Last night’s dinner was an improvisation. As with all good improvised meals, it ended topped with a fried egg.
It began with grits, mixed with some shredded cheddar. I don’t know why I don’t make grits more often, especially for breakfast. They cook up quickly, and I like them better than most other grains. To cook grits, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add a healthy pinch of salt. Lower the heat and whisk in 1 cup of grits. Stir frequently until the water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Add some grated cheese, if you like (I like).
Top a scoop of grits with some sauteed onion and prosciutto, a handful of chopped fresh spinach and the fried egg. It’s a yummy breakfast-for-dinner quick meal.
- Sweet Potato Hash Browns (simplycooking.wordpress.com)
Easter is not a big cooking holiday for me. I usually go somewhere else for dinner and don’t get to contribute. (Although I will take any excuse to make or eat deviled eggs.) But now that I have a toddler, I am sure that Easter egg dyeing is in my future. Here’s a nice guide to dyeing eggs the natural way from Mother Nature Network.
By the way, do Peeps count as processed foods? ‘Cause I love me some Peeps.
Last night I continued my exploration of how anything can be turned into a meal by putting a fried egg on top of it. This time it was a mess of spinach. And it was good.
First I roasted some onions. Quarter the onions, sprinkle with olive oil and salt, and place in a 400-degree oven for a while, until they get tender and browned. Slice thinly and set aside.
Next, sizzle some minced garlic and coarse salt in olive oil. Add spinach and turn with tongs until wilted. Sprinkle with lemon juice and pepper. Mix with the roasted onion and crumbled Asiago (or whatever cheese you have on hand). Serve with a fried egg on top or on the side and toasted sourdough bread.
What will I put a fried egg on next?
I had an ah ha! moment last night. I don’t know why this never occurred to me before. Many leftovers can be turned into a tasty meal simply by topping them with a fried egg and grating a little hard cheese over all. The egg yolk makes a delicious sauce and elevates the leftover veggies to meal status.
I tried this last night with quickly mashed potatoes and leftover steamed spinach. I mixed the two together, topped with a fried egg and grated over Parmesan. I think this would work well with most leftover vegetables, potatoes or grain dishes like risotto or polenta. I believe I could probably eat a dish like this every day (although then how would I get the leftovers?).
I also made a great impromptu salad for lunch yesterday that I wanted to share with you. I thinly sliced boiled potatoes and tossed with a dressing made of 1 part lemon juice, 1 part heavy cream and 2 parts olive oil. I mixed the potatoes with julienned raw spinach and flaked smoked salmon. Salt and pepper to taste. Great lunch!
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Often, when I’ve had a rough day or I’m pulling dinner together late, what I crave is eggs, which are easy to make and light to eat. But there are times when I just don’t want “breakfast for dinner.” I think that’s why spaghetti alla carbonara was invented.
This classic dish is really eggs with bread and bacon, reinvented. The eggs and bacon are tossed with piping hot spaghetti and Parmesan cheese, so that the eggs gently scramble, forming a silky sauce. Spaghetti alla carbonara is just as quick and easy to make as an omelet or frittata, but different enough to make a nice change.
Because this is such a quick dish, the key is having everything ready before you begin cooking, so you can pull it all together very quickly while the spaghetti is still piping hot. I give specific instructions below.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Yields: 2-3 servings
Time to make: ~15 minutes
- ½ lb. spaghetti
- 2 slices bacon, diced
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- 3 eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 2 tbsp. cream or milk (or substitute pasta cooking water)
- ¼ cup Parmesan, grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place a large bowl in the sink and set a colander on top of it.
Crisp the bacon in the olive oil and set aside when done. Whisk the eggs with the cream, milk or pasta cooking water and set aside. Cook the spaghetti.
When the pasta is done, drain it in the colander. Immediately empty the hot water out of the bowl and add the spaghetti to the bowl. Mix in the eggs and Parmesan. Toss vigorously until the eggs cook through and coat the spaghetti with sauce. Mix in the bacon, and season to taste.
Note: To increase this recipe to 4-6 servings, use 1 lb. spaghetti, 5 eggs and ½ cup grated Parmesan.
Last night, I made an Italian-style stew called Ciambotta (I don’t know if it was authentic or not because I had never heard of it before). I started with browned sausage, added onion, then garlic, then canned tomatoes, simmer for a while, then zucchini, simmer for a while longer. At the end, I made wells in the mixture and broke some eggs into them. Then I sprinkled grated cheddar over all and popped it into the oven until the eggs were done. I’m too lazy to post the recipe, but it was pretty durn good.
I’m going to try to get out of my snowbound house today because we need provisioning before we get another round of wintry weather. Fortunately, I think the roads are all melted, and it’s only my own cul-de-sac that’s a mess.
