Category Archives: Brunch

Quick, Easy Breakfast – Fried Egg with Arugula and Kalamata Olives

Fried Egg with Arugula and Kalamata Olives

Spring is in full swing, and the arugula is growing like a weed on my deck garden. My new favorite (and quick) breakfast is a fried egg on arugula. Every morning I go out and pick 5-6 or the largest leaves, clean & dry them thoroughly, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Chop 2-3 pitted kalamata olives and fry a fresh market egg (1-2 minutes) to put on top. Easy, simple and delicious!

Arugula Growing in the Deck Garden

A Shakshuka Brunch – North African Fried Eggs

Ever since I received Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook for my birthday, Plenty, I’ve been obsessing. I think I could happily make a recipe from it each day until I’d made it through cover to cover. While I am not a vegetarian, I love cooking vegetarian fare and heartily believe it’s possible to develop deeply satisfying flavors without meat. It makes sense then that Ottolenghi’s book resonates for me as it is a “vegetables-only” cookbook (from a chef who is not a vegetarian) with recipes that combine unique flavors and techniques from around the world.

This recipe he calls Shakshuka, named for the man who served it in a tiny restaurant Ottolenghi found in Jaffa. This North African dish is fantastic and the author’s version shows once again his mastery of melding a multitude of flavors and spices such that no one flavor overpowers. That said, I think it’s the saffron that ultimately lends this fried egg dish a bit of an exotic aura.

I halved the recipe, and it serves a 4 or a generous 2. I don’t have more than one large cast iron dish, so was unable to fry up the portions individually as described in the recipe, but it was no problem to do all the eggs in one pan. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes since they’re no longer in season, so I used a jar of my own canned tomatoes, plus I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes I’d recently frozen (slightly defrosted in the microwave first). I didn’t have muscovado sugar on hand, so threw in a couple pinches of demerara sugar. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you. Most don’t take long to prepare and you can start cooking down the onions while you prep the herbs. Serve with fresh hunks of toasted, crusty bread. Combined prepping and cooking time is about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe Ingredients:
Serves a generous 2.
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Generous 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 tsps muscovado sugar (or 2 pinches of demerara)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 jar canned organic tomatoes chopped)
1/4 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne peppers
salt and black pepper
up to 1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Directions:
1. In a large cast iron pan, dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. (I didn’t add much water here, but the canned tomatoes were already quite watery.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)

3. Remove the bay leaf, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the peppers mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Yum! Below a photo from the cookbook showing the individually cooked portions.

Italian Plum Cake that Rocks.

Plum Cake that rocksAutumn has arrived! The farmers’ markets here in the Bay Area are going off. Plums are in season, and my boyfriend’s mom introduced me to this amazing rustic plum cake recipe. It’s great served at brunch, dessert or as an anytime snack, and is particularly fantastic served just 30 minutes out of the oven. (But what isn’t fabulous straight out of the oven, really.) Infusing the plums with the brandy and jam makes for a rich flavor, which pairs perfectly with the moist, yet somewhat crumby, sugary cake.

I saw some small plums at the Alemany Farmers Market, and bought them as I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find Italian prune plums. As it turns out, it really is plum season, and as soon as I was on the look-out, I began seeing Italian plums everywhere. I had already bought and prepared the first round of plums, but when I later saw the real deal Italian prune plums at the Glen Park farmers market, I decided I had to make two cakes, so I could try these out. It took serious will-power to resist buying a third variety of Italian plums I then subsequently saw at Canyon Market, which looked remarkably different (much smaller, more like cherries, and more red in color than the prune plums). I convinced myself a third cake was probably unnecessary. (Then again, if they’re still available next week…) I was intrigued by these smaller ones in part because you can also apparently use Bing Cherries in this recipe, and smaller is better because you can fit more on the cake. If you have larger plums, it’s probably a good idea to cut them into slices instead of leaving them whole. (I did not do this with the larger plums I had- they were probably a hair on the large side, and didn’t cook down quite as well.)

Two versions

You can place the plums right on top of the cake batter, and then the cake puffs up around them. (Above- the cake on the right is actually the larger sized plums. Because there were fewer plums, the cake rose up even more around them.) Also, I reserved the extra juice / syrup from the plum preparation- would probably be tasty served over the cake as a drizzled sauce or possibly on ice cream later on? Mmmm… I’ve got a serious case of Plums-on-the-mind.

This recipe originates from Cooks Illustrated magazine, the July/August 2007 issue. I highly recommend it! In a nutshell- it rocks.

