Saturday, May 26, 2012

What's for Breakfast? Eggs Are Not Just Eggs Anymore




I’m back in the City after a trip home to celebrate Mother’s Day with my family.  This was not the Hallmark Holiday kind of celebration, but just a chance to hang out, no pressure.  I didn’t buy her a cutesy card and we didn't brave crowds for brunch at a "nice" restaurant with white tablecloths and clattering dishes.  Instead, I wanted to do something unique and personal.  You know, just between my mom and me.  So I thought baked eggs at home would be perfect.

This recipe, though easy, is really a "knock ‘em dead" brunch recipe. This was the third time I’ve tried it.  The previous two attempts, I used a recipe that combines butter, heavy cream and eggs to deliciousness.  However, that version is super heavy and not at all healthy. 

Clearly, I’m not trying to give my mom a coronary, so I tried altering the recipe this time, substituting olive oil and skim milk for butter and cream respectively.  My new version is equally yummy and still very pretty, but if you prefer, go ahead and use the original.

I also served my oatmeal pancakes.  Please check out that recipe too.

Creamy Baked Eggs with Fresh Herbs and Garlic

Time:  15 minutes
Makes:  2-3 servings
Difficulty:  Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px

Ingredients:

6 eggs
6 tbsps skim milk
6 tbsps olive oil (you really taste it in this recipe, so pick a good one)
3 tbsps fresh minced garlic
3 tbsps fresh thyme
3 tbsps fresh basil
3 tbsps fresh minced tomato
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat broiler.  Move up oven rack to just below heating element. 


Crack eggs and place them - yokes intact - in separate teacups and set aside.  This ensures that, when you are ready to add them, you don’t accidentally break a yoke or drop some eggshell into the tins.

 









Mince garlic, herbs and tomatoes and set aside.  (You can use any variety of herbs you prefer.  I’ve made it with oregano or rosemary.  They all seem to work well against the backdrop of the eggs.)


Measure 1 tbsp of skim milk and 1 tbsp olive oil per “muffin” into 6 muffin tin spaces.  Place tin under broiler for 1-3 minutes until bubbling and browning.


Remove from heat, but leave the broiler on and preheated.  Gently add eggs and top with garlic, herbs and tomatoes, about ½ tbsp per item, per egg.

Place tin back under broiler until eggs are cooked, whites solid and yokes runny.  If too much browning and discoloration occurs before eggs are fully cooked, switch heat to bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to complete cooking.  The intensity of the broiler and the evenness of cooking depend on your oven, so monitor the eggs closely and switch over the heat if needed.

Also, the eggs will continue to cook slightly after they are removed from the heat.  Bear this in mind when deciding if they are done.


When whites are solid, remove tins from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon onto plates with pancakes, toast or fresh fruit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Saute to Impress: Seafood Dinner on the Cheap!


Savory and aromatic calamari and shrimp stew topped with fresh fennel fronds and lemon zest, served with country style French bread

I love calamari.  Also known as squid, it is chewy and full of seafoody flavor.  Often I see it on restaurant menus, but usually it is heavily breaded and deep-fried.  I find myself wishing I would see more dishes without breading, not fried.  I actually prefer it more simply, in dishes where its delicate flavor is accentuated and not overpowered. 

My favorite calamari dish is a Mediterranean style calamari stew.  It is spicy and sweet.  Tearing off hunks of crumby bread to dip into a rich and zesty sauce is so satisfying.  The light flavor and firm, almost creamy texture of the squid is really highlighted by this dish.  It feels hearty, like you’re eating something sinful, but it’s really very nutritious and low in fat.

Another great thing about this squid is the price.  Fresh calamari may be the cheapest item at my local seafood store.  With the other ingredients (raisins, tomatoes) also being relatively inexpensive, it makes for a super frugal seafood dinner.  My friends are suitably impressed without my having to spend a lot of money.

In this version, I also added shrimp.

Mediterranean Calamari and Shrimp Stew

Time: 35-45 minutes
Makes: 5-6 servings
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px

Ingredients:

4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salted anchovies
1 pinch red pepper flakes
32 ozs crushed tomatoes
1 tbs capers
1 bunch basil leaves coarsely chopped
3 tbs toasted pine nuts
3 tbsps golden raisins
Salt
Black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
½ lbs squid
½ lbs shrimp deveined
Country style French bread or baguette
1 cup fennel fronds coarsely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preparation:

Separate crushed tomatoes from their juices, keeping the juice to add back into the stew when it needs moisture after the tomatoes have simmered.  Set both tomatoes and juices aside.

