Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kale, Potato, and Chorizo Soup for long, wet days

The research center that I work for is putting together a conference on the Green Economy tomorrow. It has ballooned into a relatively big deal: the Obama folks have latched onto it as a symbol and are sending out a Deputy Assistant Secretary from the US Department of Commerce. Suddenly there's going to be press, TV. The facility can seat only ~180 people, and we already have 60 folks on the waitlist. Ack! Exciting, but I started having nightmare visions of having to play bouncer at the registration desk. (For readers who know me only via internet, I don't look very intimidating. Loud, but small.).

Then it started raining. Hard. As in big hunks o' hail yesterday. Umbrellas violently turning inside out every couple minutes because the winds keep changing direction. Dead umbrellas littering the pubic trash cans. The sewers are getting backed up. People get stuck indoors, buses are overcrowded and running extremely late, meetings canceled. I got an inordinate amount of work done yesterday, simply because I got trapped at my research center and couldn't leave.

We have hopes, high hopes, that our waitlist will magically vanish. Because who wants to wade their way to downtown Berkeley, either squished on a late bus or having paid a left kidney for parking, just to wait around in a lobby for an hour before being informed by an innocuous graduate student that, sorry, thanks for coming, but we're over subscribed and you should turn around and go home? And don't forget your inside-out umbrella, sir.

So, for all of my waitlistees and anyone else out there whose plans have been thwarted by the rain, I offer a bowl of warm soup.

Apparently this Portuguese Kale, Potato, and Chorizo soup was very popular last year: both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine published recipes within a month of each other. We crossed the two recipes, used our secret makes-everything-tastier ingredient (Elgin sausage), supplemented canned chicken stock with some leftover homemade stock, and the results were really quite impressive. The soup's broth made the dish: hearty, with a depth of flavor that usually comes only from multiple hours of slow simmering. The potatoes add creaminess, the chorizo adds heartiness, the greens add texture but no bitterness. Think comfort. And it's good for you.

Do would prefer the potatoes a little more solid, so that they don't quite melt in your mouth. DNA would prefer a little more sausage, so that you get some in almost every bite. I love it just the way it is.

Portuguese Kale, Potato, and Chorizo soup
(serves 6)
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 lb chorizo or other very flavorful sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 lb russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 1/2 lb Kale, stemmed, leaves thinly sliced (Neen: For color, use a combination of Kale and Red Chard)
8 cups chicken broth

Heat oil in a 5 quart heavy pot over medium high, and brown your sausage (2-3min). Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon. In the remaining fat, cook onion and garlic over medium heat until soft and slightly browned. Add paprika and Kale, cook 1 min till bright green. Add pototoes and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Simmer covered until the potatoes are tender but not disintegrating (~15-20min). Add sausage, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vodka Sauce for my Last First Day of School

Today is the first day of my last semester in graduate school.

Not to be melodramatic or anything. Actually, it's somewhat anti-climactic: it's pouring rain today and my first class isn't till 6pm. It's going to be a pretty crazed semester, with a business school studio, a community development studio, an econ development methods class, a Master's thesis, a job at a research institute, a job at the pro-downtown nonprofit, Do taking his PhD qualifying exams, not to mention extra-curricular commitments. But today, the first day, I can technically sit around in my P.J.s until 6pm.

Given the circumstances, either this blog is going to end up in hibernation again or readers are going to be inundated with "30min or less" dishes. Might as well start now.

Do has been increasingly interested in quality Italian food for a while now -- not Americanized Italian but designed-for-the-Italian-palate dishes. He and DNA have a good Italian friend whom they have both visited in Pisa, and returned much more rotund and waxing poetical about the dishes served by the friend's Italian grandmother. For Christmas, my Mom and grandmother got him two beautiful tomes: Marcella Hazan's first cookbook (think Julia Child for Italian food), and The Silver Spoon (a 1200+ page magnum opus published in Italy for the last 50 years and only recently translated into English. Maybe the Italian equivalent to Joy of Cooking?).