Rustic Plum Cake

Rustic Plum Cake
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons red currant or seedless raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons brandy
1 pound (about 10 large or 14 small) Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, room temperature
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional- I did not include)
Confectioners’ sugar for serving, if desired

Directions:
1. Cook jam and brandy in ~10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about 5 minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. (If using larger sized plums, stir a few times along the way.) Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract if using) and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping the bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy).
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down (oops, I did skin side up) evenly over surface of batter. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

Italian Plum CakePS. I couldn’t help but notice that this cake looks amazingly reminiscent of one of my paintings from a few years back. ;)

Painting that looks like the plum cake I made

More White Bean Quesadillas and the Open Faced Brunch Quesadilla

Open Face Quesadilla with white beans and egg

Since I had all these homemade flour tortillas on hand, not to mention white beans (have I mentioned those?), I went into a quesadilla frenzy. My new favorite: the open faced quesadilla with a fried egg on top. I think of it as kin to huevos rancheros. I had some leftover sauteed vegetables and black rice that I threw in the mix for the “filling.” If I’d had tomatillo sauce on hand to drizzle on top, that would have even better!

With the open face, I usually heat up the tortilla for 1 minute first, then flip it, and place the ingredients on the hot side. Then back in the pan, heat it again, open face up, covered, for ~1 minute. Serve it with a fried or poached egg on top.

Pictured above: Open faced quesadilla with avocado, white beans, sauteed spinach and zucchini, tomato and black rice with fried egg.

Pictured below: Open faced quesadilla with white beans, sauteed onion and chard, and gruyere with fried egg. Sort of like a little pizza.

Homemade tortilla with white beans, chard and fried egg

Yet another open-faced, pizza-style version with white beans, sauteed onion, jalapeno, and chopped spinach with tomatoes and goat cheese.

Quesadilla with white beans, spinach and goat cheese

Then with “salad on top”: arugula with a light vinagrette dressing.

Quesadilla topped with arugula

Aaaaand, another full-fledged quesadilla with white beans, avocado and cheese. Mmm.. (Amazing how far 12 tortillas will take you!)

White bean and avocado quesadilla

Sweet Potato, White Bean, Zucchini and Chard Quesadillas with Homemade Tortillas

Sweet Potato and White Bean Quesadilla

Given my recent infatuation with white beans and homemade flour tortillas, it seemed natural to combine the two. I decided it’d be fun to make quesadillas using mashed sweet potato as a complement to the white beans, along with chard for health and zucchini for a little crunch. Yum.

Makes enough ingredients for 2-3 quesadillas.

Ingredients:
1 large or two small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 large leaves swiss chard, cleaned, stems removed and leaves chopped
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4- 1/2 cup cooked white beans
Handful of fresh thyme
Flour tortillas, preferably homemade
Jack cheese (grated), queso fresco or feta
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Steam the sweet potato until soft. Mash until more or less smooth. Meanwhile, heat white beans on stove top or microwave. (If you haven’t made a batch from dried beans, you could use canned cannellini beans- rinse first before heating.)

2. Heat medium sized fry pan or cast iron pan with a teaspoon of oil. Saute onion until softening, about 5 minutes. Saute chard until cooked, 6-10 minutes. Add zucchini and saute about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Set vegetables aside in separate bowl. Wipe out pan and coat with small bit of oil.

3. Place a flour tortilla on a plate. Spread sweet potato in a thin layer covering the entire tortilla. Next add white beans, lightly mashing into the sweet potato. Add the vegetable mix, a dash of salt, generous fresh cracked pepper and thyme and finish with cheese of your choice. Place second tortilla over the top.

4. Heat pan on high heat until hot, 1 minute or so. Place tortilla in pan and cover, reducing heat to medium high. Cook 1 minute, then carefully flip using a large spatula and cook 1 more minute, again covered.

5. Place quesadilla on plate and cut into 4 equal pieces, and serve hot.

Sweet Potato, white bean and chard quesadilla

Tastiest White Beans

Dried White Cannellini Beans

Mark Bittman has definitely gotten me on the bean train. Having some black beans or white beans in the fridge allows for making quick and tasty meals on the go, such as quesadillas, soups, salads or sides. I recently discovered a love for white cannellini beans. The trick is using homemade chicken stock for the simmering (and not soaking the beans too long in the first step so they can absorb as much of the stock as possible in the second.) The whole process takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, mostly unattended.

Ingredients:
1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 medium onion, chopped small
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced small
1 stick celery, diced small
~1 quart (4 cups) homemade chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:
1. Rinse dried cannellini beans. Place in pot with cold water with the water 1-2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit about 1 hour. Taste a bean. The beans should be softening on the outside, but still a little hard in the middle, ie. not completely soft yet. Drain water from beans.

2. Add chicken stock to the beans, again with the water level about 1-2 inches above the beans. If you don’t have enough stock, add some water. Turn the heat back onto high to bring to a boil.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds or so. Stir the vegetables into the beans and stock. Add the bay leaf,  thyme, a few pinches of salt, and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer on low. Check every 10 to 15 minutes. When the beans are completely soft, but not falling apart, remove from heat. It usually takes between 30 minutes to an hour for the beans to completely cook.

5. Remove bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Use immediately or store beans with cooking liquid in the refrigerator and reheat as needed. (I find it’s best to only reheat the beans that I plan on using and leave the rest in the fridge, so they aren’t reheated multiple times.) Will last in the fridge for about one week.

