Search This Blog

Showing posts with label breakfast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breakfast. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2015

In Praise of Eggs

A healthy, efficient source of protein, eggs are delicious.

Growing up, my mother used to take my sister and myself to the beach for picnics. We would spend the day at Will Rodgers State Beach in Santa Monica. My mother would sit on one blanket talking with a friend. My sister, Barbara, and I would dig holes in the sand and build our version of "castles" by filling plastic buckets with wet sand and turning them over quickly.
For lunch my mother always made our favorites. Fried chicken, hard boiled eggs and egg salad sandwiches. I guess it must be a truth of the human experience that what we eat as children is burned deeply into our psyches. Sometimes negatively (I won't go near calf's liver, which my mom used to serve on a regular basis) but mostly positively.
More often than not, comfort food means food we ate as a child that made us feel all taken care of. I enjoy eggs so many ways. Hardboiled, sliced and topped with anchovies or 1000 island dressing.
Deviled with a filling of anchovies, parsley and capers.
Egg salad flavored with bacon, charred corn kernels and parsley. Coddled in Caesar salad dressing richly flavored with anchovies and Tabasco sauce. One egg omelets. Egg white cookies with hazelnuts and orange glaze.
This weekend a friend shared one of her favorite eggs. She gave me a half dozen Apricot Lane Farms eggs she picked up at Farm Shop in Brentwood. Wildly popular, the eggs sell out quickly.
What makes farm fresh eggs so special is the bright yellow yolk. Visually impressive, the yolk is sweet, thick and custardy. Lily Farms eggs, sold at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (Wednesday and Saturday) and at the Palisades Sunday market, have a similar quality.

This morning I had one of the Apricot Lane eggs for breakfast.

I think one of the best ways to enjoy quality eggs is to make a fried egg. Personally I like over-easy eggs, but sunny side up would be good too. I fried the egg in a pat of sweet butter in a non-stick pan and served it on a slice of toasted Orowheat Oatnut Bread with Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves and Pulgra unsalted butter.
Simple. Easy. Delicious. The pictures tell the story.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

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

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on the New York Times Dining. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Eggsellent – A One-Egg Omelet That’s All About Flavor

For Zesterdaily last January, I wrote about beginning the new year with an easy-to-make, good tasting dish that is healthy and all about flavor. After making the omelets through out last year, I think it's a great way to begin 2014.


A new year with new resolves for personal improvement is the best of times and the worst of times. At the top of many people’s resolutions is eating sensibly with an asterisk to give up everything that tastes good. To eat well doesn’t mean denying yourself pleasures. In fact, consider the gastronomic advantages of a one-egg omelet.

Three, two, one

A neighborhood restaurant we frequented for many years proudly publicized their three-egg omelet. The omelet was a plump 2-inches thick and settled on the plate like a seal sunning itself on a wave-washed rock.
After eating their three-egg omelet, I always felt like going back to bed.
Having consumed many omelets over many years, the realization hit me that what I like about an omelet isn’t the eggs. What I like is the filling.
At home I experimented. What I was looking for was a ratio of bulk: flavor that pleased my palate and wasn’t overly filling. Three eggs were never considered, and eventually two eggs gave way to one. Another significant milestone was switching from a stainless steel pan to the more forgiving qualities of a nonstick pan.

Thin one-egg omelet is a reminder of delicate crêpes

One egg creates texture not bulk and places the emphasis solidly on the filling. Just about anything sautéed, roasted or grilled can find itself tucked into the confines of an eggy bed.
Whatever the mix of ingredients, the key to a good omelet is creating a warm creaminess of melted cheese.
The combinations are limited only by your palate preferences. The salty-sweetness of sautéed ham, Comte cheese, spinach, shallots and shiitake mushrooms complement the pliancy of the egg. Grilledasparagus and Parmesan cheese, dusted with finely chopped Italian parsley leaves makes an elegant omelet perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Shredded lobster, Manchego cheese, cilantro, raw red onions, a dusting of cayenne and a small amount of finely chopped ripe tomatoes transform an ordinary egg into a culinary adventure.
Adding country-fried potatoes, buttered toast with jam and crisp bacon, a tossed green salad or a bowl of fresh fruit to fill out the plate and the one-egg omelet creates an enviable meal, heavy on flavor and careful about calories.

