Archive for the ‘Recipe’ Category

I’m not sure if it’s just me or it’s also just human nature to be nervous about and resist changes in life.  I’m not changing job, not changing where I live, and not having any life-changing events anytime soon either.  I’m just trying to bring some changes into my heart and mind, my perspectives and attitude.  To create changes when the environment isn’t changing turns out to be an uphill battle.  It’s a battle against myself – the lazy me in the comfort zone vs. the nervous and new “me”.  The outcome of the battle is not yet clear but I can tell you that it’s quite a bloodbath sometimes and there are many rounds in this battle.

In order to encourage myself, I got a new haircut ;).  Hopefully the change in appearance would help incentivize some changes within.  Oh and, pain and heart breaks are good teachers too.

People always say that life is not a sprint, but a marathon.  Training for the marathon myself, I now understand what it means more than ever.  Yes you need to train really hard, and yes adrenaline helps, but in those last several exruciating miles, you are not sure if you can finish it and you are even less sure how you can keep going until the end.  So you take one step, put one foot ahead of the other, breathe, put the other foot forward.  And you repeat.  You don’t need to know how to get to the finish line.  You only need to have enough courage and strength to take the next step, and then the next.  It takes a lot of effort and the faith that something good will happen if you just keep trying…

Today I’d like to share the recipe of one of my favorite and simple comfort food – Lox-style salmon pasta.  It takes 20 minutes to cook and it makes everything just a bit more bearable and even delicious…

Lox-Style Salmon Pasta

Time: 20-25m; Cost: $20-30; Level: Easy

Link: http://www.notakeout.com/lox-style-salmon-pasta/


  • 2 long (English) cucumbers
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 6 oz. crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 lb. fusilli
  • 6-8 oz. smoked salmon


  • When you walk in the door
    • Refrigerate the salmon
    • Get out Pantry Items
    • Get out Tools
    • Fill the pasta pot 2/3 with water, add 2 tbsps. salt and put over high heat
    • Assemble the ingredients
    • Open the wine and refrigerate
  • Prep
    • Peel the cucumbers and slice them as thinly as you can.
    • Sprinkle them with a bit of salt, toss, and put them in a colander in the sink.
    • Peel and slice the onion as thinly as you can.  Put it in a large bowl.
    • Slice the salmon into bite size pieces and add it to the onion in the bowl.
  • Start Cooking
    • When the water boils, stir in the fusilli and cook until it is al dente, 7-9 minutes.
    • While the pasta is cooking, add the crème fraîche and 1 tsp. mustard to the salmon and onions and stir, separating the onion and salmon slices as you stir. Grind some pepper over all, and stir.
    • Put the cucumber in a serving bowl. Drizzle with 1 tbsp. vinegar and toss.
    • Mince the chives, and add them to the cucumbers.  Toss, toss, toss.
    • When the pasta is cooked, drain it, saving 1/4 cup cooking water.  Add the pasta to the salmon and the onions and toss.  Add half the reserved cooking water, and toss.  Taste for seasoning.  If the pasta is dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water and toss.
    • When all is perfectly seasoned, take everything to the table.
    • Dinner is served.  Don’t forget the wine.

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It’s been a self-awakening week for me.

I went to an Sales and Relationship Management training where a 360-degree personality evaluation and a personality profile were provided, had a good time with my dear friend who came to visit me in New York, got into my own emotional bubble (not a good one) and felt really blue for a couple of days, and had a really heartfelt conversation with a close friend that knows me really well and is willing to share with me her personal journey and her honest feedback. It’s everything together, but it’s also none of them. I’ve been piecing together the picture for a long time, and this week, with some help from friends, I finally finished the puzzle.

It’s always incredible difficult to be honest with oneself. It’s hard enough to secretly admit it, and to admit it openly is to peel off all the masks that are carefully designed and put on and to show vulnerability. But here I am.

I’m gonna skip the hard and painful process of realization and jump straight to what I’ve learned, about myself…

So despite all the assertiveness and positive energy that I was told that I radiate, deep down in my heart, I have a lot of fear and somehow have lost the ability to love and believe in myself unconditionally.

