Friday, July 29, 2011

Company Coming!

Or company came, rather. This past week I hosted some friends for breakfast and then my dearest friend came to stay with her adorable daughter. It was busy and fun. But honestly, the breakfast was fun because it was no work. I know what you're thinking. You clearly see a picture of baked something or other up there (strata, if you must know) and you are wondering how exactly this was no work unless I purchased it. I didn't purchase it. And still, I maintain it was no work. Also, really delicious. Want to have this delicious eggy cheesey browned breakfast goodness? Read on. The recipe is from this gem of an inn in Maryland. If the idea of even this no effort breakfast is stressing you out, it might be best if you just go get it from the source.

adapted from The Brampton Inn - Chestertown, Maryland. Seriously, check out their website, gorgeous, no?

8 1/2" slices of crusty French bread, buttered on one side
5 eggs
3 C whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 C shredded sharp cheddar (I used a mix of cheddar and asiago)
6 oz crumbled breakfast sausage, cooked and drained
(optional - a few teaspoons of hot sauce)

1.Butter an 8" square ovenproof dish
2. Arrange bread slices in two rows, buttered side down
3. Whisk eggs in large bowl
4. Add milk, salt and pepper and hot sauce
5. Pour egg mixture over bread
7. Sprinkle with sausage and cheese
8. Cover and refrigerate overnight

Then the morning of:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Uncover and bake for 50-60 minutes (mine took 65), until puffed and no longer liquid in the middle and golden on top.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

See? Almost no work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Too Darn Hot!

If you live somewhere in the continental US, chances are if you aren't already in the middle of a blistering heat wave, you will be soon. Now I live in a very climate controlled apartment and venture out only to walk the dog, but I remember the not so distant past where my kitchen was the only room in the apartment without air-conditioning.

But really, this heat is bringing back memories from the slightly more distant past. One summer when I was home from college, my parents were out of town and I was home alone during an excruciatingly hot couple of days. The only room of the house that had air-conditioning was my bedroom and practically camped out there with the better part of the Thin Man series. On tape. This was before DVD players. I ventured out only for the bathroom and food. And food was a serious hardship. This was also before microwaves (okay, fine, there were microwaves, just not at my parents house.) I'm relatively certain I ate (I have very fond memories of barricading myself in and I rarely have fond memories when I'm hungry) but I have no idea how I managed it.

If you are currently asking yourself how you're going to manage it, I strongly suggest you find at least the first two movies in the Thin Man series, pour yourself a martini or six and check out one of my no heat needed or minimal heat needed recipes below.


Clockwise from top left:
Crab and Avocado Salad

Turkey Sandwich with Hummus
Cucumber Avocado Soup


L to R
Row 1:
Tortellini Salad
Welsh Rabbit
Asparagus Bread Salad
Row 2:
Scallop Pasta
Vegetarian Monte Cristo
Shrimp with White Beans
Row 3:
Spinach with Rotini, Beans and Asiago Cheese
Shrimp with Orzo
Clam Pasta
Row 4:
Greek Pasta Salad
Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta
Fig Jam Sandwiches
Row 5:
BLT with Avocado
Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Pasta
Chickpea Pasta

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hey, I Was Going to Read That!

Once, when we were out at a restaurant in Philly, some friends and I decided we needed to know if you could mail a napkin. So we addressed the napkin, stamped the napkin and put that sucker in the nearest post box. It arrived about a week later (despite having been mailed a block from my apartment) in a little plastic baggie with a note attached apologizing for the condition of our mail. Ahem. We mailed a napkin; there was no need for such a formal apology. Which makes it all the more infuriating that two weeks ago when I received my July issue of Real Simple there was not a single page between the covers. It was an empty shell. It had the post office's lovely yellow forwarding label on it, but nothing else. Post office, let me share with you, I will notice if the magazine part of my magazine is missing. And I will care. Because the magazine part is the part I want. The cover can go hang for all I care. Luckily due to extensive complaining on my part to anyone who would listen I ended up with 2 July issues (one from my mother and one from Real Simple) plus an extra June. And even more luckily, there was something in those missing pages that intrigued and inspired me. In the three ingredient recipe section they had portobello quesadillas. Now, I couldn't be satisfied with any three ingredients, so I gussied them up a little for you. And I'll even give you the recipe in case you've received a pageless edition of Real Simple as well.