The first dish he tried was Silver Spoon's recipe for Penne in Vodka Sauce. This was last Thursday, a rainy work night. I had had a harrowing day and when Do insisted on taking over the kitchen, all I wanted was something creamy and comforting.

Did you know that parsley is a bitter herb? As in, that whole dipping parsely into salt water at Passover thing and mumbling about the bitter tears of our ancestors is not just for show? As in, cooking with parsley is kind of like using water when baking bread: you really, *really* shouldn't be blazé about proportions? Yeah... This recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of fresh parsley. For the love of God, do not add the entire bunch of parsley. Do and I have scientifically proven for posterity that the results will be inedible. Think bitter. For my family: think of those daily anti-malarial pills that we used to take, and imagine one of those crushed and mixed into a delicate cream sauce. Yeah. Not so much.

We threw the first batch out and started over. This time, using ONE Tablespoon of parsley.

The second batch was quite impressive. Delicate texture but hearty flavor. Just enough cayenne bite to cut through the cream, and enough chewiness from the thick cubes of ham to lend gravitas to the dish. Vodka sauce is inherently not the most sophisticated pasta sauce out there, but this version takes a simple, comforting dish and turns it into something adult. Something that you're more likely to find in an Italian grandmother's home than in little Italy.

Penne Rigate in Vodka (serves 2 for a light super. We recommend supplementing the penne with a salad, or doubling the recipe)
1/4 cup butter
1 thick slice cooked, cured ham, diced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley (no more!)
5 Tbs heavy cream
1/4 cup vodka
3 cups penne rigate
2 tsp cayenne
1 Tbs red pepper

Melt the butter in a pan, add the ham, tomato paste, and parsely, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10min. Stir in the cream and vodka and cook until the vodka has evaporated. Season to taste with cayenne and red pepper. Cook the penne in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and tip into a warm serving dish. Pour sauce over the pasta, garnish with a little leftover parsley.

Monday, January 18, 2010

And for Dessert... Lime-Yogurt Mousse

I promise this is the last blog post about the potluck housewarming.

I just had to share this success. Because I almost never make desserts.

Desserts intimidate me. Too often the batter's texture has to be just so, the relative temperature of the ingredients perfect, the cup measurements accurate, and the stars aligned. Yeah... I follow directions well, but not that well. And most dessert recipes are either way too sweet, or way too complicated. And really, you only wanted a small bite anyway, but now you've got this ginormous "serves 8-12" dessert occupying the previously free territories of your fridge. Either you're going to end up throwing half of it out, or any pretentions at weight control have just flown out the window. It's a lose-lose situation.

So I eat dessert at other people's houses. Thankfully, it seems like everyone in the known universe, including my kid brother, are more adept dessert-makers than I. I'm okay with this.

But sometimes, rarely, there is success.

Lime-Yogurt Mousse, people. It takes less than 20 minutes to throw together. It calls for everyday ingredients that I had lying around. It's not too sweet. If you replace the sugar with Agave syrup, it's arguably good for you (get your Calcium, ladies!). But best of all, it's elegant, light, and extremely tasty. Think Key Lime pie meets pillows of clouds, in your mouth.

The recipe supposedly serves 10, but the five of us inhaled all but the very last cupful. This definitely makes our All Time Favorite list.

Lime-Yogurt Mousse (From Food & Wine's May 2007 Issue.)
1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 Tbs cold water
6 Tbs fresh Lime Juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek Yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
Optional: Zest from 1 lime, as garnish
Optional, but recommended: a handful of berries, as garnish

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine the lime juice with 6 tablespoons of the sugar and simmer over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until melted. Transfer the lime gelatin to a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the yogurt.

