I often get asked for cookbook recommendations. Usually it’s for someone who is new to cooking or new to vegetarianism or both. I never hesitate. Quick Vegetarian Pleasures is the one to buy. If you are just going veg, it is a wonderful book because nothing is aggressively vegetarian – that is to say, nothing too weird. Everything will sound good to you. If you are new to cooking (vegetarian or not), it is a wonderful book because everything is easy, everything comes out exactly as promised, and – true to the title – everything is relatively quick.
I credit the author, Jeanne Lemlin, with putting me on the path of being a good cook. Quick Vegetarian Pleasures was the first book I bought after college and once I knew that if I wanted to eat well, I was going to have to make the food myself. I knew what I liked (almost everything), but didn’t know how to make it. I picked up this book because every recipe looked like something I wanted to eat. I slowly but surely worked my way through the book and every single thing I made turned out. It gave me a lot of confidence and made me want to branch out and try more and more ambitious dishes.
Fast forward 16 years (yikes) and I am a personal chef. I have around 80 cookbooks. They are spread throughout my kitchen on shelves and in cabinets. I have my “heavy rotation” shelf and the three Lemlin cookbooks I own are permanent residents. I still use her books on an almost weekly basis. This week alone, without meaning to, all the main courses (and some of the side dishes) I made are from her books. I don’t worry when I make something new that it won’t turn out or the proportions will be off. Her servings are generous – just like I like them – and her recipes are foolproof.
This pie is one I have made over and over and just love everytime I make it. It is kind of like a quiche, but over the years I have tweaked the recipe so that my version is more like a bunch of vegetables held together by a few eggs. You could certainly increase the eggs to 4 and reduce the veggies to make it more quiche-like. One of the things I like best about this is that there is a minimal crust which requires nothing more than buttering your pie plate and sprinkling it with breadcrumbs. This is a real time-saver and very non-intimidating for those who are scared of making crusts.
Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie
Adapted from Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red pepper, cored and diced
1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into small florets
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 of a 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. bread crumbs
1/2 whole milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese (DN: The recipe calls for Muenster but I usually use what I have on hand.)
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and red pepper plus a good pinch of salt, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.
2. Stir in the broccoli, crushed red pepper flakes, and chickpeas. Pour on 2 tbsp. of water, cover the pan, and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender yet still bright green. Remove the cover and cook away any remaining liquid. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To make the “crust”, butter a 9-inch pie plate with the butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs on the bottom of the pie plate. Rotate to cover the bottom and sides of the plate with the crumbs.
4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the milk, Parmesan cheese, oregano, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Spoon half the mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle on the 1 cup of cheese. Spoon on the remaining mixture, then sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of bread crumbs over the top.
5. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.
(Vegetable mixture can be made one day ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Pie can be made 4 hours ahead and served at room temperature.)