Monday, April 30, 2012

Celebration Fish Tacos



How many of our readers know the reason that Cinco de Mayo is a special day?

(And it's not what you may be thinking.)

Contrary to popular belief, it is not Mexico's Independence Day (which actually falls on September 16).  Instead, Cinco de Mayo venerates the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, when the Mexican Army successfully defeated French forces.

Whatever the historical reason, the real reason we celebrate this special day is that Mexican food is sooooo good...and it gives us an excuse to make a mean Margarita.

This Saturday, Keri and I are hosting a Cinco de Mayo dinner party for eight.  We're planning a sumptuous multi-course fiesta with a lime dominated menu comprising:

  • spicy grilled shrimp with a squeeze of lime
  • home made guacamole and tortilla chips
  • fish tacos
  • lime 'slaw
  • lime pie

Think there's a theme emerging here...

A friend and neighbor offered up her go-to kid friendly fish taco recipe a while ago.  It tasted phenomenal, so we thought to run it again here.

Fish Tacos
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
4 tilapia fillets, or other firm white fish
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. chili powder, or to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
Canola oil for frying
1 package small flour or blue corn tortillas
Salsa (see recipe) - I just use diced tomatoes but don't skip the taco sauce!! It's good!
Fish Taco Sauce (see recipe)


Combine cabbage and onion; set aside.

Cut fish into 1 inch strips, 4 to 5 inches long.  Mix bread crumbs and chili powder in a shallow dish.  Place beaten egg in a separate dish.  Dip fish strips in egg, then dredge in bread crumbs.  Heat canola oil in a large skillet.  Fry fish in hot oil for 3 minutes on each side until crispy brown; drain.

Warm tortillas in damp paper towel in a microwave for 1 minute. To assemble, place fish on a tortilla. Top with cabbage mixture and sauce and salsa. Serves 4


Salsa
1 cup seeded and chopped tomato
1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine and serve.

Fish Taco Sauce
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients.   Serve fish taco sauce at room temp.  


Preferring something slightly spicier for the adults, we are planning to test out a hotter version of the taco sauce.  Not for the faint-hearted, it's going to be amped up with a dash of Beck's hot sauce.


Devilishly Gooooood.






Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Indian Banquet featuring Shrimp Curry



Bengali shrimp curry - an elegant and light dish
We've been looking forward to this invitation for the last month!  This friend of a friend has legendary Diwali parties and is a renowned hostess - and, more importantly, cook. 
In anticipation of this Indian banquet, we skipped lunch, having been promised, okra, lamb, smoked eggplant, daal, homemade roti and a Bengali shrimp curry.  Our hostess comes from Bombay yet the dishes she presented came from all corners of the Indian subcontinent.
The scene was set - rather beautifully we might add...


The weather cooperated so we could sit outside and smell the herbs and spices charring onto a rack of lamb:
Photos tell the story best, so without further prevarication, here goes.









The okra was a personal favorite.  It was mildly spiced and had a wonderful crunchy texture

The daal (which is also spelled dahl, dal or even dahl, according to Wikipedia!) included two different types of lentils - one green and one yellow.  It was a splendid bright yellow concoction infused with subtle spices and fresh cilantro. 
Accompanying the lamb, shrimp curry and vegetable sides was an unforgettable smoked eggplant yoghurt dish; we promise to obtain the recipe for this and share it with you!  This yoghurt side would work wonderfully with any grilled meat over the Summer to expect to hear from us soon...

The range of colors, tastes and textures of this meal was just perfect.

If you'd like to try out the shrimp curry for yourself, here's a recipe taken from http://www.allrecipes.com/.  You can tweak the chili/spice quantities depending on how hot you take your food. 

A last tip from our hostess..she suggests switching out "ghee" (a clarified butter which is a mainstay in all Indian cooking) for olive oil or other unsaturated oil in any recipes you find.   This lightens the dish generally and helps cut calories.

Have fun.

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 tom1 chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 green chile peppers, seeded and minced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet, and cook and stir onions until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic paste, turmeric, garam masala, green chile peppers, and salt, and cook for 2 minutes more.
  2. Reduce heat to low, add the shrimp, and cook and stir over low heat until the shrimp are bright pink on the outside and the meat is no longer transparent in the center, about 8 minutes. Add a small amount of water if needed; the sauce should be thick. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Earth Day Veggie Balls


 

Earth day has come and gone, but this recipe, developed in honor of this occasion by our friends at Marabella Meatball Company, is here to stay.  Tasked with finding a with a healthy way to celebrate Earth Day, Marabella's chefs came up with the Veggie Ball, which showcases a variety of ingredients that, well, come from the Earth.  This dovetailed nicely with our pasta theme, so we thought we'd share their recipe.
 