In another bowl, beat the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until softly whipped. Fold the cream into the yogurt mixture and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour (i.e. a good time to pause and have dinner -- dessert will be ready when you are). Just before serving, garnish with lime zest and berries.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

DNA's Spicy Fried Chickpeas

So I've mentioned our friend DNA several times already. Do and he have been friends since our Chicago days, and they would definitely be inseparable roommates if I weren't around. Actually, they lived together for a month while Do was apartment hunting out here, and were kind of disappointed about ending their nightly House marathons when the car & I finally rolled into California. DNA is the kind of guy who, with literally 30 seconds warning, is willing to drop everything and go wine tasting in Napa , test out new Dim Sum places in SF or Richmond, join us for a theatre performance at Berkeley Rep, attempt to recreate Alinea-style food chemistry in the kitchen (we really should break out photos of that), etc, etc. This may not seem particularly impressive until to you realize that DNA is a science PhD candidate in a work environment where 6.5 work days a week is common if not expected. DNA rocks my world.

And he's game for experimenting with cooking, both being our guinea pig and offering up new creations. Last Saturday, inspired by a recipe he'd seen in a Southwest Airlines magazine, he threw together a spicy fried chickpeas appetizer and brought them to our Supper Club get-together. And there was much rejoicing.

The appetizer is really very simple. Breaded and fried chickpeas, with mucho spice added. Result: addictive, a-typical, and better for you than most other appetizer's out there. The 0riginal recipe is here, but DNA found it extremely bland slash didn't have time to finish, so he dumped a bunch of extra spice in. And you know? It worked.

Spicy Fried Chickpeas (serves 8 as an appetizer)
Olive and canola oil for frying
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, thoroughly drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tbs smoked paprika
1-2 Tbs cayenne (or to taste, conceivably much more)

  1. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a deep-frying thermometer with 3 inches of oil (1/2 olive, 1/2 canola) and heat to 375°F over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, dry drained chickpeas thoroughly with paper towels. Combine 2 tablespoons of the flour, the salt, and the paprika in a large bowl and briefly whisk to break up any lumps. Add chickpeas and toss to coat. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Working in two batches, fry chickpeas until they stop popping and have turned golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per batch. (Be careful: A lot of commotion and steam erupts from the oil when the chickpeas first drop.) Remove with a skimmer or a frying basket to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet.
  4. Toss together chickpeas and paprika and cayenne in a bowl and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Super Garlicky Eggplant Parmesan and a Housewarming

Sometime last year, we started getting together with a small group of friends for dinner every weekend. It was very much the sort of thing depicted in photos of glossy magazines trying to sell you something -- happy laughter around a dinner table, glasses of wine, ample quantities food, relaxed atmosphere, and people just looking like they're having a darn good time. Magazine spreads usually don't show you the "let your hair down" parts of a supper club: everyone hanging out in the kitchen even when a new recipe's not ready until 9 or 10pm, lingering for hours at the table, squishing onto the couch to watch movies off a 15" laptop, lounging on the kitchen floor exchanging stories at 2am, making sure folks are sober enough to bike home at 4am, and having special toothbrushes set aside for when they end up staying the night. Okay, so the last two don't happen every week, but you get the idea. Our little supper club parties hard, if you use a very intimate definition of the word "party."

To celebrate one friend's recent emancipation to a studio of her own (a mere five blocks from our apartment! yay!) and the end of the holiday travel, we all got together last Saturday night. The second-best highlight of the evening was the grand tour of her new place, which is gorgeous and cozy and comfortable and laid out like something from The absolute best highlight of the evening was the eggplant parmesan that the hostess made.

[Note: I have no photos of my friend's dish. Eggplant Parmesan, for all its deliciousness, is notoriously NOT photogenic. Somehow Lisa of the Lisa is Cooking blog took the most flattering photos of Eggplant Parmesan, including the one on the right. I'm intrigued by the fact that she used Marcella Hazan's recipe (the Julia Child of Italian cooking), as Do just got that cookbook as a Christmas present].

