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If I’m going to be a prisoner to my responsibilities...  

June 28, 2011

I have discovered that summer is an excellent time to establish new routines and/or break out of bad habits. The lack of fixed schedule, the fear of being outdoors after 9 a.m. means that I can do all the virtuous things I’ve been meaning to do like wash my dish as soon as I’m done eating off of it. Or sweeping every single day. “But Alix,” you inquire, “this sounds more like you’re just getting really boring.” Well, dear reader, that is true. If getting tenure means losing my personality, so be it.
I currently spend at least 12 hours a day trying to squeeze intelligent thoughts out of my brain. I don’t return emails or phone calls anymore. I’ve even stopped talking to the pets. I’m spending a lot of time rattling around in my own head. In a fit of pique, I decided to end all my subheadings with “(or not).” So, for example, “Developing a psychophysical aesthetics of music (or not)” or “Carl Stumpf’s music-consciousness bias (or not).” I think I am hilarious. I also think this properly captures the ambivalence I have about committing to sweeping historical claims.  Historians are notorious for constantly trying to qualify and complicate statements. Historians are also notorious for being very good-looking. 
When I’m torturing myself with these self-imposed intensive writing retreats to my little clapboard cave of solitude, I allow two indulgences. The first is exercise. Nothing gets you out of bed and onto the pavement by 7 a.m. like the joy of literally sprinting from your obligations. It’s productive procrastination: I can now run really fast. The other indulgence is good, homemade food. If I’m going to be a prisoner to my responsibilities at least I have quiche here as a cellmate.
Mashing, stirring, pan-roasting, baking, all are wonderful ways to give your brain a break (Today I cook for GLORY. Today I cook for FREEDOM!).  I like the recipe that follows because parts of it can be made well ahead of time so that no particular step takes up much time.  Also, it’s a refreshing change from the usual mushroom or onion filling.  Liberate yourself from eggy expectations. The result is a wonderful crunchy, rich, summery quiche filled of corn and squash and ricotta – New World quiche?  With the exception of the flour and the dairy products, all the ingredients for this quiche are currently available at the Starkville Farmers Market.
A sunshine quiche!  Or, really, oppressively-hot-ball-of-flame-that-is-destroying-my-soul-how-can-it-possibly-be-this-hot-it’s-only-June quiche!  Sheesh quiche?  Shoot, let’s call it Nuprin™ quiche (little, yellow, different). But names aside, who doesn’t love a quiche contribution at a potluck or picnic?  It’s a vegetarian dish even a meat-lover could love. Show up with this little number and you will be invited to every gathering for the rest of the season.  Voici, l’évasion de prison:
 
Pan-roasted Corn, Squash, and Ricotta Quiche (Nuprin™ Quiche)
Inspired by Mark Bittman’s basic quiche recipe
Serves: 4-6
Total: 1 ½ hour total, including making and chilling the dough, somewhat unattended
 
Ingredients
For the dough:
1¼ cups flour, plus more for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons frozen or cold butter, cut into chunks
3 Tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
2-3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cobb (lay them on their side to do this)
1 summer squash (I like patty-pan the best), diced into kernal-sized pieces
1 teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno chile (optional)
1 teaspoon minced garlic or minced onion
1 Tablespoon vegetable or corn oil
½ cup ricotta
6 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cups cream, half-and-half, or milk
½ teaspoon salt
 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  If you are making your crust from scratch, start with that. Combine the flour and salt. Then cut it with the butter, either in a food processor until it looks like cornmeal, or by hand until the pieces are uniform, probably something more pea-sized. Mix in the egg yolk. In a bowl combine the mixture with the ice water and mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic and put it into the freezer for 10 minutes.
Chop your filling. Roll out the dough, form it into a pie pan, stab it a few times with a fork, and prebake it until the crust begins to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the corn, squash, chile, and garlic. After about 5 seconds, as the corn and squash brown, shake the pan to redistribute the mixture so that it gets evenly browned, a few minutes more. As much as you can, try not to let the garlic burn.  It will change the taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Combine the corn mixture with the ricotta, eggs, cream, and salt in a large bowl. Mix with a whisk or fork until well blended. Pour into the pie shell. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until almost firm and lightly browned on top. It should still jiggle a little though in the middle. If the edges of the shell start to brown too quickly, lower the temperature in the oven or lightly wrap the edge of the quiche with aluminum foil strips. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
 
Alix Hui is an Assistant Professor of History at Mississippi State University.  She can be contacted at alixhui@gmail.com.

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