Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Yes, another salad with an egg on it. Yes, another warm bacon vinaigrette. I am nothing if not predictable. Don’t dismiss this as a repeat, though, because it’s not, and it’s incredibly delicious to boot.
I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to go Googling spinach-mushroom-bacon-egg salads, except for the irrefutable logic that if spinach + mushroom = good, and spinach + bacon = good, and bacon + egg = good, then spinach + mushroom + bacon + egg = quadruply good. I stumbled across rough versions of what I was hankering for at Beyond the Peel and The Pioneer Woman Cooks. The first recipe seemed like it might be a little too simple (no real dressing, just vinegar); the second one had some mouthwatering additions (onion, Dijon) but was fussier. I thought I’d try the second one, except with poached eggs instead of hard-boiled (and no sugar—I hate it in dressings), but in the end I basically followed the first one, adding onion and mustard. It was Saturday night and I was feeling too lazy to make a separate dressing, so I just stirred the vinegar and Dijon in with everything else that had been sautéing in the bacon drippings, and what do you know? It was just fine. Better than fine, really. I loved it, and A mentioned to me several times how good it was. Without the egg, it would probably make a nice side dish; with one egg, it could grace your brunch table; with two eggs, it’s a light but gratifying spring evening meal.
4 strips bacon, diced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 ounces baby spinach
1–2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Asiago, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese to taste, shaved or shredded (optional)
1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a paper towel to drain.
2. To the bacon fat in the skillet, add the onions and mushrooms. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until onions are tender and mushrooms are golden.
3. Add vinegar and mustard to the mushroom-onion mixture and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the bacon.
4. Meanwhile, poach eggs. (I use this method.)
5. Place 1½ cups of spinach on each plate. Top with the mushroom-onion-bacon mixture and then with the poached eggs. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese if desired.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Unknown. You could probably store the mushroom-onion-bacon mixture separately in the fridge, reheat it, and then put it on some spinach when you’re ready to eat it, but you’d have to wait to poach your eggs until then.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Just in case you were laboring under the misapprehension that raw kale is solely hippie-dippy rabbit food, I thought I’d debauch it a little. It’s kind of hilarious that I would even think to make this, since I have long abhorred copious amounts of mayonnaise, particularly salads swimming in copious amounts of mayonnaise-based dressings. But then, I’ve long abhorred runny eggs, and we all know I’m over that one. Plus, it turns out that kale will admirably withstand whatever rich thing you want to drench it with. I actually started out with a modest amount of dressing here, but ended up using the whole batch just to get the moisture and flavor levels I wanted into all the nooks and crannies in the leaves. And it was delicious.
I had some homemade mayonnaise left over from making fish cakes with tartar sauce (and later some BLTs, where the mayo really shone, so I’ll probably be making batches of it all summer long). I had a newfound love of kale salad and newfound egg-poaching skillz. And I had this Dinner With Julie post bookmarked. The kale got shredded, the mayo got blended with generous quantities of garlic, lemon, pepper, and cheese (I had leftover Pecorino from my previous kale salad, so I used that instead of Parmesan), the prosciutto got crisped (I’d never done this, but consider me a convert—it’s so fun to watch as it shrivels in the skillet, and so much faster, easier, and less greasy than bacon), and the eggs got poached (perfectly, I must say), then the whole glorious mess got mixed together and devoured.
Despite all the porky, creamy, eggy ooziness here, it still feels like a light meal (we ate it as a main dish, with two eggs per serving; if you want it as a side, you could use one egg or none), and the grassy greenness of the kale shines through. I certainly won’t be eating this every day or even every month, but it’s an excellent use of leftover homemade mayonnaise. (I assume that you could substitute storebought, but if you must, I don’t want to know about it. I’m not far enough from my old mayo-hating days to contemplate that.) Oh kale, is there anything you can’t do?
I’m afraid I kind of winged this without paying too much attention to measurements, so I can’t give you an exact recipe for the dressing. Just keep tasting and you’ll get there.
Homemade mayonnaise (I probably had about ½ to ⅔ cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and smashed
Black pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
1 bunch Tuscan kale
A little olive oil or cooking spray (optional)
8 slices prosciutto
4–8 eggs (optional)
1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice to taste, garlic, pepper to taste, and cheese to taste. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth (you might be able to do this with a small food processor as well, but I can’t vouch for it; in a pinch, you could probably just mince your garlic and shred your cheese super-finely, then stir everything together in a bowl). Taste and add more lemon juice, pepper, or cheese if needed.
