Uova in Brodetto (Pasta with Eggs Poached in Red Sauce)

The other night I pulled this dish out of my memory bank for a quick and easy meal. It is inspired by a dish called Uova in Brodetto: Eggs in Tomato Sauce by Mario Batali. I got this recipe from watching one of his old cooking shows. This is a bit of a variation on that original recipe since I just prepare it from memory. Either way the credit here goes to Mario, not me. For the dish you need:

Pasta of your choice– I think a wider pasta like papardelle works best because it catches the sauce better than thinner pasta.

Tomato sauce– Use your homemade recipe or a good store-bought sauce. I’ve done both but most recently used Trader Joe’s organic marinara.

Four eggs

Good-quality parmesan

Boil pasta to your desired tooth. While the pasta is cooking, bring the sauce to a simmer in a high-sided pan. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Do this gently in order to maintain the shape of the eggs. You want to keep the eggs evenly separated from each other with at least a couple inches between them. Cover and check often. As the eggs begin to become cooked, you can spoon some sauce over them. Keep cooking with the lid on. You want the eggs to cook to the point where the whites are solid but you have a liquid yoke.

To serve, put pasta in a dish and spoon one to two eggs on the bed of pasta. Add as much sauce as desired. Serve with rustic or garlic bread.

As you eat, the yolk will break into the sauce, creating a creamy and flavorful treat.

This is vegetarian (if you eat eggs, of course) and easily made gluten free by using GF pasta.

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Sole Sauteed in Garlic Over Pine Nut Couscous

A very simple family-style dish from my childhood. As a kid, I wasn’t too into most seafood but sole has a very mild flavor that I quite liked. I’d never made this for Sarah but we had these sole filets, so I thought I would give it a go. In my youth the sole was served over pasta. But I thought couscous would be tasty. You need the following:

9-10 sole filets

Two cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

Olive oil

Chicken stock

One cup of water

One cup of couscous

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon of butter

Juice of one lemon

First, boil the cup of water. Toss in the pine nuts and some salt. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Cover and set aside for five minutes. After five minutes, fluff with a fork, add some olive oil and it is ready to serve.

While the couscous is resting, melt the butter in a small pan. When the butter is getting foamy add the bread crumbs and saute until the bread crumbs start to turn brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large skillet heat enough olive oil, over medium high heat, to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic. Saute the fish in batches and remove to a paper towel. Saute one side in the olive oil. When you flip the fish add just a bit of chicken stock to deglaze the pan. When the stock has nearly all evaporated, remove the fish to the paper towel to drain. Repeat until all the fish is done.

To serve, make a pile of couscous in the middle of the plate. Put the desired amount of sole over the couscous. Sprinkle the sole with the bread crumbs and drizzle a bit of olive oil and lemon juice over the top. I garnished with some yellow heirloom tomatoes.

A very tasty and healthy meal. You can adjust the amount of the ingredients depending on how many people you have. This served Sarah and me with a bit of fish left over to give the dog and cat a taste. Enjoy!

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Chana Masala with Bhaturas: Vegetarian Indian Goodness

My friend Diana is in town for a couple of days, and I promised her a vegetarian feast.  There’s nothing she loves more than Indian food, so I broke out my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook and made this chana masala for her and our friends Peter and Cat.  It turned out really well, and was less difficult than I expected.  It was spicy without being overpowering, and the lemon really gives it a fresh, tangy taste. 

(Incidentally, I realized about five minutes before my guests arrived that we were out of lemons– Joe used them all making lemon curd!  We only have small corner markets in my neighborhood, none of which carry produce, and I don’t have a car.  Fortunately, the neighborly folks at Ida Mae’s Bruncherie, reviewed here, spotted me a lemon!)

Chana masala, for those who haven’t tasted it, is a vegetarian dish of chickpeas simmered with onions, garlic, ginger, tomato puree and spices.  It’s topped with lemon juice, tomatoes and chopped onion and served with fried bread– in this case, bhaturas.  My friend LeftyProf gave me a real-deal recipe, from his best friend’s mom in Delhi, but when I raced home from work and started cooking, it emerged that we didn’t actually have all of the ingredients!  So I’m going to try that this weekend, and last night I made Madhur Jaffrey’s bhaturas instead.  Props to Peter for doing an excellent job deep frying these– I’m excited to have successfully produced another new (to me) Indian bread!  Read on for the recipes.

