It began innocently enough: Demure almond scones served warm from the oven, with a little jam and maybe some clotted cream – perfectly proper fare for breakfast, brunch or tea. A tad decadent, perhaps, but still a fine way to start the day. Then came word of the same almond scones emerging at all hours of the night, dressed provocatively in billows of whipped cream and a slathering of juicy strawberries. When approached for comment, one scone replied: “I may have a soft spot for berries, but I’m no tart.”
Breakfast, lunch or dinner is served! I tossed around some other names for this dish: Leftovers Pie, Crustless Quiche, Make-Ahead Magic for Overnight Guests, Zap-n-Go Anytime Meal Slices. Some of these are better than others, but they all would work. Frittata sounded a little fancier – worthy of the leeks I used in it this time, but it’s not a traditional frittata. It’s also not as heavy as a cream-laden quiche, but I think you get the idea. I’ve made similar versions without the leeks – just a lone, leftover baked potato and some bits from the Christmas ham. That was good too! But leeks work really well here and bring a much-needed glimmer of spring to the table. Continue reading
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Karen! If we didn’t live 2,413 miles apart, I’d have her over for Mother’s Day brunch tomorrow. I’d probably make this tomato tart recipe that she first discovered in a Sara Moulton cookbook, along with a green salad and some extra-lemony lemon bars (she’s a lemon-lover). This quiche-like tart does involve several steps, but it can be partially (make the crust) or entirely made ahead, and then gently reheated in a low oven.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Got leftover corned beef and need a break from sandwiches or hash? Try adding it to these quick drop biscuits – no kneading or rolling required. Along with a pot of cauliflower soup, it’s what’s for dinner in our house tonight.
At the Thomas Jefferson School Science Fair earlier this week, students had the opportunity to make their own “Gak” – or polymer made from Elmer’s glue and Borax. It’s fun to play with for a while, until it ends up stuck to the car floor or buried at the bottom of a backpack. At least with homemade bread dough and these magic chocolate buns, you get to play with your dough and eat it, too. For a fun activity and tasty snack all in one, kids can help form the dough balls and stuff them with chocolate chips. (Easy enough for a 7-year-old – see below.) Or for a special breakfast or brunch item, you could make the dough and form the buns the night before; in the morning, just bake for 20 minutes and serve hot and oozy.
Usually I make the dough for these buns in a bread machine – fast and foolproof. Just dump all the ingredients (except for the chocolate chips) into the bread machine bowl, set to “Dough” cycle and walk away. After about 90 minutes, the dough’s ready to form into balls or be refrigerated until ready to use. Since not everyone has a bread machine lying around, this morning I tried making the dough with an electric mixer and dough hook. It took a little more “active time”, but the results were just as good. And for a fully unplugged and highly therapeutic version, you could mix and knead the dough entirely by hand, using the week’s frustrations to power the process. (Trying to get blue Gak out of beige carpeting comes to mind.)
- 1 Recipe multi-purpose Bread Dough (below)
- Bittersweet chocolate chips (approx. ½ package)
Multi-purpose Bread Dough
- ½ cup warm water (approx. 110-120ºF, like bathwater)
- ½ cup warm milk
- 1 package yeast (preferably RapidRise)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened or melted
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt (not kosher)
- 3 ¾ cups flour
Setting: Our kitchen, this morning
Sophie: I do not like Green Eggs and Ham.
Mom: Try them, try them – I’ve got the cam.
Sophie: Say – I do like these Green Eggs and Ham! (especially the ham)
Dr. Seuss’s birthday is getting a lot of play this year (thanks to “The Lorax” release today), so I expect there will be quite a few green eggs and ham on breakfast menus this weekend. Food coloring’s one way to go, but this morning I thought I’d capitalize on all the marketing to help sneak some spinach into my kids’ diet. Auntie Jo’s famous spinach frittata was the perfect, all-natural Green Eggs vehicle. It also happens to be a great lunch, brunch or open house dish, because it can be served hot, cold or at room temperature. This recipe is sort of a hybrid between a frittata (open-faced omelette) and a strata (casserole made with bread & eggs); I think it’s easier to make than both. Auntie Jo’s frittatas always seem to taste a little better than mine – most likely because recipes that are passed along from person to person sometimes suffer from the “telephone game” fate. (That, or she has accidentally omitted a secret ingredient . . . ) Nonetheless, this is an easy and tasty recipe worth trying.
Auntie Jo’s Spinach Frittata
- 1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 3-4 slices bread, torn or processed into crumbs (about 1 ½ cups)
- 3 large (or extra large) eggs
- ¼ cup grated kasseri or romano cheese (I used romano; can never find kasseri)
- ¼ cup grated Monterrey jack cheese or cheddar/jack mix
- 2 Tablespoons cottage or ricotta cheese (I used a single-serve container of cottage cheese)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Few grinds black pepper
- Additional grated cheddar, parmesan, romano or jack for topping
[For a spanakopita-flavored variant, sauté 1/2 cup chopped onion in a little olive oil; add spinach and 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill. Substitute feta for the cottage cheese.]
Heat oven to 350ºF. Squeeze most of the water out of the thawed spinach. Pulse bread slices in a food processor, or tear into small pieces.
