When making certain dishes, you have to accept the outcome won’t be perfect the first time around. Try as you might, the final product will not look like the picture in the cookbook. One really needs to come to terms with this fact when making tarts and pies, or anything that involves pastry. Making pastry dough makes one realize how much cooking is truly a science. For someone who loathed high school chemistry, pastry intimidates me.

For a while I could avoid the act, as I didn’t care for pies that much growing up. Correction, I liked pie crust, I was just squeamish about the cooked fruit. Thankfully I’ve outgrown those tastes. And then, after having this quiche for Easter brunch last weekend, it became very clear I needed to take the plunge and attempt homemade pastry.

So for the past week I scoured the web for tips, tricks, and secrets to creating perfectly flakey pastry crust. Of all the article, blog posts, and recipes I read, they all shared the two main tenets: make sure every single ingredient is very cold, and work quickly. In the end, I settled on Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “Pate Brisee,” the french version of classic pie or tart pastry. I figured with a combination of Martha and Julia, one really couldn’t go wrong. With an abundance of vegetables in our fridge, I chose a mixture of asparagus, scallions, and shiitake mushrooms. You could easily do all mushrooms or asparagus, or a variety of other vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, squash, etc. Whichever you choose, you’ll need 2 cups of chopped vegetables.

The outcome? In terms of flavor and texture, I’d say pretty darn good for my first attempt. I had a few snafus; my crust shrunk a bit (a common pastry problem), and I forgot to pierce holes in a my crust prior to baking which made it puff up slightly, but overall, we were more than satisfied with this quiche for our at home Sunday brunch. With berry season just around the corner, I predict many pies in our future.

Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Quiche

Serves 6

Pate Brisee adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I followed Deb’s recipe very closely, except I needed a few more tablespoons of water for my dough to come together. I was concerned it would affect the texture, but I still found it to be flakey and light. I also stored my dough in the fridge over night, and then rolled it out the next day. Once rolled out, I placed the pie dish back in the fridge until my oven was fully heated. While the tart shell is par baking, prep the egg mixture.

Remaining Ingredients:

6 stalks thin asparagus, 1/2 inch dice

8 shiitake mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth, stems removed, diced

3 green onions, finely chopped

3/4 c shredded gouda cheese

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk


s+p to taste

Set a medium size sauce pan to medium low heat. Add a pat of butter to the pan. Once melted, add in the vegetables, tossing to coat with the butter. Let cook for 10-12 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, milk, several grinds black pepper, and a 1/2 tsp salt. Once the vegetables have cooked and cooled slightly, gently fold into the egg mixture. The fold in half the grated cheese.

After the crust has been par baked, pour in the egg mixture. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Deb instructs you to lower your oven to 375. I kept mine at 400 and and found the results to be fine. Mine took just 25 minutes, with a lower temp it would likely need the full 30 minutes to cook. Let the quiche cool for 5 minutes, then serve immediately along side lightly dressed greens.

This week has felt exceptionally erratic and I find myself longing for the weekend more than usual.  I have lots of little annoying things looming- a massive pile of laundry, store returns, and a dirty bathroom, but we’ve got some fun stuff planned too.  Tonight we have a long overdue date night scheduled at Rosa Mexicano, Saturday I’ll be attempting my first quiche (full report to come next week), and Sunday we’re having an early dinner with friends at the recently opened DC location of Hill Country.  The weather is also supposed to be glorious.  Not this sticky humid DC summer weather we’ve had this week (even though its April), but true spring 70 degree weather.

Unlike last week, I haven’t been too busy in the kitchen.  Except for this dip.  My food processor has been cranking out a lot of this white bean and sun dried tomato dip.  We’re quite fond of it.  I think the sun dried tomatoes provide just the right bite against the creamy beans, and a white bean dip is a nice alternative to our relentless hummus routine.  And with only a handful of ingredients, it couldn’t be simpler to make.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sun Dried Tomato White Bean Dip

1 15 oz can white cannelini beans (reserve 2 T of liquid from can)

one head of garlic, roasted (instructions here)

7 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped

olive oil

s+p to taste

Set aside 2 T of liquid from can of beans, drain and rinse remaining contents.  Placed sun dried tomatoes in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Then add in beans, roasted garlic cloves, freshly cracked paper, reserved liquid, and 2 T olive oil.   Blend until well combined.    If dip seems dry, add a bit more oil, blending and adding more until it reaches a creamy consistency.  Serve immediately or store covered in fridge up to one week.