Melt anchovies in 1 tbs olive oil.  This is a neat little insider trick.  Potently salty, oily and a little bit fishy, anchovies tend to divide eaters: Some love them, others detest them.  I discovered that with this trick it doesn’t really matter whether your diners like them or hate them.  Anchovies dissolve in oil, allowing them to go undetected.  They are an essential part of this recipe as they add an underlying richness and saltiness.  They cut the acidity of the tomatoes to create a dish that is comforting and interesting to the palate.

Here’s how to do it:  heat the olive oil in a sauté pan on medium low heat and add anchovies.  Press anchovies into oil with a fork.  As the anchovies warm, they begin to disintegrate into the oil.   It should only take a moment or two.

When anchovies and oil are almost completely combined, add garlic, capers and red pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic softens and becomes fragrant. 

A good start to any dish: garlic, anchovies and capers warming in olive oil

Add the crushed tomatoes and increase the heat to medium or higher.  You want to keep the stew simmering, but not over boiling so you may need to adjust the heat.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Mixture should become denser and tomatoes darken their hue.

While the stew simmers, fry the calamari and shrimp lightly in olive oil.  Heat 1 tbs oil in a frying pan or sauté pan to medium heat.  Add shrimp and squid along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  The calamari increases in firmness as it fries.    It should only take 5-7 minutes.  Shrimp turn pink when cooked and calamari looses its translucence.  Flip to ensure even cooking.  When the shrimp and calamari are finished, remove from heat and set aside.

Return to the sautéing tomato mixture and add basil, pine nuts, raisins, cinnamon and your saved tomato juice.   

Add shrimp and calamari.  Salt and pepper to taste, but remember the capers and anchovies are already salty.  Allow flavors to combine for just a couple of minutes and remove from heat.

Almost finished! Ingredients combined and flavors melding together

You’re ready to serve!  Spoon the stew into bowls and top with chopped fennel and lemon zest.  For a little added pop of acidity, squeeze a little lemon over each dish.  Slice bread or just tear off hunks and voila! 

I trust your guests will be suitably impressed, but just don’t tell them about the anchovies.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Kale Salad with Fennel

Warm Kale Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs and Fennel
 As spring reaches full bloom, my craving for fresh, light foods is also ripening.  Produce unavailable for the past several months is slowly but surely reappearing on grocery store shelves. Previously mealy and flavorless tomatoes are replaced by firm, red, mouthwatering spring versions.  In the spirit of transition, here is a lighter meal, but made with ingredients available this time of year, before the growing season is in full swing.

This is a simple and nutritious recipe based on a salad served at Brooklyn restaurant Buttermilk Channel.  Encompassing three of my favorite things, kale (of course), fennel and soft-boiled eggs, this recipe is one of my favorites. 

Kale is a super food.  It has healing properties.  It scours out your digestive system and contains all kinds of valuable nutrients, including vitamins A and C, and antioxidants.  Plus it has a light and slightly bitter flavor that brings interest and zip to many dishes.

Today's Recipe: Warm Kale Spring Salad

Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1-2 serving
Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32px

Ingredients:

½ lb fresh kale of any variety (about 6-7 large leaves)
1 small bulb fresh fennel
1 tps olive oil
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Begin by soft-boiling eggs according to instructions in the “What’s for Breakfast? Soft Boiled Egg Sandwich” post (3/27/2012), remembering to add eggs to unheated water and allowing them to heat slowly as the water comes to a boil.

While the eggs cook, heat teaspoon of olive oil in a sauté pan on low to medium-low heat. 

Chop fennel bulb in half and slice into half rounds.  Add to heating oil.  Chop kale into bite-sized pieces and add to sauté. 

Stir regularly and cover, allowing the vegetables to steam lightly.  Be careful not to overcook the kale.  It should be only lightly softened and warmed.  You definitely want it to retain its lovely crunch.  

When kale and fennel are warmed and softened, add vinegar, salt and pepper.  Remove from heat.


After eggs have boiled for 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and run cold water over them to stop cooking.  Gently remove eggshells and rinse. 

Serve kale and fennel mixture with eggs.  I like how perfectly pretty the yoke looks when the eggs are sliced merely in half, but they can also be chopped into bite-sized morsels or left whole according to your preference. 

Sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper and serve. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's for Breakfast? Oatmeal Pancakes with Fresh Fruit and Cinnamon

Oatmeal Souffle Pancakes with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and cinnamon
Rarely do I order pancakes for breakfast.  It’s not because I don’t like them.  In fact, I love pancakes to the point where sometimes I have dreams about them: pancakes dripping in butter and maple syrup, pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream…Mmmmm!  I don’t order them because at most restaurants, pancakes are basically dessert.  In the morning I need a little bit of protein, something to give me lasting energy for the rest of the day.  Eating a complex carbohydrate and sugar bomb (like most restaurant pancakes) has too many consequences for first thing in the morning.  (If I’m going to completely blow off my healthy eats, I prefer to save it for the end of the day and eat a giant chocolate ice cream sunday at the Farmacy, just down the street from my house in Brooklyn.  It is really worth it!)

Recently, my cousin turned me on to oatmeal pancakes.  The way she makes them, they are chewy and just a little bit sweet.  I love going to brunch at her apartment because she always serves them with a heaping potion of fresh fruit and a side of yogurt.  She says the trick to getting the pancakes moist and chewy is to soak the whole oats in yogurt before mixing them into the batter. 

As I am obsessed with her pancakes, I started looking around for a similar recipe.  I’ve tried a few combining whole-wheat flour and oats.  The cakes were delicious, but very dense.  One pancake would keep me full for hours, but to eat it, I had to saw at it with a steak knife.

I've finally worked out a recipe that is light and delicious.  It is packed with egg whites, making the cakes not only fluffy and soufflé–like, but also packed with needed lean morning protein.  I just learned how to make oat flour and used it here and also in pizza dough to much success.  This recipe is based on one from Stella’s Kitchen (http://www.stellaskitchen.com).


Oatmeal Pancakes

Makes:  5-6 Servings (I store the extras in the fridge and eat     
              them all week)
Time:  30 Minutes
Difficulty:  Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32px

Ingredients:

1 cup low fat milk
1 ½ cup whole rolled oats (separated into two ¾ portions)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 large egg whites
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbs honey

Preparation:

Heat milk and add ¾ cup whole rolled oats.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Whole oats and warmed milk
 In a Cuisinart food processor, a regular blender or flourmill, grind ¾ cups whole rolled oats into oat flour.  A minute or two in the Cuisinart or blender on high should be enough time to make fluffy, somewhat fine ground flour.  You may want to grind a bunch of oats at once and store the oat flour for more convenient use in the future.

Making oat flour
 Beat egg whites until stiff.


In a large bowl, stir dry ingredients, including newly made oat flour, together and add milk and oats mixture and honey.

Gently fold in egg whites until batter is uniform. It should be very moist and fluffy.

Pancake batter
 Lightly grease a frying pan.  I have tried all different kinds of oils and nonstick pans and sprays to try to eliminate, or at least decrease, the amount of butter in pancakes, and you know what?  For browning cakes, nothing works or tastes better than butter.  I use very little butter in the pan to stop cakes from sticking and give them a slightly crispy exterior.


Spoon a thin layer of batter in a circular pattern for each cake.  Cake size is chef’s choice.  I like smaller pancakes, but the batter is cohesive enough use for larger pancakes.  Flip when browned.  The pancakes are cooked when each side is golden.


I top them with nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, honey and cinnamon, but they will be delicious with whatever your favorite topping may be.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's for Breakfast? Soft Boiled Egg Salad Sandwich

Soft boiled egg sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread from the "Cozy Homemade Bread = Serenity" post (August 28, 2011)


Breakfast is not perhaps underrated, but under-explored.  There are so many possibilities yet all I ever see people eating are donuts and Poptarts and toaster waffles.  Pre-made, over-sugared crap.  Although I think it's dangerous to reduce food to energy, in many ways that is why we eat.  We need nutrients, energy, to survive.  Period.  What we eat should at very minimum provide the energy we need to live.  Sugary treats don't do this. Much as we love them, they are not really food, making it an especially bad choice first thing in the morning.


I don't like reducing food to energy because it is so much more than that.  For one thing, meals are meant to be social experiences, a time to relax and enjoy each other's company.  Also, cooking - or even just making our own food choices - is a creative experience.  And it is clearly pleasurable.  We enjoy eating.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  It is much better than mindlessly mawing while sitting at our desks or running for the train.  I've often eaten breakfast in my car on my to work, not tasting anything at all, just fueling.

