Heirloom Tomato Frittata

 

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Tomatoes are coming on strong now and can be found everywhere at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. We are eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Recently, I made this fantastic, flavorful frittata for lunch, but it would do well for any meal.

A frittata is quick and easy to make when you don’t have a lot of time or if you have several people to serve a quick, satisfying breakfast or brunch. The Italian word frittata comes from the Italian verb friggere – to fry, suggests the simplicity of this great dish. A frittata is somewhat like an omelet, however unlike the French omelet, the frittata requires no flipping or folding.

Heirloom Tomato Frittata

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
8 Large eggs
3 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
2 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (more for garnish)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, cut crosswise into 1/4′ slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease 12-inch cast-iron skillet with unsalted butter making sure to grease up the sides. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in cheese, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. When butter is melted, pour egg mixture into pan and cook until eggs begin to turn golden brown around the edges. Arrange tomato slices on top of egg mixture. Allow some slices to sink if they want to.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake frittata until eggs are just set in the center, 8–10 minutes. If desired, turn on broiler for a 3 to 4 minutes to give the top a deeper brown. When eggs are set and frittata is browned to your preferred doneness, loosen frittata from pan and slide onto a warm platter. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme or with additional fresh thyme leaves, slice, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Savory Spinach Pie

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A slice of spinach pie

My favorite farmers’ market in the Cedar Rapids area, the Hiawatha Farmers’ Market, opened this past weekend and I stopped by to say hello to some of my friends.

This market is my favorite because it opens the earliest in the year and is the last to close in the area. It is also just the right size. It isn’t filled with the craziness of the Downtown Farmers’ Market which is more a place to be seen and not a farmers’ market. I build relations with the growers at Hiawatha which is what a market should be.

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Spinach pie cooling after coming out of the oven.

This visit to the year’s first market was simply to reacquaint myself with the vendors. I didn’t buy anything this visit as the offerings were mostly bedding plants. Some of the vendors have large green houses and so they were able to offer some items like lettuces and other greens as well as hot house tomatoes.

One green I am really looking forward to is fresh spinach and that got me thinking; I’m hungry for spinach pie.

Not finding any spinach at the market and a few days latter when this craving became an obsession, I did the next best thing. I went to the organic section of my grocery and bought a couple pounds of spinach. Craving satisfied.

Here is what I did:

Savory Spinach Pie

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh spinach, larger stems removed, washed and thoroughly dried (See note)
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
3 large eggs (one egg is used for an egg wash)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Pie crust for double crust pie

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and beginning to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/4 of the spinach, or whatever will fit in your skillet, and sauté until it cooks down. Repeat this until all the spinach is wilted. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is cooked out, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place spinach in a sieve and press the spinach to remove as much of the remaining liquid as possible. Set aside.

Whisk the cream, 2 eggs, and nutmeg together in a suitable bowl and set aside.

Fit the bottom crust in a 10″ pie pan. Layer half the spinach mixture in the bottom crust and then layer half the grated cheese. Repeat layers. Pour cream and egg mixture over spinach and cheese. Fit top crust over the pie and crimp the edges together. Beat remaining egg in a suitable bowl and brush over top crust with a pastry brush. Slit the top crust with a sharp knife to create steam vents.

Bake in 375F oven for 45 to 50 minutes and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes.

Note: You may substitute 2 10 ounce packages of frozen spinach for fresh. If you choose to do this, thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. After you have sautéed the onion and garlic, add this to the skillet to warm though and incorporate the onion and garlic.

Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches

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Asparagus will soon poke its delicious little spears from the cool earth giving us one more sign it’s spring. There are few things I look forward to in spring more than the fresh, herbaceous taste of freshly cut asparagus. Well, maybe morel mushrooms, but that’s another recipe.

I love how this recipes takes advantage of asparagus and eggs pair well. One of my favorite side dishes is grilled asparagus topped with a poached egg. Because of this, I prefer a medium boiled egg with the yolk still slightly soft in the middle; about a 6 minute boil, but feel free to use a harder set yolk.

This recipe uses my Quick Pickled Red Onions. You will need about 10 to 15 minutes of active cooking time and at least 30 minutes of resting time to prepare them. These store wonderfully for about a month in the refrigerator and are great on so many things. The recipe can be found here: Quick Pickled Red Onions.

Boiled Egg, Seared Asparagus, and Pickled Onion Sandwiches

Makes 2 sandwiches

Ingredients

2 eggs, medium or hard boiled (your preference)
2 demi baguette loaves (may use one regular baguette cut in half)
½ a bunch of asparagus spears (about 15-20 spears)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (approximately, plus more to brush on baguette)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pickled red onion (see Quick Pickled Red Onions recipe link in above introduction)
Spritz of lemon juice
Fresh dill

Directions

Boil the eggs to your desired preference, peel and set aside.

Meanwhile, split two demi baguettes in half and remove a little of the doughy center so the asparagus and egg can fit inside. (The bread that is removed would be wonderful to toss with a bit of olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper then toasted for croutons if you serve a salad with this sandwich.) Brush a little olive oil on each half and toast the bread lightly.

