Archive for the 'breakfast' Category

not quite jambalaya

Saturday, January 14th, 2012
not quite jambalaya

I bought some house-made smoked andouille sausage from the butcher last week. I think I’ve only eaten andouille sausage once or twice, probably in a jambalaya which I imagine I must have tasted off my husband’s plate. It’s not a dish I tend to order, for some reason, and, to be fair, Cajun cuisine isn’t really popular around these parts. The andouille appealed as it was house-made (they know their way around pork), smoked (mmm), and I’d never cooked with it before.

To be honest, I know very little about Cajun food, having never lived in nor visited an area populated by people of that particular heritage. As a result, I’ve only ever sampled what I assume are vague approximations of Cajun cuisine. I do know it’s a complex cuisine, with French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean, and African heritage, and that its holy trinity is onions, peppers, and celery. And I had a pot of rice just waiting to turn into breakfast. So I threw together this thing that isn’t really jambalaya at all, just a combination of flavors that I thought might combine well, while highlighting the smoky flavor of the fatty sausage. It is reminiscent of the abstract idea of jambalaya, as imagined by a hungry Californian on a Saturday morning. The result is just a little fiery, a little smokey, and deliciously redolent of paprika. The texture is very satisfying, combining soft scrambled eggs, bite-size sausage pieces, and warm, filling rice. If you have any shrimp, by all means, toss them in. They add yet another dimension of texture and the taste of the ocean.

not quite jambalaya

I didn’t have a green bell pepper, otherwise I would have included it in this dish. Bell pepper is an important ingredient in the Cajun “holy trinity”, which also includes onion and celery. The dish was quite good without it, but I think it would have been even better with some diced bell pepper. As I often do, I used ingredients that I had on hand. You can do the same.

2 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
1 small leek (both white and green parts), 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 smoked andouille sausage, cut into quarters lengthwise and diced
sweet paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, allspice, salt and pepper
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cooked rice
a handful of thin slices of Spanish chorizo, cut into ribbons
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe (or other greens), chopped
1 tomato, diced
1/2 lime

  1. Place a large skillet or wok over medium heat.
  2. Melt the butter in the skillet along with the olive oil.
  3. Add the leek, carrot, and celery to the pan. Fry the vegetables until they are golden.
  4. Add in the sausage and stir. Season to taste with the spices. I used a relatively large amount of sweet paprika, at least 1-2 teaspoons, and smaller amounts of the other spices, and just a dash of allspice.
  5. Stir the vegetables to coat them well with the spices.
  6. Push the vegetables to the side and add more olive oil or butter if the skillet looks dry. When the fat is hot, slowly add the beaten eggs and scramble them.
  7. When the eggs are scrambled, combine them with the vegetable mixture.
  8. Add in the rice and combine with the eggs, vegetables, and sausage.
  9. Add the chorizo ribbons and toss to combine.
  10. Add the chopped broccoli rabe or greens. When they begin to wilt, combine them with the rice mixture.
  11. Add the diced tomato and combine.
  12. Cook until the greens are bright green and wilted.
  13. Squeeze over some of the juice of half a lime and turn off the flame.

Serves 3-4.

vegan tea-smoked tofu and almond stir fry

Saturday, August 27th, 2011
vegan tea-smoked almond stir fry

(Not winning any beauty contests, but pleasing to the palate.)

Warning: this recipe is neither authentically Chinese in any way, nor is it pretty. It does, however, taste good. Feeling peckish and rather surly on a cold, grey Saturday morning, I threw this together using whatever fresh vegetables I had on hand.

The idea here is to create a dish with a pleasing array of textures—soft, crunchy, crisp, chewy—and flavors—the usual hot, sour, salty, sweet, umami. I served the dish rather heretically on a bed of steamed jasmine rice and macaroni. (In Chinese cuisine, rice is typically eaten on its own, as Westerners might nibble on some bread while enjoying the main course. Of course, macaroni does not belong in a pot of steamed rice. Don’t ask me why I put it there, I suppose I wanted to see what it would taste like.) I think this dish is actually best served as a sort of dry ho fun, that is, combined with the wide rice noodles known as ho fun. You could also add in another source of protein, such as seitan (HAIL SEITAN!) or tempeh for texture and variety.

