon, cheese and sauteed leeks in the bottom of the crust, reserving some bacon for the top. Top with spinach. Whisk together eggs, cream nutmeg and pepper until completely blended, then carefully pour over the fillings. Scatter some bacon and parmesan on top, and crimp the edges of the crust as you please.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set and the top is browned (to test the filling, give the edge of the pie plate a slight nudge; the custard should jiggle just slightly, but not in a liquid fashion.)
Remove the quiche from oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes for ease of cutting, or chill and serve cold (I actually prefer cold quiche, and it makes fantastic second-day leftovers.) If I’m serving quiche to guests, I like to accompany it with good, fresh fruit; when no fruit is in season, home-made applesauce or barely sweetened stewed fruit makes a nice foil to the richness of the bacon-and-egg custard.
* While I’m perfectly capable of making a good pie crust, I tend to save them for guests and special occasions. The rest of the time I keep a package of frozen, pre-made pie crusts – the kind that come ready to unroll into your pie plate – in the freezer. They’re easy, less messy, time-saving and even store-brand versions produce perfectly acceptable results.