Posts Tagged ‘breakfast’

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A second impression. (RICOTTA + FIG EMPANADAS)

April 16, 2011

Here’s the thing about empanadas, you can stuff just about anything you can imagine in there. Traditional fillings include beef, chicken, cheese, tuna, guava, spinach, etc. Though empanadas seem like a big project to undertake, if you cheat a little and buy the dough circles  pre-made*, they are quick and easy to the point where I actually made them for breakfast and believe me, I am not good for much in the morning. Truth be told, I made the fig jam the night before. Even better.

If you happen upon a set of flavors that sounds especially good, with a little engineering, it can usually serve as perfectly great filling. In the first run of this sweet, slightly savory combo of homemade ‘fig jam’ with rosemary and ricotta, my oversight was that I didn’t mix the fruit and the cheese together. It was as if they were divorced. The empanada was filled on one side was straight fig puree and the other was rather bland and plain soft cheese. There was potential but no real pow.

On the second try I reconciled the two sides, stirring them together in a bowl, adding some lemon rind and salt to brighten up the day. Not only did it save a step in assembly, it worked out great. Inside the crisp empanada lived a creamy, tart-sweet epicenter, a way better result than the first. We couldn’t keep our hands off of them, the true test of an empanada’s success.

After including the new tweaks, I added  an extra step to the recipe. A direction I would like to use in all of my recipes at various points; ‘Taste it!’ It is unbelievable how often people fail to taste something as they are making it. By tasting often, the cook remains in complete control of where a dish is going…. and, most importantly, how it arrives.

FIG and ROSEMARY EMPANADA with RICOTTA CHEESE

(makes 20 empanadas)

for Fig and Rosemary Quick Jam:

10 ounces dried black mission figs (about 2 cups), stems removed

3 tablespoons sugar

3 sprigs rosemary

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Place figs, sugar,  rosemary sprigs and 1.5 cups of water in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until most of liquid is evaporated and figs are easily pierced with/ a knife, 20-30 minutes. Remove rosemary stems.
  • Transfer mixture to a food processor, add lemon juice and puree until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup additional water to thin if needed. The final product should be like a thick spread. Store in the fridge up to one month.

for Empanadas:

20 empanada dough discs or 1 package (2 sheets) of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese

1 recipe Fig Rosemary Quick Jam

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 pinch salt

1/4 cup flour

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooled fig jam with the ricotta, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Taste it! Adjust.
  • Lay a dough disc on a lightly floured surface. (If using puff pastry, roll out the dough a little and punch 10 four inch circles from each sheet). 
  • Brush half of a disc with beaten egg.
  • On the other half of the disc, spoon two heaping tablespoons of fig/ricotta mixture.
  • Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the dough to make a scalloped edge. Alternatively, seal the edge with the tines of a fork. 
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

* Discos are found in the freezer section.

They didn’t last until lunch… that’s what I’m talking about.

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Don’t call it cake. (SWEET CARROT BREAD)

March 29, 2011

I like to make healthy quick breads to have around for easy, one-handed breakfasts. Quick bread, by definition, is a sweet or savory baked-good that is leavened by something other than yeast like baking soda, baking powder, eggs, etc. Banana bread, zucchini bread, cornbread, scones all fall under this category. I try to make it so the bread  has an inkling of nutrition to it. In other words, it can’t be straight up cake… not for breakfast anyway. I save up my pastry-in-the-morning points for when I am in France.

When I come across an interesting recipe, I’ll tweak it here and there so it meets the standards of morning fare; subbing whole wheat flour or natural sweetener, adding bran or nuts and things like that. This recipe has benefitted from some of those adjustments and the result is a slightly sweet, moist, nutty cake… um, bread.

SWEET CARROT BREAD

(adapted from Alton Brown Good Eats, 2005)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour + extra for the pan

1 cup finely ground almonds (almond meal)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

3 eggs

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup vegetable oil + extra for greasing the pan

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Butter and flour a 9-inch round  cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Put the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, 5-spice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Toss the carrots with the flour mixture until they are coated.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, honey, eggs, and yogurt. Whisk in the oil in a constant stream.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
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Breakfast love. (DAMASCUS BAKERY)

March 15, 2011

I am tempted to post this photo with no words at all. But that would be depriving the reader of some really great info. First of all, this is a breakfast spread put together by my sweetheart with some stuff he whipped up and some other items from Brooklyn’s incredible Damascus Bakery. The bakery is well known for fresh pitas, lavash and a selection of breads, which are also available in other locations. Onsite they turn out an enormous variety of pastries and sweets as well as some mind-blowing prepared dips and salads. Pictured above are tabouleh, muhammara and olive tapenade with a spice crusted flatbread (zataar bread, far left). There are also MG’s flourishes of perfectly cooked eggs, dried fruit, grapes, buttered toast and some homemade ricotta with honey and pine nuts. I feel royal.

