Eggsplosion Pie

What do you do when you unexpectedly end up with over two dozen fresh eggs? Well, eggs are pretty versatile in the kitchen, but I didn’t want to have to make dozens of different things just to use them up. I wanted to quickly half the quantity of available eggs on hand so they wouldn’t just sit there. The question now is: What’s a good way to use a dozen eggs at once… and have the eggs be a key player in the dish (not baked into a cake, for example)? Well, you can still do lot’s of things, like make a “pie”. With onions. And a potato. And prosciutto.

Eggy Pie

A dozen eggs and tastiness hides below that surface.

I wanted to add a few more things to this, but I actually started running out of room in the pie. My idea was originally inspired by a recipe on Epicurious. I ended up ditching most of my planned changes as the recipe came together though. The filling just got too large to allow for the extra stuff I wanted. You are welcome to try my changes though… here is what I would do: use only one onion, add wilted spinach (or kale, or some kind of bitter green), and add a little bit or parm before closing up the pie.

Still I have a few tricks that I did do that I would really recommend. Check below the break the find out. Continue reading “Eggsplosion Pie” →

Fig and goat cheese suffed pork tenderloin

I feel like figs have been hiding from me. Maybe I’m eating at the wrong places, but I rarely see them used in restaurants. And apart from their claim to fame in a fig-newton, I’m not sure where else they often show up. (Perhaps in figgy-pudding? But I’m not even sure what that is.) Still, I do know they are tasty, so I got my hands on some dried figs and, between mouthfulls of chomping down on them, I cooked up something interesting.

Figgy goat cheese!

Fig and goat cheese stuffed tenderloin

Yup, that’s a pork tenderloin stuffed with figs and goat cheese. I somehow got it in my mind that combination would work. And you know what, I’m happy with my decision. The goat cheese helped cut down on the sweetness of the figs and the rosemary gave it an earthy touch. Still, this isn’t a delicate meal. It’s very rich, what with the pork, the figs, the cheese, and the apple glaze. But it’s not like pork doesn’t pair well with a bit of sweetness (think about some take-out style Chinese dishes–like sweet and sour pork).

Of course, if I was making an apple glaze, I had to continue the apple theme and serve it with apple baked brown rice! So click through to see more photos and to see how it’s done. Continue reading “Fig and goat cheese suffed pork tenderloin” →

Tomato Tart

I recently acquired a plethora of fresh, local tomatoes and needed some good, tasty things to do with them. Besides BLTs, obviously.

...and cheese!

Tomato tart! Now with spinach and caramelized onions!

I quickly settled on making a tomato tart. It’s not too difficult and the tastiness factor is pretty impressive. Underneath that layer of tomatoes hides wilted spinach, caramelized onions, and feta and ricotta cheeses. A few sprigs of thyme is all you really need to add some extra flavor to it.

You could make your own pie crust for this, but I opted for puff pastry. Roll it out a couple times so it doesn’t have the urge to puff as high and pre-bake it weighted with dry beans. It’s not that pie crust is hard to make, it’s just that it’s one of those things that puff pastry can easily replace will no ill effect. Just don’t use one of those pre-made pie shells in the foil. Those are usually sweet and won’t give the proper effect here.

...goat cheese would probably be good, maybe some yellow peppers...

What else could I stuff into this?

Anyway, back to the tart at hand. There are really only 5 ingredients here, but there is some prep work to do. Fortunately, the prep work can be done ahead of time or while the crust is baking. The onion has to caramelize, not difficult, but takes some time. I like to do several onions at once because it freezes delightfully well. The other prep is wilting spinach, which frankly, is a stretch to call it work. It cooks down quickly and easily. All that is required of you is to stir it. Click through the link for the full recipe and more information. Continue reading “Tomato Tart” →

There and back, France

Alright, alright, enough. I haven’t given you guys anything new in a couple weeks, but that doesn’t mean I have been completely neglecting my food duties. I can report that I have been diligently stuffing my face full of tasty things.

Like French wines, and cheeses, and breads, and pastries, and homemade liquors…

<sigh> Life is hard :)

Lots and lots of cheese and bread and wine.

This was basically my lunch everyday.

