Recession Food: Matzo Brei

Yes, folks, now that the financial sector is in total collapse and we’re staring down the very real possibility of a new Great Depression, it’s time for another installment of what will clearly be our ongoing series, Recession* Food!  Those of us who didn’t make millions running banks into the ground are tightening our belts, cashing in our change jars and wondering about that seven hundred billion dollars (!!) we’re being told we’ll hand over to the rich, so I’m afraid I won’t be reviewing many fancy restaurants on this blog anytime soon.  Seriously, a loaf of bread, a block of store-brand cheddar and a bag of Lay’s chips just cost me eight bucks.  It’s going to be a rough winter.  I will, however, be creative at finding ways to make tasty, nutritious food as cheaply as possible.  After all, that’s what most of the six billion people on this planet try to do every day.  Which brings us to matzo brei (or matzah brei), a Jewish favorite with Ashkenazi origins.

I’m not Jewish, and it’s been only recently (thanks largely to the lovely folks at the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation) that I’ve been introduced to the joys of Jewish culinary traditions.  So my introduction to matzo brei came from a book: the delightful Garlic and Sapphires, former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl’s memoir of her adventures in dining.  In one chapter toward the end of the book, Reichl is describing a period when the backbiting and snobbery of the food world began to get under her skin.  She reacts one night by cancelling her reservation to a lofty temple of haute cuisine and staying home with her two-year-old son making matzo brei, his favorite.

This matzo-and-egg dish is incredibly simple, quick and cheap.  (It’s also vegetarian and very Crohn’s-friendly, with its high protein and easily digested matzo.**)  I used Manichewitz ‘everything’ matzo, which, like the ‘everything’ bagel, has bits of onion, garlic and poppy seed for some added flavor.   There are lots of versions out there, including one that’s closer to a fritatta; there are also sweet versions with fruit and sour cream.

This recipe is meant for two, but Joe and I found that it took three crackers and four eggs to satisfy us.  Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  This takes five minutes to make.  Really.

Matzo Brei (recipe by Ruth Reichl)

2 matzo crackers

2 eggs

Salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a colander inside a bowl (to catch the crumbs) and break the matzos into little pieces, dropping them into the colander.  Remove the colander from the bowl and hold it beneath running water until the matzos are damp.  Allow them to drain; then put the damp matzos into a bowl.

Break the eggs into the bowl and stir with a fork just until mixed.  Add salt to taste.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  When the foam subsides, add the matzo-egg mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and there are a few crispy little bits.

Put on plates and serve at once.

(Note: This might be blasphemy, but the spice lovers in my household ate this with a generous dollop of Sriracha hot sauce.)

*Stay tuned, I may have to rename it “Depression Food” and start offering recipes for roadkill and bathtub gin if this keeps up.

**Celiacs, you can buy gluten-free oat matzo, or try this recipe.  I haven’t tried these, so I can’t comment on their quality.  For those with wheat allergies who can tolerate spelt, though, I have eaten spelt matzo and it is freaking delicious.  Both are available from MatzahOnline.com.

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.

Leave a comment 

Digg!

Stumble It! add to del.icio.us

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

This is a classic American salad and a real favorite of mine. We took the classic Fannie Farmer cookbook recipe (reprinted in Saveur here) and updated it a little. This is an easy, delicious gluten-free meal.

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

(serves 2)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tsp. sugar

2 tbsp. plain yogurt

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

7 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 strips bacon (thick slices are best)

1 bag of baby spinach, stemmed, washed, and dried

6–8 medium white mushrooms, sliced, with stems cut off

1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2⁄3 cup vegetable oil

2 poached eggs*

1/4 cup banana chips

1. Combine garlic, sugar, yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, separate strips of bacon, then lay the bacon in a large skillet in a single layer. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until browned and crisp, 10–15 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to let drain. Pour off all but 2 tbsp. of the bacon grease and set skillet aside.

3. Put spinach, mushrooms, and shallots into a large salad bowl and set aside. Return skillet with rendered bacon grease to medium heat. Stir in oil and lemon–garlic mixture and heat until hot. Pour hot dressing over spinach salad and toss well. Coarsely crumble as much of the cooked bacon as you like and add it to the salad, saving any remaining bacon for another use. Top with banana chips and poached eggs.

*Poaching eggs is tricky. You should get the hang of it after a few tries, but if you really get discouraged, you can always go the classic route and chop up a few hard-boiled eggs. I recommend doing everything Alton Brown says, especially the bit about using fresh eggs. The texture, firmness and taste of farmer’s market eggs really can’t be beat.

Digg!

Stumble It! add to del.icio.us

Irish Cream

For about 15 years now, it has been a tradition of mine to make homemade Irish Cream for family and friends. An old friend gave me the recipe, which I’ve tweaked here and there over the years. It doesn’t have the shelf life of commercial Irish Creams like Bailey’s. It should last a couple of weeks if you manage not to drink it over that period of time. In my humble opinion, the homemade variety is creamier and more flavorful.

One thing. Yes, this is made with raw eggs. I know some people are a bit squeamish about that but if you use fresh eggs it should be fine. Plus, the whiskey acts as a preservative. But if you must leave the eggs out, add a bit more heavy cream and blend a little longer.

Here are the ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup Irish Whiskey

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp instant coffee (one of its few uses) You could let a couple tablespoons of dark roast coffee steep in a couple tablespoons of water overnight. Strain out the grounds and use the liquid. For me, since it is not a central flavor, the instant coffee works fine.

1 tbsp chocolate syrup

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp almond extract

Just add all ingredients into a blender and blend at high speed for 30-45 seconds. You can serve right away but it will taste even better then next day.

I like it over ice or as a creamer in coffee. Enjoy!

Leave a comment 

Digg!

Stumble It! add to del.icio.us

Eggs Moghlai

This is a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook An Invitation to Indian Cooking, the cookbook that inspired me to start this blog. The recipe is a fancy, rich dish- most Moghul dishes we in the US are exposed to are ‘royal’ recipes. There are two versions in this cookbook, one with chicken as the protein and one with hard-boiled eggs. Since eggs don’t need to be browned first and then simmered until they’re tender, the egg version is a whole lot quicker.

Read the rest of this entry »

Six Month Anniversary Dinner: Fall Spiced Pork Chops with Spinach and Apple; Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes

Sarah and I celebrated our six-month anniversary of marriage with a nice dinner and some wonderful home-brewed beer made by Sarah’s best friend Kara, which we aged for six months.

I was inspired by Ida Mae’s Bruncherie to do a fall pork chop dish. Theirs is applewood smoked but I do not have a smoker, so I had to improvise a bit. Earlier in the day we went to the Headhouse Market and bought two thick grass fed pork chops, some apples, heirloom tomatoes, some raw milk Parmesan cheese and some spinach.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bar Ferdinand: Tops in Tapas

Sarah and I love tapas. Eating samples from multiple plates is our favorite way to eat. You can relax, take your time and enjoy the food, what you’re drinking and good conversation. A number of months ago we tried Bar Ferdinand in Northern Liberties. It was great and it had just opened recently. We went back a week ago and had an equally great, if not better experience.

First off, Bar Ferdinand is open late. They serve dinner until midnight and the bar is open until 2AM. What’s more, they have a late-night happy hour between 9PM and 11PM. Normally, this means $3 sangrias and $4 draught beers. The beer selection is very good, featuring Belgians and microbrews. The wine list is extensive with a nice amount of selections by the glass. One of the things we miss about New York is the ability to get good meals late in the evening. Bar Ferdinand satisfies this need for us.

On to the food.

Read the rest of this entry »