0604 Marathon Night in the Kitchen

I had good intentions for tonight.  They involved sitting on the couch with my knitting and watching The Straight Story or maybe The Jerk and a leetle bit of prep for the Saturday bakefest.  Instead I spent literally the entire evening in the kitchen, save the 15 minutes when I ran cookies over to SELMA.  The. Entire. Evening.  I mean, there are worse ways to spend a Friday night – this just wasn’t what I had in mind.

First, cookies for Saturday’s hoop build and also for a Couchsurfing potluck.  SELMA’s stopped using white sugar since there doesn’t appear to be any sugar available that is local AND non-GMO – so I tried to find a recipe that used other kinds of sweeteners.  This recipe, from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, uses corn syrup, apple butter, and brown sugar – all of which are a little bit more wholesome, even if they don’t hit the local/non-GMO mark entirely.  I made a double batch – which should have been 40 cookies, but resulted in 66 dense and chewy cookies.  To be honest, they tasted more like fuel than like a treat, which is probably A-OK for hoop builders and race runners.  I probably won’t make this recipe again, though.

Between cookie tasks, I prepped the ingredients for Saturday’s brunch cocktail, the Leland Palmer.  I’ll tell you more about that once we actually consume them, but the prep involved a good amount of juicing, playing with jasmine tea pearls, and the last of our honey.

The last of our [x] turned out to be a theme of the evening – over the course of a few hours, I ran out of honey AND flour AND milk AND raisins AND probably some other stuff that I’m just blocking out right now because it was so ridiculous.

Finally, and perhaps in a kitchen that was too hot, I made the pastry cream for Saturday’s bakefest.  Having helped with the pastry cream for both the croquembouche and the homemade Twinkies, I figured I’d be in good shape – but the damned cream just refused to thicken.  It smelled fantastic, though, and after a few frantic texts to Olivia, I decided to leave well-enough alone and just put the cream in the fridge for further examination on Saturday.

Somewhere in there, I realized that it had gotten late and I was hungry.  In lieu of dinner and in the spirit of using up the extra egg whites from pastry cream, I made a quick omelette with the last of the garlic scapes and the last tomato.  Let me draw your attention to one important fact in this paragraph: this was the first time I think I have ever made a successful omelette.  It was delicate.  It folded in half.  It was delicious.  Perhaps the secret is more whites than yolks, and also benign neglect – I was so busy with everything else that I couldn’t really stress out over the eggs or the sauteeing scapes, and as a result, everything was perfect.

Recipe:
Oatmeal Cookies from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
Leland Palmers from Bon Appetit
Pastry Cream from Martha Stewart

0520 Spinach Frittata

We’re on the cusp of summer right now, halfway between the austerity of winter vegetables and the abundance right around the corner.  Around this time of year, my thinking about food gets all muddled up.  In the colder months, we fall into a routine of planning meals, then going to the grocery store with our carefully composed list.  There are almost always impulse buys, but we come home with the fixings for a week’s worth of meals and maybe a little extra to throw in the freezer.  Come summer, though, our crisper overflows with whatever’s available at the market – which isn’t to say that we don’t plan in advance, but we’re definitely more prone to improvisation.

Over the last couple of years, frittatas have become key to getting through excess market produce.  If we participated in a CSA, I can only imagine that our frittata consumption would be exponentially higher.  Tonight’s frittata was made with the mysterious spinach-like greens from our garden and enriched with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.  Many of the recipes you’ll find online call for 5-8 eggs, but I’ve found that 4-5 are plenty for the two of us for a quick dinner.  If we’re entertaining or want to have leftovers for lunch, I’ll use more eggs and veg, and will serve with bread and/or a salad.