Trim the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Then slice the spears in half length–wise as best you can and place in a large bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the asparagus and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet over high heat and sear the asparagus spears, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. The asparagus will become a darker green and should begin to char in spots.

Place ½ of the asparagus on the bottom half of bread then top with one egg and pickled onion. Spread Dijon mustard on top half of bread and then sprinkle with dill. Spritz a little lemon all over the interior of the sandwich. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat for other sandwich and serve with crisp salad.

Cream and Butter Basted Eggs

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I used what I call the cover method to baste these eggs in heavy cream and butter.

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Knob of unsalted butter and a tablespoon or so of heavy cream with fresh thyme leaves.

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Shirred eggs? Ain’t nobody got thyme for that. 

I was hungry for shirred eggs this morning but didn’t want to take the time to heat the oven for just two eggs. Shirred eggs are delicious and a great way to cook eggs if you are serving a group. Click here for my Shirred Eggs Recipe.

I began to wonder if I could achieve a similar result without the oven. Using a skillet and a method of basting an egg that I call the cover method, I came up with what I believe is a very tasty egg. To truly baste an egg you would ideally use bacon drippings to gently baste the eggs. With the cover method, I simply crack the eggs into a lightly oiled non-stick skillet along with a tablespoon of water and cover. The water will essentially steam the eggs giving a very similar result as basting.

Here is what I did:

Cream and Butter Basted Eggs

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter (Approximately)
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon heavy cream (Approximately)
Fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Drop a knob of softened, unsalted butter in the center of a cold 7″ non-stick skillet. You want to start with a cold skillet so the cream comes up to temperature slowly and does not immediately curdle. Crack two eggs in skillet and add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the eggs, cover and turn burner on to medium. Resist the temptation to look at eggs for four minutes. Check eggs after four minutes and check to see how well the egg whites and yolk are set.

Plate eggs when yolks are set to your desired doneness. Drizzle any remaining cream and butter left in pan over eggs and serve.

Shakshuka: Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

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My daughter and her boyfriend visited this weekend. My son also joined us on Sunday to start the day with Bloody Marys and a light breakfast. Breakfast this weekend was shakshuka.

Although usually thought of as an Israeli breakfast food, variations of shakshuka can be found in the cuisines of many other cultures including the Middle Eastern and North African countries of Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt. Shakshuka style dishes can be found in other parts of the world too; the Mexican huevos rancheros is a similar dish. Eggs may be the featured ingredient, but shaksuka is often enjoyed at other meals.

This flavorful one-skillet dish is comprised of onion, jalapeño, tomatoes, and eggs topped with feta and flat leafed parsley. It’s a great way to serve a large group a delicious breakfast in a relative quick and easy way with very few dirty dishes. Shakshuka is typically prepared and served in a cast iron skillet. Pita or another flat bread is a common accompaniment.

Here is what I did:

Shakshuka

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon. paprika
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled San Marzano style tomatoes, undrained
8 – 10 eggs
Kosher salt, to taste
1⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pita for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a 12″ cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add jalapeño and onions and cook until soft and golden brown stirring frequently; about 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 2 more minutes until garlic is soft. Then add cumin and paprika. Cook, stirring frequently, until seasonings become fragrant; about 2 additional minutes.

Add tomatoes and their liquid into the skillet and crush them while mixing them up with the other ingredients. Stir in a 1⁄2 cup water and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened slightly, about 20 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack the eggs into the sauce evenly distributing them around the skillet. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on desired doneness of the eggs. Remember that the eggs will continue to set after removing from the heat.

Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pita for dipping.

Eggs Florentine with Chèvre

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This dish is perfect to serve anytime – from breakfast to a Sunday Brunch or as a meatless evening meal. The broiled sourdough bread gives it a nice crunch. The spinach and goat cheese give the dish a nice balanced tang and the runny egg helps bring it all together. The best part is the whole dish comes together in well under 30 minutes.

Ingredients (for two servings)

2 slices (1 inch thick) sourdough bread
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced
12 ounces baby spinach
1/3 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (3 ounces)
Cooking spray
2 large eggs

Directions

Place bread on a baking sheet, and brush one side with olive oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper and then broil until golden, about 3 minutes on oiled side. Flip and lightly toast other side about one minute.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add scallions and as much spinach as will fit and season with salt and pepper cooking until wilted. Continue adding more spinach as room becomes available, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain off excess liquid and mix in goat cheese. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Set aside.

Wipe out skillet then spray with cooking spray and return to medium heat. Gently crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper if desired. Cover and cook eggs until whites are set but yolks are still soft; about 3 minutes.

Top each piece of toast with spinach mixture and 1 egg; serve immediately.

 

Comfort Foods: Creamed Eggs on Toast

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I don’t know what it is, but I love Lent if not for any other reason but for the food. I have very fond memories of my Catholic upbringing when it comes to the foods we ate: tuna and noodles, fish fries at the Knights of Columbus, tomato soup and grilled cheese, and even a few odd ones my mother made like “rice and eggs.”

