Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco De Mayo Prep

Okay so this is technically a quesadilla, but then again, it totally and completely is not. But it's the best I'm gonna get for a Cinco De Mayo post since it is tomorrow and I am at a coffee shop "studying" instead of at home making yummy Mexican food. Plus, it's absolutely, one hundred percent, completely and totally, amazingly delicious. And, easy-easy-easy. This is my new staple for a quick lunch. (I just really wish I had a cast iron that was big enough to use when I make this with 10 inch 8 grain tortillas! But that is totally off point.) I got this recipe off of 101 Cookbooks and Heidi described it as an unda style quesadilla, which is something she discovered at a kati roll place, when they put a beaten egg on the grill and topped it with roti bread. Now, she makes everything that she possibly can unda style. Which I applaud, because this recipe is amazing.

Pseudo Quesadilla
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Zest of half a lemon
Large dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream (Clover brand sour cream is absolutely amazing and tastes like a mix between creme fraiche and sour cream)
2 tablespoons capers
olive oil
1 6 inch corn tortilla (sometimes I use a 10 inch wheat tortilla and when I do that, I add an extra egg)
1 egg
A bit of shaved parmesan

Whisk together the zest and creme fraiche/sour cream. Set aside
Heat a bit of olive oil and add the capers to it. Wait until they start to brown and then spoon them out onto a paper towel. They will crisp as they dry.
Beat the egg and in a slightly oiled pan (the correct size for your tortilla) on medium heat, add the egg and swirl around so that it covers the whole pan.  Once it sets just a bit (like 10 seconds or so) place the tortilla on top. Once it seems set enough that the tortilla and egg and starting to attach, flip the whole thing over.
Sprinkle parmesan over the egg side and let melt while the tortilla browns. Fold in half and top with the sour cream mixture and the capers.

I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing, but completely intrigued at the same time, and it turns out, the intrigued part of my mind was right. It's really a perfect lunch, hearty and filling with the egg (especially with a whole grain tortilla), but fresh from the lemon and tangy from the capers. And in case you were skeptical as well, it turns out that fried capers are mighty delicious--they taste just like capers but are nice and crunchy. A perfect topping! I make different variations of this now, adding different cheeses, taking out the lemon, adding chopped herbs, etc. and they've all come out great so far. So if you're feeling in the mood to have a pseudo-mexican lunch on Cinco De Mayo, try it out and let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Green

I have a new cookbook that I'm slightly in love with: Chicken and Egg--A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes. It's a compilation of the wonderful recipes inspired by a family's chickens. Since I have a huge urge to raise chickens of my own, this book fills two purposes for me. 1. To further that urge as well as justify it by showing me all of the wonderful dishes I could bring to my kitchen if I did raise a few hens. 2. It allows me to live vicariously through this family so that I don't act on the urge and actually buy some chicks the next time I see them sold at farmer's! Although I'd love some chickens, I don't think it's practical since my backyard is either garden or cement and I'll be moving to who-knows-where in less than 2 years. Instead, I pour over this cookbook whenever I get the urge.

The first recipe I made out of this book reflected the blooming spring outside--Green onions, cucumbers and basil make this an extra-ordinary egg salad and much more colorful than the normal, boiled eggs, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper egg salad that is often found at spring picnics. To prep for this meal, I made homemade mayonnaise that can be seen in my last post. The rich olive oil that I used to make the mayo brought a wonderful fullness to the salad. I highly recommend taking the time to make the mayo if you are so inclined.

Note* I hear my neighbor's hen clucking in their backyard right now. Resist the urge, Brittany. You can't have chicks right now!

Cucumber Basil Egg Salad
Adapted from Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole

6 hard boiled eggs, diced
3/4 cup seeded, diced cucumber. I prefer Persian cucumbers with the skin on.
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup sliced green onions. The green parts only.
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the eggs, cucumber, shallots, green onions and basil in a bowl. Stir in the mayo, salt and pepper. This can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days if it is made with conventional mayo, but should be eaten in the same day if made with homemade mayo.