My rough frittata recipe for two is as follows:

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for sauteeing if necessary
4-5 large eggs, whisked together
1 medium onion
1-2 cups of whatever vegetables you have on hand, chopped (spinach, asparagus, more onions, garlic, kale, chard, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, etc – you get the idea)
1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, gruyere, goat, feta – anything that melts well)

Special equipment: oven and stovetop-safe pan

Preheat the broiler.  Melt the butter in your pan, swirling around to coat the bottom and sides.  Sautee your veg until tender, then pour the whisked eggs over the top.  When the eggs are just set, top with your cheese, then transfer to the broiler and broil until golden.

Serve from the pan or, if you’re fancy and careful, flip out onto a plate and serve at the table.

0510 Happy Hour at Grange

Benton’s Old Fashioned, originally uploaded by dansays.

Dinner tonight was a real treat. First, Karin was in town, which is always an excuse for excess laughter and bacon. Second, instead of cooking at home, we decided to try a new happy hour – at Grange. Third, did I mention bacon? How about poutine? Fancy cocktails? Because we had all of those things.

Grange is a relatively new addition to the A2 restaurant scene – new enough to merit  Current’s award for Best New Restaurant – and while we’d tried bites of their food at the HomeGrown Festival last fall, we hadn’t been to the restaurant proper.  Their happy hour deal is $2 off cocktails, wine by the glass, and the bar menu, which seemed just right for a pretty affordable dinner with a friend (thanks, Karin!).  We got to Grange right around 6 and found the upstairs bar practically empty, meaning we had our server’s undivided attention, which came in handy as I felt the need to grill her about everything on the menu.  I ordered their signature drink: the GKB Manhattan, comprised of bacon infused Bulleit Bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters, and brandied cherries.

I’ll be honest with you – I love bacon as much, if not more, than your average girl, but I’m pretty on the fence about bacon in drinks.  My cocktail was not un-enjoyable, but the bacon-infused bourbon left a strange mouthfeel reminiscent of the greasy burned bits that are left in the pan after you fry bacon and drain off the rendered fat.  How’s THAT for an appetizing description?  My dinner – an excellent fried egg sandwich with chile mayo on thick slices of challah – was actually a pretty nice pairing to my weird drink, so I’m thankful I ordered in that direction.

Shane had the French 75 – a sweet/tart gin-based cocktail with lemon and sparkling wine – and the duck confit poutine – a pile of fries topped with soft cheese curds, bits of duck, and a thinner gravy than I would’ve expected.  Karin also had a very nice Dark and Stormy along with the fried egg sandwich, and we all split a bowl of savory fried chickpeas – the real highlight of the meal for me.

Despite winning the Current award, Grange has gotten pretty mixed reviews on Yelp, and I can understand why: there was nothing wrong with our food, per se, but I had a vague sense (like that strange mouthfeel) that it could’ve been more right.  You know what I mean?

0424 A Perfect Spring Brunch

Shane left in the wee hours to drive to Indiana for Dark Lord Day, which, along with the drizzly spring weather, made it a perfect morning for brunch and baking – or, as I like to think of it, Fancy Lady Baking Brunch.

After last month’s relatively successful batch of Twinkies, we settled on pop-tarts for our next baking adventure, nudged on by the good fortune of a recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit.  As it worked out, I had very little to do with the preparation of the actual pop-tarts, as I was busy with the main brunch event: bacon-wrapped asparagus and soft-boiled eggs.

Susie and I washed and snapped the asparagus, fresh from the farmers’ market, and wrapped each little spear in lovely bacon from Sparrow Market.

Jamie’s recipe recommends baking for 10 minutes, but I’ve found that it takes a LOT longer to get crispy bacon. In this case, 25 minutes, with a break in the middle to switch the pans around. While the asparagus soldiers were in the oven, I boiled a dozen 5 minute eggs – long enough for the whites to be set but the yolks still lovely and molten.

In the meantime, Olivia, Shana, Shannon, and Maria were busy rolling out pastry and filling it with a panoply of jams.

For me, asparagus, bacon, soft-boiled eggs, and toast are all simple pleasures. Put them all together, and you’ve got something magic. Add some local greens, a homemade dressing, and a spoonful of thinly sliced potatoes baked with a fair amount of herbs and cheese, and you’ve got a fantastic spring brunch, made all the more amazing by what came out of the oven an hour later:

I’ll take one of everything, please.