That last one sounds very weird but was always quite tasty. It was white rice cooked in whole milk that was topped with sugar and cinnamon and served with hard boiled eggs. My brother and sisters and I just ate it up. I think it was our second favorite Lenten meal following very close behind tonight’s meal; creamed eggs on toast.

There is story about me and creamed eggs on toast that my brother and sisters still bring up whenever this meal is mentioned.

As I mentioned, we loved this meal. One evening when I was no more than seven or so, I took a tremendously large helping of creamed eggs on toast. My siblings were not happy with me as it left very little for them. They demanded that I put some back but I swore that I would eat every last bite. I believe it was my brother who said, “If you don’t eat every bite, we are going to tie your hands behind your back and force you to eat it.”

Now, creamed eggs on toasts is a very filling meal and about halfway through, you guessed it, my little stomach got very full. My brother and sisters were mad. Yes, they lived up to the threat. One sister held my hands behind my table chair, the other plugged my nose so I would have to open my mouth to breath, and my brother shoveled fork full after fork full of creamed eggs on toast into my mouth.

Anyway, I still like creamed eggs on toast. I just go a little easy on the portion. In case you were wondering, I still like my brother and sisters too. Here’s the recipe. The following recipe will serve four normal people.

Ingredients

6 Hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
¼ Cup unsalted butter
¼ Cup all purpose flour
2 Cups whole milk
Salt
Fresh ground pepper
8 to 10 slices of toast

Directions

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and then add flour to make a roux. When the roux starts giving you a nutty aroma, add the milk and cook over medium high heat until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then stir in chopped eggs, cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, cut toast into roughly 1″ square pieces. Place toast squares on serving platter and pour creamed eggs over toast. Serve immediately.

My new favorite way to cook eggs: Shirred Eggs


Shirred Eggs fresh from the oven.

I have discovered my new favorite way to cook eggs; shirred eggs or as the French call them, oeufs en cocotte. Not only are these insanely delicious, they are extremely easy to prepare. With the holiday’s quickly approaching and often times needing to prepare a breakfast for many people, this is also a great way to make a lot of eggs all at once.

Your guests will ooh and aah over what appears to be a very complicated breakfast. Once they bite into these creamy, cheesy, delectable eggs they will be even more impressed. Enjoy it! Only you will know truly how easy these are to create.


Shirred eggs prior to baking.

Here is my recipe for shirred eggs or oeufs en cocotte. (Makes one serving)

Ingredients

2 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
a few sprigs of thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a four inch ramekin. You can use a smaller size but you may have to adjust your cooking time.

Crack the eggs into the ramekin. Pour two tablespoons of cream onto the eggs. Season with a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle the cheese and thyme leaves onto the eggs.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the egg is ‘set’ to your preference. Serve immediately. The eggs will continue to set up once after they have been removed from the oven so get them to the table as soon as possible.

Crème Brûlée – So simple, so rich, and always praised!

This is the second recipe from the prom dinner I made for my son Gregory and his friends.

The English, Spanish, and French all take credit for the creation of this wonderful dessert. Thankfully for us the French translation of the English name for this dessert is the one that became common place. Burnt cream just doesn’t have the same appeal. The Spanish name for this is crema catalana.

Ingredients

8 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup granulated white sugar (for the caramelized tops)

Directions

Preheat oven to 300ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla, and continue to whisk until well blended.
Divide mixture among 4 to 6 4.5 inch, flat ramekins. Place ramekins in a large pan and then create a water bath by filling the pan with hot water until the water comes up to just below the top of the ramekin. Bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don’t have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving.

Here are a few other tips to help make the best crème brûlée:

Eggs – This is one recipe where the volume of eggs makes some difference. Use large grade A. Make sure they are well chilled before separating. Chilled eggs are easier to separate as the yolks will be firmer.

Cream – Use only heavy whipping cream.

Vanilla extract – Use real vanilla extract and not imitation. If you can, use a Madagascar Bourbon extract. It should be available in most specialty gourmet shops.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara is another dish who’s origin is quite muddled. One story has the dish originating with Italian coal miners. There may be some truth as the Italian word carbonara means coal burner. Another story says the dish originated during World War II when the Italian people were given bacon and eggs from the US soldiers. This story holds merit as the recipe doesn’t appear in Italian cookbooks until after WWII.

Regardless of origin, this dish is one you will want to make again and again.

Ingredients

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale or pancetta cut into ½” pieces
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

Instructions

Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale or pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Blend together the egg and yolks with 1 and ½ cup of Parmesan; set aside. Transfer guanciale/pancetta  mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly, you do not want the oil to begin cooking the eggs; add the Parmesan and egg and yolks mixture and stir to combine; set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup water; drain pasta and transfer it to guanciale mixture. Toss, adding pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. (You may not need the whole cup of water.) Season with salt and pepper; serve with remaining Parmesan.