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Pound Cake with Lemon Curd

pound cake

Oh, pound cake, you buttery temptress.  So satisfying, yet so versatile.  You’re dessert, breakfast, a coffee break snack.  You’re so easy to make, yet so often you’re served dry and crumbly.  Can I do you justice? 

The good news is that Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, that venerable friend of vegetarians, has a beautiful pound cake recipe.  And my favorite cooking guru Alton Brown has a wonderful recipe for lemon curd that goes with it beautifully.  Lemon curd, if you’re not familiar with it, is a tart, lemony custard that has many, many applications, my favorite of which is as a topping for pound cake. 

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Carolina Fried Corn Cakes

This is a classic recipe from the Horne side of the family in Backswamp, North Carolina.  These corn cakes were always my absolute favorite growing up.  Grammy made them all the time, and when her sister, Aunt Reba, would visit I’d always beg her to make them– she’s the one who taught Grammy.  They’re really simple and cheap– this is what gastronomes call ‘peasant food’.  If corn and pigs are what you have, this is a lot cheaper and easier than baking bread!  They go with just about anything– and, added bonus, they’re gluten free and dairy free!

Ingredients:

Water

1 cup or so cornmeal (regular or roasted.  Grammy brings ‘real cornmeal’ back with her every time she and Grandpa visit the kinfolk in NC.)

You can increase/decrease the amount of cornmeal depending on how much you want.  Slowly add water, stirring, until you have a thin, soupy batter.   If you think it’s too thin, it’s probably just right. 

Heat oil in a pan.  (Bacon fat in there wouldn’t hurt the flavor, either, especially if you’re having these with breakfast.  I’m pretty sure that when Grammy was a kid these were cooked in lard.)  The cast iron pan is good for this.  When it’s nice and hot, spoon batter into the pan.  One spoonful should give you a nice little 3-inch cake– you don’t want to go too big.  The batter will spread out and the oil will bubble up through it, creating a very thin, lacy pancake.  You can probably fit three in the pan at a time.  Cook until golden brown.  Keep an eye on these, since they cook very quickly.  What you’re after here is a thin, delicate pancake that’s crispy and brown on the edges and spongy and golden in the middle.  (If you use roasted cornmeal, it will be darker in color.)  When crispy, lift out with a slotted spatula and move to a plate with a folded paper towel on it, to soak up the oil.  Sprinkle kosher salt over them immediately– it will be soaked up quickly.

In my family we traditionally eat these as a side dish with dinner, along with meat and a vegetable.  They’re also really good in the morning with eggs and bacon (and if you want to be unorthodox, some chipotle sauce, for which I will give you the recipe sometime this weekend).  They’re easy and quick and quite adaptable, so you can get creative and serve them however you want– with beans and rice, with ceviche, as tostadas…. the possibilities are endless.

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Breakfast Casserole

A friend asked me about this dish yesterday, and it’s such a simple, easy recipe that I thought I’d share it.  It’s basically a savory bread pudding made with breakfast ingredients.  The idea for this dish came from my mom’s coworker, a very talented woman who’s always putting together some thoughtful, creative gift.  She brought a prepped version, minus the eggs, over on Christmas Eve, the idea being that on Christmas morning all we’d have to do would be to add eggs and throw it in the oven.  Brilliant.

This is also a great way to use leftovers, and you can customize it however you please.

The basic ingredients are:

Several torn-up slices of bread (day-old or gluten-free)

1 cup or so of shredded cheddar cheese

Several eggs, beaten with a fork (enough to cover the bottom of the dish evenly)

Arrange the bread in the bottom of a casserole dish (glass or ceramic, 9×13 or thereabouts).  Gluten-free bread actually works really well in this dish, because it tends to be a bit dry naturally, and can soak up the liquids in the dish as it cooks without getting too mushy.  Scatter cheese over it.

Now you can add whatever you like: bacon or sausage pieces (please cook these first!), diced tomatoes, onions, zucchini and/or peppers, mushrooms, leftover bits of beef or chicken… you get the idea.  Basically, take whatever’s in your fridge that might be kind of breakfast-y, chop it up, and scatter it evenly around the casserole dish.  When you’ve loaded it with deliciousness, you can (a) keep going, or (b) cover tightly with foil and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.  Or bring it to a friend’s house on Christmas Eve.  I wouldn’t try to keep it longer than overnight, though.

