Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Green Eggs and Ham Grilled Cheese


Do you like green eggs and ham? Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse? Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? Would you? Could you? In a car? Eat them! Eat them! Here they are!

Most people in the English-speaking world should at least be familiar with Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. As a concept, they are quite gross. Think rotten eggs and ham. But truly, they are one of the most epic combinations to be recreated in the home kitchen using clever techniques to add green color to eggs and ham.

Ready to grill this cheese!

An easy way to achieve this would be to make a ham omelet with pureed greens, but an even more fun idea is to take this idea and transform it into a grilled cheese blurring the line between breakfast and lunch.

Everything's better with a fried egg on top

The key ingredient here is sage Derby cheese. Now this is not your ordinary cheese. I sought out this green-hued cheese at local cheese shops and cheese counters at well-stocked supermarkets in my area with no success.

I found it available online, but at an obnoxious price once accounting for shipping (and with a requirement to purchase way more cheese than I really needed). I put this cheese search on the back burner, hoping it would turn up someday, and luckily for me it did!

I was recently visiting family in Montreal, doing some grocery shopping at my favorite grocery store ever Marché Adonis. Lo and behold in my peripheral vision in the cheese display I saw a giant wheel of green cheese. Oh, could it be? Could it be the cheese for me?

It was the sage Derby cheese I had been seeking for weeks! Needless to say, I purchased some of that cheese immediately and even shared the excitement on my Instagram account for the world to share in my joy!

So the sage Derby cheese is literally the glue the holds this sandwich together, and is also what makes it "green." The cheese is also absolutely delicious on its own, and is reminiscent of a good cheddar.

With that said, the other ingredients are just as important. Egg enriched challah bread makes this sandwich extra special, along with thinly sliced ham, and a fried egg with lots and lots of runny golden yolk.

Sandwich #2 created an egg yolk avalanche over Mickey ;-)

If you can find a source for sage Derby cheese, seriously make this sandwich! It's so yummy, and it's actually super easy to make (way easier than it was for me to buy this cheese). Another cheese would also be great in this sandwich, but it would no longer be "green." You can definitely fry your egg alongside your sandwich in the same pan, but I tried both ways and preferred frying mine in a separate frying pan. No biggie either way.

Green Eggs and Ham Grilled Cheese
Serves 2
(From Grilled Cheese Kitchen)

1 tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
4 slices challah or pain de mie
4 slices sage Derby cheese
4 oz (115 g) thinly sliced ham
2 eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter and sage until well blended.

Spread half the sage butter on one side of two of the bread slices, dividing it evenly. Place both slices, buttered-side down, on a clean cutting board. Place one slice of the Derby on each bread slice, then lay half of the ham on top of the cheese on one slice.

Using a wide spatula, transfer the two breads, buttered-side down, to the hot skillet. Coat a clear area in the pan with nonstick cooking spray, then carefully crack one of the eggs into the greased space. Sprinkle the egg with salt and pepper (I cooked my egg in a separate smaller frying pan).

While the egg is cooking, keep an eye on your breads. When the bottoms are nicely browned and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes, return them to the cutting board. When the egg white is mostly cooked through, carefully flip the egg with a silicone spatula. (Don’t worry if you break the yolk; it will still be delicious.) Cook for about 30 seconds longer, or until the egg white is fully cooked but the yolk is still soft.

Slide the fried egg on top of the ham and gently place the other bread on top, cheese-side down. Cut the sandwich in half, if desired, and serve. Repeat to cook and assemble the second sandwich.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Penne with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Sausage


Looking for a delicious way to use up some very in season eggplant? We've been getting tons of eggplant weekly from our local CSA, and it's fun coming up with different ways to use it! An easy and super satisfying option is to make this twist on a classic pasta alla norma, a Sicilian pasta dish featuring eggplant, tomato sauce, and basil. This version adds another layer of flavor with some sausage. You could use spicy or sweet, but even the sweet had so much flavor and just a tiny bit of heat.