Inspired by July's Edition of Real Simple
makes two full sized quesadillas

2 large portobello caps. Mine were huge. Get three if you're worried.
1 - 1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
1/2 C pepper jack
1/2 C cheddar cheese (I used all pepper jack but found the pepper overwhelming, you do what you like, just get yourself a cup o' cheese)
4 flour tortillas
olive oil

In a smallish pan, put 2 tsps of extra virgin olive oil. Turn the heat to medium Then add your thinly sliced red onion (I cheated and sliced on a mandolin because my knives are dull and I am lazy, also I don't usually wash the dishes). Add a healthy pinch of salt. Watch them, you want them to be sort of carmelized not crisped, so let them cook low and slow. Once they're more soft than hard, add your 1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar. It took mine about 10 minutes on medium low and they had the tiniest bit of resistance when you bit in, just make sure you like how done yours are. When they're done, put them in a dish. Take your portobellos. Wash/wipe the caps. If you're anti-gill like I am, scrape them out with a spoon. (I'd eaten the gills for years, and then once they tasted like dirt and now I always scrape). In a small bowl whisk up 1-2 T of extra virgin olive oil with some salt and pepper. Then rub this all over your mushrooms. Put them in a medium high pan and cook 5-6 minutes per side (if you had a grill, you could grill them, but I don't so I don't know how). When they're nice and soft, chop them into largish chunks. Grate your cheeses and mix them together. When it's time to make the quesadillas, sprinkle on half the cheese, then half the onions, then half the portobellos. Distribute evenly so each bite tastes good. I like to put a pat of butter in a large pan over medium heat, lay down the first tortilla and assemble right on it, so I don't have to move it with the fillings falling out. Then I just lay the other on top and cook about 4-5 minutes until the bottom is goldeny brown and the cheese is melty. Then flip and cook another 4 minute until done. If you're making them one at a time, keep them warm in a warm oven covered with foil, otherwise you can use all the pans in your kitchen and to them simultaneously. Evil to do to the dishwasher but efficient for the chef I say. Cut in wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with a dollop of guacamole, or salsa or whatever makes you happy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quick - A Quiche!

Maybe it was the delicious lunch my grandmother and I had at The Tea Shoppe or maybe it was reading a book that's set in Paris (disclosure, there is no quiche in that book, crepes, mais oui, but not a quiche. I can't make crepes though, so you're stuck with the quiche). Either way, I found myself desperately wanting quiche. Usually a summer staple of mine, I can't even think of the last time I made one. Luckily I consider quiche fairly easy to throw together (hence it being a summer staple). This one is vegetarian because I resisted the urge to throw in bacon. Believe me, I had the urge but reason won out. Which is okay, because it was completely delicious without. I won't tell if you add it though.


1/2 recipe dough (I make a full recipe and freeze the other half for later!)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 C sliced mushrooms
1/4 C well minced yellow onion
2-3 C washed, dried, stem removed, fresh baby spinach
3-4 sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
1 C gruyere cheese
1 1/2 C milk
4 eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 450 while you make the dough. Then place the dough in a 9" pie plate. Cover it with foil and your pie weights, pennies or dried beans, whatever you use for blind baking. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove weights and foil. Prick the bottom all over with a fork and return to the oven for 4-5 more minutes. When you remove it lower your oven to 325 F.

While the pie is baking, get your fillings going. In a large pan, pour your tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onions, a pinch of salt and a healthy grating of pepper. Cook for 6 minutes on medium high (you don't want crispy, you want soft and tasty). Add your thyme and spinach and cook for 3 minutes more.

In a separate bowl, give the eggs a nice little beating and then pour in the milk and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper and then the gruyere. Give it another stir or two.

When the crust is ready, put the mushroom/onion/spinach mixture in the bottom of the crust. Then pour over the egg/milk/cheese mixture. Pop it in the oven (now reduced to 325 F) for 40-45 minutes or until it has set up (meaning a knife is pretty clean when you stick it in the middle). Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before cutting in.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beat the Heat - Tortellini Salad

Right now I feel like a spoiled brat. I just got back from a week on Cape Cod. Do you know how beautiful it is on Cape Cod? How there's almost always this lovely sea breeze even when you're not actually at the beach. I wore pants. I wore a dress with three-quarter length sleeves. I brought a sweater out with me at night. I am currently a sticky melting mass of ick. Being a complete and total wimp, I succumbed and turned on the air-conditioning. I can't help it. This is not the Cape, and there is no cool breeze wafting in off the porch. There's only sun beating mercilessly down through my windows. I've closed the blinds. The dog has slunk off to a dark corner of the kitchen where he can stretch out on the cool tile. We are going to do as little as possible today. On the upside, this dinner is so easy it almost makes itself.