Perfect Roast Potatoes for Brunch

Scrambled Egg Brunch with Roast Potatoes

I do love a good brunch. And there’s nothing like roast potatoes for a deeply satisfying meal. A friend recently mentioned to me that she doesn’t bother to roast potatoes because it takes too long. I used to think this too, until I figured out that all you have to do is throw the potatoes in the oven first before prepping everything else. By the time you’ve got everything ready, the potatoes will probably be done, or almost done. With all your prepping completed, wait a few minutes if necessary to be sure the potatoes are fully cooked through, then quickly scramble, fry or poach your eggs. Before you know it, you’ll be eating in style.

These roast potatoes should be crisp on the outside with a soft middle. It does help if you have one really good quality baking sheet. This can significantly improve your chance of perfectly browned and lightly crisped potatoes.

Happy brunching!

Roasted potatoes for 4 or a generous 2 servings:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel 2-3 medium to large potatoes, whatever you have around, red or yellow are fine.

3. Cut potatoes into small squares/rectangles, about 1/2 to 1 inch. Any larger, and they’ll take too long to cook. It’s best if they’re all around the same size, so that they will take the same amount of time to cook.

4. Get your best baking sheet and coat with a bit of olive oil. Add the potatoes and toss on the sheet with a spatula, moving them around, adding a bit more oil until they’re lightly and evenly coated. Generously salt and pepper. Sprinkle on some dried or fresh thyme. Toss some more. Add a bit more salt. Toss a bit more.

5. Place the sheet in the now preheated oven. Check every 10 minutes and flip and stir with a spatula to make sure they’re browning. The potatoes should be cooked in 20-30 minutes.

6. When the potatoes seem almost done, quickly cook your eggs and toast the bread.

7. Remove from oven when done and cover with foil if a few more minutes are needed to prepare the table. Serve hot with eggs, toast, fresh tomatoes, and sparking wine.

Celebrate Strawberry Season with a Dutch Baby Pancake

Dutch Baby Pancake with Strawberries and Bananas

Excerpt from EcoSalon:

Strawberries are out in full force, and we bought a flat from the farmer’s market over the weekend. We were mashing the strawberries to make jam when we realized that a Dutch Baby pancake was clearly in order for Sunday brunch.

The “Dutch Baby” originated in Germany, and is made of eggs, flour, sugar and milk. This egg-rich pancake is cooked in the oven and puffs up at the last minute to make a beautiful airy “cake” that’s really more like a popover. It’s also the perfect compliment to fruit.

The secret to the Dutch Baby is to…Keep Reading…

-hBru

Scrambled Eggs with Blue Potatoes

Scrambled Eggs with Blue Potatoes

My infatuation with eggs for breakfast, lunch or dinner continues. Eggs can be cooked up very quickly and made with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and spices. I recently scrambled up some eggs with thin slices of blue potatoes, and was very happy with the result. The trick to good scrambled eggs is to cook the vegetables first and then move them off to the side of the pan. This allows the egg to scramble with a better consistency. Mix in the vegetables right at the last minute when you’re about to serve. Here’s what I made:

Ingredients:

2 eggs, briskly whisked with a fork

1 small blue potato, washed, halved and sliced thinly

1 young garlic (or 1 shallot) sliced thinly

3-4 kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped

pinch of chopped fresh parsley and thyme

1 T crumbled feta cheese (or grated Parmesan or whatever cheese is on hand)

1 T olive oil or butter

salt & pepper to taste

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Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner: Basics behind the Frittata

Frittata with Chard and Fingerling Potatoes

While volunteering at the Edible Schoolyard at the Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, I have been amazed at the food sophistication of the kids I work with in the kitchen. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that 6th graders at the Edible Schoolyard can correctly identify Swiss chard or discern the difference between mustard greens and kale, none of which I’d ever seen until twenty-something several years after living in California.

At the annual ESY’s Thanksgiving produce giveaway- a festive event before the holiday break where the ESY folks hand out greens, herbs, apples and dried flowers from the garden for students to take home, I saw one 7th grader happily chewing on a stem of parsley as though that were the most natural thing in the world. Who says kids won’t eat vegetables?

I do my best to share my food knowledge with the students as we go about cooking whatever dish is the lesson for the day, but inevitably I’m the one learning a new thing or two. We made a frittata one day, a favorite I’ve continued to make ever since. Once you learn the basics, it’s easy to slightly vary the recipe depending on what you have around the kitchen.

– hBru

Basic Frittata Recipe

Ingredients:

8 eggs

1 T olive oil

1-2 shallots, slices or minced

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

3 fingerling potatoes, washed and sliced thinly

4-5 chard leaves, rinsed, stems removed and chopped (~1 to 1 1/2 inch size)

assorted herbs, such as:

4-5 mint leaves, chopped

4-5 stems of parsley, leaves removed and chopped

a few stems of thyme, leaves only

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

salt & pepper to taste

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