Friday, July 21, 2017

Norman Scrambled Eggs

I haven’t been blogging much. Our lives have been hectic and sadly last month my grandfather passed away at 87. He was such a smart, successful cultured man who loved his six grandchildren fiercely. Did I mention he was funny? Well, he could be just as serious as he was funny, but when he told a joke he had a warm, infectious grin.
We spent nearly every summer with my grandparents on Long Island and although my grandmother did nearly all of the cooking, my grandfather would sometimes make us a special scrambled egg dish for breakfast that we referred to as Norman scrambled eggs. It started simply: he would add bacos (crunchy fake bacon bits that are popular in some places as a salad topping) to his fluffy, moist scrambled eggs. One year he started a vegetable garden and we began to add his homegrown cherry tomatoes to the eggs at the very end of cooking.
When I went away to college I would often make “Norman Scrambled Eggs” to combat bouts of homesickness. Over the course of my schooling I began adding onions. I made it for him with onions that next summer and he proclaimed it delicious. With Norman scrambled eggs on my mind I added some Heirloom Tomatoes to my farm share box. Because I’m fancy and because I had some to use up, I’ve subbed out the bacos for bacon (see notes) I felt the eggs were silkier because I then used the rendered bacon fat to cook them.

I served mine with a potato rösti made with schmaltz and some fluffy blueberry pancakes for dessert (blueberries were also in my farm share box). Dinner for breakfast is popular in our family.

Norman Scrambled Eggs


Serves 3

6 jumbo eggs
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
3 slices bacon, chiffonaded
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium Heirloom Tomato, diced
Small pinch of salt
Pepper, to taste

1. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk and salt. Season with a small pinch pepper.
2. In a pan over medium high heat, fry off bacon until thoroughly crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. There will be some rendered bacon fat in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent.
3. Add the eggs, stirring or whisking constantly. When eggs have started to set, remove from heat for a few seconds, long enough for it to stop cooking somewhat. Return them to the stove, still whisking constantly. Add the tomatoes. Repeat the process until eggs are set but still moist; you’re going for a fluffy but creamy consistency (a little like custard).

Serve with breakfast potatoes or a side salad.


Notes: If you don’t eat meat or don’t eat pork I think McCormick sells the fake bacon bits and they’re called something like bac’n pieces. You’ll want to use about 1 Tablespoon of butter in place of the bacon fat to saute the onions and cook the scrambled egg.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thyme Roasted Zucchini and Carrot Cassoulet

Since this is in fact vegetarian, it is a stretch to call it a cassoulet. I’ve used white beans, finished it with a buttery crumb topping and for the first time ever cooked my beans entirely in the oven, so perhaps we could just say that is inspired by a cassoulet. Heavily. We can also say of this baked bean dish that it is absolutely delicious. If I could have this every day I might be persuaded to give up meat. Maybe. Except for bacon.

Thyme Roasted Zucchini and Carrot Cassoulet



1 lb great northern, cannellini or navy beans
1 cup mirepoix
1/2 leek, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons minced Italian (flat leaf) parsley
32 ounces vegetable stock
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon thyme leaves + 5 sprigs
2 zucchini, sliced into 1" thick pieces
4 small carrots, in 1" slices
3 ounces olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

Crumb topping:

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 Tablespoons butter


Soak the beans covered in 6 - 8 cups cold water a minimum of 8 hours. Preheat oven to 450. Strip 3 thyme sprigs of leaves and discard stems. Melt the 1 Tablespoon butter. Toss the zucchini and carrots with butter and thyme, salt and pepper and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lay two remaining thyme sprigs in the center. Roast for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Turn oven down to 325.
In a dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat, add olive oil. Add mirepoix, leeks, parsley, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Cook until translucent​ (3 minutes). Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, one minute. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add wine to deglaze. Scrape to get the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Cook for 5 minutes. Add stock, drained beans, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and water to cover beans. Cover pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping: melt butter and combine with breadcrumbs and thyme, a small touch of salt and pepper. Carefully remove dutch oven, and mix in roasted zucchini and carrots. Turn the heat up to 350. Top with a layer of breadcrumbs and return to the oven uncovered. Bake until the breadcrumbs turn golden (approx 15 - 20 minutes).