There really was copious amount of food consumed by my family and I. I did a valiant effort to consume everything within my reach. The big problem is that my stomach has limited capacity. Even though, I powered through to eat some of the freshest breads and raw-milk bries and camenberts and pont-leveques…

I probably ate the equivilant of three loaves of bread a day... maybe more

(Clockwise from top left) More cheese, pain au chocolats and croissants, galettes (avec du cidre), and crepes (au chocolat!)

I didn’t stop at just cheese though. I didn’t start with it either. My day normally began with a quick trip to the local boulangerie to pick up baguettes, pain au chocolats (aka “chocolate croissants” in the US), croissants, and maybe a pastry or two. Breakfast was at least one croissant, one pain au chocolat, and one entire baguette de campagne. The process begins with me eating chunks from the still-warm baguette while walking home from the boulangerie and finishes with tartines of butter or–my favorite–fromage blanc.

I’ve talked about fromage blanc before. And I just want to reiterate that it is good.

My mother is from the Brittany area of France, which is home of the now stereotypically French crepes and galettes. Of course I had to find a Creperie and indulge. And cider–sorry, “Cidre”. This is the carbonated, alcoholic apple cider artisanally made. Not fancy apple juice or “hard cider” (though, it’s basically just really good hard cider).

No shortage of alcohol when the entire family gets together.

Oh, there was plenty to drink...

Speaking of alcohol… Not only were there fantastic wines (this is France, after all), but there were several great homemade liquors and alcohols around. There were “griottines de fougerolles”, which you can see in the top photos. It’s essentially cherries that had been soaked in brandy.
In the bottom left, you see homemade ratafia. Which I’ll let wikipedia describe. I’ll just add that this was stronger than it appeared to be.
Finally, yes, I brought the Cucumber Fix to France. And they liked it.

See, he used to be a big deal chef... me, I just have a dinky website.

I cooked too! For 15 people at once! (well, I helped my uncle cook...)

It wasn’t all me eating and drinking though. I was called upon to make food for everyone that was there, about 15 people. I had help though. Or rather, I helped the actual chef. My uncle, Serge, definitely know a thing or two about kitchens. He used to be a chef in a fancy-pants club in France. So we easily managed to make a fantastic tajine and a baked rice and seafood dish for everybody with minimal time and effort. The tajine with merguez is the top left photo, the rest are of the seafood dish. We were like two well honed machines chopping and stirring and searing and baking in the kitchen. The result was food. Tasty, tasty food.

Here's to you, Eloi. You were a cool grandfather.

Not food, but still awesome. I miss France.

Nope, not food in these photos. Just some shots from a walk from my grandparent’s house in Brittany. Beautiful area. It’s hard to tell, but the sun was setting in the bottom two photos. Really fantastic though.

OK, I haven’t run out of things to say, but I’ll stop with the trip report. Next week, food you can make!

Apple Baked Brown Rice

I hope you like apples. And rice, I guess. But this is really about apples.

Apples and rice, huh? Time to get to the core of this meal.

Soft, sweet rice.

I’ve found that brown rice can be a bit more finickey to cook than white. It seems to cook unevenly or stick the the bottom of the pot. So a nod goes to Alton Brown for introducing me to the baking method for cooking brown rice. Baking the rice in the oven allows for a much more even heat distrobution and cooks the rice evenly.

Cooking it in apple juice, that was my touch. I quickly figured out that cooking in 100% juice isn’t a good idea. Oh, it cooks just fine, but the result is almost too sweet. It’s best to use about half juice and half water or stock. That provides a good balance of flavor.

Continue reading “Apple Baked Brown Rice” →

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with a whiskey cream sauce

Who would have thought that bacon and pork would go so well together? Apparently everyone, considering that they come from the same animal. I guess that isn’t the surprise here. What really made this dish is the slightly boozy, creamy, mushroomy (is that a word?) sauce. I’m seriously making this again.

Deliciousness soaked in deliciousness wrapped in deliciousness.

Excellent pork tenderloin, amazing sauce, and the bacon wrapping just makes it that much more awesome.

This isn’t even the first time we have made bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. The now-elusive Kyle made this a couple years ago. His was great, but I have to say that mine significantly ups the flavors by adding mushrooms, cream, and whiskey. (Maybe now he’ll have to one-up me…)

This dish is great served with rice or potatoes to soak up the leftover sauce. I even wiped the skillet with a piece of bread to get every last bit of sauce into my belly–It’s that good.