Marabella’s Veggie Balls – yield approx. 15 balls, 2 ½ oz. each
 
INGREDIENTS

Make a base consisting of:
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper, parsley to taste
Mix and refrigerate base.

1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
4 oz. chick peas rinsed, roughly chopped
1 lb. of cauliflower cooked, cool then roughly chopped
1/2 lb. of broccoli cooked, cool then roughly chopped

DIRECTIONS
Add all ingredients to the refrigerated base. Mix well by hand. Add extra bread crumbs as needed to help form into a ball.
These are very delicate and cannot be rolled but must be ‘shaped’ into a ball.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with marinara sauce, atop pasta if desired.

Do you have any variations on the traditional meatball that you'd be willing to share?  If so, send them our way!

Happy Belated Earth Day.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Talking Pasta with La Cucina's Anna Florio



To look at Anna Florio, Owner of  La Cucina at the Market, you don't immediately think "food".  She is strikingly lovely, has charisma to spare,  a warmth that makes you feel you've been friends forever,  she's always impeccably dressed, and she's slender.   But you would quickly be reminded not to judge a book by its cover, for Anna is a serious Chef.  Her cooking school and demonstration kitchen in Reading Terminal Market just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Having grown up with deep Italian culinary traditions, which included spending summers at her Grandparents' home in Campania, Italy, Anna is passionate about Italian food.  Our conversation naturally turned to pasta.

"I remember learning to make pasta dough with my grandmother, and even though it sounds silly, part of the key to great pasta is to put some love into it.  Make it by hand.  Feel the dough.  I use a blend of  unbleached white flour and semolina flour."

When asked about dry vs. fresh pasta, Anna's offers some interesting observations:  "Sometimes dry is better.  You can't really make fresh pasta al dente--that firm 'to the teeth' texture that epitomizes perfectly cooked pasta.  Sure, fresh is wonderful in a dish like pappardalle bolognese, where you want that rich, chewy noodle, or pesto, or for a filled pasta like ravioli.  But one of my favorite pasta dishes is penne with marinara sauce--made with dry, boxed penne cooked just al dente."

We also had to ask about the strict Italian edict banning Parmesan cheese on seafood pasta.  (I confess to dousing my linguine and clams with generous scoops of grated cheese.)  Anna disproves--but in the nicest possible way.  "Seafood and dairy just don't mix for traditionalists.  One thing to consider is the innate saltiness of seafood, and when you add a salty Parmesan it is overkill.  I also don't feel that the saltiness of the fish mixes will with the dairy of the cheese--salt and milk simply don't go together."

To see Anna in action, try one of her upcoming classes:  Brunch Italiano, Fish without Fear, or my personal favorite:  Handmade Pasta for Two.

Watch for upcoming posts featuring pasta ideas--not to mention Anna's big reveal on the fatal mistake that most Americans make when cooking Marinara.  Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Italian Fest at the Reading Terminal Market

Anna of La Cucina divulged the secrets to making traditional filled cannolis
This Saturday the Reading Terminal Market was transformed into a Italian "mercato"...

Center Court was packed with vendors selling speciality products such as porchetta, fresh pasta, cheeses, wines, gelato (from Cappogiro of course), and much more!   Market stalwarts such as Molly Malloys, By George and Beck's touted traditional Italian foods such as paninis, pizza and strombolis while the Munier Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra serenaded shoppers and visitors for much of the afternoon.


"Sounds like the soundtrack for The Godfather," quipped one passerby.
A highlight of the Italian Fest was the action-packed Italian cooking demonstration which took place in La Cucina.  Chef and owner Anna Florio, who is herself of Italian origin, took this opportunity to share favorite recipes with the next generation of potential chefs and market shoppers.


Helping with the salad takes on a new meaning as these two volunteers vigorously shred Romaine lettuce.

Another volunteer rather more gingerly helps prep the citrus for the salad.



Photo opportunity anyone?
One of the most charming aspect of this Italian Fest is that many children and teens threw themselves into the festivities.  These cut out boards for example provided a photo opportunity for family members and were much enjoyed.

