Monthly Archives: August 2010

Striving for Eggcellence

I’ve never been a huge fan of eggs.  I remember my cousin refusing to eat them because they are, in fact, a large embryo.

First turn off.

I also recall my grandmother trying valiantly each time I was sick to feed me scramble eggs.  The thought of scrambled eggs when I’m already nauseated isn’t very appealing, yet every time she asked, and every time I refused.

However, as the years have come and gone, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the protein-packed breakfast food.  I like them scrambled, but not very often.  And if I do have them scrambled, mix-ins are a must (be it onions, avocado, feta cheese, bell peppers).  I’ll eat them sunny side up or over easy and scoop all of the delicious runny yolk up with my toast.  I can even enjoy an egg white omelete.  Hard boiled eggs make a great snack (with salt, of course) and who doesn’t love a deviled egg??

As my taste buds grew into eggs, my cooking skills, unfortunately, did not.  Sure I can make scrambled eggs nice and fluffy and creamy (fry high, scramble low!), and boiling an egg isn’t rocket science, but I’ve come to the realization that I really don’t know how to cook eggs in all of the *potentially* delicious ways possible.

My Goal:

To find egg recipes I would normally never, EVER, try, (For instance, this twist on eggs benedict that I came across a couple months ago in the April/May 2010 edition of Fine Cooking.  It looks absolutely delicious, but the whole deep frying the egg thing seems impossible to me) and cooking each one until I get it just right.  I want to be able to perfectly poach an egg, to know exactly when it’s done so when you crack it open, the gooey center spills out.  I want to be able to make the perfect sunny side up.  I want to be able to make quiche without a recipe.

So, starting tomorrow, I am going to try to cook 1 egg dish (that I have never made, or thought of making, before) a week.  I feel motivated enough to say 1 every day or every other day, but eggs are high in cholesterol and I have no intention of shortening my father’s life, so once a week will have to do.

I hope to be eggcellent [insert groan here] at cooking eggs within two months.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to crack an egg open with one hand, a feat I have yet to accomplish.

Any egg dishes that are inspiring or one of your favorites??  Let me know!

Homemade Croutons

It’s been a salad week for us, here at home.  We’ve had steak salad, arugula and potato salad, chicken salad, and more.  And what’s the first thing that people think of when they hear salad?

CROUTONS!

I, personally, am a big fan of the crunchy little accomodations to salad.  I could sit and eat a whole bag of them.  But I often find them to be a little overpriced and usually don’t buy them.  For some reason, it never occurred to me until this past week to make my own.

We had some old french rolls that were on their way to being hockey pucks, so instead of throwing them out, I decided to cube them up and throw them into a hot pan with a some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic salt.

The result??

They are absolutely delicious.  10 times better than store-bought ones.  They’re full of flavor and melt in your mouth.  Who would’ve guessed stale bread could produce something absolutely delectable??

Warm Arugula and Potato Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

As some of you well know by now, arugula is my favorite green.  I first tried it when working at the farmers’ market 3 years ago in LA and fell in love instantaneously.  Wild arugula is the best, and I’ve heard it’s very easy to grow.  When I get my own place, I’ll be sure to have a garden and keep it in abundance there.

I use arugula a lot, but one of my favorite ways to use it is in this very simple salad that’s surprisingly filling.  I found this recipe via nannying.  My boss actually came across it in Food and Wine Magazine and we both agreed it sounded amazing.  It’s meant for a side dish but we’ve (my boss and I) made it into the main dish.

This is great if you don’t have a protein, like fish or chicken or beef, on hand.  Or, if you feel like doing very minimal cooking.  Another fun thing about this salad is you can make it your own.  Salads, as we all know, are very versatile.  You can throw almost anything on top of lettuce and it’ll taste good together!

First things first:

  • Crank your oven (or even your toaster oven!) up to 400 degrees F
  • While that’s heating up, cube some potatoes (i prefer yukon gold, but any will work, here).  I usually cube my potatoes into inch-size pieces.
  • Spread them onto a well-foiled rimmed baking sheet.  [I use foil here because the clean up is so easy with it!]  Drizzle the potatoes with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), a VERY liberal amount of salt (you can use sea salt, garlic salt, season salt, your pick!), a good amount of fresh-cracked pepper, and, this is optional but gives the potatoes a really pretty color, smoked sweet paprika.  You can use regular paprika if that’s all you have, but smoke paprika gives just a hint of smokiness.  It’s awesome.  Go invest.

Bake those cubed potatoes at 400 for about 45 minutes.  Time will vary, because everyone’s ovens are different, so keep an eye on them.  Once you can move them around with a spatula on the foild, they’ll be close to being done.  If the potatoes are still sticking when you try to shuffle them around, they need longer.

Next:

  • While the potatoes cook, you can make the dressing.  This is a very simple vinaigrette that you have to tweak to taste.  The recipe calls for:
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp grainy mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I used EVOO, stoneground Dijon mustard, and instead of sherry vinegar I have used both Rice Wine Vinegar and Balsamic Vinegar.  Any vinegar will do, so use whatever you have on hand–even if it’s just plain white distilled vinegar.  That’ll work!  But make sure you do get stoneground mustard–it’s just SO good!

Whisk all ingredients together until emulsified.  You might find that it’s too bitter–if this is the case, just add more EVOO.  If you feel there’s not enough of that vinegar taste, add a dash more and taste.  Continue until it tastes just right!

Now:

  • Get all your condiments ready!  Thinly slice a sweet onion to toss in the salad.
  • Chop up some gourmet green olives
  • Crumble a creamy cheese, such as Bleu, Gorgonzola, or French Feta
  • Toast some pine nuts and throw those in too, for crunch.

Finally:

Once the potatoes are done, toss everything together with the arugula.  The greens will wilt slightly, but you want that!  The potatoes will melt the cheese just a little, too.  Also be aware that the vinaigrette will soften the potatoes, but it’ll also be completely absorbed by them, too, so the dish has LOTS of flavor.

Variations:

Find what works for you in this salad.  Omit the onions and add thinly sliced radishes, use toasted almonds instead of pine nuts. Use spring mix instead of arugula.

This salad is a hit, promise.  It’s one I could eat every night and one that always sounds good.   Plus, it’s so easy and there’s almost no clean up!

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