Archive | August, 2010

Leftover Tian Omelet

5 Aug

I guess we should call this one “Playing with my Breakfast,” huh? 😉

I woke up this morning with a craving for a real breakfast. Something hot and stick-to-my-ribs. And savory–it had to be savory. Pancakes weren’t going to cut it today.

I knew I had eggs in the fridge, and I knew I had my leftover tian, which incorporated some of the freshest tastes of summer. I also had some leftover shredded cheddar from last week’s fajitas, and it all came together into a summery omelet that helped use up some of the little dishes of stuff in my fridge and started my morning off on a yummy note.

A few notes on omelets: You know how everyone says to heat your pan on low when you’re making eggs? That’s true for scrambled eggs–they come out fluffy and soft cooked long and slow. But for omelets, you want to build up a little crust on the outside so things won’t fall apart when you fold your masterpiece over in the pan. Pretty omelets require medium heat. You want those eggs to sear up a bit so you can flip them over without making scrambled eggs with vegetables and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course).

I’m also going to let you in on an ingredient secret. Everybody puts onions in their omelets. But they don’t taste like onions in all that egg. Ever notice that? The point of the onions is crunch. They just add a little texture to the dish. So you can cheat and use frozen chopped onions here–grab a handful, run them under cold water for a second to thaw them, give them a squeeze to get rid of the extra water, and toss them into your hot pan. Nobody will ever know. There are always frozen chopped onions in my freezer–they’re cheaper and easier than using fresh sometimes, and in a meal like this, no one knows the difference.

This was a simple breakfast. I think it took five or six minutes, start to finish, and it was delicious. If you don’t have leftover tian, just dice up some tomatoes and beans, asparagus, peas–whatever summer vegetable you have around.

To make my leftover tian omelet, you’ll need:

Two eggs (or an egg and two whites, or four whites)

A tablespoon of chopped onion, frozen or fresh

About two tablespoons of leftover tian, given a quick chop (or just some chopped veggies)

Two tablespoons of shredded cheese–I used cheddar because that’s what I had.

Heat your omelet pan (usually an 8-inch fry pan) over medium heat and either melt a tiny bit of butter in there or spray it with olive oil (use nonstick spray if you’re using a nonstick pan). Toss in your onion and let them get a little soft, which only takes a minute or two.

Add the chopped vegetables and let them warm up.

Whip your eggs up in a bowl (don’t add water or milk) and pour them into the pan, stirring to distribute the veggies evenly. Let it sit, undisturbed for a minute or two to set up, and then gently lift the edges and tilt the pan to let the liquid egg run underneath. Give that a few minutes to set, and try it again. Repeat until most of the liquid egg is gone from the top.

Now, give your eggs an extra minute. I know you think they’re done, but just hang in there. You want that crust on the bottom, remember? Pretty omelet.

Sprinkle the cheese over half the egg mixture, and gently fold the omelet in half, so the plain half is on top of the cheese half. Turn off your heat and slide your breakfast onto a plate.

I can’t think of a better way to start a summer morning.

Use-It-Up Summer Tomato and Green Bean Tian

4 Aug

My mother’s neighbor has quite the prolific garden this summer and we were gifted a plastic shopping bag full of green beans, cherry tomatoes, and zucchini. The zucchini will become bread (vegatables? What vegetables? It’s a delicious baked good, kids!) and we snacked on the beans and tomatoes for a few days, but there was no way we were going to eat them all raw like that. ‘Twas a huge bag.

I’d already made two pizzas for dinner last night (more on that soon!) and didn’t feel like having two or three more bowls to clean, so steaming or salad-making was out. I thought for a bit and remembered a delicious tian I’d made last Christmas, and started improvising based on that recipe, which called for a stovetop step and an oven step, and more ingredients than I had around.

