Monday, September 26, 2016

Ham and Cheese Frittata

I originally wanted to call this Denver Frittata. Partly to amuse myself and partly because, finding myself with extra of the ingredients needed to make a classic denver omelet, I instead planned a frittata. A denver omelet is popular with restaurant goers (and therefore a common menu item at diners) because its simple, straightforward combination of ham, green peppers and cheese (often cheddar) plays very well together. Sauteed peppers offer a sweet and vaguely sour counterpoint to the fatty, salty and sweet crisped ham while cheddar offers a slight tangy, rich sharpness in the background.


Why a frittata? Well, to be honest I thought I knew what a frittata was for many years and as I learned from my friend Lisa, the blogger at Italian Kiwi, I was wrong. I’d been applying that term to any crustless egg pie, baked or fried. The problem is that frittata literally means “fried”. Not only is it fried, it is also composed of an aerated egg batter which has been vigorously whipped. The resulting fluffy egg pie seems so simple, yet is difficult to master. So I decided to make a frittata partly to practice my technique. As to the other part of my motivation? Fried fluffy savory egg pies are delicious.



Denver Frittata

Makes 1 (8 in) pie

4 jumbo eggs
1 ounce sharp cheddar, finely grated
1 ounce ham, diced
1/2 large green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup neutral oil (divided)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. Whisk eggs together with the cheese and season with salt & pepper.
2. In a medium sized skillet or heavy bottomed saucepan (cast iron is best) , heat 3 Tablespoons oil. Over medium heat, saute the ham and peppers until peppers are soft and the ham has been seared all over (6 minutes).
3. While the peppers and ham saute, whip the eggs quickly and with great force. You will notice bubbles begin to form, then the egg batter will start to increase in volume.
4. Distribute the ham and peppers evenly across the bottom of the skillet and pour egg batter over them. Fry for five minutes and leave the frittata alone. No flipping or stirring necessary. If you’re worried it will burn, make sure you check for smoke or a burnt smell frequently and adjust heat as needed.
5. Slide a plate over your pan and carefully invert the pan onto the plate. Thump gently to loosen the frittata. It should come off mostly or all in one piece.
6. Return pan to the heat and add the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil. Slide the frittata back into the pan and allow it to finish cooking for 3 minutes.
Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and serve.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Roasted Spice and Vanilla Applesauce

A lot of the recipes I write these days are inspired by my son Henry. He’s almost a year old now and well into solids. Although it takes a bit of extra work there is nothing more satisfying than feeding your child homemade fruit sauce. And this version is by far the best applesauce I have ever had. Roasting helps to gently caramelize the apples and brings the spices satisfyingly to the fore. It is a lot of work, but you can easily make a double or triple batch as this applesauce can be canned, bottled or frozen. It will also keep in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container for up to 10 days.

Roasted Spice and Vanilla Applesauce


Makes approx 2 cups

4 gala apples, cored and quartered
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
A touch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Toss apples with vanilla, then lay them in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle apples with sugar and all of the spices, then just a touch of salt.
2. Bake for 35 minutes, or until apples are falling apart.
3. When they are cool enough to handle, peel skins away and discard. Pulse fruit in the blender with 2 ounces of water, until smooth.
Serve warm or store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Leftover Shakshuka with Potatoes

Shakshuka. Say it with me Shak (Shahk). Shuka (Shookah). What is it? A fabulously flavorful, spicy, easy egg dish from Israel that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch *or* dinner. Eggs are poached in a zesty tomato and vegetable sauce and it is usually served with warm, fresh pita or crusty bread. I’ve known I wanted to try it since I first heard of it on Cutthroat kitchen. The camera closeup was of a cast iron pan filled with a chunky red sauce and dotted with perfectly poached eggs; I was intrigued.
After cooking a friend’s excellent recipe for Croatian Chicken Paprikash I was left with a lot of the wonderful sauce (through no fault of the recipe; I just fudged the amount of chicken to use since I like to use a different cut in my stews than her recipe recommends). I couldn’t bear to throw out so much excellent, savory flavor so I decided to add just a few ingredients and turn it into Shakshuka. I added potatoes to my Paprikash and they were full of flavor; a great starch for the Shakshuka. If you make Chicken Paprikash on Friday you can plan on incorporating the leftover sauce into a Shakshuka on Saturday morning for an easy, delicious breakfast. If you like egg dishes and savory breakfast, I highly recommend trying Shakshuka.