2. Remove the ribs from the kale and discard, and then slice the kale leaves into ribbons and place in a large bowl.
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a tiny amount of olive oil or cooking spray, just to barely coat the pan—or if you have a nonstick skillet, you might be able to do without any oil, because the prosciutto will produce a small amount of grease as it cooks. Set the prosciutto slices in the pan (flat and apart from each other, as you would with bacon) and cook, turning as necessary, until browned and crisp (it should only take a few minutes). Remove from skillet and set aside on a paper towel.
4. Add the dressing to the kale gradually, tossing very well to coat the leaves, until you have the desired amount of coverage (you may or may not use all the dressing). Divide the kale between four serving bowls. Place two slices of crisp prosciutto atop each serving (I like to crumble them a bit with my hands so the pieces aren’t huge). If desired, poach or fry one to two eggs per serving and set them atop the salads.
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: OK. The dressed kale will stay unwilted for at least a day, maybe longer. Obviously, you’ll need to freshly poach/fry eggs for the leftover servings—they won’t keep in the fridge. I also waited to cook the second set of four prosciutto slices before I served the leftovers, but I’m guessing that if you want to precook the prosciutto it’ll be OK the second day, maybe just less crispy.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
I already have a recipe for a meatball soup, but this one from the Kitchn won me over with its kale (I can’t get enough kale!), and particularly with its promise of “cheesy egg ribbons.” It turns out that although those things are great, the meatballs are the real stars here. When I reached the “season to taste” step at the end of the cooking process, I kept tasting little sips of broth and worrying that it seemed a bit bland. I should have just tried one of the meatballs before I reached for the salt shaker again, because boy howdy they were packed with flavor. (Instead, I ended up oversalting the soup a little in my paranoia. Next time, I’ll either add some red pepper flakes with the onions and garlic, or just toss in a bit of extra cheese at the end to help along the flavor of the broth. The lemon juice squeezed in at the end did give it some zip, but my lemon was small and my impulse would have been to use more if I had it.) For making the meatballs really sing, I credit the fresh oregano, and especially the last-minute addition of lemon zest I decided upon after seeing it casually mentioned in the post that accompanied the original recipe. (In fact, I think the lemon zest should be mandatory; it was my favorite part!) The soup as a whole was just dandy, nicely brothy, slightly creamy, and packed with greens, but every time I bit into one of the meatballs it took everything up another level. As its name suggests, this soup is an excellent marriage of elements, warm and comforting enough for winter but light and perky enough for spring, and balanced enough to please both carnivores (A) and vegetable lovers (me). Even though my soup repertoire is growing lengthy, there’s definitely a place in it for this.
¾ pound ground pork (or chicken, turkey, or beef)
½ cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 large eggs
½ cup grated Romano cheese, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to taste
Grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch kale (I used Tuscan) or other greens (such as chard or escarole), trimmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 6 lightly packed cups)
1. Combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, ¼ cup of each cheese, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and lemon zest in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then form the mixture into ¾-inch balls. You should have at least 30 meatballs, depending on how large you form them.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1–2 tablespoons oil (depending on the fattiness of your meat; 1 tablespoon was plenty for my pork, but you might want more for a leaner meat such as turkey) over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, and cook, turning, until browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes. (If they are still a bit pink in the middle, don’t worry; they will continue to cook in the broth.) Remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set them aside on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
3. In a 4-to-6-quart soup pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and garlic is soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 eggs and remaining cheeses in small bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Slow pour the egg mixture into hot soup, stirring constantly in one direction. Cover and simmer just until egg bits are set, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 1½ hours (The soup-making part doesn’t take long, but I find it time-consuming to form meatballs; maybe you can do it faster. If you made the meatballs ahead of time and froze them, this could be a very quick and easy weeknight meal.)
Leftover potential: Great.