Aside from being a foodie heaven, the Reading Terminal Market is a great destination for visiting families, tourists to the City and locals.  Events like the Italian Fest help put the Market on the map, combining food, fun and educational opportunities.

Ever wondered what's on the inside of a muffaletta, for instance?

We found out, thanks to Chef Bill Beck...

Ever thought you should try a wheatgrass shot from the Market's juice bar??? 

I was talked into it by my teen son on Saturday.  Hmmmm. 

Wish I hadn't.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Stella's Lamb Bolognese









Most people visit Stella for their, um, stellar pizza.  But their non-pizza items are worth exploring.    In honor of this week's focus on lamb, we sampled their lamb bolognese, promptly fell in love, and their chef was kind enough to share the recipe.  This version serves 12, which is a hefty batch.  If you announce that you are making Stella's lamb bolognese, however, we're certain that you'll fill the seats at your table quickly.  If not, you can freeze what's left.






Stella's Stellar Lamb Bolognese

3 lbs ground lamb
10 cloves garlic (minced)
2T Spanish paprika
1T fennel seed (toasted & ground)
1T coriander (toasted &  ground)
1T black pepper (ground)
2t cumin (toasted & ground)
2t ground cinnamon
1t cayenne pepper
1t sumac
1ea red bell pepper (small dice)
1ea red onion (small dice)
½  spanish onion (small dice)
1 stalk celery (small dice)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2t crushed red pepper
2t piment d’ espilette (Basque chili powder; order here)
2C spicy red wine
1QT lamb stock (use chicken if unavailable)
2C whole milk
2C crushed tomato
2 oranges (juice and zest)
sachet: 1oz parmesan rinds, 6 sprigs thyme, 6 sprigs oregano, 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1t black peppercorns
1C pistachio gremolata (recipe follows)
cooked rigatoni pasta (5oz per person)
unsalted butter  (1t per portion)
grated parmigianno regianno (1T per portion)
extra virgin olive oil (1T per portion)
minced flat leaf parsley (1T per portion)
S&P to taste

Method
For the Bolognese:

1.     combine first 10 ingredients and refridgerate for 48hrs allowing the spice to permeate the  meat
2.     sweat  onions , celery, red pepper,  and remaining garlic until translucent
3.     add crushed pepper and piment d’ espilette and toast until fragrant
4.     add lamb/spice mixture and cook through breaking apart meat as it cooks, seasoning with S&P as you go
5.     deglaze with red wine and reduce by half
6.     add remaining ingredients (stopping at  gremolata) and simmer slowly until texture is meaty with very little liquid (about 3hrs)

For the Gremolata (combine the following):

1C grated parmesan cheese toasted in a low oven on non-stick pan until golden brown
1C fine bread crumbs toasted
½ C pistachio dust
1T chili flakes
Rind from 4 preserved lemons finely minced
6 sprigs rosemary leaves minced
S&P to taste
To Finish:

Combine hot pasta with Bolognese sauce and allow to cook for a couple minutes  so pasta can absorb the flavor, finish with butter, cheese, olive oil, parsley and gremolata. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Farah's Indian Lamb

We love Indian food.  Regrettably, and despite the burgeoning local food scene, we have not found a really good, authentic Indian restaurant in Philly.  (Recommendations welcome.)  Happily, we have several Indian friends who are marvelous cooks and we make it a point to appear at their dining tables on a regular basis in order to enjoy this favorite cuisine.

We've featured Farah Kapoor before; she's our go-to girl for Indian recipes, and we couldn't very well showcase lamb without a curry. 

 So here, in all its glory, is Farah's Lamb Rendang.  (See cook's notes and ingredient sources below.)
Lamb Rendang Recipe (Spicy Lamb Curry)

Equipment:

Crock Pot

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs boneless leg of lamb (or any other stewing meat), cut into cubes
7 tablespoons oil
1/4 piece turmeric leaf (optional), thinly shredded
10 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2-inch length
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
2 small sized potatoes (optional), peeled, and cut into bite-size
salt and sugar to taste

Spice Paste:

3 tablespoons oil
10 dried red chilis, soaked in warm water and seeds removed
5 fresh red chilis, seeds removed
2 stalks lemongrass (white part only), lightly smashed
7 shallots, or 1 small red onion
1 clove garlic
1/2-inch ginger, peeled
1/2-inch galangal  peeled (if not available, skip and double amt of ginger)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 candlenut OR 4 cashews, lightly smashed
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Method:

1. Plug in the crock pot/slow cooker and turn setting to High. Blend all Spice Paste ingredients in a food processor until fine. Scoop out, and set aside. Season lamb cubes with a little salt and put aside.