One-Egg Omelet With Spinach, Comte Cheese, Shallots and Shiitake Mushrooms

Use any cheese of your liking. I prefer a cheese that plays well with others. Strong cheeses, such as blue cheese, will dominate the other flavors in the filling. Mild cheddar, Comte, Manchego and soft goat cheese work well.
The recipe is for one, because making each omelet individually will result in the best looking dish. If you are serving more than one, multiply the number of diners times the ingredient quantities for the filling to create the correct amount needed to make all the omelets.
Use a 9-inch nonstick pan, understanding that nonstick pans are designed to be used on low heat. Because an excessive amount of fat is not required to prevent the egg from sticking to the pan, the butter is used for flavoring. Could the omelet cook on a nonstick pan without the butter? Yes, perhaps as serviceably, but that little bit of butter adds a lot of flavor.
Serves 1
Ingredients
2 teaspoons sweet butter
2 cups spinach leaves and stems, washed, pat dried, chopped
1 shallot, washed, ends and skin removed, finely chopped
½ cup or 2-3 shiitake mushrooms, washed, root ends trimmed, finely sliced longwise
1 farm-fresh egg, large or extra large
1 tablespoon cream, half and half, whole milk or nonfat milk
⅓ cup freshly grated cheese, preferably white cheddar, Comte, Manchego or goat
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Directions
1. In the nonstick pan, melt 1 teaspoon butter and sauté together the spinach, shallot and shiitake mushrooms until wilted and lightly browned. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne (optional). Use a high-heat or Silpat spatula to remove the sauté from the pan and set aside.
2. Beat together the 1 egg and milk until frothy.
3. On a medium-low flame, heat the nonstick pan, melt the remaining teaspoon butter and pour in the egg-milk mixture using the spatula to get every drop into the pan.
4. Swirl the egg mixture around to coat the bottom of the pan so it looks like a full moon.
5. Gently sprinkle the cheese on one half of the omelet — the half moon with the filling –and spoon on the sauté to cover the cheese.
6. When the cheese has melted and the egg is cooked the way you like, use the Silpat spatula to gently flip the empty side of the half moon on top of the filling.
7. Use the Silpat spatula to help slide the omelet onto the plate and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Waist Watching, Delicious One-Egg Omelet

As with many good things, a cherished recipe resulted from an accident.
My wife wanted an omelet for breakfast and we had only one egg in the refrigerator. That egg was an especially good, farmers' market egg, but it did not have a companion and my wife was used to having a two-egg omelet.

Many solutions came to mind.

Go to the market to buy more. That seemed like too much trouble with a cup of coffee already brewed and waiting on the dining room table next to the Sunday New York Times. Use a lot of milk as "filler." But the resulting omelet would have been more like a custard than what my wife likes, a very firm cooked egg.

So, I did the only thing any guy would do in the circumstances. I punted.

If I was short an egg, well, I'd compensate with a lot more filling, hoping my wife would be distracted by all the goodies so she wouldn't notice the paucity of "egg."

Her favorite filling consisted of sautéed spinach, shiitake mushrooms, shallots and Comte cheese. Low and behold, as my mother would have said, what appeared to be a limitation became an asset.

Using one egg created an omelet that shared many qualities with the French crepe. The omelet was thin, crispy along the edges and, most importantly, had traded bulk for flavor.

Voila!

My wife loved her one-egg omelet so much, the dish is now a standard feature of our Sunday morning brunch. For Zesterdaily I wrote up the recipe and a more complete description.