For a cream sauce, it’s lighter than you would think. That may have something to do with the addition of whiskey :) The mushrooms give it a more robust flavor without compromising the consistency. I’m tempted to make this sauce with chicken now… I may even make a simplified version to serve with fish.

Click through to see how I did it.

Cheese grits

For all that my French mother did to try to steer me away from what she considers the horrors of American cooking, it was all for naught when I discovered soul food and the American breakfast.

Grits was one of those odd discoveries. I wasn’t sure what this odd-looking, grainy gruel was that people were eating at Waffle House. I didn’t have the nerve to try it at first. I was content with my waffle and hash-browns, thank-you-very-much. But it was served as part of the All Star Special. I hate wasting food so I had to at least make an effort. One bite told me that there was something there… some possibility for a delicious breakfast. I haven’t looked back.

Did anyone see the remake of True Grit? It doesn't have anything to do with this, but I thought it was a good movie.

MMMMmmmm.... cheese grits. Thick and tasty and cheesy.

You and I both know that Waffle House isn’t going to be the best example of any kind of cooking. (Though I have no complaints. You know exactly what you are going to get when you go there. And I would love to have one of their waffle irons.) But it did open a window to the possibility that grits had an important role to play.

Every now and then I crave a good bowl of grits, cheese or plain. That slightly salty, slightly gritty, warm breakfast dish is a great cure for a rough night out. It’s easy to eat and helps build up your appetite so you can get back on your feet. Even if you haven’t had a rough night, grits can be a wonderful treat. I certainly didn’t make this batch after a rough night and I still managed to thoroughly enjoye them. If you get the urge for grits, go for it. It’s slightly more complex than a bowl of cereal, but immensely more satisfying.

I'm out of cheese too, but I don't care. Grits are good.

I'm hungry for grits again. I'm going to go make some more.

Now, before my mom calls me to berate me for saying that she considers American cooking “a horror”, she doesn’t. Well, she mostly doesn’t. She doesn’t eat at most fast food restaurants and generally isn’t the biggest fan of the heavy soul food that I have come to appreciate, but she is open to trying almost anything. I can say with certainty she won’t like these grits–but that has more to do with the fact that she can’t stand milk or cream (but loves cheese). So, Mom, don’t yell at me, s’il te plait.

Continue reading “Cheese grits” →

Goat cheese gouda grilled cheese

I hate it when I have a good idea that spirals out of control. I made that spinach and blueberry salad recently and was so impressed with it that I wanted to, wait for it, turn it into a grilled cheese sandwich.

Let me break this down for you though, it’s actually a pretty small step to go from salad to sandwich. Go back and look at the salad, I’ll wait… OK, we already have the spinach–lettuce in sandwiches is obvious–and putting salad dressing in a sandwich is also not uncommon either. Blueberries, I’ll grant you, aren’t obvious, but they were great in the salad. That leaves us with what missing?– Cheese and bread? Cheese easily goes in both, in fact, I debated crumbling either some blue cheese or goat cheese on that salad, but decided to keep things simple. As for bread–what do you think croutons are? So, all I have to do is make my croutons from whole slices of bread instead of small squares and warm the salad up between the bread and cheese.

But as I said, the situation kept spiraling out of control: I ended up making several delicious variants. Here are my three favorite.

Grilled cheeses everywhere! Good thing they are delicious!

Blueberry balsamic viniagrette (large), Spinich and tomato (top left), Sun-dried tomato and caramelized onions (bottom right). All made with goat gouda.

I’ve listed them below in order of preference, but I’ll eat any of them without complaint. I made a couple without the balsamic vinegar and blueberries, but that one was hands-down the best. (Not just my opinion either! Honest!)

For full recipes, scroll down and click through for the full article.

1) Spinach and blueberry grilled cheese with a balsamic glaze

Seriously, best ever. Make it. Now.

Best. Grilled cheese. Ever.

With that salad on my mind, this was the first one I made. The dark, slightly-black looking surface on the bread is actually balsamic glaze, bot burnt toast. Note that all these sandwiches were made with goat gouda and a rustic, wheat, sour-dough bread. Any wheat or sourdough would fine. I might try a goat brie next time though, it may melt a bit better (and the blueberries will stick better when assembling it).