A traditional tian is a layered vegetable dish that’s topped with cheese and/or bread crumbs and baked until the top is crunchy and the veggies are soft and delicious. This doesn’t have bread crumbs and isn’t exactly layered, but it fits the bill in my own cooking dictionary. It was really fast and super easy, and only dirtied up a cutting board, knife, spoon, and small casserole dish. Score. The vegetables tasted sweet and fresh, the beans stayed crunchy while the tomatoes softened, and the cheese melted on top into a delicious crust. DH’s verdict: “I’d make a whole meal of this anytime.”

You’ll notice a lack of measurement. I tossed what I had into the casserole until it was about 2/3 full–I’d guesstimate I used a cup each of beans and tomatoes for the small dish I had. The beans still had the snap and a bit of the taste of raw beans. If you like yours more thoroughly cooked, steam them or give them a quick whirl in boiling water before you add them to this.

To make my summer tomato and green bean tian, you’ll need:

Fresh green beans, ends cut off and discarded, and beans cut into 1 – 2 inch pieces

Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (you can use larger tomatoes–just cut them into smaller pieces)

Shredded Parmesan cheese (I used a handful and would guess it was 1/2 cup)

Extra-virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar (I used about a teaspoon of oil and a tablespoon of vinegar)

Spray a small casserole dish with olive oil or cooking spray and heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Combine beans and tomatoes in the dish. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over them, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the cheese is melty and starts to crunch up–about 15 minutes or so.

I bet those zucchini would have been good in here, now that I think about it. And truthfully, I’m going to try this with only tomatoes next time I have a bunch laying around–they were just amazing. Love summer tomatoes this way!

Fettucini with Garlic and Olive Oil

3 Aug

Way back when, when the dinosaurs roamed, DH and I honeymooned in Italy. I hadn’t yet caught the playing with my food bug back then, but I liked food a lot and exploring restaurants and bistros and cafes was a highlight of our trip.

I wasn’t that far out of college then and still had one foot mired in ramen noodles and the occasional delivery pizza. In other words, I didn’t know much about real food. I couldn’t sniff out the herbs and individual flavorings in a dish and had no aspirations to eat something in a restaurant and then go home and re-create it; I still followed recipes to a T, fearing the apocalypse if I strayed.

Even with so much ignorance, I knew the food in Italy was different. Part of that was that everything was fresher–people really did get up in the morning and shop at outdoor markets for that night’s meal. But a huge revelation to me was that flavors there didn’t just jump off the plate and pop you in the lips with a big “HI THERE!!”

Italian food was subtle. Garlic was a sparingly-applied perfume, not something that haunted you for hours after a meal. Pizza focused on an amazing crust topped with slices of fresh tomato and tiny bites of cheese–nothing dripped off the sides when you raised a slice to your mouth. Seafood merely kissed the grill before meeting a few drops of lemon, and meat was tender and tasted like meat instead of sauce.

I didn’t know much about food back then, but I knew I liked this way of eating. And a prime example is a simple dish of noodles with garlic and oil. Fresh flavors shine through, and the meal isn’t dominated by one taste over another. Done right, this is comfort food at its best–simple and easy and completely satisfying without screaming at you from the plate.

I made fettucini with garlic and olive oil this week, melding together a few recipes I found online and adding two ingredients I’d never used before in this dish. One is lemon zest, which, like those meals I had in Rome and Positano, provides an undernote to the pasta. You don’t taste lemon, but you do taste something extra that freshens everything up.

The second is mint. Just a touch of mint brightens the whole recipe. I grow mint in my deck’s herb garden so grabbing a handful of leaves was simple. If you don’t and can’t buy just a stem or two at your market, you can leave it out without regret. Again, you never really taste it. It works in harmony with everything else.

You’ll notice my recipe doesn’t use parsley. That’s because I loathe parsley. If you like it, by all means add some. This would also be good with shrimp or clams.

If you’ve never seeded tomatoes, it’s super simple. Cut your tomatoes in half so you’re cutting through the stem end and squeeze them over a trash can. Presto-chango, the seeds will flop out and you’ll be good to go.

I served this with a very simple garlic bread and glass of red wine, and I have to say it’s among my favorite meals. I hope you enjoy it.