Please take a look and let me know what you think: Eggsellent - A One-Egg Omelet That's All About Flavor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When It's Too Hot to Cook, Omelets are a Cook's Best Friend

My mother used to say that omelets weren't just for the morning. She turned a breakfast favorite into an entree by putting sautéed savories into the fillings that added unexpected flavor.
For Zester Daily, I wrote about some favorite ways to make omelets that are as good for lunch and dinner as for breakfast.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's for Breakfast? Mashed Potatoes and Eggs

A hot breakfast is a smart way to begin the day. But it can take too much time to prepare. Because they're already cooked, left-over mashed potatoes are a quick and easy way to make a nutritious breakfast.

For dinner last Sunday, we had a Caesar salad made with frisee instead of romaine and roast pork (porchetta) flavored with Italian parsley, garlic and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes and roasted whole tomatoes were the sides.  A plate of cut up cara cara oranges and a custard with crystallized ginger and orange juice finished the meal. All in all, dinner was very satisfying.


The next day, the refrigerator was the beneficiary of Sunday's dinner. Considering what was left-over, we were looking at a succession of meals we could have during the week.

Reheated, the porchetta could easily be enjoyed as an entrée or a hot sandwich. The roasted tomatoes would make a delicious pasta sauce. And the mashed potatoes....! They were so delicious the first time around.

Made from King Edward potatoes bought at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, the mashed potatoes were sweet and full of flavor. Certainly we could just reheat them to serve again with the porchetta but they would also be good for breakfast.

From my hippie days, I always save the potato skins when I make mashed potatoes because I add them to stocks. It occurred to me that they would also be good sauteed (to crisp up) and added to the mashed potatoes.

Some bacon would be good too.

Breakfast Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Potato Skins and Onions

Using a non-stick pan is the way to go with this dish. Just be sure to use the pan on a medium-low to medium flame to avoid health risks.

Serves 4

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup skins, peeled from 6 large potatoes, julienned
2 cups mashed potatoes, King Edward, Sierra Gold or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 medium onion, washed, peeled, root, skin and stem removed, roughly cut
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
2 slices cooked, crisp bacon, cut into strips (optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a medium flame, saute the potato skins, onion and parsley until lightly browned, add the bacon (optional) and the mashed potatoes, mix together, season with sea salt and pepper and saute until potatoes are lightly browned on top and form a crust.

Serve with eggs, any style.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summertime Fun: U-Pick Blueberries on the 101

For most people, summer means vacation time and, more than likely at least one road trip. We started early this year and took a trip up the coast for a long weekend.

Driving from Los Angeles to Northern California, we usually take the 5.  A boring drive, the 5 is all about getting up the coast as quickly as possible.

This trip we decided to take the 101. A bit slower, but a lot more scenic with the opportunity to interact with the communities along the way.

When I was growing up, my mom’s favorite thing to do when we hit the road was to stop at the roadside stands and buy fruit and vegetables from the local farmers.  What she dearly loved was when we could actually stop at the farm and do the picking ourselves.

One of her favorite places to visit was Cherry Valley, east of Los Angeles, where she would find an orchard that would let us kids climb up the ladders, buckets in hand, and pick and eat as many cherries as we could handle.


Heading up north I remembered those experiences when I saw the signs for Restoration Oaks Ranch's Santa Barbara Blueberry Farm, with its U-Pick option.

Thirty minutes north of Santa Barbara and three miles south of Buellton (home of Anderson's Pea Soup), from May to early August, keep a lookout on the east side of the highway.  There are signs on both sides of the highway but the turn off comes quickly, so be alert, especially on the southbound side where the exit is from the left lane.

Protected from birds by a high wall of netting, the farm grows several varieties of blueberries: Bluecrisp, Emerald, Jewel, Star, Misty, and Sharpblue.  The plants grow in long rows, stretching from the highway back into the hills.

Blueberries grow on low bushes, the fruit gathering in tight clusters on the branch ends.

Walking up and down the rows we passed couples feeding each other berries as if they were on a romantic date.  Then there were the families with kids, who rushed from plant to plant, picking and eating berries, yelling out, "I found the best ones."

For our part, my wife and I approached the task with deliberation. Mostly that meant picking berry by berry, but when we found a perfectly formed cluster, a quick sweep of the branch yielded a handful of berries that clattered satisfyingly into the bucket.

