Egghead Revisited

I am cooking from Seven Fires this weekend, and am fascinated by a recipe for a thick bread and tomato soup that is topped with a poached egg. It brought to mind an old blog post, one that I feel deserves re-posting.  More on the soup later…..

Previously posted:

Today I became obsessed with eggs, especially poached ones.

I had just taken a picture of the fresh eggs I get locally, planning on writing a post about the bounty in your own backyard, but before I uploaded the picture, I decided to check my Facebook.  Lo and behold, there is a post from my friend Michelle, chef extraordinaire, that says simply, “Need to remember to top more dishes with a poached or fried egg”. That one really set me off, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it (actually, it seemed to set a lot of people off – many comments were offered about how to best top with an egg). I love almost anything with an egg chapeau, will go right for that item on any restaurant menu, yet I so rarely do this at home.  Why, I don’t know.  So, perhaps to inspire myself, I list my memorable experiences of this treatment, along with some of today’s Facebook suggestions:

One of my favorite salads in the world is of French origin, consisting of Belgian endive, frisee, and duck confit, dressed with a vinaigrette and topped with a poached egg.  Bistro La Bastide in the Scripps Ranch area of San Diego makes one of the best I’ve had.

Eggs with Tomato Panzanella as served at Boulettes’s Larder in San Francisco. Blogger ouichefcook has a post about this dish here with a picture.   I have tried to recreate this masterpiece (doesn’t look too hard, does it?), and while I make something good, it does not compare to Boulette’s version. I dream about this one.

How about on top of pizza? Make a lovely pizza with some peppers and sausage, then top with some arugula and a sunny-side-up egg. Heavenly.

Michelle recommends “on a nice pasta with sausage and wilted greens, topped with parm reggiano”. Her rendition would be divine, but since we are a plane ride away from each other, I am not going to taste her version any time soon. I am going to have to work on my own recipe for this one (and of course, I’ll post the recipe).

Eggs dropped in soups got a few mentions on Facebook, from chicken soup to udon. All great ideas – drop it in right as you serve it.

A poached egg on top of sautéed spinach or steamed asparagus is like instant hollandaise (maybe better?) and easy enough for every day:

In case you don’t know, here is how to perfectly poach eggs:
In a deep skillet, bring 2-3 inches of water to simmering. You want to see tiny bubbles on the bottom the pan, but you don’t want the water rolling. The bubbles will keep the eggs from sticking to the pan.

Crack your eggs into a shallow bowl that will allow you to easily slip it into the water. Cracking them into a bowl first guarantees intact yolks, and provides an opportunity to remove any pieces of shell.

Using a large spoon, gently stir the water in circles, creating a bit of a vortex in the center:

Remove the spoon and drop the eggs into this vortex. Notice how the whites curl nicely around the yolks:

Cook for 3-5 minutes, just until whites set. The yolks should be runny for the dishes described above. Remove with a slotted spoon and enjoy.

Oh yeah, you can have poached eggs for breakfast, too:

Music in the kitchen – Ting Tings, We Started Nothing

This recipe and hundreds more at foodiekitchen.com

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TOMATOES!

This evening’s harvest, and the season has just begun!

Varieties pictured, all from reneesgarden.com: Mandarin Cross (large orange), Big Beef, Carmello, Sungold (orange cherry)

International Grocery Tour – Right Here in San Diego

What are your favorite international food stores in San Diego?  Here is what we did in one fun-filled, delicious day:

Picked up some lemon-saffron fettucine at Assenti Pasta.  I’ll freeze it, then use it later to make Lemon Pasta with Shrimp.

Purchased and immediately started devouring Sangak at Balboa International Market.  Also bought some smoky roasted peppers and fresh lemon basil.

Visited Marukai, where I bought some vegetable brushes in their home goods store, then sampled amazing tofu (House Brand) in the delightful grocery store.

Had some Swedish meatballs at Ikea after resisting the urge to remodel my kitchen with their inventive cabinets and accessories.

