Sunday, March 27, 2011

Frittata, It Will Make You An Egg Fan

I am not an egg person. Most likely because as a young girl, I had the egg gathering chore on my family's urban farm. Our farm was a chicken utopia, where hens and an a few roosters not only lived free range, but it tried to find ways to out smart us. My dad set up a neat little row of straw padded nesting boxes for the roaming hens to lay their eggs, but they didn't always agree to it. Often they would find a secret new spot around the barn, make a nest and hide the booty.

Part egg gather/ part detective, I would hunt down wayward nests and turn the contents over to my mom, the cook. Sometimes if the nests went undetected for a while, the eggs would develop into something "not so pleasant" in the frying pan. Needless to say, after a few egg incidents, I grew disinterested in eating them for years.

That changed when I got older and learned to make a few dishes that even a non egg lover could love, like quiche, omelettes and frittata. Frittata is like an open faced omelette, but I like my eggs "done" so the method of cooking it on both sides appeals to me. I also love how versatile the frittata is, and how quickly you can get a meal made with very few, inexpensive ingredients.

In my cooking class at the Yorba Linda Library Saturday I demonstrated this delicious and easy spinach version. Some  frittata recipes will have you turn the oven or broiler on to finish the top, but I flip mine over and back into the pan, to avoid another step. As I explained in class, there are countless goodies you can add to a frittata, use this recipe as a template, and try different vegetables, meats, beans, or leftover rice or pasta.

Hope you enjoy!

Simple Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil, or canola oil
3 each scallions, thinly sliced
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 ½ ounces sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
black pepper, grinder

Break eggs into a large bowl. Add a couple pinches of kosher salt. Whisk eggs, beating to incorporate some air (about 30 seconds).

1. Remove tomatoes from oil and finely chop.
2. Over medium heat, place a 12 inch non stick skillet. Once heated add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and scallions and cook for a few seconds.
3. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Cook just until spinach wilts.
4. Use a spatula to position spinach mixture evenly over bottom of pan. 
5. Pour eggs over spinach. Gently move eggs and spinach across bottom of pan with heat resistant spatula.
6. Lift at edges of egg mixture with spatula, so uncooked eggs move under to bottom of frittata. If needed drizzle additional oil around outer edge of pan if eggs start to stick.
7. When eggs start to set, slide frittata on to a flat platter, then carefully invert back into skillet to help cook other side. 
8. Arrange goat cheese over the top, sprinkle with a couple pinches of kosher salt and three to five grinds of black pepper.
9. Remove from heat, cover and allow to stand two minutes. Slide onto platter and cut into wedges before serving. Serves 4

Up next- Easy Lemon Herb Chicken and Cannellini Bean Salad

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baby, You Might Need A Shower

"Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" 
Prissy, Gone With The Wind, 1939

Fifteen years ago, I knew nothing about babies. A month before my son was born a lovely shower was held in his honor. The highlight of everyone's afternoon was during gift unwrapping time when I held up what I now understand is a bib and proclaimed... "Oh, look a darling little apron!" 
Later, when the laughing subsided, I learned there were many, many more baby things I was clueless about. Having catered bundles of them, baby showers I do know.

Serving from the kitchen island, photo rfontes
First there is no set rule for when or where showers are to be held, but typically they include refreshments. Depending on the time they are held they can be simple cake and punch affairs or include a full meal.The number of guests, budget and style of the shower help determine what menu a host offers. Most showers I have catered are brunches, luncheons, and teas.

The following is a menu for a luncheon for about 35 guests catered last year

baby shower menu
mandarin chicken salad with wonton ribbons and sesame dressing
 greek salad with julienne turkey
 and lemon vinaigrette
creamy shell pasta salad with fresh spinach and yogurt dressing 
grand mariner fruit salad
fresh baked zucchini bread
variety of tiny bite sized desserts

Salads make a beautiful presentation, photo rfontes
Shower Fare
Classic menus for breakfast and brunch include quiche and other baked egg dishes. Crepes, Belgium waffles or French toast, salads, fruit and pastry are also popular. Lunches typically feature a light entree or entree salad. Palm sized sandwiches or sliced cold cut trays, prepared salads, cake and cookies. Teas are known for small sandwiches, petite sweets, and scones.