Harvesting blueberries is sweet work. You pick a few and eat a lot as you walk down the rows. We enjoyed them all the more knowing blueberries are healthy and nutritious.

The best berries are plump, firm, and colored a dark shade of blue. Ripe berries are on the top of the plant but also down below, so it's worth the effort to crouch down and check the lower branches.

In addition to all those nice plump, ripe berries, you'll also see ones that are slightly wrinkled.  We had a difference of opinion about those.

My wife didn't care for them, but I did because they have a thick, jammy taste, reminding me of homemade blueberry pie. Because my wife didn't want any wrinkled berries in our bucket, I ate them as I picked.

My wife wandered off in one direction.  I, in another. We walked up and down the rows, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the easy quiet of the rolling hills surrounding the farm.

Walking down the rows, I couldn't get over that there were so many berries!  How could I pass by ripe, perfectly formed blueberries, sweet and luscious and not pick every one in sight?

With a quick grab, I could fill my mouth with great tasting blueberries.  So delicious, so available.

With blueberry stained fingers, I placed yet another handful of berries in my mouth when my wife called out to me.  Actually she called several times before I heard her.  "David," she said, "Come on, you've had enough."

I nodded in agreement but managed to run my hand along another branch and enjoyed a last mouthful of berries before I re-joined her. With our buckets filled, we walked hand-in-hand down the dirt road, stopping at the outdoor sink to wash the blueberry stains off our hands, and then to the shack where we paid for our blueberries.

In 30 minutes my wife and I had filled our buckets.  At $15.00 a bucket (about 2 quarts), the blueberries are a bargain, considering that at farmers' markets small containers cost $3.00-4.00.

At our friends' house that night, we proudly served the berries as the crowning topping to a pineapple-strawberry fruit salad.  The combination was perfection.  Each fruit had a different tartness and sweetness.  Their flavors melded beautifully.

With a large bowl in the refrigerator, everyone in the house made frequent stops to grab a handful.  In no time at all, we had eaten all the blueberries.

With a short growing season and given that it was unlikely we would drive up 101 anytime soon, when we headed back to LA, we left early so we could stop at the blueberry ranch and pick another bucket.

Back home I remembered all those ears of corn, peaches, and cherries, I used to pick with my mom and sister and I was very happy to have a bucket of blueberries in the refrigerator.  What a great way to start the week with a breakfast of fresh blueberries, yogurt, and cereal.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Father's Day Brunch with Native American-Style Salmon

One dish that's become a favorite for our Father's Day brunch is a Native American-style salmon that can be prepared in the oven or the grill. Perfect to serve with toast, cream cheese, red onions, and capers with a green salad, grilled vegetables, and a simple dessert of bread pudding or fresh fruit and cheese.

Whether you prepare the salmon on-the-day or the day-ahead, it should be served at room temperature to bring out the sweet flavors of the fish.

Brown Sugar Salmon

Yield 4-6 servings
Time 2 hours marinade or overnight; 30 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds fresh salmon fillets with skin on, preferably wild not farm raised, washed
3 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika

Method

Buy either fillets or the filleted side of a whole salmon. Carefully inspect the flesh to remove any bones that might have been missed. Pat dry.

Measure a piece of plastic wrap so that it is longer than each piece by several inches. Lay the plastic wrap on the cutting board.

Mix together the brown sugar, kosher salt, and paprika. Spread a thin layer of dry mix on the plastic wrap, lay a piece of salmon on top, then cover the salmon with another layer of dry mix. Fold over the ends of the plastic wrap so the salmon and dry mix are tightly wrapped together. Put the package into a plastic bag and seal.

The dry rub will become wet as the sugar-salt mixture pulls moisture out of the salmon. To prevent against spills, place the plastic bag on a baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If using a grill, turn one side to high, leaving the other side "cold".