The original recipe called for only 8 ounces of pasta for a heck of a lot of sauce. We bumped it up to 12 ounces of gluten-free penne, but even a pound of pasta could have comfortably handled this quantify of sauce. This pasta turned out excellent, and was truly umami to the 9th degree.

P.S. Please forgive the quality of these photos. I took them with my iPhone as I didn't have my DSLR with me, and had not originally intended to blog this recipe, but it turned out so good I just couldn't resist :-D

Penne with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Sausage
Serves 4
(Adapted from Saveur)

1 medium to large eggplant, or 2 smaller eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
5 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Italian sausage (sweet or spicy), casing removed
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
16 fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
12 ounces penne pasta*

Heat oven to 500°F. Put eggplant on baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes. Add sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up into small pieces until browned, 16 to 18 minutes. Add tomatoes and half the basil, season with salt, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir reserved eggplant into tomato and sausage sauce. Pour over the pasta and toss to combine. Stir in remaining basil and season with salt if needed.

*Note* The original recipe called for 8 ounces of pasta, which was obscenely small for the amount of sauce. 12 ounces of pasta still yielded a very saucy, albeit delicious, final product. You could probably get away with making this recipe using a full pound of pasta if you desire.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Irish Brown Bread (Soda Bread)


With the incredibly low fares to Ireland from the Northeast, I'm anxious to plan my own trip in the near future to the Emerald Isle. Until that dream becomes a reality (and I sure hope that's soon!), I'm content to satisfy my stomach with Irish delights made in my own kitchen (or perhaps even served in traditional Irish pubs in the States).

One of the simplest and most traditional tastes of Ireland is Irish Brown Bread or Irish Soda Bread. The "soda" refers to the fact that baking soda is used for leavening as opposed to yeast like traditional bread. Irish Brown Bread or Soda Bread is a staple served with a full Irish breakfast across the pond.

When I recently happened upon a local cheese shop carrying a fascinating and delicious cheddar infused with mustard seeds and ale, I knew this would require some very special bread to accompany it. Enter this recipe for Irish Brown Bread, courtesy of an actual Irish woman from Ireland :)

Before baking

After baking

This bread is delicately sweet and nutty with a tender but firm crumb and a crispy, crumbly crust. It would be ideal served with soup or stew, especially after a day or two when the crumb will start to dry out a tad. It was a lovely accompaniment to my cheese as well!

Please note that this makes a rather large free-form loaf of bread. I would consider making a smaller loaf in the future if I know I will be unable to finish the loaf off within a couple days, as the texture does change over the course of a few days.

Irish Brown Bread (Soda Bread)
Makes 1 loaf
(Adapted from Mary O'Callaghan via Bon Appetit)

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray (I lined it with parchment paper instead). Whisk both flours, sugar, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and cut in until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add buttermilk; stir until shaggy dough forms.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 9-inch round (the round should be about 1 inch high). Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to the edges of the round.

Bake bread in center of oven until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped (a bamboo skewer inserted into the center of the bread should emerge clean without any stickiness or moistness), about 55-60 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Blackberry Pie


Blackberries are not typically my favorite berries for snacking, as they contain larger seeds than other berries. I do, however, ADORE dishes made with blackberries, such as blackberry sorbet, blackberry cobbler, and blackberry pie. Somehow I don't mind the seeds as much when blackberries are baked in or under a crust ;-)

This blackberry pie from pie master Kate McDermott was featured in Saveur Magazine's 2008 Saveur 100 issue, with its picture on the cover and centerfold. The recipe shared below is as written in McDermott's cookbook Art of the Pie, with my notes in italics.

The current version of this recipe on Saveur's website includes some tweaks in the instructions that I would personally agree with, such as sprinkling the sugar on top before baking rather than partway through (so it sticks better), and pre-heating a sheet pan in the oven before placing the pie dish on top of it, or on the rack above it.

Filling prior to mixing

After a bit of mixing and smushing

I didn't do this, but have in the past, and probably should have this time. I simply placed my pie dish on top of a foil-covered sheet pan and then placed into the oven, which is perhaps also why mine took longer to fully bake since the sheet pan must have absorbed quite a bit of the heat. I also baked in a ceramic pie dish which sometimes takes longer to bake than metal or glass ones.