I'm not kidding, this was the stuff of fantasies. The recipe came from the cookbook "Garlic Garlic Garlic" -- already off to a good start -- *and* the hostess doubled the quantity of garlic in the recipe. It was super rich, the texture was almost creamy, and pungent, oozing with cheese and flavor. It's the kind of dish that demands all your attention as you savor each bite. Even Do, my walking Midwestern diet stereotype, honestly didn't care/didn't notice that there was no meat present. This is infinitely better than chicken Parmesan, and a whole different category from the shoe leather dry versions of eggplant Parmesan I'd had before.

Apparently the dish is a whole production to make, since one of the secrets is a special garlicky-buttery homemade Marinara sauce. The super secret ingredient in the super secret sauce is: 1/2 tsp baking soda. Whoda thunk? The sauce is fairly quick and easy (~30min, 20 of which is unattended simmering), and tasty enough that it's become my friend's go-to tomato sauce. She keeps a half dozen mason jars around just to store big batches of this recipe. That said, putting together the sauce on top of the rest of the dish can become pretty time consuming, so either cook this dish over two days or call over a bunch of friends and put them to work chopping garlic. Clearly, my supper club has strong preferences for the latter.

Eggplant Parmesan (serves 8-10)
5 cups Special Marinara Sauce (see below)
3.5 - 4 lb eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2" slices.
up to 2/3 cup olive oil
16 garlic cloves
1/3 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup parsley
1 lb mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 cup Parmesan, grated
2 lb pasta (for serving)

Optional: Pour Marinara sauce into a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Simmer briskly until sauce is reduced to 4 cups. Set aside. (My friend doesn't find this step to be necessary).

Heat broiler. Lightly brush Eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place slices close together on rack and broil until lightly browned on one side (~6-8min). Turn, brush with oil and brown. Transfer browned eggplant to cooling racks. Repeat until all slices are browned. When done, Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

While the eggplant is broiling, mince together parsely and basil and garlic. Set aside.

Generously oil a 3-4 quart casserole, preferably one that is wide and not too deep. Ladle 1/2 cup sauce into the bottom. Cover the bottom with a third of the eggplant. Sprinkle with a third of the garlic mixture, then one third each of the Mozarella and Parmesan. Cover with 1 cup sauce. Repeat layers. Then, for the last layer, cover with the remaining garlic mixture, then mozarella, then the remaining 1 1/2 cup sauce, then the last of the Parmesan.

Bake uncovered for 50min, until top is browned and sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 10min before cutting into squares and serving over pasta.

Special Marinara Sauce (makes 2 Quarts)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 Tbs butter
12 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 28oz cans plum tomatoes, with juices
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda

In a large heavy saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and carrot and saute until carrots are soft (4-6min). Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, red pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer 20min. Season to taste. Add baking soda. Blend thoroughly. It is now ready for use.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Num Pangs: Spicy Southeast Asian Sandwiches

Wow, has there been a lot of good food in my life recently. Today's episode is brought to you by "Spring Cleaning." While "spring" cleaning in January may seem a little pre-emptive, I rest my case on the facts that a) the Bay Area has no discernible seasons and therefore b) returning to Oakland after -4 degree temperatures in Chicago over the holidays fully resembles the advent of spring. So, spring cleaning it was that prompted an attack on our overflowing basket of old Bon Appetits, Gourmets, Food & Wines, and misc other grocery store check-out indulgences. And the resulting clippings have definitely been worth-while.

In September 2009, on page 74, Food & Wine reviewed a Cambodian sandwich shop in Manhattan and offered the recipe for Pequillo-Pepper Num Pangs. Though I apparently found the idea of a southeast asian sandwich very tempting, judging by the dog-ears, the length of the ingredient list alone was enough to get this baby categorized in the "make someday, on a weekend, with Do as a sous-chef, after we've both finished graduate school." Lies! Even if you make your own mayonnaise (which I do these days, more on that some other day), this recipe takes a very relaxed hour. And it's unbelievably creative and delicious.

Experiment: try to think about this from the taste-bud perspective, not the time perspective: take luxury homemade garlic bread, spread on some (homemade) mayonnaise, drizzle with Sriracha chili sauce, layer with paper-thin cucumbers, pickled carrots, roasted red peppers, and cilantro springs, coat with a spicy asian take on pesto, and voila.

