Friday, May 16, 2008

A Summertime Breakfast

When it's cold, a hot meal, with a generous portion of protein and carbos is the perfect breakfast to get me going in the morning. Fried eggs, hash browns, toast with butter and jam, a couple of slices of bacon, and a cup of coffee. Pancakes with sausages, scrambled eggs, and lots of hot maple syrup is good too. Or, an omelet with cheddar cheese, sautéed chicken livers, caramelized onions and mushrooms. They're all delicious.

But once again in LA the temperature is pushing into the 90s. When that happens, my "perfect" cold weather breakfast leaves me feeling sluggish.

With the heat, I need to switch gears and have something lighter in the morning: a toasted bagel, a croissant, a bowl of cereal, granola with fruit, yogurt, a fresh fruit salad, or as our older son Frank prefers, a fruit smoothie with protein powder. There are plenty of choices.

I want to recommend my new favorite warm-weather breakfast. It may sounds austere but it has so many flavors and textures, it's a great way to start the day. Please write in with your favorite breakfast so we can compare notes.

Apple, Bacon, and Cheese Breakfast

1 large Fuji apple, peeled, cored (preferably farmers market fresh)
4 slices of bacon, crisp
4 ounces of cheese

My son Michael prefers his apples unpeeled. I agree that there are valuable vitamins and minerals in the skin. In this, Michael and my mom had the same opinion, but I prefer the clean taste of a peeled apple. The bacon needs to be very crisp and well-drained. For a semi-soft cheese, I like Jarlsberg, Irish cheddar, or Comte. If you prefer a soft cheese like Brie, Saint André, or chèvre, you can spread the cheese on the apple or a piece of toast. Proscuitto is a good alternative for the bacon.

Serves 1. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

If Corn is Back It Must Be Summer

Living in Southern California, we're frequently accused of being citizens of LALA land, a region of delusions where the inhabitants have lost touch with nature because there are no seasons. But there are seasons. Our winters are cold. Those of us with fireplaces use them frequently from January through March. And yet we have to admit, we don't suffer the ravages of weather that afflict other parts of the country.

If T.S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons, we Angelinos keep track of the seasons by watching the ebb and flow of the produce in the farmers' markets. We know summer is over because the peaches and nectarines are gone. Conversely, when the first corn appears at the farmers' markets, we know that winter is definitely over.

Several weeks ago a few pieces of corn were for sale at the Palisades Sunday market. Then yesterday at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, a giant mound of corn materialized at Gloria's Fruits & Vegetables stand. Seeing so much corn a dozen recipes came to mind, but the best way to celebrate the return of corn is the simplest: corn on the cob with a slab of butter, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. One taste and we know for certain that summer's back.

Corn on the Cob

4 ears of corn, shucked, washed
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper

Leave the cob whole or break in half, put into a large pot of water, and turn the burner on high. When the water boils in 10-15 minutes, the corn is done. Drain and serve with butter, sea salt, and pepper.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Ten Minute Meal: Chicken Tenders with Mustard Sauce

A friend emailed that she wanted an easy-to-make dinner for her kids. Nothing fancy, difficult or time consuming. I suggested chicken tenders. Kids know them because they're served at most fast food restaurants where they are 'healthier' than some of the alternatives but all too often they taste like cardboard. When you make them at home, they can be both healthy and good tasting.

The difference is the breading. Traditional breading uses milk and flour (batter) which bulks up the chicken. Using seasoned olive oil and breadcrumbs creates a lighter, crunchier tender with fewer calories. The mustard sauce adds several layers of flavor with very little effort. Just so you know, after our friend ate the tenders with her kids, she proclaimed them good enough to serve to adults.

Mustard Sauce

Make the sauce first because once the tenders are cooked, you'll want to serve them immediately. The sauce can be prepared ahead and will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon mustard (use any kind you like)
1 teaspoon sweet butter
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan on a low simmer until reduced by half. Serve warm.

Lo-Cal Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders can be purchased from the supermarket although they're pricey. If you have a couple of minutes, buy the full breasts at half the price and cut them into the 'tender' shape of about 1/2" wide, 1/4" thick, and 2" long.

1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders, washed, pat dried
1 cup bread crumbs, unflavored, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Pour the olive oil onto one plate and season with sea salt and pepper. For color, mix the parsley together with the breadcrumbs, if your kids will eat 'green things'. Spread the bread crumbs on a second plate. Dredge each chicken tender through the seasoned olive oil, then through the bread crumbs and coat well. Sauté the tenders on a medium flame with olive oil until browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve with a salad or a cooked green like broccoli or spinach and the warm mustard sauce on the side. For adults garnish with the mustard sauce and thinly sliced scallions.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

The Freshest, Coolest Salad You Can Make for Summer or Anytime

Our Fourth of July pot-luck picnic was lovely. Friends gathered in a park opposite the local high school to share a meal and then watch fire...