Before baking

McDermott uses an egg white wash as opposed to an egg yolk or whole egg wash, which actually was ideal in this case as it prevented the crust from seriously over-browning in what turned out to be a lengthy bake time, about an extra 80 minutes instead of 40 minutes at the lower temp.

I didn't have to tent foil over the edges as I sometimes do for other pies. It baked evenly and beautifully. Next time I may use the convection feature on my oven, but otherwise do not mind waiting longer to ensure a perfectly baked pie. It's all about watching for the signs (golden crust and bubbling filling) and less about what the timer says.

Just for fun, I made a polka dot top crust using a couple different sized round cutters. Next time, I would probably just stick with the one smaller round cutter, and I would space them out a bit more to have a greater top crust to filling ratio, but regardless I think this turned out great and was a fun way to vent the pie filling in a decorative way without using one of the more standard methods.

Also, it's reminiscent of my favorite character in all the World, Minnie Mouse.

Full disclosure, I didn't pick my own berries. I'm sure that is ideal, and if I had easy access to blackberry bushes of my own I certainly would. There is a local farm that offers pick-your-own-berries, but I sometimes find these excursions end up costing more than purchasing pre-picked berries elsewhere, believe it or not. My store-bought organic blackberries were quite lovely, and on SALE :)

In any case, this blackberry pie turned out quite phenomenal! It's perfect for late summer, as this is the height of blackberry season. I think I've been doing a pretty good job keeping up with my resolution to bake more pies! This blackberry pie is one of the prettiest ones yet.

Flavor-wise this pie is spot on. It's not too sweet and not too tart. Kind of like the Goldilocks of pie filling. My filling set beautifully, yielding picture perfect slices of pie. This is always my goal, but I sometimes end up with looser fillings, still delicious but just not quite as easy to slice and serve (case in point, this tasty but juicy strawberry balsamic pie).

I can't think of a better way enjoy the flavors of late summer than to whip up a blackberry pie as delightful as this one, with its epic, flaky and buttery crust and simple, yet extraordinary fresh blackberry filling.

Blackberry Pie
Makes one 9-inch deep-dish pie
(From Art of the Pie)

6 cups (680 g), about 1 1/2 pounds blackberries, fresh picked or unthawed frozen (I used 725 g store-bought fresh organic blackberries)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 small grating of freshly ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons (10 g) freshly squeezed lemon juice and a few gratings of lemon zest (I used lime juice and zest)
1/3 teaspoon (2 g) salt
1/3 cup (48 g) flour
1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (2 to 12 g) quick cooking tapioca; add the larger amount if the berries are especially juicy (I used 7 g tapioca starch)
1 recipe double-crust pie dough (I used McDermott's All-Butter Dough, but her Leaf Lard and Butter Dough recipe is used on the Saveur page)
1 tablespoon (14 g) butter (oops, I actually forgot to add this myself, but it still turned out delicious)
2 teaspoons (8 g) sugar, for sprinkling on top of pie

Egg wash:
1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon (15 g) water, fork beaten

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the blackberries, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, zest, salt, flour, and tapioca into a bowl and stir and fold until everything is evenly coated. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash gently to make a textured filling.

Roll out the bottom dough and place it in your pie pan.

Pour the filling into the crust, dot it with butter and set it aside.

Roll out the remaining dough, lay it over the fruit, trim, crimp, and cut 5 to 6 vents on top, or cut strips and weave a lattice top.

Brush the crust with the egg white mixture.

Bake at 425 degrees F on the middle rack of the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F; bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes more (mine baked an additional 80 minutes!). When there are about 10 minutes of bake time left, open the oven, pull the pie out, and quickly and evenly sprinkle the top of the pie with sugar (I did this around the 20 minute mark, so it baked about another hour with the sugar on top, but didn't burn--in the future I would likely sprinkle the sugar on at the start so it can better stick to the egg wash).