It's funky, it's colorful, it's packing a *heavy* punch of flavor, and it falls pretty damn high on my virtuous eating scale. If you can live without anchovies (I can't), it's vegetarian. If you use a substitute for the mayonnaise, its vegan. And, unbelievably, you don't need any crazy Bay Area ingredients to make it happen.

Highly Recommended.

Pequillo-Pepper Num Pangs (makes 4 sandwiches, takes 1 hour).
2 medium carrots
2 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
3 cups Thai basil leaves (normal basil leaves are a fine substitute)
2 anchovy fillets (or, if you're me, the whole can, drained).
Juice from 1 lime
1 1/2 tsp Asian Fish Sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper (make that 2)
3 garlic cloves - 2 chopped, 1 whole.
1/4 extra virgin olive oil (or less)
Four individual sandwich baguettes or kaiser rolls, split.
4 Tbs butter.
Mayonnaise, for spreading. (it takes 10 min to make yourself, and then you know what's in it!)
Sriracha chili sauce, for drizzling
One 6" cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline/box grater/whatever you have.
One 6 oz jar of pequillo peppers, drained and patted dry. (it's a shortcut alternative to roasting and peeling 2 of your own red peppers).
12 large cilantro springs.

Julienne carrots. For the love of God, use a box grater or a mandoline or the "slice" function on a cuisineart. As long as the slices aren't so thin that they become mushy, the aesthetics don't matter. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the vinegar and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Take the butter out of the fridge so that it'll be room temperature when you need it. If you're making your own mayonnaise, do so now.

In a food processor, combine the basil, anchovies, lime juice, fish sauce, crushed red pepper, and chopped garlic and process to a paste. With the machine on, slowly pour olive oil and puree until blended. Go easy on the olive oil, you don't want this pesto to be too liquidy. Check for seasoning, and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 min.

Preheat the broiler. Spread the butter on the cut slices of bread (~1/2 Tbs per slice). Toast in broiler. Rub the toasted sides with the garlic clove (you may need more than one clove to do this). Spread with the mayonnaise. Drizzle with Sriracha. Arrange the cucumber, carrots, and pequillo peppers on the bottoms and garnish with cilantro. Spread the tops with the pesto and close the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve.

** You'll probably have half a cup of pesto left over. I haven't decided what to do with mine yet.. though that may not turn out to be a problem, given that I've been dipping my finger in it and licking it off every 3 seconds...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Craving Greens: Chinese Chicken Salad

As Spuds has already described, the 2009 December holidays were fantastic culinary experiences. The family classics were phenomenal, and the younger generation did its best to translate "until it looks good" into as many written recipes as possible. It was also a real coming-of-age experience to surprise parents and grandparents with the quality of the recipes that we had in our back pockets. The greatest validation came when my Prussian grandmother asked for a copy of my mint pea soup recipe and Do for the soy sauce-wine reduction he'd used over sashimi for a Christmas Eve appetizer. We do okay in the cooking department.

But it sure was hard to put together menus without our recipe notes! Since our blogging had lapsed, we found ourselves straining to remember the details of our 2009 culinary successes. "What was the secret behind that amazing kimchi soup?... oh well, we'll have to scratch that idea." Not to mention that, without the blog, it became a lot more difficult to share recipes with our family.

So here's a recipe y'all should know about: Chinese Chicken Salad. It's pseudo-Asian creation from the November 2009 Food & Wine magazine, designed to satisfy cravings for Chinese flavors while still serving a light, green-centric meal. When D and I got back from the holidays, we were craving greens -- this totally did the trick. It's super flavorful, a nice blend of crunchy and smooth textures, and colorful. For folks on the Perfect Ten diet, you can make the salad Aziz-friendlier by eliminating the sugar, making your own mayonnaise (which takes 5min, really), using Low Sodium Soy Sauce, and generally cutting down on the volume of dressing. Warning: this recipe makes a huge quantity (I had to break out D's massive Le Creuset just to hold everything!).