2) Hint-of-heat tomato and caramelized onion grilled cheese

Second best is still far from the worst.

This is probably the most basic of the bunch.

Remember that sun-dried tomato spread? I froze some and couldn’t help but use it here. It’s like a gift that keeps giving. This sandwich has a healthy amount of caramelized onions in it, and I’m OK with that. Once they are cooked down, all that’s left is this mild earthy sweetness that pairs really well with the tomato and cheese. That hint of heat? A pinch of red pepper flakes. Seriously, it really brought everything home.

3) Spinach, tomato, spinach, caramelized onions, and spinach grilled cheese.

Seriously, I put a LOT of spinach in this beast. More cheese would have been welcome to offset that.

This one goes out to all the spinach lovers out there...

Lots of spinach (lots), a few slices of roma tomato, goat gouda, and some caramelized onions. Great stuff, but for once I may have overdone it with the spinach. The sandwich had nearly two cups of wilted spinach in it. It was great though, the tomato and the goat gouda helped cut through it. This one could have slid into the number two spot if either the cheese was increased or the spinach was decreased.

So now that you know, let’s break down how to do each one:
Click through to read the full ingredients and see more photos.

Barely meat barley salad

Barley is a new experience for me. I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up a pack from the store. It’s not something I ever remember eating, but I remembered seeing a container of barley at my brother’s place a long time ago. Coming across it this time I thought it was about time I tried it.

Once home, I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I looked up what others have done to get some ideas. I was originally thinking of making something like the quinoa salad with it, but then I saw that many people used it in stews and soups. I decided to use a handful of the ingredients people used in stews, but make it dry instead of soupy. And I had a cut of steak that I had to use, so let’s bring some meat to this party.

Does the title of the post qualify as a pun?

Filling and tasty, but yet at the same time not heavy.

This dish was surprisingly simultaneously both light and filling–which fortunately was what I was going for. I didn’t feel like I had eaten a lot, but I was quickly sated. I cooked the barley in beef broth to give it more body and flavor. I also tossed in some mushrooms for some extra depth and the asparagus provided a bit of sharp vegetable-y contrast. A few ounces of steak also helped fill out the meal and give a sense of eating something a bit more… well… meaty.

You don’t need much steak at all though, I like to think of the steak as an accent to the barley salad rather than as the main attraction. My roommate and I actually split one strip steak and still had a bit left over. I suppose we could have finished off the rest, but neither of us actually felt hungry for more afterwards. I suppose that meant that I accomplished my goal. *pats self of the back*

This recipe isn’t complicated to make either. One large pot for all the vegetables. One small pot to cook the barley. One skillet to sear the steak. And everything can be done in the time it takes the barley to cook.

Click through for the recipe.

Spinach salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette

I love salads. Mixed baby greens are generally what I go for, but I can never get enough of spinach. That tasty bitterness can go with almost anything. I also like blueberries. Fresh, tasty blueberries. And good balsamic vinegar. Check that out, I’ve pretty much just built this salad in front of you– With my mind!. I’m like some kind of mental architect… but with food. Let’s take this from the drawing board into reality.

Pay attention folks, in a couple weeks I'm going to turn this into a grilled cheese sandwich. And it will be glorious (I know, because I actually had one already!)

Spinach salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette

I’ve made this salad a few different ways and have come to find that less is more. If you try to drag too many things into this, the richness of the ingredients becomes diluted. Spinach, balsamic vinegar, and blueberries is really all you need. OK, so I added some pecans into it this time and I think that was a good move. But apart from that, nothing else is needed. Don’t let me stop you trying to improve upon it though. I’d love for someone to tell me that it’s better with, oh, I don’t know, sliced strawberries added. (Which could probably work really well, someone please do that and let me know:) )

As far as a salad dressings go, this one is unusual in that it has almost no oil. I know that a vinaigrette without oil is a bit odd, but it just works. I’ve made this a couple times and one time I accidentally left out the olive oil… to my surprise it made it better. It was less watered down and richer in flavor–the blueberries really had more chance to shine through.

I'm not even sure I can call this a vinaigrette, it's pretty much just balsamic vinegar and blueberries. It's delicious though.

Spinach salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette

Continue reading “Spinach salad with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette” →