Pasta Frittata is a recipe that I’ve had on my “to try” list for a long time, but I’ve put off making because it sounds so weird. It is just what it seems like: a frittata that is made with leftover spaghetti or similar pasta (I used linguine). I don’t know why it seems so strange to me. The recipe I used calls for the same ingredients in a classic Carbonara: eggs, bacon, Parmesan and pasta. It’s just cooked like a frittata instead. Even my husband balked a little when I told him what I was making, so I wasn’t the only one who thought it sounded strange.
The frittata turned out pretty good, if a little plain. It definitely did not taste weird, though. The pasta adds some texture to the frittata, a little heft, but not a lot of flavor. I probably wouldn’t make this again unless I had some leftover cooked pasta that I was trying to get rid of, and next time I would add more vegetables and cheese. All things considered, Carbonara is definitely the tastier way to go.
On a totally unrelated note, when blue cheese is on sale, I love to buy a chunk and feast on green salads with blue cheese dressing. This is completely a guilty pleasure, but I try not to indulge too often. Here is my recipe:
Blue Cheese Dressing
- ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 tbsp. buttermilk or milk
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. sour cream
- 1-2 tsp. red wine vinegar (to taste)
- 1 tbsp. parsley or chives, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
Eggs baked in tomato sauce with green beans is exactly what it says. Oh yeah, there is some cheese in there too. This is from a recipe I got out of The Good Egg. My husband thought it was good; I thought it was weird but certainly edible. Granted, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, and I employed it mostly to use up odds and ends from the fridge, but it was still weird. Probably will not make again.
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I decided not long ago that I was not a multitasker, and I wasn’t even going to try. This may not sound like such a momentous decision, but since it seemed like multitasking was in my job description, it felt like a big deal. I noticed, though, that when I tried to do more than one thing at a time, I became flustered, unfocused and generally did a poor job of it. Now I concentrate solely on the single task I am doing until I am done, and I have to say that I find most tasks more pleasurable as a result.
A recent study validates my anecdotal evidence, not just for me, but for everyone. Guess what, multitaskers? When you try to do too many things at one time, you don’t do anything well. I think is particularly true when you try to send text messages while eating a meal with me, one of my personal pet peeves.
I bring this up because when it comes to making omelets, multitasking is not an option. Many people think making a proper omelet is beyond them. Actually, an omelet is a very simple thing to make, but it requires focus and singlemindedness. The good news is that it also requires very little time, and at the end of it, you have an elegant dinner that you can eat while surfing the Internet.
Here are some very useful techniques I’ve learned that enable me to turn out a pretty good (if not perfect) omelet every time:
- Select your filling first, if you plan to have one. I suggest keeping the filling to a minimum, no more than one or two ingredients. Good candidates are a small amount of shredded cheese, minced herbs, a little salsa or a bit of leftover cooked vegetables, warmed in some butter. For a sweet breakfast omelet, think berries, sauteed bananas or apples, or a little jam and cream cheese. Prepare your filling and have it ready to go.
- For each omelet, beat 2 eggs with salt, pepper, a teaspoon of fines herbes if you want it and — here is the secret — ½ tbsp. cold, cubed butter. Adding some butter in with the eggs imparts a lovely richness to the omelet.
- Heat an 8- or 9-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat with a little more butter until it foams. Add the eggs. Leave the pan alone for a few moments, just until the edges of the omelet set.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir the eggs gently in a circular motion until slightly thickened. Lift the edges of the omelet and tilt the pan slightly to allow the uncooked egg to run to the edge of the pan until the top is barely set.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle the filling over the bottom third of the omelet. Cover the pan and let it sit just a minute or so, until the top is no longer wet.
- Fold the lower third of the omelet over with a spatula. Loosen the eggs from the pan and fold over again. The bottom of the omelet should not be brown.
Note: If I am making omelets for 2 or 3 people, I usually don’t bother to make them individually. Rather, I switch to a 12-inch pan and make one large omelet, using the same technique. I then cut the folded omelet into halves or thirds to serve.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg
This sandwich makes my husband lose his senses. I only make it for him once a year, on Father’s Day, which I’m sure you’ll understand once you look at the recipe. It’s not exactly the most healthy of breakfasts, but it is delicious!
The recipe comes from Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking, but the recipe is so simple that you’ll probably memorize it after making it once. There are a lot of steps, though, so make as much ahead as you can, and then assemble and grill the sandwiches right before serving.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Fried Egg
Time to make: ~30 minutes
Yields: 1 sandwich
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 egg
- 2 slices any kind of bread
- cheddar cheese, sliced
Fry the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Wipe out the pan.
Fry the egg in the same pan as the bacon to desired doneness. It is best to leave the yolk a little runny, as it makes the sandwich that much more delicious.
Heat a flat griddle over medium-high. Butter one side of each piece of bread. Assemble the sandwich with the cheese, egg and bacon, buttered sides out. Place the sandwich on the hot griddle and cook until well browned. Flip carefully and cook the other side. Serve right away.
Notes: If you are making several sandwiches, you will have to lower the heat between sandwiches or they will start to burn before the cheese gets melty.