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Spinach Salad with Prosciutto and Valdeón

Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, and Valdeón

It’s been a while since I’ve recounted a week sabor de soledad, even though Michael has had several trips taking him all over the place in the last year or so. Two weeks ago he was in the fabulous city of Tokyo on a last-minute trip, and I have to say that I was pleased with the dishes I turned out while he was away. It’s funny—I’ve become more of a salad person over the last few years, but I’m never so prolific in making them until I’m on my own. I can only account the follow reasons as why I’m so Team Salad:

  • Easy to scale down to one person.
  • Cheese is often involved, especially the cheeses I love but only rarely indulge in.
  • They are relatively fast dishes to prepare.
  • Oh, I guess they are allegedly healthy too.

I feel like such a traitor to both Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, but unlike fictional characters, eating vegetables on a regular basis is an unfortunate necessity.

amy-17

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Frisee Aux Lardons avec Ouefs Pochés et Gorgonzola/Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Frisee Aux Lardons with Poached Eggs and Gorgonzola

Another day, and more eggs. Only this time they are in a salad, and they are far more pleasing to look at because I took this photo last June when we were enjoying the height of natural light. (Oh natural light, how I miss you.)

But of course, this proves the eternal truth that just because a salad is called such a thing, there is no guarantee that it’s going to be rabbit food, given that friseé is one of those greens that isn’t the most nutritionally dense (at least compared to the ubiquitous kale) and it’s basically coddling a wonderful combination of Gorgonzola, bacon bits, and poached eggs–nary a spa food in the lot save for the greens. But that’s kind of what makes it wonderful: it strikes the right balance between heavy and light that leaves you satisfied without feeling like you have a gut full of food, and it’s also a one-course meal that can come together relatively quickly if your multitasking skills are in peak condition. (Mine vary by how tired I am when I get home from work, but I can still pull this together in about 20 minutes.)

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Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Black Garlic and White Balsamic

Eric Ripert, like most of the chefs who end up as judges on Top Chef, intimidates the hell out of me, mainly because he and his restaurant Le Bernadin in New York embody the word “flawless” in the way that few chefs and restaurants can. Simply thinking of the season 5 episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants visit the restaurant, have an amazing meal there, and then are tasked to recreate a dish they had enjoyed makes my stomach churn with anxiety to this day. I mean, this is the place that employs a guy whose job it is to properly break down whole fish, and he’s so good at it that when he goes on vacation, two people are required to handle the volume of fish he portions by himself and it’s still not enough to meet the demand.

Eric Ripert demands excellence and embodies it on a daily basis, and the rest of us are merely along for the ride. Read More

Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.

My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.

Pastis's omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Pastis’s omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.

So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.

Stay tuned!

*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.

Roncal-stuffed piquilo peppers

Roncal-stuffed piquilo peppers

Michael didn’t really believe me, I think, when I first mentioned that a storm was coming this weekend (and said storm has since blanketed the Northeast with a sizable amount of snow), but he willingly went along with my plan to stay in on Friday and Saturday and cook anyway. He balked a bit when I came home Thursday night laden with bags of provisions–likely thinking I was going overboard–but lo and behold, my instinct to stock up was right on the nose. That I was also able to get in and out of Fairway despite the fuller-than-usual parking lot was simply a bonus.

So while the snow fell and the wind howled on Friday night, we opened up a bottle of prosecco and got to work on a tapas spread. The one you see above was a bit of a punt. A delicious, delicious, punt.

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Chicken Liver Tortilla/Tortilla de Higaditos de Pollo

Tommy DeVito: Hey, what do you like, the leg or the wing, Henry? Or ya still go for the old hearts and lungs?
Henry Hill: [Vomiting] Oh, that’s so bad!

Goodfellas

Despite Michael being the resident meat-lover in our household, I’m the offal enthusiast. I can’t get enough of the so-called nasty bits, and I think this has something to do with the fact that my grandmom would always let me have the various turkey giblets when she would roast a turkey, and I’d happily snack on a lung or heart with abandon. These days I naturally gravitate towards any offal tacos I find at a taqueria, but can usually only look with longing at the many recipes in our cookbooks that feature things like chicken liver or tripe because someone doesn’t like the smell/taste. (To be fair, this is how I feel about broccoli. Nasty stuff, that is.)

This means I am usually Tommy DeVito to Michael’s Henry Hill, and I’ll admit I enjoy quoting the line above with the same amount of glee that Joe Pesci does in Goodfellas. Related: that is an excellent movie. Read More

 

Momofuku's chicken and egg

Neither Michael nor I said the actual words over the course of the last week of 2011, but in retrospect it was pretty clear we were both missing our tiny kitchen after four days of holiday celebrating with not much opportunity to get behind the stove. Day two of our mini-we-miss-New-York-Week (subtitle: the week we bounced back and forth between Tom Colicchio and David Chang’s cookbooks) was another “let’s take on a Serious Project!” day–although while this is a dish that takes some time to make, with a little planning I could see us enjoying this on a random weekday evening. It was also a great opportunity to break in one of our Christmas presents (although that is a very poor choice of words given what it is): Read More

Hable con ella - Alicia

I’ve been slowly making my way through the Pedro Almodóvar library, and one thing I’ve found that even in his most straightforward of films is that he always manages to include at least one good WTF moment that changes the whole path of the narrative. There’s always this element of the unbelievable, but to spin an oft-quoted English saying, one must keep calm and trust Almodóvar because he always manages to work himself and his characters out of any overly odd plot twist. The twist in Talk to Her (Hable con ella) is one I won’t give away as it’s pretty disturbing, but just when you think a character suddenly becomes completely unlikeable, redemption comes about in a strange way.

Hable con ella is one of those films in which the titular women are not present; they are in the past, and they are potentially in the future, but they primarily exist as coma patients during most of the film. Instead, the story is told from the perspective of the men who love them and care for them: the clownish Benigno and the standoffish Marco. It’s a story of men trying to understand women they love: Benigno thinks he understands Alicia because he talks to her, and has been doing so in the four years she’s spent in a coma; Marco is seen as someone who was open and could not stop talking to Lydia during the idyllic period prior to her accident.

They talk because they think that is what a good lover does; the problem, of course, is that they were pretty horrible at listening to the women they loved. Read More

Remember this from a year ago?

Spain winning the 2010 World Cup, July 11 2010

Oh, I still do. I can still remember the emotions when I watched that game a year ago (when this posts): I can still feel how I was wracked with anxiety, willing the Spaniards to overcome that whole “no team has ever won a World Cup when they lost their first group game” statistic and win against the Netherlands. And then Andres Iniesta scored and it was amazing and wonderful and Iker Casillas started to cry in happiness.

And then this happened yesterday:

The USA triumphs over aversity. (click picture for source)

This was a quarterfinal game, yet it was treated like a semi-final or a final: the number-one-ranked team in the world versus the number-one-ranked player in the world (that would be Marta), and it was rife with controversy thanks to some really bad calls from the ref and some childish behavior from the Brazilians during the extra time in order to run out the clock. But then a (literally) last-minute goal thanks to the combined powers of Megan Rapione and Abby Wambach tied up the game at 120 minutes of play, and  then the team dominated the penalty kicks. It was an American triumph at its cheesy-80s-sports-movie-best, and dammit, it was amazing. That it fell on the 12th anniversary of the women’s team WC win in 1999 in Pasadena was the icing on the cake.

That we made some delicious food seems almost secondary, but it’s the last home-cooked food I’ll have until Thursday (as I’m off to Chicago) so we reached, we shot, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Read More

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