Alternatively, you could add in some egg ribbons for a vegetarian version of this dish (which I did for the husband, but not for myself). These are easily prepared by beating a couple of eggs and cooking them in a well oiled wok, taking care to turn the wok in order to better distribute the egg mixture into a sort of flat pancake. Slice into ribbons as the egg hardens, sprinkle these on top of your stir fry. C’est tout.

vegan tea-smoked tofu and almond stir fry

If you have fresh ginger and green onions on hand, do use them in this recipe. I did not, so I made due with powdered ginger and just the shallot. I used the wonderful tea-smoked tofu made by Hodo Soy Beanery as my tofu base for this dish. You can use any other smoked, baked or savory flavored tofu, or just plain tofu if you prefer. You may need to adjust the seasoning if using plain tofu. As with any stir fry, prepare all ingredients before cooking, arrange them in order of use and then cook everything very quickly so as to retain the freshness and crunch of the vegetables.

1-2 tsp Jamaican or other yellow curry powder
coconut oil
1 Japanese eggplant, cubed
vermouth
1 shallot, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
6oz./170gr tea-smoked tofu, or other savory cooked tofu
2 cups snap peas, trimmed and sliced in half on the diagonal
1 carrot, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 stalk celery, chopped into bite-size pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 handfuls almonds
soy sauce
1/2 fresh lime or lime juice
powdered ginger
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Toasted sesame oil

  1. In a wok on high heat, melt some coconut oil taking care not to let it smoke.
  2. Fry the eggplant until the wok is almost dry, then splash in just a little vermouth. The eggplant absorbs the wine, keeping it from sticking to the wok and filling it with flavor.
  3. When the eggplant cubes have softened and colored a bit, remove and set aside.
  4. Melt some more coconut oil in the wok, about 1 tablespoon.
  5. Add the shallot slices and stir. When the shallots begin to color, add the curry powder and tofu. Stir.
  6. When the tofu has browned, add in the snap peas and stir. When these are bright green, add in the carrots, celery and garlic. Stir.
  7. Throw in the almonds, then season with one or two splashes of soy sauce, the juice of half a lime, a little ginger powder and hot sauce. Stir to combine the flavors and turn off the heat. Plate immediately.
  8. Season to taste with toasted sesame seed oil.

If serving with wide rice noodles, prepare the noodles as instructed on the package (they’re usually soaked in hot or warm water). Combine the noodles with the stir fry in the wok during the last minute of cooking. Add more soy sauce and sesame oil if necessary.

matzah brei

Friday, April 25th, 2008

matza brei frittata

I have fond memories of eating matzah brei for breakfast of a Sunday morning during Passover. I’d wake up to the smell of browned butter and cinnamon, and wander into the kitchen.

My dad preferred the scrambled style of the traditional dish. He’d break several sheets of matzah into large pieces and soak them in water or milk, then mixing them with beaten eggs and stir-frying them in a large skillet. He’d sprinkle the crisp, golden matzah pieces with a little sugar and cinnamon, and serve them up to my brother and me. We would raid the refrigerator for all manner of toppings—cottage cheese, butter, cheddar cheese, American cheese, jam, chocolate syrup—and carry them, teetering, back to the table.

The adventure began when we sat down to eat. Cottage cheese and jam? Jam and butter? Cheddar and jam? Cottage cheese and chocolate syrup? The possibilities were endless and no combination was too weird. The matzah brei itself was a delight, a more rugged version of French toast we only ate once a year. I can still taste it, eggy, warm, buttery and bread-like, the sandy sweetness of cinnamon and sugar in my mouth.

savory matzah brei

1 1/2 cups matzah farfel
4 eggs
butter
1-2 handfuls fresh parsley
1 stalk green garlic or spring onion
1 poblano pepper or other pepper
smoked paprika
salt and pepper
cheddar cheese or any other cheese

  • Pour the matzah farfel into a large bowl. Break the eggs into the bowl and mix with a fork, beating the eggs slightly and tossing to coat the matzah farfel.
  • Melt some butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Coarsely chop the parsley and toss into the bowl.
  • Finely chop the green garlic or spring onion and toss into the skillet.
  • Chop the pepper into 1 inch (3 cm) pieces, adding it to the skillet. Toss to coat with butter and let the mixture sweat.
  • Scoop the pepper mixture out of the skillet and into the bowl of farfel.
  • Season the farfel egg mixture with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Mix to incorporate the peppers and seasoning with the farfel and eggs.
  • If necessary, melt more butter in the skillet. Spoon the batter into the skillet and smooth it into a large pancake.
  • Crumble some cheese onto the matzah mixture. Turn on the broiler as the matzah brei cooks.
  • Once the matzah brei has cooked for a few minutes, turn off the flame and place under the broiler. Remove when the top is golden and the cheese has melted.