Shakshuka


Serves 3

1 quart leftover sauce from Chicken Paprikash*
2 (15 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
6 eggs
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Garnish:
Chopped Italian Parsley
Feta Cheese

1. In a broad saucepan combine Paprikash sauce, cumin and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a lazy boil over medium heat and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, to thicken sauce.
2. Crack eggs in one by one, up to five around the edges of the pan and one in the center. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 2 - 3 minutes for poached eggs and up to 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs.
Serve garnished with generous helpings of minced parsley and feta cheese.



*I like to add potatoes to my chicken paprikash. 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into roughly 1” pieces; they go into the stew when the liquid does.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ginger Lentils & Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash

Sometimes, inspiration is found in odd places. This dish was adapted from a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman published in the New York Times with a few added tweaks of my own. However, it was my son’s baby food that actually inspired this meal. I make him a lot of food, but I sometimes need a quick food on the go and so I have a particular brand of purees I love, especially their world baby line, with wonderful and exotic food combinations. Their Moroccan puree is lentils with roasted butternut squash and apricots. It sounded so yummy to me that I began to devise a grown up version of the dish.

Ginger is an absolute game changer for lentils, heightening the sweetness of the legume. The fiery spice of ginger is buffered perfectly by the starchy, dense lentils and mellowed out to a low flame in the background. I only had ground ginger (I know, I know, but life is busy with an infant), but I intend to try it with fresh ginger as well, so I’ve put down the amount I’ll be using.

I served this alongside a modified, vegetarian version of Tyler Florence’s Apricot Couscous

The two recipes together make a healthy, filling weeknight meal, particularly when you’re in the mood for lighter, meatless fare.

Lentils & Roasted Squash



Serves 8 - 10

1 lb lentils, rinsed & picked through
20 ounces peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground ginger, or 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
1 half an onion, coarsely chopped
1 shallot, chopped
Salt, generously, to taste
Pepper, to taste
(for garnish): 1 Tablespoon minced cilantro & 1 Tablespoon minced Italian Parsley

1. In a large pan over medium heat combine 1/2 gallon of water with all ingredients except for the vinegar, squash & olive oil.
2. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 60 minutes, or until lentils are almost thoroughly soft (some should still be slightly crunchy).
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a sieve over a bowl and strain the lentils through. Retain the broth.
4. Mix broth with vinegar, olive oil and a touch more salt and pepper. Toss squash into broth/vinegar mixture and coat thoroughly.
5. Bake until cooked through, 50 - 60 minutes, depending on cube size.
6. Reintroduce broth to lentils in the pan, add squash and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils have reached desired consistency.

Serve garnished with cilantro and parsley and alongside apricot couscous.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pepper Biscuits and White Sausage Gravy

This post is inspired by one of my favorite concepts: breakfast for dinner. Growing up we would often get breakfast for dinner as a special treat. It usually meant eggs and some kind of vehicle for New York’s spectacular maple syrup (my mom’s banana walnut and blueberry pancakes stand out as favorites). I usually enjoy savory fare for breakfast, especially given the price of real maple syrup here on the West coast. So, instead of trying out pancakes or french toast I’ve decided to add one of my favorite breakfasts to our menu: biscuits and gravy with a perfectly fried egg. While visiting my badass ship captain/carpenter/former lobsterman sister in Maine we stopped in at a little diner in Portland. As we approached the diner I could smell the wonderful aroma of sausage gravy and I had a feeling I was about to encounter a popular American classic: biscuits and gravy. It was indeed on the menu and it was absolutely delicious! Soft, fluffy New England style biscuits made a perfect vehicle for luscious, flavorful sausage gravy. Rich, runny egg yolk from a perfectly over-medium fried egg brought the combination together in a decadent, mouthwatering way.