Recipes:
Crispy Asparagus Soldiers with Soft-Boiled Eggs from Jamie at Home (oops, temperatures in Celsius)
Strawberry “Pop-Tarts” from Bon Appetit

Thanks to Maria for her photos!

Oh, and how great is it that we totally made these before Smitten Kitchen posted her version?

0411 A Very Smitten Kitchen Breakfast

Who thinks it’s a good idea to plan a breakfast – not brunch, breakfast – that requires at least an hour in the kitchen, especially when that hour is 8am on a Sunday?  Me, apparently.

See, the oven needed to preheat for an hour before the pita bread could go in, and the whole point of baking the pita this morning was to accompany the spicy Israeli tomato-egg dish that I saw on Smitten Kitchen on Friday, and making that dish might take most of that hour anyway, and besides, we had a full day of projects planned, so best to get an early start, right?  Right?

Long story short: up at 8, an hour in a million degree kitchen, and the end result?  Pitas that puffed up like happy little clouds:

Pita bread success!

I’m not sure if the magic lay in proofing in the refrigerator overnight, or sitting at room temperature in little rounds for 20 minutes, or being rolled out thin and then sitting for another 10 minutes, or misting with a bit of water before hitting the 475F oven – but there was some magic up in there.  Delicious, delicious magic.

So delicious that we barely let the pitas cool before tearing them open and dipping them into the shakshuka – eggs poached in a (supposedly) spicy tomato sauce.  I say ‘supposedly’ because while the sauce was warm and filling, it was far from spicy, and the eggs needed longer to poach than I gave them.  If I were to make this recipe again, I would NOT add any water (directions say to add tomatoes + their juices + 1/2 cup water), and would kick in another anaheim pepper or two.

A Very Smitten Kitchen Breakfast

On the whole, however, a savory and filling breakfast which provided good fuel for a day’s worth of projects.  And yay, finally pita bread success!

Recipes, both from Smitten Kitchen:
Shakshuka
Pita Bread

0225 Impromptu Egg Mess

Tonight we prepped at SELMA, where I peeled potatoes for 90 minutes and Shane dealt with some totally gross squash with a level of grace and composure that made me very impressed and proud. I promised him we’d leave at 8 so that he could watch his basketball game, so instead of sharing the communal meal, we found ourselves hungry and with a dwindling stock of useful foodstuffs for a quick meal.

I’ve yet to master the omelet, but I long ago perfected the ‘egg mess’. I was introduced to the egg mess by a high school friend after three of us had spent an afternoon building a monster, scrubbing paint out of each other’s hair, and generally doing the sorts of silly things that seem like a good idea when you’re a 16 year old weirdo. All that silliness made us hungry, so Adam made an egg mess – kind of like an omelet, but less precise.

So in honor of Adam, Emmi, and that long-lost monster, tonight’s dinner was an egg mess, and a damned fine one at that. A handful or two of spinach, an onion, and a Roma tomato sauteed in butter. A couple of eggs beat together, then poured into the warm pan and moved around until just barely cooked through. A few slices of Margaret’s Sweet Wheat, dug out of the freezer and toasted. Fast and delicious.

0121 Dinner borne of desperation

So hungry.  We didn’t have anthing planned because I was going to go to Nia, and Shane needed to work out right away so that he could watch the big Cavs game.  And I was effing starving.  Dinner, then, was whatever was on hand and could be prepared in the shortest amount of time possible.  An egg, fried in bacon fat until the white was just set, then flipped for just a moment.  A pita, toasted then rubbed with a bit of herbed goat cheese.  A handful of spinach tossed on top of the egg, tossed on top of the pita.  The yolk broken open over the pita.  Not quite enough to be a satisfying meal, but enough to make it through the evening with only a cup of hot chocolate later.  Such is the beauty of an eggy meal.

0121 Dinner borne of desperation