I made lunch for my Dad today on the Upper East Side. My parents’ place is beautiful and cozy with a nice view of the skyline, and I got to make a mess in a kitchen that is not my own. What you should know to understand my day of cooking uptown is how clean my parents’ house is.
My Mom was always a bit of a neat freak and my dad was the lenient one – whenever I’d get in trouble with my Mother for not cleaning my room, my Dad was always there chorusing in how I was “just a kid” and that she shouldn’t worry about the mess. Fast forward 15 years and I still can’t keep my closet neat. But at least I’ve learned how to clean the kitchen and do the dishes. Despite my growing leanings towards being tidy, I’m hardly up to my parents’ standards.
These days, my Dad has become as much of a neat freak as my mother. Cooking in their kitchen is a big exercise in restraint for me. So in I walk today, with my canvas bag of parchment paper and quiche pans and baking beans, ready to make a mess. My Dad was armed with a roll of paper towels and an eagle eye for onion peels and garlic scrapplings. I worked and he cleaned, never letting the mess get out of hand.
We had a simple salad of roasted vegetables and wilted spinach, with a broccoli cheddar quiche. For the salad, I roasted red and yellow peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and white and red onions in olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar. I tossed the warm, caramelized vegetables with fresh spinach and tomatoes, using the oil and vinegar from the roasting pan as the dressing for the salad. The heat of the vegetables wilted the spinach and made for a warming but refreshing and super healthy salad.
For the broccoli cheddar quiche, I sweated onions and garlic with the peeled and chopped broccoli stems. In a separate pan, I sautéed the broccoli florets in oil on high heat to get them crispy, then finished them with a little butter. I blind baked the puff pastry and layered the quiche with two kinds of cheddar cheese, the broccoli mixture and a custard made of milk, heavy cream, eggs and grated nutmeg. The baked quiche came out bubbling, golden brown and flaky.
We ate in the living room, sitting crossed legged on the floor with the lovely afternoon light streaming in through the 16th floor window of the apartment and MSNBC on in the background, of course. Everything was healthy and delicious, and my Dad let me nap while he did the dishes. All in all, it was a perfect afternoon. Especially since I didn’t have to clean.