I attribute most of my achievements and success to luck when things go well, and when they don’t, I blame myself for everything. I got into this self-loathing spiral when I forgot a friend’s birthday, was not available for a dinner, said something insensitive while not realizing it, made a mistake at work… Sometime ago, I felt terribly guilty and mad at myself for a whole week for being a terrible friend when I missed a friend’s text message for 30 minutes, but when the same thing happened to me, I could always find excuses for other people. And I even told myself that if I felt that I would be upset for not getting a response, I should not even send that message. I convinced myself that it’s all about managing my expectations for others but I held myself responsible for meeting the highest expectations.

A friend asked me why I couldn’t let it go and trust that my real friends would forgive me and understand me the way that I forgive and understand them. I realized what the reason is. It’s because I could not even bear the thought of losing them, and I think my world would collapse without them. It’s not only because I love them for who they are and how much they support and love me, but also because only through their friendship and love could I be convinced that I am worthy and lovable. I want my friends to love me for who I am, but somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to do the same for myself.

And it does not make me a better friend, but quite the opposite. Most of my friends didn’t sign up to avoid someone else’s world from falling apart. They signed up for having a good time together, for caring for each other, for mutual support and understanding. In the end of the day, my emotional neediness is a form of high-maintenance that is probably more stressful to deal with than someone who needs branded purses and complains about mediocre food.

It’s so ironic that I’m writing about self confidence in 2011, more than 10 years after I published my first essay in 作文通讯 in elementary school, a monthly publication of student essays, about being confident and not following other kids who always seemed to be “cooler” than me. Sometimes life is like a spiral – you think you’ve traveled a long way, but when looking down, you realize that from certain angle, you end up where you were years ago.

It’s not a sudden realization, but things finally came together this week. And now the journey to piecing together the broken “me” has just started. It’s gonna be a long and hard journey but I am ready for it. And being blessed with some greatest friends in the world, an interesting job and living in the best city, I know that I can do it.

To celebrate my awakening week, I’m sharing not one, but two of my favorite recipes! I’ve tried both of them and loved them both very much! 🙂

Mussel Cioppino

Cook time: 35 minutes


  • 2 yellow onions
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 lbs. mussels
  • Bay leaves
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Hot paprika or cayenne
  • Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Unsalted butter


  • Put the mussels in a strainer, rinse them well, and refrigerater
  • Peel and dice the onions.
  • Remove the strings from the celery, and dice.
  • Rinse and pat dry the parsley. Pluck 1 cup leaves.
  • Put 2 tbsps. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, the celery, and the 2 diced garlic cloves, stir, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
  • Coarsely chop the parsley and add it to the onions.
  • Pour in 2 cups fish stock and the can of tomatoes. Add 20 sprigs thyme and 2 bay leaves, a big pinch salt, a small pinch cayenne (if you want a little kick!) and several grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the liquid is boiling gently, partially cover and let it cook.
  • De-beard the mussels if necessary ( pull any strings from them that you see). Rinse and shake excess water from them, then add them to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and cook until the mussels open, shaking the pan from time to time, 5-6 minutes.
  • When all the mussels are open, turn off the heat. If the soup needs more liquid, add additional fish stock. Taste for seasoning. Remove the thyme sprigs and the bay leaves.

Eel Cha Soba Hand Roll (It’s in Chinese so I’m only providing the link here.  Please let me know if you need help translating it. ;))

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I don’t know how and when I grew up, but I know that I did. And here is why:

I used to think that I could change the world;
Now I ask myself whether the world wants to be changed the way I want it to.

I used to complain about all the things that are “wrong” in the world;
Now I learn to shut up if I don’t even try to make them “right.”

I used to think that I wanted to move around and live in a different city every few years;
Now I desperately want to figure out where I can call “home,” for the rest of my life.

I used to get really offended when others told me that I am not “Chinese enough”;
Now I am much more concerned about being authentically “myself” than I do about fitting into any “label.”

I used to get really frustrated for not being understood;
Now I acknowledge that we as human beings are just incredibly lousy at really understanding each other, and the least we could do is not to judge.