Monday, May 22, 2017

Mozzarella in Carrozza (inspired post)

I learned about this magnificent cross between a grilled cheese and savory monte cristo from Andrew Zimmern’s fascinating post on Google+. I usually write my own recipes, but I really loved the flavors he put into it, so I used his recipe as a guide with a few minor touches of my own. His recipe is a departure from the original dish as it is enjoyed in Campania: he makes a salty, herbaceous spread to cut the richness of the cheese and rather than batter it in egg and then breadcrumbs he makes a thin egg and flour batter. I have yet to try it the traditional way, although I definitely plan to have a go at it, but I particularly loved the sound of his recipe and I was almost convinced to try making them myself. Almost. Until Paul posted his recipe for homemade tomato soup during Foodies+ cheese month and I knew it would be a match made in heaven.


When you are making these lovely, crunchy, flavorful sandwiches, you’ll want to cover the pan with a lid so that the cheese gets all melty. And luscious. I’ve cut Mr. Zimmern’s recipe down from 6 sandwiches to 4 and I’ve made other changes. I’ll include the link below so you can compare the two.

Mozzarella in Carrozza
1. Make the spread: in a small saucepan, saute shallots in olive oil until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes). Add pepper and anchovies and cook, stirring frequently, until anchovies have dissolved. Add tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to marry flavors and slightly rehydrate. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Meanwhile, make the batter: whisk together eggs and flour, and then add cold water, a little at a time, until it is the consistency of crepe batter (think thin pancake batter). Set aside.
3. Finish spread by mixing parsley in. Assemble sandwiches: evenly divide the spread between four slices of bread. Top the other four slices with an even layer of mozzarella slices and cover cheese with spread slathered bread, spread side inward. One or two at a time (to avoid pan overcrowding), carefully dip each assembled sandwich in batter. Carefully flip to cover each side.
4. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed saucepan over low-medium heat. Lay sandwich(es) in in a single layer. Cover pan with a lid and cook for 4 minutes. Flip each one, cover, and cook for an additional 4 minutes.

Serve and enjoy for dinner, lunch or a decadent late night snack.

Andrew Zimmern's Mozzarella in Carrozza: https://plus.google.com/+AndrewZimmern/posts/anfNmDKDFCu


Notes: if you are using sundried tomatoes preserved in olive oil you can use the olive oil they’re preserved in (as I did).

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beef, Black Bean & Roasted Sweet Potato Chili

I have already written a chili recipe, which is a hearty, healthy and satisfying meal. However, I recently became inspired eating at the cafes at my husband's work. He is lucky enough to work for a company which not only feeds its employees for free, but also has many fabulous gourmet cafes to choose from. Some of the 23 cafes my husband's company sustains are open for breakfast and dinner and all are open for lunch. Since he is allowed the occasional guest for a meal I have sampled the food from a few cafes and can attest to its remarkable quality and diversity. One thing most of the cafes seem to do is soup or chili. This sweet potato and black bean chili is one that pops up from time to time. It usually features quinoa instead of beef, but my family loves their red meat, so I've changed it up.

Why try this chili? Well, while it is savory it has just a touch of sweet, courtesy of the sweet potatoes and cinnamon. Far from being a handicap it enhances the rich beef tallow and the starchy beans and is delightfully reminiscent of a rich mole sauce. We love it and it makes a perfect quick meal, garnished with crema (Mexican sour cream) and sprinkled with cotija cheese. I usually serve it with cornbread, but you can serve it with just about any starch.

Beef, Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili


1 lb 85/15 ground beef
2 (15 oz) cans organic black beans in their liquid
1 1/2 sweet potatoes diced & roasted (see notes)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 a yellow onion, julienned
1 Tablespoon butter, melted (see notes)
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
Tiny pinch Cayenne (see notes)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. heat a dutch oven or heavy bottomed large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and onions and saute until they begin to caramelize.