Friday, March 09, 2012
I’m so proud of these—maybe even prouder than I am of my newfound egg-poaching ability, because I made up this recipe myself! I’d spotted and bookmarked a lemon-pepper cashew recipe ages ago, and ever since then, the lovely concept had been taking root in my imagination and appetite. I love lemon, I love pepper, and I love cashews, and I know I love at least two of them at the same time—in fact, Trader Joe’s used to carry black pepper cashews that I adored. But when I finally decided it was time to make them, I took a closer look at the recipe and found that it was laden with sugar: a whopping ¼ cup of the stuff for just 1 cup of cashews! I’m sure it was delicious, but as I’ve discussed before, I like to save sweetness for dessert, not snacktime, and I’m only in the market for sweet/spicy/savory roasted-nut recipes, which are surprisingly hard to come by. I launched a Web search for other lemon pepper cashew recipes, but most of the ones I found were just the same recipe all over again, except for a small minority that employed storebought lemon pepper seasoning instead, which: no. I live in Southern California and I’m going to use fresh lemons, damnit.
What I wanted was something exactly like the chili lime peanut recipe I’d recently fallen for, but with cashews instead of peanuts, lemon zest and juice instead of lime, and black pepper instead of chili powder. So…why didn’t I just adapt it myself? It sounds simple, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I don’t exactly work off-recipe very well. I might add another garlic clove here and substitute feta for goat cheese there, but it’s rare that I build anything from the ground up. Still, since I was desperate for lemon pepper cashews and couldn’t find any recipe that would do, I took matters into my own hands, figured out the proportions, and got to work. The entire time, I was convinced that it wouldn’t succeed, so imagine my shock when I tasted my first cashew and it was wonderful—intensely lemony, spicily peppery, addictively crunchy, with just the right undertones of salt and sugar. Be forewarned: these are quite bold and zesty. (The lemon flavor is maybe even stronger than the pepper; I used the zest of two lemons because I was juicing another lemon anyway for another recipe, but feel free to cut back to just one lemon if you aren’t a fanatic.) But they were also a hit with all those who tried them (my highly scientific sampling group of three: me, A, and A’s friend), and A declared them even better than the original chili lime version. These are going to be a frequent snack at our house, I know.
Now I feel I should round out the citrus-nut trifecta by adapting this recipe one more time to use oranges. Orange curry almonds? Orange cinnamon pecans? Hmm….
Freshly grated zest of 1–2 lemons
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons freshly, coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound unsalted cashews
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, sugar, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add cashews and stir until evenly coated.
3. Scrape nuts onto a large, rimmed baking sheet (line with parchment if desired, for ease in cleanup). Bake until nuts are fragrant, dry, and beginning to darken, about 30 minutes.
Serves: About 16
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Excellent; will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
After taking a short hiatus, my pudding obsession is slowly creeping back again! I’ve also been on quite a coconut kick lately, from various curried soups to experimentation with coconut oil (Have you tried it yet? It’s pretty exciting so far—I’ve used it in granola, banana cake, and curried coconut carrot soup, all with excellent results). So naturally this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen jumped to the top of my list, because coconut and chocolate is a combination I can never resist (it even rivals chocolate and peanut butter as my all-time fave). Replacing the usual dairy with coconut milk and skipping the eggs makes it vegan, which isn’t necessarily something I was looking for, but it’s always nice to have a few tricks up your sleeve in case friends with special dietary needs come calling. For me, it was convenient because I could still have pudding when the craving struck, even though I didn’t happen to have any extra eggs or milk in the fridge that week. I was slightly suspicious about the lack of eggs (every other pudding I’ve made has used them) and the use of maple syrup as a sweetener (hippies!), but sure enough, the pudding thickened up just fine and the maple flavor was undetectable, although I’m sure you could use an equivalent amount of regular white sugar if you prefer it. When I tasted the pudding after cooking it didn’t seem very sweet, which worried me a little, but after chilling it was perfectly well balanced and, as if there was any doubt, extremely delicious. It was also even quicker and easier than making regular pudding, if such a thing is possible, because you don’t have to temper the eggs or worry about the milk boiling or scalding—coconut milk seems much less temperamental than cow’s.
I usually avoid the Trader Joe’s coconut milk because the only kind they sell is “light” and it’s very watery, but a note in the original recipe assured me it would work OK and it did. The coconut milk imparts only a subtle flavor, which is great for people who are primarily looking for a vegan chocolate pudding, but if what you want is a true Mounds-bar effect, I’d recommend helping it along with a bit of coconut extract, as I did. Otherwise, the only change I wish I’d made was to sift or strain my cocoa and cornstarch together, because my finished pudding had a few lumps, so I added instructions to do this below.