I used to think that I would really regret if I hadn’t set my foot on all seven continents and experienced all the great cultures before I die;
Now I know that I would call it a great run if I have loved, been loved and brought happiness to some people’s lives.

I used to think Titanic is the most beautiful love story where one is willing to die for the loved one;
Now I think my grandma and grandpa who were together every day in their life for sixty years show me what love really is – it is about being willing to live, and be there, for the loved one, no matter how hard life is.

I used to think that cooking was a waste of time;
Now I can’t think of a better way to relax, to cleanse my mind, to meditate, and to spoil and love my friends.

I used to think the symbol of success is to be able to dine at expensive restaurants and order everything on the menu;
Now I get a much bigger sense of satisfaction from cooking fresh and delicious food for my family and friends than from any so-called “success.”

I used to freak out when I thought my life was on a predictable trajectory and I could almost see the end of it;
Now I get anxious about not knowing where I will be, what I will be doing, and whom I will be with in a year.

I used to think that everything will be different when I “grow up”;
Now I know that I will never be done with “growing up”.

I used to believe in fairy tales, the “happily ever after”;
I still do.

And yes, I thought all of that, while cooking and eating rosemary potato frittata and having a great conversation with friends. Now try this recipe and tell me what was in your mind when you cook and enjoy this dish! J

Best for: A low-key weekend brunch on a freezing winter day with good friends

Cook time: 30 min; Level: Easy; Yield: 4 servings

How much it’s worth: $35

Created by: Rachel Ray; Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/rosemary-potato-frittata-recipe/index.html


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic crushed
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk, half-and-half or cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano


Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in medium heat-proof skillet over medium-low heat with the clove of crushed garlic. Let the garlic infuse the oil while you thinly slice the potatoes and onion; then remove the garlic. Add the potatoes and onions to the skillet and season with rosemary and salt and pepper, to taste. Raise the heat a little and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the potato/onion mixture over and cook for 5 minutes more. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and move them around and under the potatoes to settle them. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until golden on top, about 10 to 12 minutes. Scatter the cheese on top, turn the oven off and let sit for another couple of minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

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The story:

I’m never sure about the definition of “comfort food”, but I’m pretty sure that eggs would qualify, however it’s defined. Eggs take minutes to cook, and are also very versatile. You can scramble them, fry them, steam them, bake them, and cook them many other ways, none of which takes more than 15-20 minutes.

First work day in 2011. For someone who suffers from serious post-holiday depression, this is not a good day, especially after a wonderful and relaxing holiday + vacation. Therefore, I decided to bake a couple of eggs to cheer myself up.

I brewed myself some coffee, and then poured a little cream, a little butter, two eggs and some cheese into a gratin dish. 15 minutes later I got my colorful and fresh-out-of-the-oven baked eggs! The egg white was cooked and a little bouncy, the yolks were soft but not too runny, and the cheese was melted and hot… The look, the smell, the warmth, and the taste… Everything was just perfect… For the first time, my post-holiday depression was cured before I even arrived at the office! And I was wondering why most of my colleagues looked stressed and depressed… 😉

But oh WAIT!

That is, well, the day-dream version of the story, my la-la-land.

Now let’s rewind for what actually happened…

Rolling out of bed reluctantly, I decided that I needed something to kick my butt and get me to work. I had some baked eggs at a really cute and nice restaurant in the Village called August the day before, so I googled the recipe for baked eggs that night. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to buy any ingredients.

So there I was with eggs, butter, cream and nothing else, and was too lazy / groggy to turn on the computer. How hard could it be to bake some eggs?

I put a little cream and a generous amount of butter in a gratin dish and put it in the preheated broiler. Three minutes later, the cream and butter was bubbly (and a little burned), and it’s time to pour the eggs in. Apparently I missed an important lesson from Physics class in middle school that water is a great conductor for heat, so when I held onto the scorching baking rack with my wet kitchen mitten, I started screaming at the top of my lungs. As if that was not disastrous enough, the smoke detector started screaming even harder… I completely panicked… I threw the eggs into the gratin dish and started fanning the smoke detector!

A few minutes later, I took the eggs out. In order not to ruin everyone’s appetite today, I will refrain from describing my “baked eggs” in detail. Let’s just say that I couldn’t even make myself taste it.