Serves 2-4

sabikh!

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

Falafel’s lesser known little sister is sabikh. Sabikh is a pita sandwich with fried eggplant, a sliced boiled egg, chunks of steamed potatoes, salad, hummus, tahini sauce, and amba, a sort of sour mango pickle sauce. Traditionally, sabikh was eaten by Iraqi Jews on Saturday morning. According to lore, the sandwich didn’t really have a name back in Iraq. It was named sabikh by the Iraqi immgrants who opened the first kiosk in Israel to sell the sandwich. Filling, tasty, and messy, sabikh is a favorite street food among Israelis today.

Sabikh is inherently fun to eat. With its abundance of ingredients, it’s an everything but the kitchen sink type of sandwich. Every bite yields a combination of flavors and textures, and often a dribble of tahini down your chin. Keeping the full-to-bursting pita in one piece is always a delicate balance. (The trick here is to use slightly thick, soft, pliable pita, not the sort of thin cardboardy stuff you find at the supermarket).

Sabikh was one of A‘s favorite street foods when we lived in Israel. So on the morning of his recent birthday, I made sabikh with homemade pita. Sabikh makes a tasty breakfast served with Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad. And pita is much easier to make than you’d think. You can finish the meal with a small glass of strong Turkish coffee, or sweet mint tea.

sabikh with middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Hanit has a recipe for pita here, which you can halve. Or you could make the entire recipe and freeze the remainder for later.

1 small or medium eggplant, preferably the multi-cleft heirloom variety known in the Middle East as “baladi
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or coarsely chopped
good quality plain hummus, such as Sabra brand, or homemade
prepared tahini sauce (prepare according to instructions on the jar of tahini paste)
2 steamed potatoes coarsely chopped, or several bite-sized steamed potatoes
amba (optional)
2 good quality pitas
Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad (recipe below)

  • Place a heavy frying pan on medium heat and melt a good tablespoon or two of coconut oil in the pan. Alternatively, you could use olive oil (not extra virgin).
  • Fry the eggplant slices until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and drain.
  • Slice the tops off the pitas so that you now have two D-shaped pocket. Gently separate the walls of the pockets to make them easier to stuff.
  • Invert the sliced pita tops and nestle them at the bottom of each pita. These pita tops reinforce the sabikh, preventing dripping from the bottom (for a while, anyway).
  • Hold the bottom of a pita, gently squeezing the rounded edge in your hand so that the pocket opens.
  • Smear a bit of hummus in the pita, then add the eggplant, eggs, potatoes, and salad.
  • Drizzle tahini sauce and amba into the pita.
  • Serve with salad on the side.

Serves 2

middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad resembles salsa in that its ingredients are diced very small, creating a cohesive cross between a salad and a chunky sauce. The tartness of the lemon juice, the bite of the olive oil, and the freshness of the parsley meld with the sweet juices of the tomatoes and the crispness of the cucumbers. It just isn’t the same if you chop the vegetables any other way except a tiny dice. A salsa style salad is made to be eaten in a pita.

2 Mediterranean, Persian, or small pickling cucumbers
2 medium sized very fresh tomatoes
parsley
1 lemon, sliced
good olive oil, preferably Middle Eastern or Greek
salt and pepper to taste

  • Trim the ends of the cucumbers.
  • Dice the cucumbers and tomatoes. You want a very small dice, say, a quarter of an inch.
  • Finely mince a handful of parsley and add to the cucumbers and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze some lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle a good glug of olive oil.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Taste and correct dressing.

Serves 2

N.B. If you’re in NYC, you can get sabikh at Taïm. If you’re in the San Francisco bay area, you’re out of luck. But you can get Sabra hummus at Berkeley Bowl, and baladi eggplants at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. Check the farm stand across from Point Reyes Preserves.

nagaimo: the legend of the slimey tuber

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

groceries

Remember that weird looking vegetable I bought at Berkeley Bowl? It’s up there on the right, looking potato-like in an anemic sort of way, and somewhat hairy. Nagaimo is its Japanese name, and the Japanese turn it into a pancake called okonomiyaki, or “pancake made of weird slimey root vegetable.” If you thought tapioca was slimey, bubble drink pearls ain’t got nothin’ on nagaimo. Aliens exploding from Sigourney Weaver’s belly are less slimey than this. Seriously.