Let the pie cool before serving so the filling can set up.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Home-Style Chicken Kebat


Kebat is a classic Burmese stir-fry dish that is common throughout homes in Myanmar (formerly Burma), but not typically found in restaurants there. San Francisco eatery Burma Superstar has brought this comforting dish front and center and serves it with a variety of protein options including chicken, beef, shrimp, and tofu.

In the cookbook of the same name, all of these recipes are available in both restaurant-style and home-style variations. The main difference is the spice mixtures used, but both include the standard sliced onion and tomato wedge components along with a fragrant finish of cilantro.

I elected to try the home-style chicken kebat, which is insanely easy to make. It features Madras curry powder and a hit of fish sauce along with a generous amount of garlic. The flavors are simple yet exquisite. A slight crunch from the onions, juicy and sweet tomatoes, and delicious warmth from the curry powder all soaking into grains of plain rice. The book suggests jasmine, but I used basmati since that's what I usually have on hand.

I tossed the chicken with the cilantro at the very end, but you can simply sprinkle it over the top when you serve it. Either way, this kebat is quick, easy, and full of flavor, making it a solid choice for a weeknight excursion from the norm. I would love to try it with some of the other proteins like shrimp and beef in the future.

Home-Style Chicken Kebat
Serves 3 to 4; 6 as part of a larger meal
(from Burma Superstar)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 to 6 thighs) (I used chicken tenders)
1 1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small to medium-yellow onion
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons water
2 Roma tomatoes, each cut into 6 to 8 wedges
Handful of cilantro sprigs, coarsely chopped, for garnish
1 lime or lemon, cut into wedges for garnish

Slice the chicken into strips no wider than a 1/2 inch. Transfer to a bowl and use your hands to mix the chicken with the curry powder, fish sauce, and salt. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients, or refrigerate overnight.

Halve, peel, and core the onion. Slice half the onion thinly, and finely dice the remaining half. Set the onion slices aside to add at the end.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the chicken and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the water and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Mix in the sliced onion and tomatoes and cook for about 1 minute more. The onions should still be crisp in the center (not completely wilted). Serve with the cilantro on top and lime wedges alongside.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rock Cakes for Harry Potter


Harry Potter's birthday was this past Monday, July 31st. You may have noticed yet another Harry Potter marathon on Freeform if you live in the States and subscribe to cable. I can't quite help myself from tuning into any Harry Potter marathon, although I've seen the films dozens of times and own them myself.

In honor of Harry's birthday, my friend Camille and I decided to create a small feast for dinner that night. We made a couple recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, which shares recipes of dishes mentioned throughout the series.

The main star of our meal was bangers and mash, or sausages and mashed potatoes with onion gravy. The recipe we used came from the Harry Potter cookbook, but here is a similar recipe that I have made before and also greatly enjoyed. Both recipes feature homemade sausages without casings, but the sausages themselves differ a bit, as do the mash and gravy recipes.

We cooked the bangers and mash together at dinnertime (which watching, you guessed it, Harry Potter), but earlier in the day I had whipped up our dessert for the evening: rock cakes. Hagrid's rock cakes are mentioned no less than 3 times in the Harry Potter series.

While Hagrid's are reminiscent of actual rocks, and are quite unpalatable, these rock cakes are lovely in comparison. Rock cakes are essentially free-form scones or drop biscuits. These are somewhat cinnamony, and studded with a plethora of plump raisins.

Whether you are belatedly celebrating dear Harry's fictional birth, or simply seeking a delicate and easy-to-make sweet treat, these rock cakes blow Hagrid's out of the water. Chances are you already have all of these ingredients in your pantry, so grab a mixing bowl and get cracking!

Rock Cakes
Makes 12
(From The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/3 cup whole milk (I used low-fat, and it turned out fine)
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a large cookie sheet (I simply lined my baking sheet with parchment paper instead). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture reaches the consistency of wet sand.

Beat the egg together with the milk and pour it into the flour-butter mixture. Fold it together using a spatula to form a stiff dough. Fold in the raisins. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bottoms are golden, rotating the pan midway through baking.