Remove the salmon from the bag and peel off the plastic wrap being careful to reserve all the liquid. Line a baking tray with a piece of aluminum foil, place a wire rack on top, and put the salmon on the rack.

Put the marinade into a small saucepan and simmer 5 minutes until reduced by half. Baste the salmon with the sauce.

If using a grill, place the pan with the rack and the salmon on the cold side. Cover and cook 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so the salmon cooks evenly. Baste, cover and cook another 10 minutes.

In the oven, bake 10 minutes, baste, cook another 10 minutes and remove. I like my salmon on the moist side. Check to see that these cooking times give you the texture you like.

Serve at room temperature with bagels or toast, cream cheese, chopped red onions, and capers.

Variations

Add 1 tablespoon grated ginger to the basting sauce and reduce.

Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the basting sauce and reduce.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Omelets for Father's Day or Any Day

When I was nine years old, my parents told me it would be fun if I made them breakfast in bed every Sunday. I was such a geek, I didn't know they were pulling a Tom Sawyer on me.

At first I practiced with something easy--scrambled eggs. I worked up to over-easy eggs and was very proud when I could plate the eggs without breaking or overcooking the yolk.

My sister, Barbara, didn't like to cook. She could be coaxed into helping me with some of the prep, but she wasn't happy about it.

In time my mother felt I was ready to take on the El Dorado of breakfasts: an omelet.

The first time I had one, I thought it was so great. The outer crispness contrasted with the custard-softness on the inside.

My mom taught me to use a big pat of butter to prevent the omelet from sticking to the pan. She made savory fillings, using a tasty piece of sausage, some mushrooms, spinach, and a bit of cheese. At times she'd switch gears and put something sweet inside, like fresh strawberries she'd cooked down into a compote.

For Father's Day one year she showed me how to make my dad's favorite filling: crisp bacon, sauteed potatoes, and cheddar cheese. Because he had an Eastern European sweet tooth, he liked his bacon dusted with sugar.

Over the years I refined what my mom had taught me. I found that sauteing the ingredients added layers of flavor and got rid of excess water.

On my limited student's budget in college, I learned how omelets could be a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I could make the filling out of any favorite ingredients, even left-overs.

Sauteed sausages with potatoes and cheddar cheese. Steamed asparagus with herbed goat cheese. Sauteed spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and roasted tomatoes with Gruyere. Sauteed chicken livers, caramelized onions, and mushrooms.

Chopped raw tomatoes, sauteed spinach, onions, and garlic make a delicious vegetarian filling, add sauteed ham and cheese and you'll make a carnivore happy. Even a simple omelet filled with sauteed parsley, shallots, and garlic with Parmesan cheese was elegant and delicious.

The combinations are limitless.

The only difficult part of omelet-making is flipping one half on top and then sliding it onto a plate so it looks plump and neat. Using a good non-stick pan makes that easy. I still add butter to the pan, but it's very little and strictly for flavor.

My Father's Favorite Omelet

Traditionally what's inside an omelet is hidden by the fold. Sometimes I make them that way, sometimes, I leave the filling where it can be seen.

My father didn't like surprises so I always left his open so he could see what he was eating.

Yield 1 serving
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 bacon slices
1 small Yukon Gold potato or 2 small fingerling potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons yellow onion or shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, washed, mostly leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
2 farm fresh eggs
1 tablespoon cream, half-and-half, milk, or skim milk
1/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese

Method

Saute the bacon in a small frying pan (not the nonstick pan) until crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel. Set aside. Pour off the fat.

Add the olive oil to the pan, put on a medium flame and saute the potato, onions, and parsley until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Put the eggs and milk into a mixing bowl. Using a fork or wisk, breat the eggs until they foam.

Melt the butter in the nonstick pan, pour in the beaten eggs. Let the eggs begin to set. Place the sauteed vegetables on one half of the omelet. Sprinkle the grated cheese and crumble the bacon on top of the vegetables.

Using a rubber spatula so you don't scratch the surface of the nonstick pan, flip the side that doesn't have the filling on top of the side that does.

Carefully slide the omelet onto a plate and serve.