2. In a wok, heat up oil, stir-fry turmeric leaf and kaffir lime leaves until fragrant.

3. Turn heat to slightly medium-high, add blended Spice Paste, stir-fry until fragrant, or until color changes for 5 minutes.

4. Put in lamb cubes, stir well and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

5. Pour in coconut milk and toasted coconut and bring to a quick boil. Turn off heat and move all pre-cooked contents from wok into crock pot and braise for 1 1/2 hours.

6. Remove pot cover, stir and check to make sure the dish is not too dry and the lamb is tender enough to your liking.

7. Mix in potatoes, cover pot, and continue cooking for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough. Turn off heat. Unplug crock pot and allow the dish to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The sauce will slowly evaporate, and may appear slightly dry and thickened. The Lamb Rendang is ready to dish up. Serve with steamed white rice or coconut rice.

Cook’s Notes:

You may substitute coconut milk for yogurt, milk, evaporated milk or other dairy products, however it will alter the taste of an authentic Rendang.

Desiccated coconut may be replaced with a two tablespoons of coconut milk.

Rendang tastes better when served the next day. If possible, store some overnight in refrigerator.

If you have trouble finding ingredients, we recommend a trip to one of the Indian Grocers in West Philly.  International Food and Spices at 42nd and Walnut (closed Tuesdays) or Dana Mandi Asian Spice at 42nd and Chestnut are both excellent sources. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lamb and Eggplant Lasagne


We practically started a food fight on Facebook this week. 

We asked the innocuous question: "Lamb - love it or loathe it?"  And guess what?   The foodie community is pretty polarized on the matter, much like my family where we're split down the middle with the adults liking and our teenagers refusing to eat the stuff unless it's disguised - as it is in the following recipe.

The comments on the Reading Terminal Market's Facebook page flew thick and fast. 

We shared our recipe for 7-hour lamb and the responses ranged from "yuck" to "love, love, love."  The great lamb divide was best represented by these two Facebook fans one of whom explained:  "Lamb has a funny aftertaste to me, very gamey, no matter how it is cooked."  Another fan thinking aloud pondered: "The majority of people in the U.S. haven't been exposed to Lamb as a meat.  To them it's more of a delicacy, like veal or oysters."  This could be true.  Whereas in European and Middle Eastern cuisines Lamb is a central ingredient, it is less prominent in the American kitchen.

Whether you are a Lamb lover or not, the following recipe is easy to prepare and is a nice twist on a traditional family favorite.  I served it to my teens this weekend and they had no idea they were eating Lamb!

Lamb and Eggplant Lasagne
Greek flavor, like a moussaka, only bulked up with pasta.  I've always wondered whether it would work adding lasagne sheets to a traditional Greek moussaka recipe.  This recipe seems to follow the Greek theme as it calls for feta cheese, which I think will add an interesting twist to these flavors.

Ground lamb is not readily found - except for at Reading Terminal Market!  When making Lamb Kofta or a dish like this requiring ground lamb, we usually ask the folks at Giuntas to grind us fresh lamb mince.

Pulled this recipe from an extraordinary website, which is dedicated to lamb.  Ran through the list and thought "gotta make that." "that one sounds good," "but so does that..."  Check it out for yourself.  It's called Lambrecipes.org - it's chockful of ideas.

Ingredients:
30 (1/4-inch thick) sliced eggplant
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
3 cups fine bread crumbs
1 cup vegetable oil, divided
1 pound feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups prepared b├ęchamel or Alfredo sauce
12 ready-to-use lasagna slices
Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Sea salt, to taste
2 cups finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrot
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 cups beef broth
2 (15-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1) Prepare the sauce: Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add lamb; season with red pepper and salt. Brown on all sides, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, except cheese, to pot; whisk well to mix. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered, 2 hours. Whisk in cheese; cool to room temperature.

2) Prepare the eggplant: Coat eggplant slices in flour; dip into egg mixture; dip into bread crumbs. Shake off excess. Heat ½ cup of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high. Add eggplant in small batches; cook until golden and crisp, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Remove eggplant to paper towels; repeat with remaining slices.