Either way, when you’re ready: pour the eggs evenly over the ingredients.  You don’t have to cover everything, but it should be even and at least cover the bottom of the pan.  If you like your eggs fluffy (and fatty), stir in some sour cream or yogurt before adding the eggs.  If you’re going the healthy route, use egg whites.  Scatter a bit more cheese on top.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until eggs are cooked and dish is golden brown and bubbly on top.  Serves 6-8 people. 

This dish not only uses leftovers, it creates delicious and long-lasting leftovers– you can make this for breakfast and then keep eating it all week if you like.

Happy birthday, Dad!

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Beef Korma with Pooris

Between traveling and convalescing, I haven’t had the time or energy to cook a Madhur Jaffrey recipe in a while.  I’ve been looking forward to getting back to it.  I finally managed to do a beef korma last night, although my cooking skills were rusty– it took a while to get back into my comfort zone!  I’m going to try to do fewer heavy meat dishes like this… but I’m only human, and korma is good.

I thawed stew meat with the intention of making beef roganjosh again, but when I got home from work I realized I was missing a few key ingredients, and of course the store was already closed.  Joe had prepped ingredients already, so I decided to do beef korma, which uses similar ingredients.  It worked, mostly.  I also decided to leave the little metal spoons in their drawer.  I haven’t done this precise dish before, but I have done it with chicken, so I have some familiarity with the process.

The recipe has you brown some onions for garnish, then remove them and brown the meat in the onion-flavored oil, then make the sauce and put the meat back into it to simmer.  You’re supposed to chop the onion into half rings for browning, but Joe had prepped for roganjosh so the onions were very finely chopped.  I decided to go ahead and brown them, which worked beautifully until it came time to take them out of the oil.  I had a really hard time catching them all and fishing them out before they could burn– important, because you don’t want burnt onions all through your meat.  I ended up pouring a bit of hot oil on my hand and then dropping an entire bowl into the pan!  Yeah.  Off my game, people, seriously.  Don’t ask me to operate any heavy machinery.

After I got the sauce ready to go, I added the meat back into the pan to simmer.  At this point, Jaffrey says to simmer it for half an hour, add the almond-pecan paste, and then give it another 25-30 minutes.  But I’d halved the recipe; I was using beef rather than lamb; and I was hungry and ready to watch Eureka, so I decided to play the simmering time by ear.  I ended up simmering for 20 minutes, adding the nut paste, and giving it another 10.  The beef ended up a little tough, though, so I guess I jumped the gun a bit.  The sauce, however, turned out really delicious.

Joe made poori dough while I was at work, so after I got things simmering, he started heating the oil and I started kneading the dough.  We learned last time we made pooris that it’s best not to roll them out too thin– about four inches, five at most, does the trick.  This time, we learned that speed is key during frying.  If you aren’t quick enough at turning the pooris once they puff, they’ll overcook and become crispy.  Joe mastered the technique about three pooris in, and this was probably the best batch we’ve made since the first time.  I’m totally amazed at how well certain dishes are complemented by specific breads.  Eating pooris with a beef dish like this has an effect similar to eating a good piece of cheese with just the right wine– the flavors of both are enhanced more than you’d ever suspect. 

Lessons:

-If you’re going to use stew meat, the simmering time matters.  Hmm, I know it works for dal but I’m not sure about beef… would this be a job for our friend Mr. Pressure Cooker?  Or would he do strange things to the meat?  I’m totally inexperienced with pressure cookers.  Readers?

-Speed matters when frying pooris.  Don’t hesitate to flip them the second they puff.

-Try not to spill hot oil on yourself.  Also, avoid dropping things into hot oil.

-Do not grab at things randomly and accidentally cause balls of dough to scatter everywhere, or your wife will become cranky.  Right, Joe? 🙂

-Pay attention to food/bread pairings.  It’s been my experience, in my limited explorations of Indian cuisine, that people have strong opinions and traditions about which breads go with which dishes.  Those pairings exist for a reason, and serving the correct bread with a dish really does make a difference to the flavors of both.

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