Dust swirls around our heads, the noise is deafening as walls fall. Bits of plaster and brick drop to our feet. The satisfying curls of glue twirl up against the blade of the scraper, back bent, fingers curled in an uncomfortable claw gripping the tool as sweat trickles down my back. Our days are now filled with the lingo of construction workers: drywall, particleboard, and who knows what else I don’t often listen. Mornings and afternoons filled with hard labor standing on ladders or crouched on the floor, work defined by the clock, silence compulsory during lunch and dinner hours and Sunday, of course. So we slide home, grabbing sandwiches and fruit on the way. Once lunch is swallowed we collapse on the sofa to recuperate. Day after day, the work is pushed forward, harder and harder we go to the tinny music of a tiny transistor radio. We continue our discussions at home in the evenings, weighing out choices, analyzing the pros and cons of appliances, compromising this oven for that stovetop or this color cabinet for that color wall.
And so if you are wondering where I am… I am squatting on an old wooden floor, or hunched over, legs spread, trying to stretch my aching back, and lovingly pushing a blade across the parquet, over and over, back and forth, the wind tickling the back of my neck, my breath coming in short gasps, muttering to myself as walls fall around me. And I’ll be dreaming of a new kitchen.
Meals are simple fare now. Summer heat slows us down and all I want to eat are salads and fruit, morning, noon and night. Top it all off with icy sorbet and cold, creamy, tart goat cheese to soothe body and soul and I am happy for the season. Now throw some heavy labor into the mix and I am knackered, too exhausted to even drag my sorry old bones to the market; the renovations take away any remnant of energy usually reserved for meal preparation So we swing through the stalls on the way home after the morning’s physical efforts and pick up a bit of this and a bit of that, cold roast lamb and fresh pasta, a platter of Italian cold meats and containers of olives, marinated artichokes and tapenade. We gather around the coffee table in front of the television, flick on the Olympics and enjoy a picnic.
When I do cook or bake, come summer I often turn to quiche. Quiche is versatile in so many ways: one basic crust and one basic, easy-to-make filling recipe and the possibilities are endless! A variety of vegetables, fresh, sautéed or grilled; an abundance of cheeses, grated or chopped; salty lardons or elegant smoked salmon; fruit, olives, anything goes. One large quiche served up for a family or individual tarts, each garnished with everyone’s preferences. Lunch, dinner, picnic or party, I always seem to be offering up quiche.
Roasted Tomato, Feta and Rocket Quiche
Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Quiche
Zucchini Ricotta Feta Quiche
Served simply with a tossed salad dressed with a tart vinaigrette, a baguette and a platter of cheeses followed by fresh fruit or a cool sorbet and one has the perfect summer repast.
Cherry Prosecco Granità
Lemon Ice Cream
Peach Prosecco Bellini Sorbet
So as I take time away from Life’s a Feast, know that life is indeed a feast, both savory and sweet: the hard physical labor, the grime and the sweat give birth to a beautiful new home and a happy family with a common project we are each proud of. If you come looking for me know that I am not very far, just a room away, working on our lovely little family project that will be the next roof over our heads. We work, laugh and plan together as a family; we talk about kitchens and bathrooms and the conversation gently melts and shifts to other topics. We are okay.
GOAT CHEESE TOMATO QUICHE
A family favorite, I often buy individual Goat Cheese Tomato Quiches at our local boulangerie. Why not, I thought, make my own?
Makes about 8 x 4 1/2 –inch (11 cm) individual quiches
Pastry Crust for Quiche:
1 3/4 cups (245 g) flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
12 ½ Tbs (180 g) unsalted butter, cubed
4 - 6 Tbs cold water
Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter, tossing to coat with flour. Using the tips of your fingers and thumbs, rub the butter and flour together rapidly, as if pushing the butter into the flour, until the mixture is crumbly and it resembles damp sand. Do not overwork this mixture as the butter will melt and start to clump; it will be blended better later.
Add about 4 tablespoons of the cold water and blend vigorously with a fork. Add more water, up to 2 more tablespoons, only as much as needed, onto the dry flour and continue to stir up from the bottom until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough begins to pull together in a shaggy ball.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface. With the heel of one hand, rapidly smear and push the dough onto the surface and away from you, about a tablespoon of dough at a time, smearing it onto the work surface. This will complete the blending of the butter and the flour.
Scrape the dough up and gather it into a ball. Knead gently and briefly, just enough to make a smooth, homogenous ball of dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll out easily, about 15 minutes.
Lightly butter the quiche or tart molds.
Roll out the dough on a well-floured work surface to cover about 6 of the tartlet tins. Gently lift and fit into each tartlet tin, lifting and pressing the dough into the corners and trim. Gather up all of the leftover dough and knead very briefly and roll out again. Line the remaining tartlet tins. Line the tins up on a large baking sheet, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and chill for 20 to 30 minutes. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork before baking.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the plastic and place a square of parchment or oven paper in each pastry shell and weigh down with dried beans or pastry weights. Bake for 7 or 8 minutes then remove from the oven. Carefully (so as not to burn yourself) lift out the parchment and beans and return the shells to the oven for an additional 5 to 6 minutes or until pale and light golden brown. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack or wooden cutting board.
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 log goat cheese
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced to a thickness of about ¼ inch
Preheat – or lower the oven heat to 375°F (190°C).
Measure out the milk in a large measuring cup then whisk in the eggs until well blended. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Doing this in a measuring cup or glass with a pouring lip is ideal for pouring into individual or mini quiche/tartlet tins to avoid a mess.
Place one ¼-inch or so thick round of goat cheese in each pastry shell and then top with a slice of tomato. Fill the pastry shells almost to the top of the pre-baked shell with the egg filling. Slide the baking sheet with the individual quiche tins into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed up and set. The top – or at least the edges – should be a deep golden color.
Remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Quiche is fabulous hot from the oven, warm or room temperature. Or even chilled. Perfect for dinner, lunch, picnic or brunch.