3) Preheat oven to 375°F. Assemble the lasagna: Lightly grease a lasagna baking pan. Spread 2 cups prepared lamb sauce over bottom of pan. Crumble ¼ cup feta cheese over sauce. Layer 10 slices eggplant over cheese. Cover with a layer of lasagna slices. Repeat with remaining ingredients to form 3 layers total.

4) Spread b├ęchamel sauce over the top of lasagna; sprinkle with any remaining cheese.

5) Bake until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm.


 With some sauteed greens and a loaf of crusty bread, our Sunday night was complete.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lamb. Love it or loathe it?

Seasonal, flavorful, and melt in your mouth tender--this Seven Hour Lamb was a hit at our holiday table!


Few people are on the fence when it comes to lamb.

Some find the taste too gamy--if that's a complaint you may want to try domestic lamb, which experts say is milder in flavor than the imported stuff.  My son, a devout beef eater, says lamb tastes like it isn't cooked enough because it's too 'meaty'.  Of course, he would happily eat a burger 365 days a year, so I largely disregard his opinion.  Others object to its un-greenness.  Lamb is considered one of the least eco-friendly foods because of the small amount of meat the animals provide relative to the environmental impact of raising them. 

Others adore it, claiming its distinctive flavor stands up best to robust cuisines like Indian and Mediterranean.

I find myself in the small minority that falls somewhere in the middle.  I like it; I occasionally order it out, and would be pleased to find it served at a dinner party, but I tend not to buy and cook it.  Maybe it hearkens back to overcooked legs of lamb served on the Sundays of my youth, proffered with a revolting glob of bright green mint jelly.   I also find it less useful left over.  Beef can easily become a cheesesteak or a quesadilla tomorrow; lamb, to me is less versatile.

Seven Hour Lamb at about Hour Five


But in honor of spring, I purchased a leg of lamb in anticipation of serving it for Passover or Easter (we do both in our house.)  Imagine my joy when my husband volunteered to take on the responsibility of cooking it for our Seder.  He surfed some food sites and came across this lovely braise:  Gigot a la Sept Heures.    It was relatively easy--just required some oversight and occasional turning and basting.  We actually skipped the final step of adding the tomatoes and potatoes, having planned other sides with the meal, and it was just grand. 

Where do you fall on lamb:  love it or loathe it?  If you love it, send us your fave recipe; after this weekend, I'm moving more into the love zone, so I'm seeking new and different ways to enjoy lamb.  Keep 'em coming, Phoodie Phriends!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eggs as Dessert

These pretty looking eggs are all natural and are available from Fair Food Farmstand
"You've got to go slowly or you'll end with scrambled eggs," warned a helpful friend last week when I mentioned that I was planning to make creme caramel for the first time.  (Tired of writing about savory egg dishes, I thought now is my chance to go sweet...)

While I despise both the ready made refrigerated version of creme caramel or 'flan' as it is marketed in retail grocers, and also the packet version to which you "simply add milk," I'll happily order creme caramel or a creme brulee anytime I see it on the dessert menu at a good restaurant.

With my friend's warning ringing in my ears, I set to work.  Found a five-star recipe on http://www.foodnetwork.com/ and pre-heated the oven...

As I'm trying to use less refined food, I'm only cooking with brown sugar these days.  I didn't expect this to be a problem until I started boiling up the proto-caramel mixture and read the directions which said "boil until the syrup turns golden brown."  Useful that.  The sugar water started off brown - so how can one tell when it's done?

I guessed.

Same recipe instructed me to "whisk" in hot milk mixture to the egg yolk and sugar and vanilla, yet exhorted me to avoid whisking "to prevent excess bubbles."  Now I'm really confused. Why use a whisk if the intention is to avoid aerating the mixture?  Why not use a wooden spoon and gently stir in the hot milk?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  So I must report back on the end results...

Naaaaaah.  This recipe didn't work for me.  I thought the creme caramel custard was too sweet by far and even though I was using mexican vanilla essence, which according to Penzey's Spices is supposed to be the best quality, I thought it needed more vanilla than the recipe called for.



Win some; lose some.  These looked good (I grated cinnamon sugar crystals over the top of each ramekin, which at least made it look a little more interesting..."

Do you have a creme caramel recipe you'd recommend? 

