I was delighted to read a chapter in Amanda Hesser’s memoir, Cooking for Mr. Latte, about the intense competition/rivalry/communal behavior of foodies.
(Let’s get this out of the way. I hate the word foodie. It reminds me of footies, those little nylon stocking-socks that shoe stores provide for you to try on shoes without socks. They never work. They’re always dumb. Footies are dumb. By sound association, I am inclined to dislike the word ‘foodie,’ and add on top of that the cutesy way it’s become a marker of identity, and, well, I’m exhausted.)
She recounts a dinner at which she, her boyfriend, and two other foodies were present, and one was writing a review of the restaurant. Ordering was tricky as everyone had to get different things. And when the food arrived, sharing was non-negotiable. People passed bites to one another, challenging or inquiring, “What spice is in this? What is the herb I taste?”
I read the scene with a mixture of defensiveness and delight. Delighted because I’m not alone in finding these things tiresome. Defensive because, um, I’ve done that.
In church, we used to say where two or more are gathered in God’s name, the Holy Spirit is present. I like to imagine that when two or more foodies are present, ghostly presences of culinary figures past show up like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol. I have to wonder: are they pleased or perturbed by our oneupmanship, by our zealous need to criticize? Do they wonder why we can’t just eat, savor, enjoy? Why we can’t just be fed?
I’m pondering all of this because one of my foodie friends, Redd, is coming to visit today. Redd’s recipes have shown up here before, and her excellent e-book, based on the recipes on her blog, has become one of my favorite books to cook from. Redd is a mellow, gracious, delightful girl who cooked me my first home-cooked meal in weeks when we were traveling cross-country to California.
As I prepared for her visit, though, I went into Foodie Anxiety Frenzy: I must COOK ALL THE THINGS. I must show off my prowess (because, um, I have an ugly side), but also must tune into feeding my guest, creating a comforting, satiating, tasty menu for her while she’s here. There must be delightful flavors and dessert and foods that provide us nutrients as well as enjoyment. I ran through recipe after recipe in my head, wondering what to cook.
The answer, finally: keep it simple. Cook foods we like and that we like to share with people. Recipes we are confident about. Experiment with one or two items. Keep it fresh. Imagine what we would like to drink; trust that when your guest says, “Anything is fine,” they mean, “Anything is fine.”
And in honor of this spiral down into food-anxiety and then back up again, I’m sharing one of Redd’s recipes. This simple quiche has been one of my favorite dishes I’ve cooked this summer, and it will show up again, likely in many iterations. It is simple, uses all those glorious summer tomatoes and fresh basil, and the layer of goat cheese at the bottom just makes the whole dish sing. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Quiche
Adapted from The Salted Spoon
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2-5 tablespoons iced water
1/4 cup half and half or milk or cream (it’s a matter of preference)
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of dried thyme
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese (4oz log, soft)
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
To make the pastry:
In a food processor (or a large bowl), lightly pulse the flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and cut in until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. It should not be sticky. If making ahead of time, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use; otherwise, roll out the dough until it’s slightly larger than the pie dish and transfer into the dish for use. (I always like to chill my dough at least half an hour before using to make sure the butter stays cold.)
To make the filling:
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and the milk/cream/half-and-half. Mix well.
Spread the goat cheese as evenly as possible around the base of the pie shell. I used my fingers and felt a bit like I was finger-painting. Make sure you spread the cheese into the corners. Next, sprinkle with pinch of thyme, and then layer the tomato slices in a circular pattern; they’ll overlap and that’s lovely. Sprinkle with the shredded basil.
Pour the egg mixture gently over the whole thing.
Bake on the center rack of an oven at 350°F for 45 minutes or until the middle is set. Eggs should be solid but still a little jiggly in the middle. Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.