Browsed the fresh fish tanks, bought some Thai eggplants, baby bok choy and several noodle variations (fresh and dried) from the incomparable 99 Ranch Market. Lo Mein is on the menu this week!

I can’t wait for the next tour!Where shall we go?

Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe is easy to prepare, delicious and healthy.  I adapted a bit, as her recipe called for roasting the eggplant for 40 minutes, and mine was very brown at 30 minutes.  Also, I make my own pomegranate molasses, which is not as tangy as some commercial ones, so I needed to add a bit of lemon juice at the end to kick up the sour component. Sauteed greens of some sort (spinach, kale, collards) are a perfect accompaniment, along with a flatbread (great recipe here) and a cucumber mint salad (recipe at the end of this post).

The eggplant dish is even better when made ahead, allowing several hours for the flavors to meld.

1 large eggplant (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise then cut in 1/2-inch slices
Salt to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, grated or peeled, seeded and chopped (or substitute 2 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes, drained)
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of mint and parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and oil it with olive oil. Lay the eggplant slices on top. Salt lightly and brush with olive oil. Place in the oven for 30 minutes until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft to the touch (the surface will be dry). Remove from the heat, and fold over the foil to make a packet around the eggplant slices. Allow them to soften and steam inside the foil for 15 minutes while you proceed with Step 2.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy lidded casserole or skillet. Add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste, sugar and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell very fragrant.
3. Add the eggplant, molasses and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture should be thick and the eggplant should be very tender, melting into the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add lemon juice, if desired. Sprinkle on the parsley and/or mint, and serve. Alternately, allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: Serves four to six.

Cucumber-Mint Salad for 2

1 Persian cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely minced onion
1 teaspoon chopped mint (or more, to taste)
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon mild vinegar, such as rice or champagne
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Music in the kitchen – Gotan Project, Diferente

Find this recipe, and hundreds more, at foodiekitchen.com

Frozen meals – not-so-bad convenience or evil food?

I can’t help but be tempted by some of these foods (that’s one of my favorites pictured above-Shrimp Hacao from Fresh and Easy).  What do you think? From writer Anneli Rufus on HuffingtonPost.com:

“When TV dinners first entered American supermarkets in the mid-1950s, serving or eating them implied that one didn’t know how to cook” — full article here

Fresh Blueberry Tart

Made this for breakfast today.  Thawed the puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator, prepped the blueberries last night, quick bake this morning, served with a spot of vanilla Greek yogurt. Recipe here.

Roasted Baby Belles with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

I am in the enviable position of having a friend who doesn’t cook much and has the most amazingly productive lemon tree I have ever seen.  As the happy recipient of many of these lemons, I have taken up making marmalade, lemon curd, candied peels, and most recently, preserved lemons (so easy and so much better than store-bought).

Renee Shepherd got me interested in making tagines a few years back, and the preserved lemons are a key ingredient in many of those recipes.  However, one can only eat so many tagines, so I set out to find other ways to use preserved lemons.  I stumbled upon a Moroccan vinaigrette recipe that is fabulous and is especially good over our roasted mini-bell peppers.  This has become my go-to dish for potlucks and buffets. They are always a hit.

Roasted Baby Belles with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
Dressing recipe adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse

10-12 servings

You can make the peppers and the dressing up to 8 hours ahead, but don’t dress the peppers until ready to serve.  This is not a marinated dish; you want the contrast of the sweet peppers against the tangy dressing.

Leave the stems on the peppers so folks can just pick them up and pop them into their mouths.

2 pounds  mini bell peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon rind
1½  teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1.    Roast peppers: this can be done on a grill or under a broiler.  Spread peppers in single layer directly on a grill or on a baking sheet under a broiler, expose to heat source, and turn as skin begins to blacken and blister.  Place roasted peppers in a paper bag to sweat for 10 minutes.
2.    Peel peppers.  Since the mini bells have tender skins, it is not necessary to peel completely – just remove large blackened pieces of peel.
3.    Place on a serving platter in a single layer.
4.    Make dressing: whisk together remaining ingredients, or put in a jar and shake.
5.    Pour over peppers and serve at room temperature.