I have decided to embark on a series of “visionary recipes” – recipes written for cooks with low or no vision. I can’t take all the credit for this idea. I must give credit to my friend Henry, an up-and-coming cook. He asked me for some simple recipes, and, because he’s a) totally blind and b) new to cooking, I thought it would be fun to try and design a series of recipes that integrate the extra-visual (meaning beyond visual) aspects of cooking.
Apologies to any of my readers outside the U.S. – you’ll have to convert my measurements and temperatures to the relevant units for your part of the world.
Recipe #1: Broccoli Quiche
1 9-inch frozen pie crust
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1-1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cups goat cheese (optional)
3 tablespoon sour cream OR a splash of half & half/milk
1/2 red onion, diced
1 handful fresh mushrooms, diced
1-2 cups frozen broccoli, defrosted
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
fresh ground black pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 375° F.
2. Grease a 9-inch glass or metal pie pan with butter or cooking spray. Unwrap and unroll the chilled pie crust and press the pie crust into the pan. Note the smell. Uncooked pastry always has a distinct “raw” floury smell. Poke holes in the dough with a fork to ensure that it doesn’t puff up too much in the oven.
3. Place the pie crust in the oven for 10-12 minutes to brown. The smell will change completely — a buttery scent should replace some of the rawness of the uncooked dough. Handle the pie pan carefully but feel free to gently touch the dough. It may be slightly puffy. It definitely will have a rougher texture. Set the crust aside for now.
4. Saute your diced red onion in a little melted butter or olive oil. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, observe the texture of your onions. When they start to soften, add the mushrooms. Here you are at liberty to add some seasoning – herbs, black pepper, whatever you like. You will be able to hear your veggies sauteing – it’s a low, musical hiss as they release water and start to caramelize. When they stop “talking” to you, you’ll know they’re cooked through, but since they’re going to cook a bit more inside the quiche, you don’t have to saute them all the way. Just make sure the onions are nice and soft and the mushrooms feel soft. The mushrooms will start to feel glossy, a very different texture from their spongy, rubbery uncooked state.
5. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, eggs, cheese, and diced herbs. Fold in the sauteed veggies and defrosted broccoli. Add a few turns of black pepper and a few spoons of sour cream or a splash of half & half. Mix thoroughly. Revel in the squishy sound of the quiche filling as it comes together. I particularly enjoy the wetness of the sound and the sensation of folding together so many different textures. This is why I use a wooden spoon when cooking – I feel it allows me the most direct experience of the textures. Texture is very important here; you want your quiche filling to be slightly wet (that’s why you add the sour cream or milk/half & half). You don’t want to be able to slop it around, but you don’t want the filling to be stiff and immovable either.
6. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top of the filling. Not only do the herbs make the quiche look appealing for your sighted guests if you happen to be sharing (and believe me, they’ll hope you are!) – they add an incredible dimension of aroma as the quiche cooks.
7. Bake the quiche for 35-40 minutes until it is golden brown around the edges and does not jiggle. If you stick a fork in the quiche and it comes out clean, the quiche is done. When you insert the fork, you will be able to feel if the quiche is loose – in which case it will need a few more minutes – or firm – in which case it’s ready. You can turn off the oven and leave the quiche inside for 2-3 minutes to brown the top. A cooked quiche will smell different as well. There is a sweet spot when food is perfectly cooked when all the scents come to the forefront – like a smell crescendo. You’ll be able to spell the golden brown crust and herbs first, and somewhere underneath that, you’ll smell the notes from the cheese and veggies. It’s important to understand what you’re smelling for and exactly how much time you have before that delicious bubbly quiche smell becomes an unforgettable burning, rubbery, inedible quiche smell.
8. When your quiche is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool somewhere. It’s best to let it cool for a while before you try to cut it, or you’ll have a mess on your hands – albeit a delicious mess. And it’s even good cold! So go crazy! Enjoy your quiche in a matter of minutes or, after it’s cooled down, stash it in the fridge and enjoy it later!
A few notes:
• If you don’t have fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs. I sprinkle dried herbs on every savory dish I bake in the oven.
• You can substitute other cheeses and veggies. Some veggies, like zucchini, work better if they are sauteed first.
• I have made several successful quiches with almond milk instead of regular milk and cream cheese. However, since the almond milk is low in fat, the quiche requires quite a bit more liquid. But the overall texture is much lighter and I find that the flavors of some veggies come through a lot better with almond milk.
I found this exercise in recipe-writing surprisingly challenging. As an avid cook with low vision, I didn’t realize just how much I use my eyes in the kitchen. And here I thought I was the queen of smell and texture observation. I guess I’ve got work to do! I’d also appreciate any suggestions you have for improving this nonvisual recipe.