Ladies’ Night Out
Actually--it's called "Daughter's Night," (Chag HaBanot) celebrated on the Sixth or Seventh Night of Chanukah in North African countries (aka "The Maghreb"). This festival-within-a-festival commemorates the heroism of one of the most valiant women in Jewish history... Judith.
Most of us are already familiar with the majorly heroic Esther and the Purim megillah, but rather lesser known (unless one haunts museums specializing in some rather vivid Renaissance paintings while wearing an Edward Gorey costume) was the courage, daring, and determination of Judith in saving our people.
Pull up a chair and listen to the story: Picture this. Nighttime, Jerusalem, 165 BCE. The general Holofernes and the swarming Syrian army were encamped and ready to attack the next day. Enter stage right, a seemingly shy sweet maiden, with a huge picnic basket, timidly a-tap tap tapping on his tent flap. After being gruffly greeted, she coyly drops a veil or two and is invited to come in and lose the other five.
While she's dancing and he's ogling, she feeds him the salty cheeses she brought with her and to slake the inevitable thirst gives him flagon after flagon of wine. After tossing back more than a few he falls unconscious. It was probably red, which is enough to give anyone a massive headache the next day--but he was to have no worries on that account. When General H. trundled off to dreamland the valiant Judith cuts off his head with his own sword and thus saved the battle and the entire war!
While the customary foods in North Africa are pastries of various sorts, some Ashkenazi communities, notably in eastern Russian, observe Chanukah not only as the Festival of Oil (recalling the Miracle of the Lights) but use the memory of Judith as a dairy holiday, featuring salty and sharp cheeses on their tables.
What I'm presenting in this webisode is a crustless quiche for a Chanukah brunch with a unique mixture of apples and onions (although title Quiche Normande, this combo is not unique to Normandy), along with tangy blue cheese and a splash of salty Parmesan.
Prepare it the day before, and reheat for a few minutes in a low (250:F) oven... quichalicious!! You can of course, make a crust or purchase one if you like, but I've lightened it up a bit, what with the sleek and ever-so-fashionable no-crust no-carb look, and a de-emphasis from the butter, eggses, and heavy cream.
Let's add some festive color to brighten up the winter table (and healthy eating requires 7 colors a day) and another seasonal note, along with the usual brunch items. Serve a slightly trop-i-cale Tangerine-Banana Waldorf Salad on the side and heave a sigh for warmer climes and times. On a practical note, the citrus will help cut the richness of the quiche and provide a contrasting counterpoint.
2 tbsp. butter (or butter-flavored margarine)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 red onions (3 cups sliced, see Basquaise recipe for slicing instructions)
3-4 medium red apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices (3 cups, sliced)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 eggs + 2 egg whites
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (or a strong Cheddar-type, shredded)
1 pound cream cheese, cubed into 1" chunks
4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced (can use dried)
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves (3 tsp. fresh)
1-1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
heaping 1/2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
3 tbsp. oil or pan spray for the baking dish
Toss the apples in the lemon juice to prevent browning.
Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the mixture is hot, add the sliced onions and reduce heat to medium.
Braise the onions (in this case, it means "cook slowly" since we're not actually frying them), stirring or tossing frequently. When the onions have translucentized, about 10 minutes or so, add the apple slices, turn up heat, and continue to cook, stirring frequently until apples are tender, another five minutes. The onions should have colored slightly.
Drain away any liquid that has formed, and set aside to cool a bit. Well, OK, they'll cool anyway while we do the next bit.
We've done sweating, we've done deglazing and reduction for a pan sauce, and now we're going to learn another technique: tempering. What tempering does is prepare eggs to be added to a hot mixture without cooking them. Scrambled egg custards aren't my favorite and I doubt they're yours, either.
Heat the half-and-half and milk together until warm, either in the microwave or on the stove. While that's going on beat the eggs in a large bowl. Now. Stir two ladles of beaten egg into the cream-milk, to cool it slightly and then add this mixture back to the bowl with the rest of the eggs and whisk until blended. That's that with that. Egg into milk, then milk into egg. Back and forth. Yin and yang. Cosmic... I digress.
Let's continue putting the quiche together.
Heat oven to the "Jewish temperature" of 350:F. Oil or pan spray a 11"x7" baking dish.
Add onion and apple mixture, cheeses, and herbs to the egg-cream-milk mixture.
Place the baking dish in the center of a baking sheet. This will help you move the dish without spilling any of the filling. Gently ladle the filling mixture into the dish.
Put the quiche pan and baking sheet into the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. You know the routine by now--while the quiche is happily baking let's clean up and yes, that means the dishes and utensils too. Start assembling the salad. Anyways, the edges of the quiche should be dry and slightly golden; the middle may shimmy slightly when you shake the baking sheet gently.
Remove quiche from oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving, or take it out of the fridge and heat in 250:F oven until warm, oddly enough about 15 minutes.
1. Braise onions until clear and limp.
2. Add apple slices and braise until tender. Set aside.
3. Temper half-and-half with the eggs.
4. Mix everything together, including rest of ingredients.
TANGERINE-BANANA WALDORF SALAD
Serves: 4 (can be doubled, tripled quite easily):
5 tangerines, peeled
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Big pinch ground ginger
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
2-3 cups favorite salad greens
Peel banana and cut into bite-sized chunks. Toss chunklets in the lemon juice.
Chop tangerines into bite-sized pieces. Combine rest of the ingredients, except the salad greens. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve on salad greens.
1. Peel banana, chunk up, and toss in lemon juice.
2. Chop peeled tangerines.
3. Mix rest of ingredients
4. Serve on salad greens