I’ve been thinking about putting breakfast for dinner on my weekly menu ever since I planned a weekly menu for a good friend of mine who daily cooks dinner for her husband and two young daughters. We’ll call her R. I feel pretty harried cruising the aisles of the grocery store with just one cute little wriggler, much less two, so I try to plan the menu for the entire week and buy most of my groceries in one trip. This is an entirely new experience for me, as I previously mainly cooked to develop recipes for the blog. When I became a mom I was suddenly filled with the yearning to make us a home cooked meal every night. Aside from playing with my son and watching him learn and grow, prepping and cooking dinner for my family has been the most fun and rewarding part of my day.

My friend R, who made spectacular stuffed mushrooms for a recent dinner we had together, is rather modest about her cooking abilities. She mentioned that coming up with a new idea every night for dinner was probably the hardest part about cooking for a family. I mentioned my weekly menus and infrequent grocery store trips. I offered to write one for her family and she accepted. This weekly menu presented some unique challenges: she is vegetarian; her husband is not. They both eat eggs so as a way to bridge the gap and make cooking easier on her I suggested breakfast for dinner for one night of the week.

The gravy is lovely as a stand alone. White sausage gravy is creamy and tastes quite a bit more rich than it actually is. Sauteed onions make it sweet and it is kept from being too boring by the addition of bitter, lightly herbaceous celery and sweet thyme. If you’re wondering how they come together I sift the dry biscuit ingredients, then make the gravy, preheat the oven and stick the gravy pan on the back of the stove (next to the oven vent) to keep it warm as I finish getting the biscuits together.



Black Pepper Biscuits


Makes one dozen

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tsp salt
3 tsps baking powder
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
Generous pinch of freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together dry ingredients (including pepper).
2. With your fingers, add butter: delicately pinch it with the flower between your fingers, until dough begins to resemble large, soft sand.
3. Add milk and buttermilk and mix gently until they have been incorporated. Stop mixing the instant the dough no longer feels wet.
4. Using your hands, break off 1/4 of the dough mixture. Roll gently, then flatten into a roughly circular shape roughly 1” thick. From the dough use a circular cutter or the mouth of a glass to cut out three biscuits.
5. Repeat with remaining portions of dough until all the biscuits have been cut out.
6. Spread biscuits out onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 - 22 minutes, or until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook.

Serve warm smothered in white sausage gravy.

White Sausage Gravy


Makes 10 - 12 servings

4 pork sausages (preferably bratwursts)
3 cups milk
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup beer (or whatever you prefer to use to deglaze)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt, to taste
Pepper, generously, to taste

1. Heat a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Remove sausage casings, add the meat to the pan and crumble it up. Add pepper.
2. Sear sausage meat and when it is fully cooked through, (about 10 minutes) remove it from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat that has been rendered in the pan.
3. Add celery, onion and thyme and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are cooked through (roughly 5 - 7 minutes). Set vegetables aside with sausage.
4. Turn heat down slightly and melt butter, then add flour and cayenne. Cook, stirring near-constantly, until the flour turns golden. Deglaze pan with beer.
5. Turn heat to low and whisk in milk. Cook for five minutes, then reintroduce sausage and veggies and when everything is warmed through turn off heat. Gravy will thicken upon standing and will loosen the warmer it gets..
Serve gravy over biscuits and accompanied by eggs fried over medium.




Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Hound: Vodka Grapefruit with homemade Elderflower Liqueur

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about a cocktail, and I'm posting today with a drink that will chase away your Monday blues. This summer foodies plus’ how about a drink event has really inspired me. I’ve concocted a mock-tail or two; now I’m inspired to recreate an exceptional drink I enjoyed in San Francisco one New Year’s Eve. It was several years ago now, but the drink was so delicious I’ve always intended to get my hands on the ingredients and enjoy it at home.
The bar I imbibed at called the drink The Hound, (which I assume is a play on a Grayhound: vodka with grapefruit juice) but I later learned it could be called a Bichon Frise. Since it was called The Hound when I tried it and as a nod to Game of Thrones, I’ll keep the name. In order to make this cocktail I decided to make my own Elderflower Liqueur. I had fun designing a label for it in publisher, but not half as much fun as I had enjoying the drink! The drink is a bit strong, so if you want to mellow it out a bit my suggestion is to add a few ounces of club soda.

Why go to the trouble of making my own liqueur and hand squeezing grapefruits? Vodka and grapefruit juice, particularly fresh squeezed, are a really nice match, taste wise. The sweet and tart fruit has so much personality and it is a lovely pairing with the exceptionally subtle fire of vodka. Grapefruit juice tastes juicier and more vibrantly citrusy when paired with the sweetly medicinal, herbaceous flavors of Elderflower liqueur. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Give it a try. I think it may just become one of your favorites.

It is not difficult to make liquor infusions and easy enough to turn them into liqueurs (just add the right amount of sugar), and they make great gifts for your fellow booze loving foodie. However, elderflower liqueur is also readily available in stores.

The Hound



(Makes 2 cocktails)

2 ounces elderflower liqueur (see recipe below)
4 ounces vodka
Juice of 2 large ruby red grapefruits

1. Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and drain into martini glasses. If this is too strong, strain into a highball glass and add up to 3 ounces of club soda.

Elderflower Liqueur


1/4 cup dried or 2 to 3 Tablespoons fresh elderflower flowers, leaves and stems
1/4 cup sugar
750 mils 100 proof vodka (or another similarly neutral spirit of about the same proof)

1. In a clean mason jar combine all ingredients. Screw the lid on tight and shake the ingredients well.
2. Set in a cool, dark place to allow to steep for three days. Shake one to two times per day.
3. Strain through a coffee filter to remove all sediment and use in cocktails.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Grilled Salmon with Spicy Teriyaki Glaze

For those of us with lovely early summertime weather it is easy to want to spend all day outdoors. If not all day, then at least enough time to cook dinner over a charcoal grill and perhaps enjoy a beer or two. Whether you call it grilling or barbecuing I’m sure you would agree that not only is it a relaxing way to cook, it is also a fabulous method for imparting maximum flavor to your food. Over the summer I grill my onions alongside my burgers to make a deliciously caramelized topping. I’ve been known to grill corn, zucchini, asparagus and even peaches, as well as many different types of meat skewers. Although I’ve made this salmon dish many times before I’ve always pan seared it and never really thought of grilling it. Until I smelled all the grills going in our little neighborhood and realized that charcoal and a well-seasoned grill impart a smoky, savory flavor that would perfectly compliment the sweet, salty and zesty glaze I had created. At the end of reducing the teriyaki I like to throw in the juice of one or two limes (depending on size); because the glaze is rather sweet they cut the flavor just enough without being sour, and add a fresh, citrusy note that completes the flavors of the dish.

I like to serve this with brown rice and haricot verts sauteed with garlic, mirin and soy sauce.

Grilled Salmon with Spicy Teriyaki Glaze


Serves 2

1 1/4 lbs salmon, portioned into two fillets.
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
Pepper, to taste

Sauce:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1-2 limes (about 3 Tablespoons’ worth)
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce of choice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper

1. Premake the sauce: combine all ingredients, except for the lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. As sugar melts, stir frequently. Bring the pan down to the lowest heat and reduce for about 15 minutes, or until it has reduced by half.
2. Rinse the salmon thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. Cover both with olive oil and season with pepper. Grill the salmon, skin side down on a covered grill, over medium indirect heat for 3 minutes. Flip, recover and cook for an additional 3 minutes. This will yield salmon which is medium rare. If you want it more medium or well done, add 1 minute per side.
3. If sauce has cooled, reheat it before finishing it with lime juice. Divide between the two fillets and serve.