I come to you off an eventful and fun, though not particularly restful holiday season; however, I am good and ready to tackle some more Junior League cookbooks, and meet some culinary goals in the New Year.

In 2009, I cooked, baked, and/or canned meals or dishes from 37 Junior League cookbooks, which leaves a scant 14 to go in my year (and change) of Junior League cookery.  During that time, I want to:

  1. Successfully roast a chicken.  I’ve attempted two this year, and both have been abject disasters, though I did at least get some decent chicken stock out of them.
  2. Make at least one or two more things that involve seafood.  Even though I’ve done it a few times, cooking with the fishies is always scary for me.
  3. Make a King Cake for Mardi Gras.
  4. Make at least one meal that is sort of healthy, or at least doesn’t involve multiple sticks of butter.
  5. Cook something that looks insanely difficult or terrifying.

I think this is doable, especially since my in-laws got me a gift certificate to the New School of Cooking for Christmas, and I plan to use it to take either a class on Roasting or Fish Basics.

Oh, and in case you wondered how the Christmas Cake from the Junior League of Dayton turned out, let me just say that it will make you change your tune about fruit cake, and leave you begging for another whiskey-marinated slice.

Christmas Cake, aged 4 weeks

Though the recipe yields 32 slices, it does kind of take the pressure off on what to bring to the party.  I brought 3 trays of it various holiday gatherings (and one to work, since I figured that my poor fellow colleagues who had to work the day after Christmas could use a little, um, holiday cheer), and they were, for the most part, picked clean.

And now, for my first cookbook of 2010, on to Wichita!

Between my work and recent travels, I find myself a little short on time to do Junior League cooking this week.  However, we have been cooking.  Brady made me a ridiculously good bratwurst with sliced apples and onions in a cream sauce this evening… he says this is Normandy-style, which is something of a departure from Wisconsin-style, which just involves boiling them in Pabst, then grilling them.

And I also applied what I’d learned from the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay this weekend when I was visiting a friend in San Francisco.  While she was at work, I hit the local farmers market, and made her a meal that was fresh, local, organic, and seasonal:  zucchini and red onion quiche, roasted fingerling potatoes, and a peach-blueberry tart.

But in Junior League cooking news, I have two very exciting and fun cookbooks coming up in the next couple of weeks from two places that you might not think of when you think of the Junior League – Honolulu and Las Vegas.

So stay tuned as I try to figure out where to buy “long rice,” how one makes shrimp taste good in a landlocked state, and how to eat Spam and like it.

But until then, here’s my recipe for zucchini and red onion quiche.  In cooking, I find that you usually get out about what you put into a dish.  This is one notable exception – it’s so easy and quick (especially if you use a frozen pie crust, which is not my preference, but hey, there are only so many hours in a day), but also so summery and fresh and good.

Zucchini and Red Onion Quiche

2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
salt and pepper, to taste
2/3 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded or diced
3-5 eggs (depending on how deep your pie plate is)
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust

Saute the sliced onion in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, basil and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute until vegetables are tender. Add this mixture to a pie crust that has been baked at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (if you don’t pre-bake it before the eggs go in, it will be soggy), and top with fresh mozzarella.

Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour egg mixture into the pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, or until eggs are set.

Every week for the next year, I’m going to choose a Junior League cookbook, write about its history, and prepare a meal that’s representative of the culinary heritage of the region.  I’m starting with the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print, Charleston Receipts, and ending with my beloved Los Angeles.

Each week, I’ll do about three posts.  The first will introduce the cookbook’s distinctive points and regional flavors, the second will provide readers with a few extra recipes, and the third will chronicle my cooking adventures, triumphs, and disasters with said book.

Here’s to a year of gumbos, spoonbreads, tortes, and tamales, roasts, fresh produce, chowders, and sauerbraten.  If I don’t gain at least 10 pounds in the process, I will consider the project an abject failure.