To combat the boring breakfast rut most of us find ourselves in, I'm working in a few more ideas to add to your repertoire.  Theses are quick, easy, nutritious ideas for you to try.  As always, I'd also love to hear you comments and recipes, even your favorite "guilty" breakfast.

Today's recipe: Soft-Boiled Egg Sandwich

Difficulty: Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32pxbut only because soft boiled eggs can take a          
                  little bit of practice
Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 1 - 2 servings


Ingredients:

2 eggs
2 slices toast (I used my favorite homemade recipe)
1 tbs diced celery
1 tbs diced carrots
1 tbs diced jicama
1/2-cup arugula
Whole grain mustard
Black pepper
Salt
Old Bay Seasoning

Preparation:

The key to a really perfect soft-boiled egg is not dropping it into water that is already boiling, but allowing the egg to heat slowly at first with the water.  
Place whole eggs, shells and all, into a pot of water.  The eggs should be barely covered by water.  Water should be from the tap, not yet heated.  Add a pinch of salt to the water and place covered pot on a burner on medium high to high heat.   Cook until egg is soft-boiled.  It should take about seven minutes or five minutes from when the water begins boiling.  You may need to remove the lid or adjust the burner temperature.

While the eggs cook, toast bread.  Chop vegetables and place in a bowl.  Rinse arugula.  Spread mustard on your toast.

After allotted time, remove eggs from heat and run cold water into the pot.  This stops the eggs from continuing to cook in the hot water.  Leave the eggs to cool in the cold water for a few minutes.  You can also take them our of the water and leave them in the fridge for hour or a few days.  They are easier to peel if they have been sitting for a while.  You may want to make a few eggs at once to keep on hand.  (If you intend to save some in the fridge, do not peel.  Just place the eggs in shells in the fridge.  They will keep better in their shells.)

Remove eggs from water, crack and peel them carefully.  Soft-boiled eggs are very delicate.  Take your time and be gentle.  After the eggs are peeled, rinse them to make sure you removed any small pieces of remaining shell.

Place the eggs in the bowl with the chopped vegetables and dice gently.  The yoke will break and run down through the vegetables as you slice the white.  Season with pepper, Old Bay and salt to taste.  Stir gently.

Spoon egg mixture onto toast and top with arugula.  Eat open-faced or as a sandwich.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cozy Homemade Bread = Serenity


     I spent Friday night and Saturday watching frightened New Yorkers stand in extremely long lines at super markets, hardware stores, even the video stores, desperately gathering last minute supplies before hurricane Irene hit the city.  At one point, the Trader Joe's on 6th Avenue in Manhattan had a line that stretched two city blocks.  I wandered into my local Met grocery for a few things to discover empty shelves and chaos.  


     Preparedness is important, but I couldn't help but smile about the final-hour fear.  I spent a nice rainy evening baking two hearty, sweet, nonperishable loaves of delicious whole wheat bread from scratch.  Ok, so they will eventually perish, but not in the four days to a week without power we were told was possible.


     I bake bread every few weeks, but not even for the final product.  I like bread and it comes in handy in a hurricane, but I bake it because I like the process.  It is far less laborious than bread machine manufacturers (and pretty much everyone else) would have you believe.  But it does require a certain level of patience.  You have to be willing to wait for it to rise...three times.  It takes several hours, but you are not working at it that whole time.  You mix, then relax for an hour, knead, then relax, etc.  And you have to (or get to) get your hands dirty, sinking them into the moist dough. My favorite part is the smell.  An odor of yeast and olive oil and warmth.  A smell that radiates outward from the oven until it fills my entire apartment and the hall outside.  


     This weekend, while listening to rains pelt the windows, the shuddering of winds assaulting the building and the trees outside, I lounged on my couch, watching hurricane updates and munching on a little slice of comfort. 




Homemade Whole Wheat Bread From Scratch
Ingredients

3cups lukewarm water (85 to 105 degrees)
Tbsp. dry yeast (2 packages)
1/2cup sweetening (honey, molasses, or brown sugar)
4cups whole-wheat flour (substitute 1 or more cups unbleached white flour if desired)
4tsp. salt
cup olive oil
3cups additional whole-wheat flour
1cup whole-wheat flour for kneading
Additions (whole oats, cranberries, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, whatever you want)

Preparation

     In a large ceramic bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetening. Stir in the 4 cups of whole-wheat flour to form a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).


     Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.  It needs a warm - but not too warm - place to rise.  I turn my oven on very low and let the dough rise on the stovetop above.  I also cover it with a clean towel to protect and insulate the dough.