I prepared some bread to go with this meal topped with fresh herbs and olive oil from the garden and popped it in the oven for a bit to dry it out and make it somewhat crunchy. It was a perfect addition, but some nice pita or a regular sandwich would be great too. Or slice some cucumbers and use it as a dip! I was absolutely crazy about the way that this came out. It had all of the familiar flavors of egg salad, but was completely revved up by the flavor of the basil and green onions and the wonderful crunch of the cucumber.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being Brave

I feel like my new thing this spring is simplicity. Okay, that's not right. I mean, I always tend to make plenty of dishes that are "simple", so maybe that's not quite accurate. Maybe "basics" or "fundamentals" or "staples" would work better? Anyway, the moral of the story is that I'm really trying to make sure that I work from the ground up with all of my foods. And since I'm working from the ground up on the whole meal, that usually means putting more time into my meals which then necessitates the simplicity, I guess.

A while ago, I was wanting to make an egg salad recipe (that post will come next), and I'm really not a fan of store bought mayonnaise, so carved out a good chunk of time in my day, I whipped out my Alice Waters, In the Green Kitchen-Techniques to Learn by Heart cookbook and decided to make my own mayo. I'm really in love with this cookbook and I've been leafing through it every time I make something new to see what she has to say about everything I cook--eggs, soups, salads, chicken, etc. It gives really great tips and makes things really easy and straight forward. I adjusted the recipe a bit, because the one in the book was for Garlic Mayonnaise, and I wanted a plain mayo.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Adapted from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen-Techniques to Learn by Heart

Makes about 1 cup

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon water
1 cup olive oil
A few drops of vinegar

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk and the water until they are completely blended and the mixture is an even color. Slowly dribble in the oil. Here, it is important to make sure that you're using good quality olive oil. My mom is obsessed with olive oils and it's really wearing off on me and I'm starting to get quite the collection of olive oils for myself. At the time that I made this, I didn't have as many choices and I used my "rich and robust" option which is really delicious but definitely has a strong taste. It turned out great, but next time I would probably go for a lighter option so that the olive oil taste wasn't quite so rich in the dish that I'm making it for. It really depends on your preferences and what you're using it for though. Regardless, if you don't like the taste of the olive oil before you make the mayo, you won't like the way the mayo turns out. Use-good-olive-oil. Anyway, continue dribbling in the oil and whisking constantly. The yolk will absorb the oil and the mixture will thicken and begin to lighten in color. Gradually, you can begin pouring the oil a little faster as you continue whisking. Finish with a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice. Taste and add more salt if desired. Serve the mayonnaise right away or refrigerate it. According to Miss Alice, it actually taste better after sitting a while, however, it should be eaten the same day that it is made.

If you are wanting to flavor it with garlic, herbs, mustard, chilies, etc. pound whatever it is you want in a mortar with a pinch of salt until it is a smooth paste. Whisk about half of the paste with the egg yolk and then follow the above directions. Add more of the paste at the end if desired.

I was completely intimidated to make this, and I'm pretty sure that I read through the directions a good 3 or 4 times before nervously diving in. I really don't know why I was such a bundle of nerves. It's yolk...oil...and whisking. Nothing involved in this recipe was anything I wasn't used to. And the results: incredible. Absolutely delicious. I actually dislike mayonnaise, but this tasted nothing like store bought mayo. It was wonderfully creamy and was basically an olive oil spread, and with my obsession with olive oil, that was perfect. Lesson for me: stop being freaked out by the kitchen. Find someone with good technique, learn from them, pay attention to what you're doing, and you'll be amazed at what you can do in the kitchen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sad Goodbye

The moment I walked into Fat Face for the first time, I fell in love. That was March 5th, 2010. On March 11th, 2011, I walked through those doors for the last time. I've been a regular at both Jaymes' L street location and her Farmer's Market booth since I first discovered her amazing sammiches and pops and I can't believe that it has finally come to an end. On March 11th, she shut down her sammich operation in Davis in order to focus on her pop production make a move to Sacramento. Though she'll still be at Farmer's with her pop and her breakfast sammiches, I still had to say goodbye to her Cola Braised Pork, Herbed Grilled Cheese, Fig and Goat Cheese, warm soups, and all of her constantly changing sammich menu at the L street shop.

I was so happy to walk up to her shop to see it absolutely spilling over with patrons. A completely appropriate response from a community that adores her. I went a little over board with my ordering, but I couldn't resist all my favorites along with a new few foods on my last visit to Fat Face.

Caribbean Chicken and Cabbage Soup-This was a new dish for me. I'm not sure how long she had been making it. It was hearty and full of spices. If she were staying open, it'd be a perfect winter meal.