Petite sweets and chocolate dipped strawberries, photo rfontes

How To Turn Up A Shower Menu 
While the above classic menus are great shower offerings, consider serving your own creative dishes or something unique and memorable. Here are some ideas to get the ideas flowing;

Dim Sum breakfast
DIY decorate a cookie or cupcake station
Soup Bar
Tempura and stir fry
Tapas menu
A variety of fondue
Mini Dutch potatoes with toppings
Tiny burgers or mini chicken sliders
Wrap sandwiches or stuffed pita
Luau style lunch
Unique foods like baby Kiwi

Baby Kiwi?
I interrupt this post to bring you a cool new, well new to me, fruit variety- baby kiwi. I just learned about them from Melissa's Produce. Fuzz-less grape like beauties you can just eat as is.The babies are here for a short time, tasty, sweet and oh, so fine!

Melissa's Baby Kiwi, photo rfontes

Baby Shower Basics
Hold a baby shower about two months prior or about a month after a baby is born, invitations should be mailed. In the past, baby showers were women only events given for the family's first child.Today, it has become common to hold showers for subsequent or children, and invite men as well. Showers are still considered adult functions unless it is held after the baby is born then baby is the guest of honor.

The term shower is in reference to the gifts which are "showered" on the mother- to- be. The purpose is to set the family to be up with the essentials they need for baby care, this is one occasion guests must bring a gift, (typical gifts related to babies include diapers, clothes, and toys) which are opened during the party. Since a baby shower centers on gift-giving, it is arranged and hosted by a close friend at their home or suitable location.

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Menu, Plans and Beignets For Mardi Gras

Mask and beads are part of Mardi Gras flair, photo by rfontes
One day I'm going to get to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but it won't be this week, or this year. No, this time like the 40-ish years before it, I'll stay at home and miss the ball. I must have been Cajun in another life (if there is such thing) because I find myself naturally hungry for sensuous spicy food in enormous portions.

I am not alone, it's easy to get stirred by all the colorful pageantry, the swing of the music and intoxicating atmosphere of the annual "Fat Tuesday" celebration. Mardi Gras, French for "Fat Tuesday" is the traditional pre-Lent kick off that translates to "bawdy fun" in many languages. The magical medley of glitz and indulgence makes Mardi Gras a popular party theme. If nothing else, a great excuse to blow off the last day's of winter and entertain in a style that never goes out of style.

I dusted off a few pictures I thought I would share along with the menu of a Mardi Gras celebration I catered a few years ago. Maybe it will inspire you to have your own fling, if not this year...soon!

Salmon platter with a Cajun spice crust, crab claws and shrimp, photo by rfontes

menu for a mardi gras

bayou bounty seafood display
shrimp, crab claws, clams, mussels, and poached salmon

rajun cajun cookout
blackened chicken breast 
spicy grilled louisiana sausages
french quarters jambalaya 

dixie land salad with honey mustard vinaigrette
mardi gras fruits with bourbon sauce
french baguettes 

crepes with drunken bananas
grand mariner spiked strawberries
fresh beignets and coffee
Colorful buffet for a festive party, photo by rfontes

Guest tables in fun colors with beads and glittery centerpieces, photo by rfontes

Beignet is cajun french for "French Donut". Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans popularized this tasty, classic Cajun treat.

1 ½ cup water
¼ ounce yeast, 1-package
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cup flour
¼ cup shortening
oil, for deep frying
powdered sugar, garnish

Put the warm water into a large bowl, then sprinkle in dry yeast and stir until dissolved. Add sugar, salt, eggs and evaporated milk.
gradually stir in 4 cups of the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly blended. Beat in the shortening and add the remaining flour. about 1/3 cup at a time, beating it in with a spoon until it becomes too stiff to stir, then working in the rest with your fingers. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
Roll the dough out on a floured board to a thickness of 1/8 inch in , then cut it into rectangles 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches with a sharp knife. Preheat oil in deep fryer to 360 degrees. Fry the beignets about 3 or 4 at a time until they are puffed out golden brown on both sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per batch). Turn them over in the oil once or twice to get them evenly brown, since the rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to pff out.
Drain on paper towels and put the platter in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Sprinkle the beignets heavily with powdered sugar and serve hot.