That moment, I hated everything… I hated eggs, I hated my wet mitten, I hated baking, I hated cooking for myself and I hated living alone and pretending that I enjoy it…

When I left home, hungry and frustrated, I was actually a little glad that I had somewhere else to go…

… …

I had decided to wait for a few days before I wrote this entry. There are often moments like this one in life… I like keeping them aside for a few days… They are like bad milk, disgusting first and then somehow turn into yogurt or even cheese after a while… Still sour or even bitter sometimes, but I can enjoy them with a cup of fresh coffee and be grateful for moments like this to make me appreciate the happy ones a lot more and to keep me from getting bored.


After swearing that I would never make baked eggs ever again, I gave it another try on Friday night. This time, I bought all the ingredients, and followed the recipe as well as I could. They turned out much better but still not perfect. A few notes for my self and whoever is going to try it:

  • Don’t put any salt in the herb/cheese mix, only sprinkle it directly onto the eggs
  • I put my broiler on “high” and the eggs were a little burned after 6 minutes, but some egg white was still a little runny. I think 7 or 8 minutes on “low” might work better.


Tear index: 2

Best remedy for: the first work day after a wonderful holiday / vacation, well, if it works out, that is.

Cook Time: 9 min; Level: Intermediate; Yield: 2 servings

How much it is worth: $20

Created by: Barefoot Contessa; Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/herbed-baked-eggs-recipe3/index.html


  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving


Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won’t be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It’s very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren’t cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

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Happy New Year Apple Pie

The Story:

OK, I can’t lie but I did not have a heartbreaking New Year’s Eve. I celebrated it with my best girlfriends in New York, as well as chocolate fondue, wine, champagne, my own signature cocktail, and, of course, something homemade…

Nothing can warm a heart as well as a homemade dessert. We can laugh at the mothers’ “cookie exchange parties” all that we want, but when it’s my New Year’s Eve party, and when I’m with my friends, I know that I just want to spoil them with something that I can make from scratch and serve hot from my own oven J.

I’ve never been a real pie lover, but somehow on this special night, an apple pie just felt appropriate. I searched online for a recipe and found one called “Apple Pie by Grandma Ople.” It was saved by 85,920 people, reviewed by 71 and got a five star rating… So I decided to give it a try, and it turned out to be a big hit in my party!

I also loved how we made it into a “team sport” :-P. My friend GN peeled the apples and XJ cut them while I made the pie crust and the syrup. Having your friends chatting and working together in the kitchen is such a warm scene… And an hour later, voila! What’s better than a warm apple pie to bid farewell for 2010 and to welcome a whole new year?

Best for: A winter holiday with close friends

Cook time: 90 mins; Level: Easy; Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie, 6 to 8 servings

How much it is worth: $15

Created by: MOSHASMAMA; Link: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/apple-pie-by-grandma-ople/Detail.aspx


  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
  2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

A few notes from me:

  • I only used four apples instead of eight. I’m not sure how one would be able to stuff eight apples into a 9-inch pie pan.
  • Also, based on some of the comments, I baked it 65 minutes at 350 degrees F, and it turned out great.
  • From reviewer SCIOTA: “I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, a good dash of nutmeg and a tablespoon of vanilla to the syrup prior to simmering (compensate for adding the vanilla by omitting a tablespoon of that 1/4 cup of water). Next, definitely mix the syrup with the apples rather than trying to pour into the pie (save enough to glaze top crust). Do use a 9″ glass pie pan to avoid spillage. Use the middle shelf in the oven (so top crust doesn’t brown too fast).”

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The story:

“Say a prayer when you bake the cake,”  She said.  “God will give His blessing to your cake and the people who bake and enjoy it.”

This is one of those moments in life.  It was a regular Wednesday morning. I was in the office, laptop in one hand, and a large latte in the other.  I passed by Pushpa, who happens to be a fantastic Indian vegetarian chef (and an administrative assistant when she’s not cooking).She has wow’d the office several times with her gifted cooking / baking skills. 

I remember that she made this walnut date cake once and brought it to the office, which made me pretty much salivate all over my desk.I licked every crumb on my plate!  So I stopped to ask whether she could send me her recipe. 