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (light is fine), divided
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
A pinch of salt
¼ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼–½ teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
1. Shake the can of coconut milk vigorously for a few seconds before opening. In a heavy saucepan, bring 1¼ cups coconut milk, the maple syrup, and the salt to a simmer over medium heat.
2. While that is heating, in a separate bowl sift together the cornstarch and the cocoa powder, then whisk in the remaining coconut milk until the mixture is smooth.
3. When the coconut milk and maple syrup mixture has just started simmering, turn the heat down to low. Slowly add in the cocoa mixture while vigorously whisking the whole time. Keep whisking until the pudding thickens up a bit, about a minute.
4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and continue whisking for about a minute while it cools slightly. Whisk in the chocolate chips and vanilla and keep stirring until the pudding is smooth. Transfer to small bowls and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. (If you want to prevent a skin from forming, press plastic up against the surface of the pudding.)
Time: 20 minutes
Leftover potential: Good for a few days.
Monday, March 05, 2012
I made creamed chicken a couple of weeks ago and realized that the recipe I have in my recipe book no longer matches the one I’ve got posted here. At some point, I’d made the decision to return to something closer to my mom’s version, and I’d completely forgotten to tell you. With its carrots and green beans and corn and celery, my earlier take on it was colorful and plenty tasty, but too similar to my chicken noodle soup, and ultimately, not what I pictured when I thought about creamed chicken. To me, creamed chicken is inherently simple, soft, comforting, maybe even a bit bland—“nursery food,” as Laurie Colwin put it. So I went back to basics, although I did make a few updates to Mom’s recipe to suit my tastes, using fresh mushrooms instead of canned, and adding onions, fresh thyme, and fresh parsley. As much as I love the other vegetables, I’m happy to eat them on the side in this case (green beans are ideal, but I went with roasted asparagus this time around). Heaped over split homemade biscuits, this meal tastes like love to me.
¼ cup butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered or coarsely chopped
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
½–1 teaspoon salt (depending on how salty your broth is; my homemade stuff is saltless so I use the full teaspoon, but start with ½ teaspoon and add more later if needed)
1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¼ cups chicken broth
1¼ cups milk
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
Chopped fresh parsley to taste
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook onion and mushrooms until tender.
2. Stir in flour, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook for about a minute.
3. Add broth and milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in chicken and parsley.
4. Serve over biscuits or toast.
Time: 25 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; also freezes well (obviously, don’t put it over the toast/biscuits until it’s time to eat, though)
Friday, March 02, 2012
Yup, I’m on the kale salad bandwagon now. Tender young greens are all very well and good, but I’ve come to really respect the resilience of kale—how it can relax in its dressing for several days without wilting, and how its fresh grassy taste can stand up to whatever big, bold flavors you throw at it. In this Caesar-reminiscent recipe from Melissa Clark via Sassy Radish, we have the classic lemon vinaigrette, plus garlic, red pepper flakes, breadcrumbs, and plenty of cheese: yes please! I probably would have been head over heels for this if I hadn’t started my kale-salad version with an even niftier version a couple of weeks before, but we still enjoyed it tremendously.
I made the breadcrumbs the way the original recipe instructed, by toasting a whole slice of bread in oil in a skillet and then blitzing it in the food processor, but my processor is wimpy and my bread was perhaps sliced too thick, so the resulting crumbs varied crazily in size, from fine to croutonesque, and weren’t as crispy as I would have liked. I wished I had just done them my usual way, tearing the bread into coarse crumbs by hand and then frying them afterward, so that’s what I’ve written into the instructions below. Do whatever you like, obviously. I’m not the boss of you. But, you know, I do respectfully suggest that you try this salad, one way or another.
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also known as black or lacinato kale)
¼–½ cup coarse homemade breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
¼ cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
About 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Remove the ribs from the kale and discard, and then slice the kale leaves into ¾-inch-wide ribbons (you should have 4 to 5 cups). Place kale in a large bowl.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon (or less) olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs until crisp and golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place the chopped garlic clove in a small bowl, sprinkle with a little bit of coarse salt, let sit for a minute or two, and then use a fork to grind the garlic into a rough paste (or you can use a mortar and pestle). Add ¼ cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly coat all the leaves. (Because dressing will be thick. you will need to do a lot of tossing to accomplish this.)
4. Allow the salad to sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with breadcrumbs, additional cheese, and a drizzle of oil if desired.
Time: 20 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.