Variations

Before serving dust the top of the omelet with finely chopped Italian parsley or crumbled crispy bacon or cayenne pepper

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam or a fruit compote on the top of the omelet before serving

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.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

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

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on Bitten. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Omelets Strike the Right Note at Breakfast

Breakfast is all-important. We need to be energized to take on the world but all too often we have the same meal, day in and day out. Bacon and eggs. Waffles with syrup. Cereal. Toast. A bowl of fruit. Power shakes. What started out as stimulating gets tedious.

Because they're so versatile, omelets are an antidote to breakfast-boredom. Just about any favorite herb, spice, vegetable, meat, or cheese works well with eggs. The only limitations are what you like.

(All the recipes are for 2 omelets.)

Cheese Omelet

The cheese omelet sets the stage for more ambitious fillings.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan), grated or finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley (or basil, tarragon, oregano), washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

There are 2 essentials to making a good omelet: fresh eggs (ideally, Farmers' Market fresh) and a non-stick pan. The risks associated with Teflon are minimized if low heat is used and you avoid scratching the surfaces by using a rubber spatula.

The starting point for an omelet is to sauté the fillings. Too often in restaurants vegetables with high water content aren't cooked with a watery result. Sauté the shallots and parsley with the olive oil over a medium flame until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

To make 2 individual omelets use an 8"-10" non-stick skillet. Even though I use a non-stick pan, I add a pat of butter for flavor. For an Italian touch drizzle a bit of olive oil. For low cal versions use egg whites, skim milk and low fat cheeses.

Melt the butter over a medium-low flame. Beat the eggs (or egg whites) together with the milk and pour into the pan. Cook a few minutes until the egg has set on the pan side. Spread the shallot-parsley sauté over half of the omelet. Add the cheese. Using a rubber spatula fold the "empty" side of the omelet onto the side with the sauté. Cook another 2 minutes then slide onto a plate. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

As they do in all good restaurants, offer yourself a choice of hash browns, fresh fruit, sausages or bacon, toast, or orange juice to go with your omelet.

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

Bacon and Cheese Omelet

Using the basic recipe, start to build up the layers of flavor by adding bacon (or another salty meat like sausage or ham).

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cooked bacon (or sausage or ham) crumbled
Sea salt and pepper

Use the Cheese Omelet directions above, adding the cooked meat at the same time as the cheese. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Vegetable Omelet

Instead of using meat to add flavor, use vegetables. Just about any vegetable will work: spinach, zucchini, onions, carrots, kale, artichoke hearts, broccoli, asparagus, English peas, potatoes... Walk down the aisles of your local farmers' market and think "omelet" as you pass the row after row of fresh vegetables.

Sauté the vegetables for sweetness and the added flavor of caramelization but they can be steamed. Tomatoes can be used sautéed or fresh, although I prefer fresh.

The amount of vegetables you use depends on their final volume. 1 cup of uncooked spinach will yield 1/4 cup of cooked spinach. 1 cup of zucchini will yield 3/4 cup for the filling. If you like a thin omelet, 1/4 cup of sautéed filling per omelet is probably sufficient. For a plump omelet, 1/2 cup per omelet is probably more to your liking.

Sauté the vegetables with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and parsley until softened or lightly browned then set aside. Follow the Cheese Omelet directions above for technique. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Chicken Livers Omelet

I love chicken livers but they aren't everyone's cup of tea (certainly not my wife's). If you do like them, you'll really enjoy this recipe.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 mushrooms (brown or shiitake), washed, julienned
2 chicken livers, washed, cut into nickel-size pieces
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Sauté the shallots (I doubled the amount of shallots for this recipe because their sweetness goes well with the livers), garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the chicken livers and brown on all sides being careful to keep the insides pink. Season with sea salt, pepper, and cayenne (if you want some heat). Remove from the burner and set aside.

Make the omelet as described above, place the chicken liver sauté on one half and turn the "empty" side onto the side with the sauté. Let cook for 2 minutes and serve.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.