*Note* For rock-hard rock cakes like Hagrid's, just bake them for too long and eat them a week later at your own risk!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos & Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday cause to celebrate because tacos feed my soul AND my belly. I am a long-standing Mexican food aficionado, and tacos reign supreme in my world. One of the reasons I love tacos so much is their versatility. There are so many filling and topping combinations, along with several options for how to get those fillings and toppings into your mouth. Are you a crunchy or soft taco lover? Corn or flour tortillas? I tend to gravitate toward the more traditional soft corn tortillas, but everyone's a winner here so eat tacos whichever way you love!

There are countless ways to fill your tacos, whether it's a basic ground beef filling, shrimp, or even mushrooms for a vegetarian variation. Today I will be sharing an excellent recipe for Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos. The marinade is simple enough to make once you procure some dried ancho and guajillo chiles. They are soaked until softened and blended with spices to create an adobo paste perfect for slathering over your chicken. I let mine marinate for a good 9 hours or so, but you can also cook it immediately if you don't have time to spare.

The resulting chicken is juicy and flavorful. It's not particularly spicy so it's great for adults and children alike. These tacos get creative when you start building the toppings. I'm a big fan of this spicy avocado-tomatillo salsa which would be fantastic on these chicken tacos!

On this particular Taco Tuesday I opted for a simple schmear of sour cream, some diced tomatoes, and a very rough, chunky guacamole. The following day with leftover chicken and tortillas, I switched it up with a bit of refried beans spread on the tortillas, more avocado to top, and a few slices of homemade pickled jalapenos for spice and acidity.

And let's not forget the importance of delicious libations served with said tacos. I'm a margarita lover through and through, and these Hibiscus Margaritas are super refreshing and beautifully pink. On this particular occasion, however, I was dining with a pregnant friend so margaritas were out of the question. I blended up the most simple yet out-of-this-world Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca to stand in alongside our tacos.

Aguas Frescas are my new-found obsession. They are crazy easy to make, and so fresh and revitalizing that I can't believe I haven't been making them for years. Again, they are fun for the whole family since they are non-alcoholic, and there are so many variations to try. This strawberry-lime version is exquisite, and a wonderful way to get started. It reminds me of a slightly watered-down strawberry nectar. It's delicately sweet, and just exploding with the flavor of fresh strawberries with nothing to muddle or detract from it.

Both these tacos and the agua fresca are simple enough to make for a weeknight, so there's no reason you can't whip them up tonight if you feel so inclined. I myself am ready for a taco coma right about now, and these tacos look just right for getting me there.

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos
Makes 16 to 20 tacos
(Adapted from Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales)

4 dried ancho chiles (about 2 ounces), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
4 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
1/2 cup water, plus more for soaking the chiles
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chicken tenders, cutlets, or boneless, skinless thighs
About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For serving:
Warm corn or flour tortillas
Diced avocado (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream or Mexican crema (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)
Finely chopped white onion (optional)

Combine the chiles in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them (I use hot but not boiling water). Soak the chiles until they're soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water.

Place the drained chiles in a blender. Add the 1/2 cup water, ginger, salt, cumin, and pepper and blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the pitcher with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute. (The mixture will be thick—don't add extra water.) You will yield about 1 cup of chile purée.

Put the chicken in a bowl, add 1/2 cup of the chile puree (the rest can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for a few months to make another batch of tacos in the future), and rub it onto the chicken until the meat is well coated. At this point you can cook the chicken right away, or cover and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

Preheat a grill, griddle, or large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to add a thin sheen to the grill grates or pan. Season the chile-slathered breasts with salt and cook, in batches if necessary, until they're well browned on both sides and just cooked through, turning them over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then slice or dice it for tacos, and serve with the tortillas and your choice of garnishes.

Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca
Serves 6 to 8
(From Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales)

1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Ice cubes

Blend the strawberries, sugar, and lime juice with 4 cups of water until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a large pitcher. Use a spoon to scoop off the foam that forms on the surface and discard it. Gradually season the agua fresca to taste with sugar and lime juice. Chill the pitcher in the fridge, then stir thoroughly and pour the agua fresca into ice-filled glasses.


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