Or do you add a little something extra to your recipe to give it a sparkle? 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg-splosion


If you've read this blog regularly, you know that I am not a great fan of eggs.  Scrambled, yes, omelets and frittatas, sure, especially if they're filled with cheese and other flavor masking ingredients.

But if forced to choose between skipping a meal and a boiled/poached/fried egg, I'd absolutely wait for lunch.

Recently, however, I've been forced to start making soft-boiled eggs.  My teen daughter has taken to heart the old adage "Breakfast like a king, Lunch like a prince, Dine like a pauper" and has requested soft boiled eggs, toast, fruit, milk--essentially, a regal repast to start her day.  While I'm thrilled at her attention to health, I was less enthused by her egg selection seeing as I had no idea how to make a soft boiled egg.  But, never one to shy away from culinary tasks, and feeling confident in the kitchen, I cracked Betty Crocker's Basic Cookbook and followed directions.

The first attempts put to mind the children's story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Despite my vigilant attempts to time the beastly orbs, I was invariably greeted (justifiably, I readily admit) with comments from my daughter ranging from "This is too runny"  to "This is hard-boiled".

The procedure seemed simple enough:  put an egg into a saucepan of water, making sure it is covered by at least 1 inch of water.  Bring to boil  Remove from heat, and leave in hot water for three minutes.  Place in egg cup, slice off top, and consume.  My results were hit and miss, until this morning.

I grabbed a saucepan, and followed the instructions.  But I have to admit, I don't think I fully covered the egg by one inch with water.  When I removed it from the pan and cut off the top, the egg was purely liquid.  My husband suggested that I pop it into the microwave for a few seconds.  I thought that sounded genius, so I gave it a 30 second zap.


Imagine our dismay when the egg exploded in the microwave, spewing yolk and white everywhere.

I made a second attempt at my daughter's breakfast, less catastrophic in terms of the mess, but still substandard in terms of the result.  I then threw in the proverbial towel.  I told my daughter I would be pleased to make her spectacular omelets, cheesy scrambles, even poached or fried eggs every morning til the end of days.  But my soft boiled egg career is at an end.

Have you had any allegedly simple cooking tasks that you simply couldn't master?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

As Seen on TV! Chef Bill's Cajun Frittata



As seen on FOX this week, here’s Chef Bill’s Cajun Frittata recipe.  Serves 4-6 people, depending on how hungry you are!

 

Ingredients

  • 2 andouille sausages thinly sliced
  • 1 stick of celery finely chopped
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, sliced finely
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black papper
  • 1/2 tsp of hot sauce (if liked) or a sprinkling of Beck’s Devil Dust


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in an overproof frypan. Add the andouille and fry until lightly browned. Add peppers, onion and celery and cook until softened. Take pan off stove.
  3. Whisk eggs. Add pepper, hot sauce (if desired) and any other flavorings.
  4. Pour this mixture over andouille/peppers.
  5. Return pan to stove and cook egg mixture until the bottom is firm, but the top is not yet set.
  6. Place the frypan/skillet in the oven and cook until the frittata is set and is turning brown.  
  7. Remove from oven, serve and enjoy.

Try the frittata with a spoonful of Beck’s BBQ Onion Relish…smokin’

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Goody Baskets of Eggs...

The Reading Terminal Market was in the news, or should we say "on" the news this morning when FOX Philly's Good Morning show turned the spotlight on the Market's Easter related produce.

Researchers for the show ran round the Market, scooping up anything vaguely egg-shaped and this is what their scouts came up with....

This cookie basket is filled with real hard boiled eggs, creating a traditional tablepiece - and talking point - for Easter. 

Made by Termini Bros. in Reading Terminal Market, these Easter decorations are also available made from a brioche-like bread.  Termini's sells this Easter bread in a number of entertaining shapes including a colorful braided ring and a leaping bunny rabbit.


Fair Food Farmstand is always the first port of call if you're seeking fresh farm eggs.  Take your pick.  They stock regular chicken eggs, duck eggs and oversized goose eggs.

If you're looking for something special for Easter weekend, feast your eyes on these delicate and naturally colored eggs.  The beautiful pale green/blue eggs are laid by a heritage breed of chicken, the Americana.  The eggs taste just the same, but really are a treat to behold. 

As a fan of quails' eggs, we were hoping to try out Chef Ottolenghi's Royal Potato Salad (with quails eggs) this Easter weekend.  Unfortunately Fair Food are out of stock until next week, so that will just have to wait...