It is a little sad because Damascus Bakery is located on Atlantic Avenue right next to the extremely well known Sahadi’s and might therefore live in its shadow. And while Sahadi’s is a great spot, full of bustle and bulk, Damascus has a more homey style with hand-made goods, a friendly feeling and quite possibly the world’s best halva. Both are worthy of a Cobble Hill field trip.

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More simple pleasures. (STRAWBERRIES AND WINE)

June 29, 2010

Because of extreme good luck, this spring I was in Paris. The weather was still in it’s ‘ghastly’ phase and days were partly cold and gray. That did not stop me from having a spectacular time. Each rough morning on rue de la Roquette was met with a different delightful breakfast that especially the French know how to throw down. A bag of warm croissants and pastries, super thin ham and to-die-for butter on baguette, soft, soft, soft-boiled eggs, pain perdue (a.k.a French toast) or this little number, strawberries macerated in red wine, that deserves honorable mention for its deliciousness, its ingenuity and most of all its simplicity.

If my foggy morning memory serves me correctly, it is the recipe of my friend’s dad who lives on the island of Corse (Corsica). Though I have never been there, as a lover of food, I know it is an incredible place. I have been present in Paris when contraband care packages of jurassic Corsican cheeses, pink garlic, honey, olive oil and endless night-sticks of saucisson were cracked open and devoured.

Another great export, the sweet/tart combo of strawberries and wine has a great balance and richness to it. The slight amount of pectin in the berries and the bit of sugar help to thicken the liquid and create a very complimentary sauce, not overtly wine-y at all. A perfect morning dish, gets everyone off on the right foot, as well as an excellent desert served with cream or over cake or all by itself.

STRAWBERRIES IN WINE

1 pint of strawberries, hulled and quartered lengthwise

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup red wine

  • Place sliced strawberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Toss to combine.
  • Add wine and stir well.
  • Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Stir again and adjust sugar for desired sweetness.
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Fat New Year. (POPOVERS)

February 20, 2010

First morning of the year I made something I had been thinking hilarious for a while. A king-sized, over the top power brekkie I referred to in my head as the Elvis Popover. A popover is somewhat half biscuit, half inflated pancake. The eggy batter gets huge in the oven, full of nothing but its own hot air. Elvis enters the kitchen with his legendary love of the peanut butter, banana and bacon combo, a square meal if I’ve ever seen one and maybe the perfect candidate to fill the void (and cure the hangover) on this festive morning, 2010. Trashy though it may sound, with the ingredients upgraded to a food snobbery quality, it was pretty fantastic. I would do it all again even if one short week later wasn’t the King’s 75th birthday.

The base was inspired by my friend Megz, who had recently made a batch of gluten-free popovers for an afternoon gathering. Quite impressively, she took this recipe, plain as day, and swapped out all-purpose flour for spelt flour (1:1) to excellent results, pleasing immensely the guest who didn’t go that way. The melting butter and honey over the airy and dense pastry was ridiculously good and got me thinking of all the things one can put in the empty space that is the heart of a popover.

For this version, homemade peanut butter* consisted of honey roasted peanuts and almonds, the first layer on the split popover. Piled on top was bacon acquired from the kind, meat-loving hands of friends at Dickson’s Farmstand, which I like to cook -mess free- in the oven, intertwined with your everyday unlocal bananas. This heap was coated in raw honey from Clermont, NY. The jar reads ‘produced by the bees of Ray Tousey’ and every time I eat it I feel like I am being introduced to the honey and it is awesome. We can be friends with food.

Happy New Year! …it’s still new.

POPOVERS

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 450 F. With butter, grease a muffin pan that makes (6) large muffins.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour batter into muffin cups filling 1/2 – 1/3 of the way up.
  • Bake at 450 F for 20 minutes, then lower the temp to 350 F for another 20 minutes.
  • When the popovers come out of the oven, make a small slit the top to let off some steam.
  • Make an Elvis special out of them or don’t! Enjoy.

Though they are best straight from the oven, remaining popovers can be reheated at any hour for days to come. They won’t do any  science magic like swell up again but keep them in the oven until crisp on the outside and heated through. They will have great flavor and texture, just about begging for your jam and butter, or savory stuff like cheese or ham. Teatime!

* Process the nuts until smooth and peanut-buttery, you can fold in some coarsely chopped nuts afterwards if you are feeling chunky. I kept it smooth like Elvis’ early years.