Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche

When I was a single girl I was hopeless in a culinary sense. I never seemed to have ever taken a picture of the kitchen I had when I lived in Astoria, Queens (probably because it was that terrible), but I did take some pictures of other parts of the apartment.To give a sense of what I was working with:


There were lots of books.


Is that a Planet of the Apes poster taped to the wall? Yes, I think it is. Martha Stewart would not approve. I had a crazy, crazy bookcase I made when I was 21. Is that me glued on next to Virginia Woolf and George Washington? Yes. (I don't have an explanation).


I literally used scarves and blankets as curtains and wall decorations. Like this "curtain" that hung up there for 3 years:

(For comparison sake - see also me wearing the "curtain" in Scotland just after we ate at the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter- proves it was so not a curtain:)


And this "tapestry" (I'm really not trying to be narcissistic here, just ignore my face). Yes, it is an actual Hogwarts blanket nailed to the wall. Now we actually use it as a blanket again.

 

I did, however, have quite a mug collection my mom made me pare down when I moved.


The one in the lower left corner you'll remember from this post. (Oh and I think that is an actual curtain being used as a tablecloth - there was no actual table to eat on BTW - and apparently I was in need of actual curtains so that is ironic). And my friend will report that I also had bowls (because I served her pizza in them). But I did not have much else. So you can imagine my husband-to-be's surprise when he suggested we cook at my place when we first met. He quickly realized I didn't have a cutting board, a chef's knife or a whisk. When he came over and realized I did not have these things we went to a restaurant supply store around the corner under the subway tracks in sweltering heat and bought these things. I thought I was thinking ahead by buying a cutting board - but I bought a glass cutting board and he said he thought those dull the knife. I bought it mostly because it had a beautiful image of a vineyard on it. What did I know? (We still use it for decorative purposes though). He hated that I didn't have any air conditioning, and he felt like he was sticking to my black leather futon. I said I "didn't believe in air conditioning" or something. He watched "Sports Center" and complained that I left the windows open constantly even when I left to go to the grocery store and slept even though I was a woman living alone in NYC and basically on the first floor. I replied that I didn't actually live on the first floor, and it was more like a floor and a half up - that it was impossible to get in from the outside, and in fact, I had tried when I got locked out before and failed. He was genuinely worried about me, and that seemed so sweet that I did actually start to close my windows more. This same summer it turned out there was a fire escape rapist who snuck into women's rooms in Astoria even higher up in buildings than I lived, so that was good of him to worry about me.

I got to work in the kitchen. The kitchen was terrible. The only plugs were on the on opposite side of the kitchen from the counter so you basically had to trip on anything to get in or out of the kitchen. The oven was wildly inconsistent. No dishwasher. No room. It was no wonder I never made anything. Also, every day at 10:30 the sink would inexplicably fill up with suds 7 feet or more in the air filling the entire kitchen, even on the floor. This doesn't seem that sanitary either. I had to scrub and scrub those suds off every day. No idea what they were made out of.

It says something about the magic of this recipe that I was able to make it taste so good. It is from Cook's Illustrated. When thinking back on making the quiche, I cannot imagine that I made the crust. It must have been a frozen crust, but the fact that now I would assume I was making the crust confuses me a little, but I am sure I didn't have the skills for that. So basically you first cook the pie crust for a few minutes, and take it out of the oven. Then, you cook the leeks in butter (taking care to not leave any grit in the leeks), and slice up pieces on goat cheese and crumble the cheese and spread the leeks on the base of the pie crust. Then you mix together cream, milk, eggs, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. I think the nutmeg gives it a unique taste that you might not expect - spicing it up a little. It is just a pinch, but I believe it makes a difference. Also, the white pepper is mild enough not to overpower the cream and eggs, and I believe that is also makes a difference. You just whisk that together and pour it over the leeks and goat cheese and bake it. Delicious! I think he was impressed. He acted impressed anyways.

Reasons this recipe works for someone who has an ill-equipped kitchen and no cooking skills to speak of:
  • It is hard to screw up the deliciousness that is goat cheese.
  • It is also hard to screw up cream. In fact, I made whipped cream for company last night, and it was literally heavy cream and vanilla and it was amazing - so of course cream with goat cheese would impress people.
  • Quiche is one of those things that sounds healthy and complicated to make without really being either of those things.
Anyways, so coming out of that success I made this recipe for a staff Christmas party at the Morgan Library and Museum. I made it for my future in-laws. I made it with my mother. At the staff Christmas party especially they went over very well. Everyone was like "How did you make it so delicious?" while eating 10 of them and asking if they were low fat. I made the recipe for so many occasions mostly because people seemed to genuinely think it was delicious. I almost wonder if part of becoming a cook is building confidence to try more and more complicated things. You almost need to start out with something that works out great in order to talk yourself up to tackling harder things that may not go well. I hate to admit it, but my first attempt making empanadas did not go well. And if I had encountered such a blow to my confidence early on it may had made me less interested in trying to learn how to cook at all.

I'll also say that it takes a special man to date a women who does not own a whisk, a knife, or a cutting board. I'm grateful to him for not judging me (to my face at least) for having a mattress on the floor as a bed and doing things like eating a box of chocolate eclairs for dinner (as discussed here and here). I would say being able to provide for oneself tasty, healthy, and reasonably priced meals is a very, very useful life skill - vital to health and budgetary concerns as well as helpful in friendships and fostering a sense of community. It's not just about showing off, and it is not about being a food snob. I actually hate the word "foodie". It is actually very practical. I think some people are not interested in cooking because they don't where to start. Well, this is where I started - with goat cheese and leek quiche. I served it to a man stuck to the black leather futon due to no air conditioning watching ESPN, in a bowl most likely, from a kitchen with plugs dangerously hanging every which way with dirty dishes piled up no doubt. And somehow - the man came back for more thousands of times after that (in a better kitchen with actual knives and cutting boards).

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