Spring Quiche (Inspired by Kurt Vile)

spring quiche

Hello! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted anything here, and if you’re one of the handful of people who’ve asked if I’m still doing this thing, thanks for caring and I apologize for such a long wait. Life’s been crazy (when isn’t it?) and while I’ve been stockpiling a bunch of half-baked ideas for ETB, I’ve had a hard time sitting still long enough to fully conceptualize them. That’s not to say I haven’t been cooking — a couple weeks ago, I settled in to my fourth (!) Brooklyn apartment, this time down in Bay Ridge, a lovely neighborhood in the southwest corner of the borough, with this guy. For the first time in a long time (ever?), I’ve got a kitchen that’s set up exactly how I want it to be, with no competition for the stove or fridge space, and I’ve got all my pantry items in one place. Going back and forth between apartments for 15 months was challenging and often stressful, and it especially took a toll on planning food projects. So, now that I’m finally settled in with the best roommate ever for as long as we’re allowed to live in this apartment, I’m hoping I can finally get my act together. Or not. We’ll see! Regardless, I’ve got a lot more peace of mind and I’ve been cooking up a storm — just mostly everyday dishes without ingredient lists or measurements. (And I’m thinking about ways to share that kind of stuff here, too.)

Anyway, on to Kurt Vile and my first legit crusted quiche (recipe here)!

I got into Kurt Vile at the end of 2011 when Smoke Ring For My Halo was on everyone’s best-of lists (I was late to the party) and he’s been in regular rotation since. His new record Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze is one of my favorites of the year and it’s been in my ears nonstop the last couple months. A good amount of Vile’s music is chilled-out, conventional-ish indie rock — great guitar hooks, moments of jangly pop, a few catchy melodies — but just as often he wanders off to the point where it’s easy to get lost and forget that I’m listening to the same song that started six minutes ago. He has a reputation for dark lyrics, but in reality he’s got an amazing, wry sense of humor; in the album’s first song, the almost-title track “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day,” he sings, “Phone ringing off the shelf/ I guess it wanted to kill himself,” and he jokes that he has to think about what kind of wisecracks he’s going to drop that day. Vile, who’s based in Philadelphia, told Pitchfork that he’s mostly a homebody and a “family man” — he’s married with two young kids — and there are a couple times here that he assures his loyalty to his family, like in “Never Run Away” and “Too Hard,” the latter of which is one of the sweetest songs I’ve heard in a while.

It’s finally starting to feel like spring in New York and that’s what this whole record feels like. “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” calls for a light, springy breakfast, so I made a quiche with greens and sweet caramelized onions. Vile’s homebody-ness is a great parallel because it’s a perfect dish for a leisurely brunch, but you’ve got to stick around for a little while to make it. It’s not incredibly difficult, but there’s a bit of prep work — though some of it, like caramelizing the onions and chopping vegetables, can easily be done ahead of time. It’s also versatile and can be used with pretty much any vegetables or cheeses you have on hand. That’s to say you don’t need to pay super close attention to your measurements, at least when it comes to the veggies: Vile’s songs can space out, and you can kinda do the same — just do your thing and it’ll turn out OK.

One of my favorite verses on the album is in the sprawling last track, “Goldtone,” which starts with, “Sometimes when I get in my zone, you’d think I was stoned/ But I never, as they say, ‘touch the stuff’/ I might be adrift, but I’m still alert/ concentrate my hurt into a gold tone.” Which is to say, things aren’t always as they appear (like the frequent categorization of Vile’s music as stoner-rock). It’s similar to how you might look at this creamy dish and think it’s full of fat — most quiche recipes use a stick of butter in the crust and two cups of heavy cream in the filling, which is kinda nuts, though I’m sure delicious. So while I didn’t skimp on the cheese here, it’s actually not quite as rich as it appears: The crust is made with olive oil instead of butter (and only a few tablespoons of it), as well as skim milk and a couple extra egg whites — but it doesn’t lose any of the flavor.