Still, slime can be an asset when you’re trying to get pancake batter to stick together. Hence okonomiyaki: a thick pancake filled with thinly sliced cabbage, scallions, pork belly, and shrimp. Okonomiyaki is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and—unlike Sigourney Weaver—exploding with contrasting flavors. The pancake is topped with sweet and sour sauce and sprinkled with seaweed flakes. It is then decorated with thin lines of Japanese mayonnaise, sliced like a pizza, and served. Nagaimo is both a binder and a starchy filler for the batter, which is rounded out with some flour and eggs.

My attempt at okonomiyaki was tasty, if not entirely authentic. I didn’t have any pork belly, shrimp, or scallions on hand, nor did I have any Japanese maonnaise (or any mayonnaise at all, for that matter). But I’m the type of person who insists on baking chocolate cake when I’m fresh out of chocolate and eggs. Once I’ve got an idea in my head, well, that’s it. Equipped with the basics—nagaimo, flour, eggs, and cabbage—I came up with a pretty tasty dinner pancake in the okonomiyaki style.

Here’s what I did. Using this traditional okonomiyaki recipe as a guide, I:

  • Quadrupled the recipe, producing 2 large pancakes and one small pancake, enough for about 4 servings
  • Substituted natural, full fat yogurt for half the water
  • Omitted one egg
  • Substituted grated cheddar cheese for the meat and shrimp
  • Substituted minced miniature leeks for the scallions (white part only)
  • Substituted ripped, toasted nori squares for the seaweed flakes
  • Cooked the pancakes in coconut oil
  • Topped the pancakes with my own sweet and sour sauce made by cooking fresh, whole tomatoes with soy sauce, vinegar, and mustard, salt and pepper

The result was an interesting mix of flavors and textures, the somewhat crunchy cabbage playing against the softness of the pancake, the gooeyness of the cheese and the crispness of the pancake on the outside. The aged cheddar added tang and depth, while the leeks lent an onion flavor with a slight bite. The sweet and sour sauce and the seaweed provided a counterpoint to the strong flavors on the inside of the pancake. The beauty of okonomiyaki, it seems, is its encapsulation of (almost) all flavors—sour, sweet, salty, umami—and contradiction of textures—crisp and soft, gooey and crunchy.

The vegetarian okonomiyaki was fun to eat, but I imagine that the original is a much more adventurous exercise in flavor and texture. Removing the pork belly and shrimp is like taking the filling out of pain au chocolat. You’re left with a croissant—a treat in itself—but it isn’t pain au chocolat.

tindoras and eggs

Friday, August 11th, 2006

Here’s what I did with those funny little mini-cucumbers I recently bought. I fried them with spices and eggs and served them with potatoes for a Sunday breakfast. Tindoras are fun to eat, they’re crunchy like cucumbers, but with an almost okra-like flavor (without the slime). I used hawaiyij, one of my favorite middle eastern spice mixtures, instead of curry powder. I also used curry leaves, but feel free to omit them if you can’t find at your local market. Thanks to Mahanandi for the inspiration!

tindoras and eggs

1-2 TBS ghee, butter, or coconut oil, or a combination
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 curry leaves
~1/2 lb tindora, quartered lengthwise
1 tsp hawaiyij
salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs
splash of kefir or natural yogurt
3-4 sprigs of sea beans, minced

  • Melt the fat in a large cast-iron pan on a medium flame.
  • Fry the mustard seeds and cumin. When the spices are toasted and just barely fragrant, add the garlic and stir.
  • Toss in the tindora and stir. Season with hawaiyij.
  • Thoroughly whisk three eggs with a splash of kefir or natural, whole fat yogurt. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour into the pan with the tindora. Allow the egg mixture to settle until the bottom begins to solidify, then scramble the eggs from the edge of the pan towards the center. Let the eggs sit for a minute, then scramble again.
  • Repeat just until the eggs are no longer liquid and immediately turn off the flame.
  • Sprinkle minced sea beans on top and serve with toast or potatoes.

Serves 2

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