There’s something about roasting.  Last week I roasted a chicken and the aroma had such an impact on my mood, you’d think I’d just returned from a week long spa retreat.  I felt so calm.  A few days later I roasted a head of garlic and the same thing happened.  I entered a roasting induced state of bliss.

So if you find yourself at a low point this week and don’t have time to roast a chicken,  I recommend the following steps:

1.  Find yourself a nice head of garlic.  One that’s really fresh and has big cloves.  Then preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Take the garlic and slice the top off.  This should expose most of the cloves, but not all.

3.  Place the headless garlic on a small piece of foil and cover with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

4.  Wrap up your garlic to form a little garlic package.

5. Place the package in the oven, let it hang out in there for 40 minutes.  Perhaps catch up on this show.

6. When done, remove from oven, unwrap, and let cool.  Once cooled, pull apart the cloves, gently squeezing out the cooked garlic.

7.  Mash the cloves with a fork to make a paste.  Roasted garlic is mildly sweet, buttery, and nutty in nature.  Spread it on toast, put it in dip, put it in salad dressing.

The Easter holiday always serves as a strong reminder of how much I favor brunch celebrations. Brunch provides the perfect balance between sweet and savory dishes, as well as an excuse to sip champagne at 11 am.  Throw in brightly colored eggs, my favorite flowers (tulips), and children so excited over Easter eggs you’d think there was gold in them, and you have the perfect spring holiday.

I love when a group of people just click; when conversation flows so easily that three hours after dinner has been served folks are still chatting away, sipping their wine, and nibbling on the odds and ends left on the table.  I’m lucky to have such a group a friends very close by.  By close by I mean literally across the street.  One is my former roommate, the second is my old roommate’s former roommate, and the third is the second’s current roommate (who were roommates in college).  A lot of roommate connections.

Our  group is full of skilled cooks, so we always dine in.  These evenings are extremely laid back, to the point where my outfits often closely mirror pajamas. After gorging myself at the apartment of two of the girls last week, I only felt it right that I host the next dinner.  I’m on a perpetual hunt for dinner party appropriate dishes- things you can make ahead that aren’t too fussy, but still provide something special for your guests.  Despite the fact that this orzo recipe has been sitting in a cookbook on my shelf for years, I only recently discovered it.  Given the results, it will definitely be a summer staple. Coincidentally, I also think it would make for an excellent Easter brunch dish.

I’m headed to Boston to celebrate the holiday with my family and some long time family friends.  I don’t know what it is about Easter candy, but I seem to favor it the most out of all the holidays (perhaps it’s the pastel colors?).  As I shared with my mother earlier this week, just because I’m 25 doesn’t mean I still don’t require a box of Peeps to myself.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Serves 6 dinner size portions

1 lb orzo

1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil

3/4 cup chopped fresh dill

3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1/2 chopped red onion

1/2 chopped scallions

1 English cucumber, unpeeled and diced

1 1/4 cup good feta cheese, small dice/ crumbled


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a large pot of water, 1 tsp salt, and splash of oil to boil.

Once boiling drop in orzo and cook til al dente (8-9 minutes).  Meanwhile  whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds fresh black pepper.  Once pasta is cooked drain, pour into serving bowl, and toss well with dressing. Set aside.

Lay shrimp on a baking sheet, drizzles with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roasted for 5-6 minutes. Shrimp will be light pink when done cooking.

Add the shrimp, chopped herbs, scallions, onions, cucumber, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds black pepper to the orzo. Toss gently to combine.  Next add the feta and fold carefully into the orzo.  Set aside at room temperature for an hour to allow the flavors to blend or store covered in the fridge until ready to serve.  Dish can be made one day ahead.  Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving and taste to adjust seasonings.  You likely will need to add a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.