You’ll need:

1 pound fettucini

4 cloves garlic, minced very finely

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (do NOT make this with anything but EVOO)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

About 10 mint leaves, finely chopped

The zest of one lemon

Grated Parmigianno cheese

In a pot of salted water, boil the fettunici noodles until just on the hard side of al dente. Drain but leave the cooking pot on the hot (turned off, but hot) burner.

While the pasta cooks, combine the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a cold small saucepan. Turn your burner to medium-low and heat the oil mixture, stirring frequently until the garlic just starts to turn golden and you smell it (about six or seven minutes). Don’t go any farther than that with the heat–you’ll burn the garlic. Add the tomato for the last minute of cooking and stir continuously, until it softens a bit and has a chance to absorb some garlic flavor.

Return the pasta to the hot pot. Pour the garlic and oil mixture over it and toss with tongs until each strand is coated. Sprinkle the lemon zest and herbs over top and toss again. Serve, sprinkling each portion with Parmesan cheese.

French(ish) Bread

2 Aug

I love French bread, until it’s a day old. At which point it’s a doorstop. Paperweight. Weapon. Boomerang. Hard as nails and not something I want to eat. So I tend to not buy it very often, as our family won’t eat a loaf in a day and waste in my kitchen means waste in my wallet, and that makes me sad.

Last weekend, I set out to make French bread. I did this not realizing that most recipes call for a special mold you’re supposed to use to rise and bake the bread. Y’all know I’m a fan of Alton’s–death to the unitasker and all that. And I’m a fan of not having big gadgets suck up half my cabinet space. So those recipes weren’t going to work.

Finally, I found a French Bread recipe that let you mold the bread by hand and bake it on a baking sheet. As it should be, right? I printed it out and got all my ingredients in a row and started measuring and mixing, and it wasn’t until I left things along to rise that I realized I screwed it up.

The recipe called for an egg yolk, see, that you were supposed to use to brush over the bread right before baking, to give it that shiny crunch on the crust. But because I was really tired (I’m a working mom, you know) and in a hurry (dinner was three hours away), I flew through the directions (adding a step to proof the yeast, which was missing in the original) and plopped that yellow sucker right into the dough. Negating, right then and there, French bread’s claim to fame–that it’s light and fat-free.


Being tired and time-crunched, I decided to let things go. My kitchen got to smelling warm and yeasty and the bread was moist and delicious when it came out of the oven, and then it lasted for FOUR DAYS wrapped up on my countertop without turning all petrified.

So it’s not exactly French bread. It’s French(ish) bread. And it’s super yummy, on its own or as part of a sandwich, or just buttered, or made into garlic bread to go with pasta–we’ll talk about pasta tomorrow.

Give this a shot. And if it’s not the best French(ish) bread you’ve ever tried, give me a yell and let me know. I’m curious.

To make this bread, you’ll need…

1 cup warm/hot tap water (hotter than your skin when you touch it)

1 tbsp white sugar

1 1/2 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups bread flour (yes, bread flour–softer crumb, crunchier crust)

2 egg yolks, divided

1 tbsp water

Stir the sugar into the cup of water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast on top of that and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until it starts to look foamy on top.

In your bread machine (or mixer if you don’t have a bread machine), combine the flour, salt, and one egg yolk. Then add the yeast mixture. Let your machine go through a dough cycle, and then let it sit an extra half-hour after the cycle ends without messing with it. If you’re using a mixer, mix together the ingredients until they form a ball knead them for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and elastic, and then let rise for 90 minutes.

Punch down dough. On a lightly (very) floured surface, roll it into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle–you’ll have to let it rest a few times, as it starts springing back a lot. Cut the dough in half, creating two 8 x 12-inch rectangles. Roll each of these up, starting from a long side, pressing down every so often to get rid of air bubbles, and rolling the whole log on the counter to form tapered ends.

With a sharp knife, slash the dough down the center, length-wise, about an inch deep. Place each log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise another 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix remaining egg yolk with the tablespoon of water, and brush that over the dough. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.

%d bloggers like this: