Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nate's Favorite Bacon Egg Salad

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I know. I go from blogging about cookies with a pound of chocolate in the batter, and I follow it up with... salad? Seriously? A Salad? Um, yeah. I do. There's no way I can top those cookies. I mean, anything I blog about after that is bound to be a disappointment. So instead of even trying, I bring you something completely different: Nate's bacon egg salad.

Have you noticed bacon as a theme here yet? Does it seem like I put bacon into everything? Well, I do. Nate loves bacon. No, wait. I don't think you understand. He LOVES bacon. He loves bacon with a passion I don't even pretend to understand. I honestly don't get it, because to me, bacon is just another ingredient, and it's not even one I like especially. But Nate just, you know, LIVES for bacon, and isn't happy if we don't have a pound of it in the house AT ALL TIMES.

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And this salad? I have to admit, it's pretty awesome. I'm not much of a bacon lover myself, but this this salad really elevates bacon above the level of salty smoky meat into the realm of the beatific. There's something about the interplay between the crispy bacon, the soft eggs, and the tang of the dressing that is really something. It's definitely a favorite in our house, and makes a very filling lunch. I feed it to Nate all the time: it's man-pleasin'. So. Got a man who likes bacon? Give this one a whirl. Even if he's not much of a salad guy, he'll probably love this!

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Nate's Favorite Bacon Egg Salad

This salad is SO EASY. It's very simple, but very good. Good ingredients really shine through here. What makes this salad (apart from the bacon, obviously) is the vinaigrette. I mean, without this vinaigrette, this salad is not "Nate's Favorite Bacon Egg Salad." Maybe it's somebody else's salad, but it's not this one. For this salad, a good balsamic vinegar is the key (and so is a decent virgin olive oil, but no need to be TOO fancy about it). This is my favorite balsamic vinegar. I can't even remember where it came from, but it's like nectar from the gods. When it runs out, I am totally going to cry because I've never seen it again.

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Actually, this vinegar came from Modena, like many great vinegars (I know that much). And speaking of Medina, I just sent a renaissance doublet there! I fact, I sent this one:

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I told you I was domestic. This is what I do for my day-job. It's fun.

Ok! recipe:

Ingredients
3 strips of bacon
2 hard boiled eggs
baby spinach
(about 1 lb? I just use 3/4 of a bag. I am ashamed to admit, but I don't even know how much that is!)
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
cracked pepper
6 tbs olive oil
1 tbs Dijon mustard
thyme



Fry your bacon up in a heavy skillet, then drain on a paper towel. Transfer to a cutting board, and dice. Peel eggs and dice as well. Combine eggs, bacon, and spinach in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, measure 2 tbs of vinegar. Add a pinch of salt, and some cracked pepper. Whisk to dissolve salt. Add olive oil 1 tbs at a time, whisking, until all is incorporated. Do a little taste test and add more oil or vinegar until it tastes divine and is well blended. Add mustard and thyme, and whisk to combine.

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Pour dressing over bacon/egg/spinach mixture. NOTE! There may be more dressing than you like. Sometimes if I have a little extra I store it in the fridge for next time. Toss until the dressing has coated all the spinach.

enjoy!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Fat Tuesday Indulgence: Gooey Chocolate Toffee Cookies

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How long has it been since you had a really good cookie? No, I mean a really good cookie, like, the kind of cookies that makes you sigh with pleasure and fills you with a sense of well-being towards all mankind? I'm guessing not recently. Well, YOU are in luck, because today is Fat Tuesday, and have I got a Mardi Gras cookie for you! Oh. it's gooey. It's chocolatey. It's filled with toasted walnuts and buttery toffee chips. It's decadently sinful, and if nothing else, will give you something to repent of when you get down on your knees come Ash Wednesday. Yum!

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How sinful are these cookies? They have an ENTIRE POUND of chocolate in them. And entire POUND. And only 1/2 a cup of flour. I'm sorry, was that my heart beating faster? Is it hot in here? I feel a little flushed. So much chocolate. I think I need to sit down. I mean, SO MUCH CHOCOLATE. I'm sorry, I... I... I don't feel right... I need to go splash some water on my face.

...

Ok, I'm back. I feel much better. Um, was that a little dramatic? Yeah, well, entire pounds of chocolate can do that to me. BECAUSE IT'S THAT GOOD.

So.

You should make these cookies. You should REALLY makes these cookies. 461 reviews at epicurious.com can't be wrong. Smitten Kitchen can't be wrong. A POUND of CHOCOLATE can't be wrong (Oh! And yet, it's so very, very wrong).

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Fat Tuesday Gooey chocolate Toffee Cookies (Gluten-free version!)
adapted from the recipe at Bon App├ętit

These cookies mostly made of chocolate and eggs, so following the recipe is KEY!

First, you are going to need some flour. I use a combination of quinoa, sweet rice, and brown rice flours. I like the quinoa flour and brown rice flour because they are whole grains (healthy!), they are soft and fine (texture!), and they have a nice flavor (ug. who thinks cookies should NOT taste likes beans??). I use the sweet rice flour because it's sticky and it helps the other flours bind together sans gluten. If you are using this combo, you need 1/4 cup quinoa flour, 2 tbs brown rice flour, and 2 tbs sweet rice flour.

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However, if you have a gluten-free flour mix you like (or if you're just feeling lazy and mixing together three flours is too much work) feel free to use it. Or you can just substitute 1/2 cup of regular wheat flour, if gluten is not a concern. This recipe is very forgiving.


You are also going to need this stuff:
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That is 1 tsp baking powder, 1 lb chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (NOT unsweetened), 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) butter, 1 and 3/4 cups packed brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 1 tbs vanilla extract, 5 coarsely chopped toffee bars (such as Heath or Skor), and 1 cup toasted walnuts (which are not in the picture. They snuck out. Those pesky walnuts).

If I had it to do over again, I would have used a higher quality chocolate. I had a bunch of half-used chocolate bars and chips in my cupboard, so I mixed them all together. The taste was ok, but I'm sure that if I had used something better the cookies would have tasted THAT MUCH MORE AMAZING. The mind can only boggle at the possibilities.

Also, as you can see in the picture I had some Heath toffee chips to use up too. Next time, I am definitely buying the bars and chopping them up. These little chips were just a little TOO little - I wanted bigger chunks of toffee in my indulgent toffee cookies.

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First, mix together your flours, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Now we are going to do the chocolate. PAY ATTENTION: this part is important. You don't want to heat up your chocolate too fast or get it too hot, otherwise it will burn and split, and your chocolate will be wrecked. And that would be SO SAD. So please, follow the directions. You won't be sorry. I promise.

Heat the chocolate in a double boiler - if you don't have one, no problem. I don't have one either. Put a few inches of water in a medium pot, and bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Balance a metal bowl over the simmering water. Voila! Double boiler. You want the bottom of the bowl to be heated by the steam of the water, so the water shouldn't actually be touching the bowl.

Now put the butter and the chocolate in your double boiler, and stir with a spatula, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. The chocolate and the butter should melt together until you have some gorgeous, smooth liquid chocolate, like this:
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Set chocolate aside, and get your sugar and eggs. Beat the sugar and the eggs together in a mixer for 5 minutes. DON"T SKIP! Set a timer if you have to (I did!). You want the sugar to fully dissolve into the eggs, and you want the eggs to be really whipped - this is what give the cookies their lightness and gooey texture. If you don't beat them for the full five minutes, don't blame me if your cookies are heavy or stick to the pan!

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Now beat in the chocolate and the vanilla until the chocolate is fully incorporated. With the mixer on low, stir in the flour mixture, the toasted walnuts, and the toffee chunks. MMmmm. Try not consume all the batter at this point. It's yummy. Now stick that batter in the fridge for at LEAST an hour. It really needs to firm up before you bake it, or your cookies will spread into little puddles. No fun. And go ahead and turn your oven on now to 350 degrees.

...

Ok! Has it been an hour? Spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto cookie pan - I recommend putting down some parchment paper so the cookies don't stick. It will save you a world of trouble. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes (12 works for my oven, but yours may be a little different). Remove cookies from oven and let cook before moving.

Try not to gobble them all up on one sitting. Or not. After all, it IS Fat Tuesday, so I guess you can be just as decadent as you want.

enjoy!

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

how to make candied citrus peel

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Lately I've been on a "use the whole lemon" kick. I know! It sounds crazy, right? Eating the skin of a lemon, or an orange or a grapefruit for that matter, sounds more like a punishment than a treat, right? But seriously, I was so wrong. Using the whole fruit is very, very good. I've got so many places to go with this, and I'm going to be blogging about it over the next couple of weeks as soon as I am done tinkering with the recipes, but for now let me just say that using a whole citrus fruit is absolutely brilliant. Whoever thought that up deserves a big hot kiss from Clive Owen ::swoon:: Unless, I guess, that person is also a man, and doesn't swing that way. In which case, Jessica Alba. Ok, still not interested? Maybe just a lovely box of chocolates and a week in Paris. Unless you live there already, in which case I guess it's not exactly a reward. How did this get so complicated again?

ANYWAY.

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Using the whole citrus fruit is like having little bits of zingy candy in every bite of your dish, and it makes a ho-hum-had-it-a-thousand-times dessert really sing with new life. Serve it, and your friends and family will be begging you for the recipe and throwing themselves at your feet as they worship you for the domestic goddess that you are. And all because you used a whole lemon. Really, after all that can you afford not to try?

So, after all that hoopla about using the whole lemon, I'm NOT going to use the whole lemon in this recipe. Wait, what? I know, aren't I mean? You'll just have to come back next time, because today we are talking about the part that doesn't usually get used: citrus rinds. You know, that stuff most people (sad, sorry ignorant people) usually toss? Well it's a shame so much of it ends up in the waste bin, because with a little bit of attention those rinds could be turned into something super tasty. From now on, whenever I use a piece of citrus that doesn't call for the whole fruit, I'm going to pop those rinds in the freezer to candy later.

Ok! Lets get started!

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Candied Citrus Peel

I don't know why candying citrus peel sounds so scary. I know it took me ages to try it, but once I did I realized it was a piece of cake. Be prepared: It takes a while to do it right. It doesn't take a lot of actual hands on time, but there IS a lot of blanching, and the candies need to "rest" overnight. These are ideal to make while you are making something else (dinner maybe?) so give yourself some time and don't rush. making candy should be fun.

The ingredients for these are ridiculously simple. You need the following: water, white sugar, citrus. That's it! If you want to, you can also use a few drop of food coloring.

First, you need some citrus. I am using 6 blood oranges. If you want to use lemons, make it 8, if limes, make it 14 (those little buggers are small), if regular oranges make it 5, and if grapefruit make it 4.

the first thing you want to do is wash your oranges, and cut off the little nubby tops.

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Now cut your oranges into quarters. Wow, aren't blood oranges spectacular?

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Now we are going to "supreme" the oranges (sort of). This is fancy for "cut out the flesh of the oranges." It's pretty easy. Just do it like this:

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There might be a little flesh left in the skin (does anyone else feel like this is a little graphic sounding for a candy recipe? flesh, skin? blood oranges? I'm just saying...) So if there is, scrape it out with a spoon. And don't throw that stuff away - save it something else. I'm making mine into marmalade!

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Now you should have some clean skins. Repeat, until all your oranges are done.

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Once all your oranges are skinned, slice them lengthwise into strips about 1/3".
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Now get a stock pot and put those babies in.

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Fill the pot with cold water until the rinds are covered by 1" of water. Why are we doing this? Good question! The white part of the orange is very bitter and not too tasty. Some people just cut it out before candying, but then you have very wimpy peels that fall apart easily. We don't want wimpy peels, so we are going to be soaking the rinds in water and then blanching them to remove that bitter taste.
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Let the rinds sit in the cold water for 1 hour. Then, drain them in a colander.
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Now for the blanching. Fill the pot up with cold water again, until the rinds are covered with 1" of water. Now bring the water to a boil, and boil those rinds for 20 minutes. Why are we doing this? Well this blanching helps get rid of the bitter taste of the white pith. If we didn't do this, our candy would probably be inedible, and that would be sad. The blanching is really key to getting a great candy.


Once the candy has been blanched for 20 minutes, drain it in a colander again. OMG? Where did all the color go? My peels have certainly lightened up a bit.
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Now repeat the blanching TWO MORE TIMES. Yep, that's right, I said TWO MORE TIMES. Dude! That's a lot of blanching. But it's necessary. Don't skip. You'll be sorry.


Ok, all done now? Let those rinds just sit in the colander, while we make the syrup. You will need 3 cups of water and 3 cups of white sugar. We are going to be making sugar syrup. Mix those two together in the stock pot. You may also want to use some food coloring. I used two drops of red, one drop of yellow, and one drop of pink. But you can do whatever you want. I think pink limes would look weird anyway.
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Now bring the sugar-water to a boil. At was at this point I discovered my candy thermometer was broken (At sea level water DOES boil at 212 degrees, not 175, correct?). I think this just goes to show that you can, indeed, candy stuff without a candy thermometer. But it would be a lot easier with one. If you have one, boil it until it reaches 220 degrees. If you don't, boil it for about 25 minutes.
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Now add the peels to the syrup. Mmm. so pretty. Remember all that blanching we did? Well it opened up the pores of the lemon skin (seriously, I feel like I'm talking about facials, not candy), so that all that syruppy goodness can be absorbed. Aren't you glad we did it now?
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Put the peels and the syrup back on the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat (we don't want the syrup to thicken up just yet), and simmer the peels in the syrup for 45 minutes, until they start to look translucent. Here's mine after its 45 minutes simmer:
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Now for the boring part. Let peel cool, and leave it alone overnight on the stove, uncovered. Don't mess with it, just leave it alone. Come back tomorrow, peel needs a good long time to soak up that all that sweet goodness.