Oh, and did I mention it takes 20-30min to make, depending on how quick your knife skills are?

Chinese Chicken Salad (serves 8-10)
1/4 mayonnaise (feel free to make your own. It's just 1 egg + olive oil)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs sesame oil
1-2 Tbs Tabasco
3 Tbs sugar (can be eliminated if your diet so dictates)
1-2 garlic cloves
One 1" nub of ginger, peeled and grated.
One 2.5lb rotisserie chicken (or smaller), meat shredded
3 scallions thinly sliced
1 bunch of cilantro
1 small napa cabbage
1 head of romaine lettuce
1 cup unsalted roast peanuts, coarsely chopped
1-4 celery ribs, sliced
2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections.

Thinly slice napa cabbage and romaine into ribbons. Rince, and put into very large bowl. Toss with 2 Tbs vinegar, 1 1/2 tps sugar, and 1 Tbs olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk mayonnaise with vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Tabasco, ginger, and garlic. Add chicken, scallions, celery, peanuts, and cilantro. Mix to coat. Add the chicken mixture to the napa cabbage mixture. Add the orange wedges. Stir and serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Achieving the Impossible: My Mother's Quiche

Does your family have certain traditional family recipes? Dishes that only a certain person can make, just so? And does that person know the dish so well that the need of a concrete recipe has become completely unnecessary? And have you attempted to recreate the dish, only to be thwarted with the realization that these things are made by pure instinct?

It is so with my family. Try to get a list of ingredients of some of your favorite childhood dishes and you'll end up with a grocery list containing some gems like "some of this and that" or lots of "whatever you feel like." Such ingredients usually come in quantities of "enough" and "until it looks right." You, as an innocent, naively attempt to follow such accurate and detailed instructions. Culinary disaster ensues.

But! This holiday season witnessed not one, but two miracles! Neen, Do, and I may have finally cracked some of our most beloved family recipes! Our obsessions are satisfied! The haunting tastes will cease as our appetites are finally satisfied! Well, mine are, at least. I have made one of my mother's quiches! Neen and Do were faced with the more daunting task of our Grandfather's Beef Stroganoff, so they may still be writhing in agony and frustration somewhere. Oh well!

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what has set this quiche apart for me. The addition of cheese above and below the filling? The combination of spinach and mushrooms ("enough" of "this and that"), easily topped with an addition of ham (plus "whatever you feel like" -- "until it looks right")? It certainly gives the dish a taste and texture that scrambled eggs in a pie crust otherwise wouldn't have. But there's always been something about my mother's quiche that has given it a distinct taste that no other quiche has ever lived up to. It's made me quite prejudiced against the quiche population, really. I have come to believe that all other quiches are inferior. I guess that makes me a quichist.

SuperMom Quiche
-a single pie crust (I used Mark Bittman's Flaky Pie Crust -- not prebaked)
-3-4 eggs1 to 1,1/2 cups of milk/cream/half-and-half
-a fistful of cheese ("I like Gruyere, but really, whatever you have sitting around...")
-1 to 1,1/2 cups of cooked spinach
-1/2 cup of mushrooms (Champignons de Paris recommended)
-salt & pepper & nutmeg
-1/2 cup(ish) of ham (optional; if you're adventurous, give cooked bacon a try)

Mix the eggs and milk/cream/half-and-half as if you were making scrambled eggs (you are, really). Toss the spinach in the microwave to cook it quickly (3min for a bowlful was the most accurate cooking time I could get), and add that to the egg mix. Clean, chop, and sauté the mushrooms. Add them to the egg mix. If you're using meat, toss that in as well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Fit the crust into a 9-inch pie pan and sprinkle the bottom with some of the cheese. Pour in the egg mix, and sprinkle the top of it with the rest of the cheese. Bake it at 350 degrees for 50min - 1 hour. Examine for culinary disasters. Devour.