for salad:
1/2 lb tortellini, although I made that amount up, I have no idea how much I really used because I do not have a scale and I do have a family jumbo club pack of tortellini. I eyeballed it. Whatever it was it was enough for two people.
2 C broccoli
1/2 - 3/4 C julienned carrots
1/2 C quartered grape tomatoes
1 T finely chopped red onion
1 C rinsed drained small white beans
asiago cheese
for dressing:
2 T plain yogurt
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T plus 1 t olive oil
1 T honey

Put on the water for the tortellini, use a medium to large pot, and salt the water. When it boils, add the tortellini and cook for 2-3 minutes, whatever the package says. Steam your broccoli, I did mine in the top part of a double boiler. I added the broccoli once the water boiled and then steamed them for 2 minutes. I removed from heat and then ran under cold water to stop the cooking. I threw the carrots in with the tortellini for the last minute of cooking because I didn't want them super crunchy, but that's up to you. When the tortellini and carrots are done, drain thoroughly and put in a big serving bowl. Add the broccoli, the white beans, the red onion and the grape tomatoes. In a separate bowl whisk together the dressing, then pour it over the pasta salad. Then grate some asiago over the top of it all. Serve.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Frenzy for Frying

I have only once been to a State Fair, but oh, what a State Fair it was. Minnesota takes that sort of thing very seriously. And as tourists, my friend Lizzie and I took fair food quite seriously. We started the day out with cookies, moved on to fried cheese curds, added in a little corn on the cob and giant turkey leg and I believe finished the whole thing up with dessert on a stick. The Minnesota State Fair is very into food on a stick. Evidently, in many parts of the good old US of A it is State Fair season. I wouldn't know about that. There's probably a state fair (note the intentional lower case letters) in my state, but I know it's not serious. Nothing like a real State Fair. But even here, in State Fair season, talk turns to frying. Because nothing says fair food like some fried whatever-the-hell-it-is, fried Kool-Aid, fried Twinkies, fried beer, fried pizza, fried butter and fried hoagies (people stop the madness!) I am not ashamed to admit, I was whipped into a frenzy for frying. I had an uncontrollable urge to fry. And what food in my fridge was the lucky winner? Who exactly was going for a bath in that deep golden oily goodness? Leftover polenta, baby. Crispy on the outside, creamy goodness on the inside.


leftover polenta (don't worry I'll tell you how to make polenta)
corn or vegetable oil

2 C milk
1 C chicken stock
1/2 C water
1 C ground yellow corn meal - I use Quaker
2 T butter
1/2 C cheddar cheese (Shut up, the southerner in me can't help equating polenta with grits, and I can't help a little cheese in them. You're lucky it's not Velveeta.)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot, combine your liquids. Bring them to a boil, then remove from heat and begin to sprinkle in the cornmeal. Really sprinkle, don't just dump it, because if you dump it you'll have a congealed mass of ook. Instead, sprinkle, sprinkle, while whisking. Return it to low heat and watch it and stir it until it gets nice and thick. But not too thick. At the last minute, stir in the butter and cheese. I like to serve it under shrimp, or with a fried egg and greens, there's a lot you can do with it. But when you're done, stick the leftovers in the fridge for polenta balls!

In a medium pot (or whatever you use for frying), pour some oil. You need it to be deeper than the balls, but you know, don't fill the pot or anything. Heat up your oil to about 375 F. I'm totally guessing at that. My thermometer and I had a falling out. Or a jumping out, it wouldn't stay in the pan, so I just guessed at when to add the balls. While the oil is heating, take your leftover polenta. Working quickly, roll it into little balls and coat with flour. I tried to make mine meatball sized, like a small meatball, but as you can see, I was pretty irregular about it. Drop the floured balls into the hot oil and cook for a few minutes on each side. Really watch it, because you want them nice and golden. Remove (gently, they'll fall apart otherwise) and place on a plate covered with paper towels. I strongly recommend using a slotted spoon for this, because with a regular spoon you might end up dripping oil on your burner which results in fire. Ask me how I know. Keep warm in the oven until you're ready to serve. I put mine in a salad, but really, you can have your balls any way you like.


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