2. Add spices and cook for another minute. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and break it up into small bits. Cook until thoroughly browned.
3. Add tomato paste, beans in their liquid and about 20 ounces of water.
4. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.
5. Add sweet potato, cover, and simmer until fully cooked (about 5 minutes).
Serve drizzled with crema and sprinkled with cotija cheese alongside cornbread.

Notes: to roast sweet potatoes: preheat oven to 400. Dice sweet potato and toss with butter and Cayenne. Spread on a cookie sheet in an even layer. Bake until slightly undercooked according to your preference (~20 minutes).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake

What inspired this decadence? Well, it is chocolate month at Foodies+! Since chocolate is such a magical ingredient, I really wanted to create something spectacular. I remembered I'd long ago tried a hot chai spiced tea with a squirt of dark chocolate sauce and that it was an incredibly special combination. Then I thought why not try incorporating those flavors into a cheesecake? I had a little trouble at first, using my lemon cheesecake bars as a guide for how long to bake my cheesecake, and at what temperature. I must have forgotten how hot my oven runs, because my first attempt dried out and cracked pretty severely. It tasted fine, but was nowhere near as smooth and luscious as my second attempt. Full disclosure: despite my best efforts my second cheesecake cracked just a bit. But ganache can hide a multitude of sins. Thank goodness it is also a perfect finishing touch on an amazing dessert!

Chai Chocolate Cheesecake


Makes 9” cheesecake

Crust:
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 Tablespoons sugar
8 (full sheet) chocolate graham crackers, crushed

Filling:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
10 spice cloves
6 green cardamom pods, gently cracked
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 earl grey tea bag
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 jumbo eggs
1/4 cup sugar

Ganache:
3 ounces good quality belgian chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon clarified butter

1. Assemble the crust: mix together chocolate cracker crumbs and sugar, then add melted butter. Toss until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9” spring form pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in fridge for one hour.
2. Chop chocolate for filling and put into a medium mixing bowl.
3. In a larger bowl, use a mixer to cream together eggs and cream cheese.
4. In a small saucepan combine cloves, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, tea, vanilla and one cup cream. Steep on the lowest possible heat for 20 minutes, watching carefully. If it begins to bubble take it off the heat and stir for a few seconds to cool it back down.
5. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill a roasting pan or large baking dish with 1/2 inch boiling water and place on the lower rack of the oven.
6. Pour the hot cream through a fine mesh sieve and into the chopped chocolate in small amounts, stirring to thoroughly incorporate in between (should take about 5 pours). When all the cream is in, stir until the mixture has become smooth (all chocolate pieces are melted).
6. Combine chocolate and cream cheese, mixing thoroughly. Fold in sugar and corn starch. Pour mixture over crust in spring form. Spread evenly.
7. Bake for 10 minutes at 350, then turn heat down to 300 and bake for another 40 minutes.
8. Allow the cheesecake to chill in the fridge at least one hour and up to six before making the ganache topping.
9. Chop remaining chocolate. In a small saucepan heat cream and whisk in butter. Add hot cream to chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is thoroughly melted and ganache is smooth and shiny. Pour over cheesecake, spreading with a spatula over the entire surface.

Serve.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Passover Food Charoset

I hosted a Seder this Passover and it was a lovely event. Three of my mama friends joined me with their children. For most of them it was their first, or maybe second seder. Wanting to show them the best of me Eastern European roots I cooked quite a bit: roasted beet, chevre and baby kale salad with an orange vinaigrette; homemade matzah ball soup (recipe is on my blog) with schmaltz; a brilliant apple noodle kugel from The New York Times. And of course I prepped the food to be eaten during the seder rituals, all of which is reflected on the seder plate.