Day 2


Get some draining apparatus ready. I think a wire rack with parchment paper underneath it works great. If you don't have one, just put down some parchment paper.


Reheat the peel, and bring it back to a boil. Using your candy thermometer, boil the syrup until it reaches 228 degrees. Unless, of course, your thermometer is broken in which case you are going to heat the peel to the "soft ball" stage. How do you tell if the sugar is at the "soft ball" stage? Well, take a spoon and put a little drop of syrup into a bowl of ice-water. It's done when it forms a soft little ball. It's over-done if it forms a hard little ball, It's not done yet if it just turns into liquid and mixes with the water.

Once the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, turn off the heat, and strain the peel out of the syrup (most of the syrup may have been absorbed by the peel though). Drain on a wire rack. I think mine look a little bit like french fries.
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Let the candies dry for 1 hour. The will begin to harden, and won't be so sticky. Now roll those babies in sugar. Voila! You are done! Candied citrus peel. Lots of steps, but quite a bit easier than you thought, wasn't it?
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Now put those is a pretty jar and serve them on top of blood orange sorbet, or, you know, just gobble them up plain. It's really up to you.

enjoy!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Egg Salad Sandwich with Spinach

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I've always liked sandwiches.

But I learned to LOVE them when I visited London during college.

We were studying abroad and Nate and I decided to get there a few days early and do the tourist thing. London wasn't ANYTHING like what we expected. I was thinking rain, fog, overcoats, cups of tea, boiled peas, suet. Instead we emerged from the "Tube," bleary-eyed with jet-lag, into blazing August sunshine. Obviously, it was time to shuck the overcoats. And take a nap. We hadn't slept in over 24 hours and even though it was the middle of the day in London, it was the middle of the night in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, our hostel wasn't ready for us. So we were left wandering around Southwark looking for something to do, but too tired to really do anything. We wandered into a sandwich shop and ordered two paninis, then ate them in a little park overlooking a kids' play yard. In the haze of that memory, sitting there in the sun eating those sandwiches, it was the BEST sandwich I had ever had. I can't even remember anymore what kind of sandwich it was, but I do remember that I didn't even know sandwiches could be that good.

In fact, British food was much better than its reputation makes out out to be. We loved British cheeses, back bacon, bangers and mash, tikka masala, kebab, bitter warm beer and the endless cups of tea. But we really loved the sandwiches. This is one sandwich we fell in love with while we were there (once we got over the jet lag and could remember flavors of food again). Some were not so great (like anything with Marmite or "brown sauce") but this one is delish.

Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich with Spinach

This recipe makes two sandwiches. Make one for a friend, or save the second one for later. It's a win-win situation, really.

Ok, first, you are going to need some eggs.

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specifically, two. Go ahead and put them in a bowl.

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Now take a fork and start to mash those babies up.

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Keep going with that fork, breaking the white up into smaller and smaller bits.

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When it's done, it should look like this:

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Now we are going to need our good old friends, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. And for pete's sake, use the real stuff people. Life it too short for fake mayonnaise. Really.

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You're also going to need these old friends: vinegar (you don't need to use this one, but use a tasty one), cracked pepper, and kosher salt.

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Now add 2 tbs mayonnaise, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and a splash of vinegar. You should also add a pinch of salt and some pepper.

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And mix all that good stuff up.

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Now it's time for the really yummy stuff. Take a handful of spinach and chop it up.

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And add it to that yummy egg mixture.

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And mix it all up.

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Now for the sandwich. When first stopped eating gluten, I thought my sandwich eating days were over. Mostly this was because I couldn't find any edible bread. But THEN I found this bread:

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It's pretty good. That or I have forgotten what real bread tastes like and I just don't know any better these days. In any case, I get to eat sandwiches these days. Yay!

Now toast that bread and make yourself a sandwich!

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I make Nate's sandwiches on "real" bread, like, you know, bread that is made out of wheat and costs less than $6 a loaf.

However, as you can see my sandwich is a little more petite than Nate's.

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Now get yourself a tall glass of lemon-aid to go with that sandwich. Bon Appetit!

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