     Fold in the salt and the oil, then fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on a floured board for about 10 minutes, using the additional 1 cup flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Stop when the dough is smooth.

     Let the dough rise for 40 to 50 minutes, or until doubled in size.


     Gently knead in additions until uniformly distributed.


     Shape the dough into loaves and place in 2 loaf pans or a single heavy baking dish. Let rise for 20 to 25 minutes.


     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


     Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, or until golden-brown. I actually knock on the loaves, you can hear whether it is still doughy inside.  When finished it makes a solid noise, almost like knocking on a door.  Remove from the pans and let cool before slicing.  Enjoy!


     This recipe is based on the yeasted bread recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book.  Tassajara is a zen meditation community in Northern California.  (Check it out at http://www.sfzc.org/tassajara/)  It's a hippy culture, back-to-nature kind of thing, with a focus on sustainable living and healthy foods.  Their bread book is awesome!  Full of helpful tips and unique recipes.  It is a guide to bread from scratch complete with kneading diagrams and personalizing options within the recipes.  It is the bread baker's bible.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Curing the Summer Blahs

Photo thanks to http://takecareyourhealth.net
    OK, so of late, I’ve been feeling a little bit “blah,” quite uninspired really.  It’s not that I’m not cooking, eating, enjoying and even taking photos of my food (I always do this).  It’s that, for some reason, I’ve lost the will to share.  Maybe it’s the overwhelming heat causing general malaise.  Or the mass quantity of other talented food bloggers is daunting.  I’ve been procrastinating, not sharing new ideas.  I need to defunk myself as I’ve created some really great summer recipes I need to share!

    So, like ripping off a Band-Aid, I’m going to jump back in.  I apologize if I don’t start in any particular place.  I’m just sharing ideas for summer fun and ease with food.  Please feel free to comment with your own tips.  I will get to the recipe sharing again soon.
     To begin, a friend sent me a link to suggested recipes for alcoholic popsicles.  Great idea!  I can mix and match my favorite liqueurs, fruit juice and herbs/seasoning.  It’s 103 degrees in New York City today.  When I leave work and go home to my non-air-conditioned apartment, I can cool down with a delightful icy cold, cube cocktail.  The trick here is to use a liqueur, not a fully alcoholic beverage (just try to freeze vodka; it’s not ever going to work).  In general, liqueurs have 30% of the alcohol of liquor (like whisky, gin, rum, etc.).  Here’s the link: http://bites.today.com/_news/2011/07/12/7069189-bittmans-sweet-savory-and-boozy-homemade-ice-pops.  But I’m feeling inspired to create my own.  Maybe Grapefruit juice, basil and Grand Marnier?  Pureed watermelon and Limoncello with a dash of chili powder?  Plus, you can even make them in your ice tray, no popsicle stick, for an individual bite of refreshing flavor.
Photo courtesy of http://fat-loss-for-idiots.maxupdates.tv/nutritional-benefits-of-grapefruit/

  Other stay-cool ideas include:
   
    Homemade sushi.  Invest in sushi rollers and make your own!   I’m really into anything that doesn’t require me to turn on my oven.  Plus, when making sushi yourself you can come up with new flavor combinations and bump up the nutritional content with brown rice.  I’m thinking yellowfin, jalapeño, cream cheese or maybe salmon, basil, grilled watermelon.  Be sure to use a fresh, good cut of fish.  Here’s a good instructional video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swGJ2dIu9XE&feature=related
  




Photo courtesy of http://hauteapplepie.com

      Unique and satisfying salads.  In salad, I enjoy a combination of flavorful cooked food and crispy raw vegetables.  I recommend doing the cooking at night (when it’s cooler) and serving everything cold the next day.  Precook chicken, tofu, beets, fennel, kale or anything you are craving.  Different combinations of flavor and texture make summer salads much more exciting!
      Simple salad ideas:  Try blending cilantro, lime juice and zest, olive oil and a roasted ancho pepper and topping a filet of salmon with it.  Serve on greens along with avocado, green onions and black beans. 

     Or try chicken piccata salad.  Wrap chicken breasts topped with capers, olive oil, lots of lemon juice, garlic and black pepper in foil and roast in the oven.  Serve on greens with olives and sliced fresh garden tomatoes.
  Go forth and try new summer combinations.  Have fun and please share experiences in food and good ideas with the Evil Dictator of Taste.