My favorite of the ritual foods, Charoset, is a wine marinated apple salad that is meant to represent mortar. Passover is the story of how Moses led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt. Several items on the seder plate are meant to represent the bitterness of that slavery. None are as sweet or as looked forward to as Charoset, which varies from home to home, but always includes finely chopped apples, red wine and walnuts. It is eaten with Matzah, a holiday cracker and is a delightful treat. I made mine with a touch of cloves and honey and it turned out fabulous. I’m including the recipe below, along with a picture of my seder plate. Now, you may have already had all of the Seders you’re going to have. Bookmark this recipe and save it for next year and the year after. You’ll have the most delicious Charoset every Passover. For those of you who have a few seders left to plan and have just run out of Charoset, give this recipe a try. If you don’t celebrate Passover you can still enjoy this cold apple salad. It is delicious on its own or with Matzah (or another basic unsalted cracker such as water crackers). Try it with brie on toast.

Charoset


Makes 3 cups

3 Fuji or Braeburn apples, peeled and finely chopped
6 ounces red wine
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground spice cloves

1. Mix all ingredients together. Marinate for up to an hour. Serve on the seder plate (to be eaten at the appropriate time), or any time.




Monday, April 10, 2017

Saag Paneer (Spinach Curry with fresh cheese)

I've been staying out of the kitchen as much as possible since my son had surgery to correct his polydactyly. He's been in a cast all the way up his arm for almost three weeks. (he finally gets it off Wednesday!) The first week he needed extra help and constant attention. As he's gotten used to his cast he has gotten more independent. So, I've gotten the chance to resume planning and cooking weekly menus for my family. Perhaps because I've been away for a little while I went a bit overboard this week. I made Croatian Chicken Paprikash, Shakshuka with the leftovers as well as a loaf of homemade sesame semolina crusty bread to accompany and finally Saag Paneer with homemade cheese. The Saag Paneer was inspired, in a roundabout way, by my son.

Usually we try to get our 17 month old to try whatever we’re eating, but my son is not a fan of spinach. He's willing to eat it in purees, as long as it's disguised by beans and other vegetables. But when I make it the star of a dish, he refuses to eat it. He's not generally a picky eater. After all, he happily eats curry rice noodles and beef koobideh, as well as chicken paprikash... Thankfully, he seems to be willing to try and enjoy a lot of different food. Because he's an adventurous eater, I give him lots of flavors to sample. That is more or less how I started to conceive a baby food cookbook. As I was writing recipes for it I tried to think of a spectacular spinach dish to convince Henry to like it. First I tried baby creamed spinach, with roasted garlic and Greek yogurt. He spit it out. He never spits anything out. I then remembered a friend's fabulously simple homemade paneer recipe and I thought of making Baby Saag Paneer. He didn't like it, either, although he was perfectly willing to eat the paneer on its own and a soft piece of semolina bread dipped in the Saag Paneer gravy. So, I still hadn't convinced him to eat spinach, but me and my husband didn't mind; we eagerly finished the leftovers. This dish was clearly more to adult tastes. And wow was it ever tasty! Using Azlin’s easy recipe for homemade paneer, it was easy. And so delicious you'll be hoping for leftovers, too.

because this was originally conceived for my baby food cookbook you're getting a sneak peek at the photography.

Saag Paneer


Serves 6

18 ounces baby spinach, sauteed and strained (see notes)
2/3 cup greek yogurt
1 cup half n half
3 Tablespoons clarified butter (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Tiny pinch anise seeds
1 small onion, julienned
70 grams paneer (see notes for substitutes), in 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Toss cheese cubes with 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add a Tablespoon clarified butter, a few drops of olive oil, and fry the cheese cubes until they developed color all around the outside. When they are done remove from heat and set them aside.
2. Add remainder of butter and olive oil. Saute onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in spices and ground ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until spices become fragrant (about 1 minute).
3. Turn heat down to low. Stir in half n half and yogurt. When everything is mixed together add spinach and reintroduce cheese. Bring everything up to temperature.

Serve with long grain rice and flat bread.

Notes:
After sauteeing spinach, press all of the liquid out before continuing to add it to a dish.
To clarify butter, melt it and pour through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve.
You can substitute mozzarella, especially fresh mozzarella (rinsed) for panner; you can also substitute tofu.