Cola Braised Pork with Avocado Salsa and Queso Fresco-I think this is my favorite sammich besides the smoked salmon sammich she hasn't made for a long time. Jaymes really has some skill when it comes to pork. Maybe her pig tattoo gives her some super powers in this field. The meat is done perfectly, the queso fresco is light, cold and delicious and the avocado salsa really brings it all together with a nice creaminess.

Herbed Grilled Cheese on Walnut Bread-Okay I know I just said the Cola Braised Pork was my favorite but I think I would cry if this ever went off the menu. So simple but simply amazing. The walnut break is a perfect pick and the aged cheddar she uses goes perfectly with the herbed butter she grills it in.

Fig Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions-Most of my friends claim this is their favorite sammich and I can understand why. The figs are prepared perfectly and go wonderfully with the goat cheese.

Bacon Avocado Parmesan and Sun Dried Tomato-I feel like she's made this in the past but I'm not sure, and if she did, it was a while ago. The bacon was excellent, the avocados perfectly ripe, the Parmesan perfectly tangy and the sun dried tomatoes wonderfully smoky.

Mango Kiwi Pop-Applaud me for not crying while I finished my last Fat Face meal with this incredible Mango Kiwi Pop. No words.

March 11th was one of the first truly nice days of spring and there was so much warmth and love in the air as Jaymes' friends and fans gathered around her shop to show their support. I'm sad that I lost my favorite food spot in town and I'll miss Jayme's incredibly sunny "hey brittany!" every time I walk in the door and her rush to give my parents hugs with a "hi mom and dad!" She's become a big part of my life in Davis and I'm so grateful that she'll still be around Farmer's. Goodluck Jaymes! I can't wait to see what she does next.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sun, Oats and Berries

Yeah, I know. I fail. Things happen, I get busy. I apparently neglect my blog...but it's still here and since it's spring break, I have time to write without stressing about other projects. Since I'm sitting in my parent's kitchen with my mom, waiting for granola bars to come out of the oven, I thought it'd be a perfect time to share my recipe for berry oat bars. I know I've talked about it before, but Davis really has an incredible farmer's market. America's favorite, in fact! After growing up with farmer's markets that had about 4 vendors, and then graduating to the Fresno markets with, probably about 30 vendors, the Davis Farmer's Market is like fresh food mecca for me. It's also the place to be in town on Saturdays for families, professors, and students alike (although you probably won't see the students until it hits 10:30). My friend Lianna and I were really good this winter quarter about getting our butts out of bed almost every Saturday and making our way to the market. One day, it was the first truly beautiful day in months, which made for a perfect market day before the hours of work and studying that were looming in front of me. That day, something caught our eye at a vendor that we had never visited before, Flour Chylde. They had these oat bars with raspberry jam on top, and for 1.50 a bar, they were the perfect breakfast, especially since I was really craving something sweet but not sickly sweet like the pastries I usually go for. So we grabbed our bars and our coffee and went and sat in the sun. (I was wearing a tank and wanted to cry for joy as the sun soaked my skin.) Anyway, so we both took our first bites and cried out for joy. Like seriously, I'm pretty sure we both started shouting about how good it was! They have a dense layer of oats on the bottom, topped with a wonderful raspberry jam. Simply incredible. So every week since, Lianna and I have gone to Flour Chylde and begged them to bring back those bars (and they actually finally did last time I went) but the next week, when they didn't have them, Lianna and I decided we'd have to find a substitute. It was another beautiful day and we just had to have our craving satisfied. Here's what did the trick:

Raspberry and Blackberry Oat Bars
Adapted from Color Me Vegan by Collene Patrick-Goudreau

2 cups berries (of your choice, can also use frozen)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flax seed
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter (clearly, I changed this from the original vegan recipe)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, water and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes until it thickens a bit.
In a medium boil, combine the remaining ingredients except the almonds.
In a greased 8x8 pan, press half of the oat mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
Take out of the oven and cover with the berry mixture. Sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture on top, and lightly press down. Sprinkle the almonds on top last.
Bake for another 20 minutes. Let cook before cutting.

These were definitely a good substitute for our raspberry oat bars. I want to experiment more with this recipe--less brown sugar, more honey, more oats, different types of berries, etc., but this is definitely a good start.