Her eyes widened when she heard that I wanted to bake a cake, and insisted to walk me through the recipe and insisted that I take notes.  I wasn’t sure what was there to “walk through,” but obliged because her passion was contagious.  She walked me through each step on the recipe and shared with me a few “tricks” J.  She spoke with such a concentrated tone that I couldn’t do anything other than faithfully take notes.

Then I thanked her, and was about to walk away from her desk when she said, “and, say a prayer when you bake the cake.  God will give His blessing to your cake and the people who bake and enjoy it.”

I’m not religious, but I did, say a prayer when I baked the cake later…  I bought all the ingredients and followed her instructions faithfully.  It took me more than an hour to prepare and another hour to bake, but my prayer was answered as all of my friends who tried the cake absolutely loved it!

Sometimes, as it says outside the wall on Macy’s on the 34th Street, you just have to BELIEVE.  There are so many reasons in the world that make us not to believe,  but sometimes, I just do, against all odds.  Sometimes it’s the lack of other not-too-depressing options, and sometimes, I actually want to believe.

For example, this moment when I was baking this date walnut cake…

Best remedy for:  The holiday season when you are alone but at the same time surrounded by great friends that you know that you will love forever…

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One of my favorite writers said a “crush is like a cold while love is more like pneumonia. It happens once in a while. You sneeze and cough but you are generally fine.” However, between you and me, we both know that sometimes a serious crush is more like, um, a flu. It still isn’t life-threatening (to young adults), nor does it require hospitalization like pneumonia, but it also takes a little more than some tissues and a good night sleep to recover.

So when your crush becomes “un-crushable,” whether when he gives you a clear message one way or another, stops responding to your “hints,” or starts seeing someone else, tell yourself that at least you are still capable of loving, that you are true to yourself, that you are taking, and trying your best to enjoy, what life has granted you.

You will be sad. It is, in the end of the day, the end of a little wonderland that you have built by yourself for yourself. You have been happy in it. It’s like the dream in the movie Inception. There is a bridge where you want it to be, and the coffee shop conveniently appears when you want to have a latte. It’s not that you didn’t realize that it’s a dream – the totem never stopped spinning. However, you didn’t want to wake up. You indulged yourself in the beautiful bubble, until one day, the bubble is burst for you.

It’s probably not a “heart-broken” moment, maybe more like a “heart-cracking” at the most. However, you still need a little bit of comfort and a little bit of hope that everything will be alright.

And that’s what this zucchini and goat cheese crustless quiche is for. It’s time consuming to make, but it helps take your mind off of the sad thoughts. And when your room is filled with the mixed smell of egg, cheese and zucchini from the oven, you will get the comfort and the hope that you need.


Tear index: 1 (you get moist-eyed when watching a love story)

Best remedy for: Your crush becomes “un-crushable”

Cook time: 50 mins; Level: Intermediate; Yield: 1 (9-inch) quiche, 6 to 8 servings

How much he is worth: $25

Created by: Food Network Kitchens; Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/zucchini-and-goat-cheese-crustless-quiche-recipe/index.html


  • 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini or a mixture of summer squashes
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-inch, day-old bread cubes, preferably sourdough
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces young goat cheese, such as Montrachet.
  • 2 ounces grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese, about 1/2 cup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shred the squash on the large holes of a box grater, into a colander. Sprinkle with a heaping tablespoon salt and toss well. Place in the sink and drain for 15 minutes. Rinse and the squeeze firmly, by the handful, to remove excess water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, pulse bread into crumbs in a food processor. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add bread crumbs and stir until evenly toasted, about 5 minutes. Evenly spread crumbs in a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan. Place pan on a baking sheet.

Wipe out the skillet, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the onions and garlic and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook over medium-high heat, until onions are start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in parsley, dill and marjoram or oregano. Remove from heat, cool slightly.

Whisk half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the zucchini mixture in the prepared pan. Crumble the goat cheese and evenly scatter on the vegetables. Sprinkle Gruyere on top and pour the custard over the fillings.

Bake until the quiche is just set in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

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