Oh well. 

Cue one great excuse to console oneself with an Easter themed treat from Flying Monkey: 


This chocolate cupcake with its pastel buttercream icing contains a hidden surprise.  Embedded in the cake itself is another little treat - a gem of a chocolate mini  egg from Zitners, of course!

And, if this wasn't enough, don't forget all the Easter goodies to be found at the Pennsylvania General Store.

They'll even custom ice a message on their chocolate Easter eggs for you.  But be quick.  They're selling like hot cakes.


We'll have an 8oz Asher's Dark Chocolate Egg with Buttercream Filling - as you're asking...











Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Happy Passover: Two Secrets to Fluffy Matzoh Balls

Our Seder is quite relaxed.    My husband, having married a non-Jewish woman (my good self), is pretty low key about his faith, so his holidays are more about family getting together for a festive meal than strict religious teachings.  And food is really my religion so it works well.

With Passover on the near horizon, I am busy planning the menu, which always features matzoh ball soup.  This dovetails well with our feature on eggs, because one of the secrets, shared with me by my husband's beloved, late Aunt Sarah, a famously great cook and hostess, involves eggs.  Drum roll, please:  Separate them.

When you prepare the matzoh balls, use whatever recipe you like, but separate the yolks from the whites and whip the whites to a light, frothy near-meringue.  Then gently fold them into the remaining mixture and proceed with the process as planned.

The other secret Aunt Sarah taught me was to use seltzer.  Many recipes call for water or chicken stock.  Ignore them.  These result in leaden balls that seem more appropriate to bouncing off pavement than eating. 

So when we sit down to our feast this weekend, and my spoon cleaves through the soft, fluffy matzoh ball like a hot knife through butter, I'll tip my toque to Aunt Sarah in thanks for sharing her secrets, even with a shiksa.

Happy Passover!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Eggs, Of course, It's Nearly Easter!

Having planned this feature on eggs several months ago to coincide with Easter week, we felt we were in pretty good company when we opened April's Bon Appetit and saw that their editors had the same idea.  (I don't think they copied us, but wouldn't that be something.)

Here's their take on eggs.  I'm eager to try the scrambled version they offer as a creamier, softer version of the skillet standby.  Speaking of, I found another scrambled method in Food and Wine mag recently.  They recommend a poached scramble in which you boil the water and dump the whisked eggs in for about a minute, then drain thoroughly, first in sieve, then in paper towels.  No added fat, super fluffy and light--only drawback is it's difficult to do for a crowd.  But as a quick repast for one or two, it's perfect.


Poached Scrambled Eggs--Try it before you scoff!

Our other go-to egg dish, particularly for a weeknight supper, is a frittata--or as the Spanish say, tortilla.

I'll never forget my first visit to Spain.  I decamped there for a semester abroad, stepped into a cafe and ordered a "tortilla espanola".  In my youth, I was not an eater of eggs in any form, and was dismayed to receive a potato and onion omelet when I expected a round of flat bread.  But the dish grew on me and I soon acquired a taste, as well as a recipe, for this quintessential Spanish meal. 

Tortilla Espanola

1 large potato cut in small cubes
1 small onion, chopped
olive oil
6 large eggs
salt/pepper to taste

In medium saucepan, boil potato cubes til cooked, about 10 minutes.  (Traditionalists fry them in the skillet with oil, but my version cuts fat and splatter.)  Heat onions in oil and saute til soft. When potatoes are done, drain them thoroughly and add to skillet with onions.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs in medium bowl with salt and pepper.  Pour the eggs into the hot skillet and distribute them over the vegetables evenly.  Allow them to cook on medium, gently scraping sides of skillet and tipping it to allow uncooked eggs to seep underneath.  When the bottom of the tortilla is just solidified,  carefully slide the tortilla, cooked side down, onto a plate.  Invert the skillet over the plate and turn the tortilla over so it lands, raw side down, back in the skillet.  Return to the heat and complete cooking.  [NOTE:  if the dexterity required for this operation seems too intimidating, you can pop the skillet into the broiler to finish cooking the top, just be sure to use an oven proof pan or wrap the skillet's plastic handle with several layers of foil.]

Some alternative combos for jazzing up the frittata:
  • olives, sundried tomatoes, scallions, fresh herbs and feta cheese
  • onions, sausage, spinach and provolone
  • fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella
  • ham and cheddar
What's your favorite combination?