In a mixing bowl, beat 3 eggs.
Stir in breadcrumbs, cheeses, salt and pepper.
Then stir in spinach.
Pour mixture into a 9”x9” baking dish or small casserole. (Auntie Jo says to heat casserole with oil first; I don’t do this and don’t have any problems getting the fritatta out of my Pyrex baking dish.)
Sprinkle a small amount (less than ¼ cup) of grated cheese on top; this gives the frittata a nice golden brown color. (I used the cheddar/jack mix with a little bit of additional romano.)
Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before cutting into squares or shapes.
This morning I used a biscuit cutter to cut a few pieces into circles; you could also get crazy and scoop some into cleaned out egg shells. [The ham is Canadian bacon, quickly warmed/browned in a nonstick skillet.]
Serves 4 for a main course or 8-10 as an appetizer or side dish. Can be refrigerated for several days.
My younger daughter Sophie would be thrilled to have French toast for every meal, every day of the week. I even made it over a campfire last September, though without the signature Brown Sugar Walnut sauce it was less of a hit. (Suggesting perhaps that for her the French toast is merely a delivery vehicle for the butter/brown sugar sauce.) The sauce is a cinch to make in the microwave, but I didn’t have an extra pan to attempt it over the fire. Maybe next time. (Or – maybe next time I’ll have an important meeting or other serendipitous conflict with Camping Weekend and they’ll have to be content with Dad’s scrambled eggs . . .)
Serve with bacon, Canadian bacon or sausage to help balance the sweetness.
Sophie’s French Toast
Serves Sophie for the day, or 4 regular people (Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave.)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup milk (skim, whole or half and half – whatever you like)
- Pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 16-20 1-inch thick slices soft baguette or Italian/hoagie rolls (Here in NJ I like Calandra’s Italian rolls.)
Brown Sugar Walnut Sauce
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar (light is OK if that’s all you have)
- 5 Tablespoons butter (if unsalted, add a good pinch of salt, too)
- ¼ cup (heaping) chopped walnuts
- 1 Tablespoon water
If desired, preheat oven to 350ºF and place a baking sheet inside. This helps keep the cooked French toast warm while you cook the remaining pieces. [Side note: Try cooking bacon in the oven. Less mess, with the added bonus that the oven will be warm and ready for the French toast. Arrange as much bacon as you can fit onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (the parchment aids in clean-up); cook at 400ºF until crisp.]
Make the Brown Sugar Walnut Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a microwaveable bowl or measuring cup. Microwave 45 seconds; stir. Microwave another 30-45 seconds or until bubbling and sugar crystals have dissolved. (Check this by taking a little taste.) If too thick, add ½ tsp of water at a time to achieve consistency of thick maple syrup.
Make the French Toast:
In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and vanilla extract.
Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add bread slices to egg/milk mixture, turning to coat both sides and soak through to center of bread. (This may go quickly with soft, fresh bread or may take a little longer with drier, crusty bread; also note that the more saturated the bread is with egg/milk mixture, the longer it will take to cook.) Add a little butter to pan if desired; with a good nonstick pan you won’t need to, but it’s extra insurance against sticking if you’re not sure. Arrange soaked bread slices in pan – as many as will fit without touching. Cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side. (The toasts will “release” from the pan and flip easily when they’re adequately cooked; flipping too soon may cause them to stick to the pan.) Flip and continue to cook on the other side until toasts feel springy to the touch (another 2-4 minutes more). Transfer to warm baking sheet and continue with remaining bread slices.
Microwave sauce to reheat just prior to serving. Arrange French toast slices onto plates and drizzle with sauce (or serve on the side).
Like our family, this granola is basically an eclectic mix of nuts, bound together and elevated to a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also wholesome, packed with protein, lightly sweet, delicately crunchy and moderately addictive. If you – like me – are facing a pantry full of impulse-purchased holiday baking ingredients (nuts, coconut, corn syrup, brown sugar), now’s a great time to make granola. As a snack, it’s delicious straight out of a jar or sprinkled onto yogurt. Because I have a sweet tooth and love extra crunchy everything, I add it to salads and even butternut squash soup. My husband thinks this is weird. I say we’re all entitled to be a little nutty.
- 2 cups Quick/1-minute oats
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut (preferable, but unsweetened is OK too)
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup raw pine/pignoli nuts
- ½ cup unsalted pistachio nuts
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- ½ cup pure maple syrup (amber or dark)
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup corn syrup (light or dark)
Important first step any time you cook with nuts or seeds: taste a few before proceeding. Nuts can go rancid fairly quickly, especially if they’re not stored in the freezer. I’ve had a few dishes ruined by bad nuts; don’t let this happen to you!
Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl mix together oats, shredded coconut, nuts and sesame seeds.
In a small bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, whisk together maple syrup, brown sugar, vegetable oil and corn syrup. Pour over oat/nut mixture and stir to coat evenly.
Spread granola onto rimmed baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes; remove from oven and stir/scrape so mixture cooks evenly. Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on baking sheet; granola will crisp up as it cools. Store in airtight containers; will keep at least a week. For longer-term storage, keep in freezer.
Makes about 5 cups.