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Polenta pie

Sunny Polenta Squash Pie (Inspired by Cat Power)

Polenta pie

THE DISH
Polenta squash pie

THE INSPIRATION
I went through a bit of a music drought this year, about a three-month period where I wasn’t blown away by much of anything, and Cat Power’s new album Sun is one that opened the floodgates and got me excited again. It’s emotional and, well, Cat Power-y, but not in the sad way longtime fans expect; and despite the less-depressing words and electronic-tinged music that’s on a different planet from the rest of her catalog, Chan Marshall actually sounds more like herself here. My good friend Amanda (who wrote a fascinating story about her for Pitchfork) said when she went back to listen to her 2006 album The Greatest, she found that Marshall’s voice sounded empty compared to this new one, because she wasn’t totally in it, and she’s right. That album is gorgeous and soulful, but it’s missing some of the “power” that exists on Sun.

It’s all too often that Chan Marshall’s breakdowns and emotional turmoil overshadow her music, but it sounds like she’s mostly in a healthier place here and looking forward; in the title track she sings, “We are free, you and me, we can finally run.” (It’s also worth noting that Sun is wrongfully being billed as a breakup album: The breakup — with actor Giovanni Ribisi — happened after the record was made). In “Real Life” she sings, “Real life is ordinary/ Sometimes you don’t want to live/ Sometimes you gotta do what you don’t want to/ To get away with an unordinary life” and in the 11-minute-long “Nothing But Time,” she sings to Ribisi’s teenage daughter about being young and wanting to be somebody (“I see you, kid, alone in your room/ You got the weight on your mind you’re just tryin’ to get by/ Your world is just beginning/ And I know this life seems neverending/ But you’ve got nothin’ but time/ And it ain’t got nothin’ on you”).

So, for the food — most of the reason for this pie (or quiche, or whatever you want to call it) is because it’s bright, yellow and looks like a sun (thanks to polenta, yellow summer squash, corn, tomatoes and baked eggs); but it’s also a healthy and well-balanced dish because Sun seems to find Marshall in a healthier place than in the past. And sort of on that same note, the onions in it start out spicy, but they mellow out and sweeten as they’re cooked. This is definitely a labor-intensive dish, but so was Sun, which Marshall wrote and recorded completely on her own (I didn’t do that much; I had a little bit of help in the kitchen!). The music has the perfect energy level for a lowkey Sunday morning; instead of wanting to hide under the covers and cry, Sun makes me want to get out of bed and start the day.

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Eggs in clouds

Eggs in Clouds with Gabriel & the Hounds (Inspired by Kate Bush)

Eggs in clouds

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Gabriel & the Hounds, performing a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” (download the free mp3 and read my feature on the band here), and here’s the egg in a cloud I made with Gabe Levine. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Cheesy eggs in clouds

Gabriel & the HoundsTHE INSPIRATION
This dish comes from the song “Cloudbusting” on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, an album that inspired Gabriel & the Hounds’ band name (Gabe also covered that album’s title track — download it for free over at Brooklyn Based). I knew I wanted something that looked like clouds, which often, unfortunately, is going to mean egg whites. If you’ve kept up with this site for a while, you know that I’m not very good with egg whites. And I’ll tell you up front: I’m still not very good with egg whites, and this dish was mostly a failure, certainly because of my faulty egg white-beating and not the recipe.

Me: Oh noooo! I think I fucked it up!
Gabe: How is that possible?
Me: I don’t know! I think now they’re over-beaten? Fuck! Fuck, fuck! Nooooo! … I can’t believe this just happened. Actually, I can totally believe this just happened.

Apologies for the foul language, but, that’s about how it went down. But hey, even decent normally-decent cooks screw up, and Gabe made a good point when he said, “I like that it didn’t work. I think it makes a lot more sense to me that way. I love that you took the challenge on. ‘Oh yeah, we’ll just do the egg whites,’ ’cause you needed to do [a recipe] that has to do with clouds. You’ll conquer the egg whites.” He also thinks Kate Bush would appreciate it: “All of her songs are about things falling apart, anyway.” So, many thanks to Gabe for the encouragement!

Anyway, one there was enough successfully-beaten egg white goo to make just one of these little guys, and it turned out perfectly — crispy along the edges, with a runny yolk in the middle (Get it? Cloud-busting? I know, I know).

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Beer Bread Breakfast Sandwich (Inspired by The Replacements)

THE DISH
Breakfast sandwich with beer bread (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
This one is kinda goofy, and I hope you’ll trust me when I say it actually tasted pretty good! My beer-nerd friend Tony (who also happens to be one of my favorite cooking buddies) was in town for the holiday weekend, so he was the perfect excuse to make beer bread in honor of the Replacements song “Beer for Breakfast.” I’ll be honest: Tony did most of the work on the bread, since he’s made real bread a bunch of times before (I have not, but that’s going to change), and it turned out great. As for the sandwich, I used a fried egg, brown mustard, and … barbeque potato chips, since the song has a line about wanting to eat them. The song also talks about being broke, and everything here is definitely easy on the wallet. I know, you’re probably still gagging at the idea of this sandwich, but I swear it actually tasted pretty good. (And even if you don’t believe me, the bread is at least worth a try!)

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Egg and Smoked Salmon Sandwich (Inspired by Ida Maria)

“I eat boys like you for breakfast/ Where’s my salt and pepper now?/ Oregano, basil and thyme/ And my Tapatio” — “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” from Ida Maria’s album Katla

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Frittata and smoked salmon sandwich with hot sauce (Recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Norwegian rock singer Ida Maria’s songs are typically about drinking booze, being heartbroken, kicking ass, and getting it on. Her first album, Fortress Round My Heart (home to the song “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”), soundtracked my summer between college and moving to New York, so a couple months ago my mind was blown when I learned she had already released LP No. 2, Katla, in Norway late last year, and I didn’t already know about it. It’s finally out in the U.S. tomorrow (June 7) and it’s fantastic.

http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

I teamed up with Missy and Mariel, the lovely ladies of What We Wore To Work Today (who are just as sassy as Ms. Maria) to make a dish based on her song “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” in which Ida shuns a dude for pissing off her dog, insulting her mother, groping her sister and crapping on her father (!!). We made a frittata served on a sandwich with smoked salmon (a nod to her Norwegian roots) and a side of potatoes, and it uses all the foods she mentions in the song: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, oregano, basil, thyme and hot sauce. It’s also linked to Katla‘s super-fun and sorta-raunchy first single, “Cherry Red,” with the cherry tomatoes and Mariel’s lipstick in the photo.
Ida Maria on MySpace

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Sunny-Side-Up Egg Breakfast (Inspired by a classic folk song)

“Keep on the sunny side,
Always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day,
It will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life”

— “Keep On The Sunny Side,” originally by Ada Blenkhorn and J. Howard Entwisle in1899, made famous by the Carter Family in 1928, and performed here by The Low Anthem on their 2007 album What The Crow Brings

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

THE DISH
Spinach, onions and quinoa topped with a sunny-side-up egg (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I never skip breakfast. Ever. My everyday morning meal isn’t usually super elaborate, but I always need something to wake me up and get my day going. More often than not, I eat homemade granola with Greek yogurt and berries, but in a recent effort to use up what’s on my shelf and in my fridge (more on that later this week), I’ve been changing it up this week. This classic song (performed above by The Low Anthem, though it dates back to 1899) is about keeping on “the sunny side of life” — which made my sunny-side-up egg an obvious pick, but living every day on the sunny side, to me, also means having energy and feeling great. Quinoa is known as a superfood because it’s a complete protein, a good source of fiber, gluten free, and easy to digest — not to mention it’s tasty, it cooks quickly (in about 15 minutes), and can be used in a bajillion different dishes. You really can’t go wrong with spinach (tons of vitamins, iron, and calcium), and topped off with a runny egg, sunny side up? Yeah, that’ll keep me on the sunny side for the rest of the day.

ABOUT THE ARTIST
The Low Anthem are an indie-folk group from Providence, Rhode Island, made up of musicians who switch instruments with nearly every song — guitar, string bass, organ, bells, clarinet, strings … One of my favorite live folk bands.
The Low Anthem on MySpace

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