Exploding Egg & Veggie Breakfast Sandwich on Homemade Rosemary Focaccia

I’ve only been eating eggs for about two years and I’m still super picky about them. Growing up, eggs didn’t appeal to me, although neither did breakfast in general. I still can’t eat when I first get up and have to consciously remind myself to eat when I get to work or I’ll be hangry by 10:30.

Anyways, one of my recent favorite egg dishes is an egg sandwich on focaccia bread that I sometimes buy at the farmers’ market. It’s hot, fresh, and made using veggies and eggs found at the market that morning.

Flash forward to yesterday afternoon and another Chicago rainstorm. I decided to bake bread to pass the time and settled on rosemary focaccia bread using the olive oil dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and it was delicious (all you have to do is add fresh minced rosemary to the dough and bake on a cookie sheet at 425°F for 25 minutes). I’d already eaten about half of a loaf straight-up when I started thinking, I have got to find something else to do with this delicious bread. That was when I remembered the egg sandwich and got to work.

Between my CSA and a Saturday morning visit to Green City Market, I had a ton of veggies to choose from. I really just wanted a little bit of this and a little bit of that without it turning into something I’d have to eat everyday for the next week (you other single cooks out there know what I’m talking about), so that’s what I did! I used one piece of bacon, one fingerling potato, two mini bell peppers, two crimini mushrooms, 1 large leaf bok choy, and about half of a very small yellow squash.

I cooked up all those veggies in the bacon fat (I’m going through a bacon phase) and added a little salt and lemon juice, then removed half of the veggies to save for later – this recipe really made two servings.  All that was left was to add two eggs to the pan with the remaining veggies, scramble it all together until the eggs were cooked, and pile the mixture onto a piece of fresh rosemary focaccia sliced in half.

Simple. Delicious. No recipe required. Happy Sunday morning!

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Avocado Deviled Eggs

Last Sunday, I spent the day helping my mom prepare for our family’s Passover Seder. She was expecting 30 guests and had been working hard for a week to make all the traditional foods. I was helping by making this delicious Dark Chocolate Torte, always a hit, and a salad (because if I don’t make it, no one will eat anything green), and by keeping her company in the kitchen.

As we worked on our various dishes, one thing remained constant: my mom kept making batches upon batches of hard-boiled eggs. It’s a traditional food that goes on the Seder plate, and my family loves them so she makes dozens extra.

This led to the same discussion we have every year – why can’t I make some of those 60+ hardboiled eggs deviled? And better yet, if I’m making deviled eggs, why not make them with avocado?

As it turns out, there are quite a few reasons why, but unfortunately I didn’t know most of this until it was too late. Two main ingredients in many deviled egg recipes are mayonnaise and mustard, both of which present a bit of a problem. As it turns out, most store-bought mayos are made from soybean oil, a Passover no-no (soybeans are a legume). To get around this hurdle, use Kosher for Passover mayo or make your own from scratch.

The mustard presents a more difficult obstacle, and one I don’t really have a solution to. As I found out on Friday, five days too late, mustard is also a no-no because it comes from mustard seeds, and you can’t have seeds for Passover. Oops.

I know I’m writing this like I didn’t know those things, but that’s because I didn’t. This knowledge came from many calls and texts to friends over the past week. I even tried searching for a Kosher for Passover app for my iPhone and couldn’t find one – come on developers, I’m counting on this for next year!

Despite all the challenges, I did make the deviled eggs and they really were fantastic! A friend had recommended trying an avocado deviled egg, and I figured, why not? It adds more creaminess and fat to the filling that’s already made from of egg yolks and mayonnaise (which is made from more egg yolks and oil). Not to mention, the subtle flavor of the avocado is really rather refreshing, and it was amusing watching my non-adventurous extended family hesitate before trying the green eggs, then dig in and ask for another.

I used this recipe as a guide as I didn’t measure most of the ingredients, but rather adjusted and added by taste. For 18 eggs, I used two avocados, a nice amount of mayo, probably a few teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 1 small onion and 2 small celery stalks. I also added in fresh lemon juice and topped some of the eggs with a pinch of chili powder.

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Balsamic Egg, Revisited

One of my favorite quick-and-easy egg dishes – and in fact one of the few I like – is a balsamic fried egg. Usually I make it with mushrooms because I often have them around, but sometimes I like to change it up a bit, such as this delicious incarnation of asparagus, garlic and cherry tomatoes.

The concept is the same: saute the vegetables, fry the egg, combine everything in the pan and add a dash of good quality aged balsamic vinegar. Two minutes later and a healthy dinner (or breakfast) is served!

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Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

For the Super Bowl this year I was charged with bringing a vegetarian appetizer to my friend Ariel’s party. Although I’m a proud meat-eater, I embraced her request and decided to have some fun with it, after all it is the biggest sport day of the year and not exactly a formal dinner.

The oh-so-fun-and-isn’t-it-cute appetizer I made was Savory French Toast Bites, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeurves Handbook. The bites were perfect: a warm finger food that could also be enjoyed at room temperature and had a rich, savory flavor slightly reminiscent of pizza. Adding to my enjoyment was the other guests’ confusion when I told them it was French toast because these bites were nothing like the sweetened, dipped and fried bread enjoyed during brunch.

For starters, this version of French toast is baked and there is no sugar or sweetener involved. The savory ingredients consisted of roasted garlic, basil, tomato and Parmesan cheese – almost like a bread-pudding pizza. Finally, after baking I used a circle cutter to turn the French toast slices into bite-sized rounds, which made for a cute and appealing presentation that was just perfect for the Super Bowl.

And the best part was that there were plenty of yummy scraps leftover for the cook. Just sayin’.

Savory French Toast Bites

Savory French Toast Bites

Here’s the recipe:

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Happy Holiday (Eating)!

Latkes

Latkes (aka Potato Pancakes)

Wow, I just can’t believe how quickly these last few weeks have flown by. In fact, this whole year has been a bit of a blur. I hope it’s been a good year for you. As for me, let’s just say I’m ending the year in a better place than where I started it and am looking forward to seeing what 2010 will bring.

However, with all the recent activity I’ve sadly neglected my beloved blog. The sad truth remains that it’s been ten days since my last blog post, the longest I’ve ever gone between posts since launching this site more than a year and a half ago. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. I have, just not quite as much as usual.

English Toffee and Tornado Cookies

English Toffee and Tornado Cookies

To recap some of my holiday cooking, let’s start with Hanukkah at my parent’s house. I brought the dessert: English toffee and tornado cookies, my family’s holiday favorite. At the house, I helped my mom make latkes from scratch. There’s no recipe here because we adjusted constantly as we went along, using up a small bag of russet potatoes, an onion, two eggs, a little matzo meal, and a large bottle of vegetable oil. Basically, grate the potatoes and onion (and then pulse a few times in a food processor), add the other ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and fry.

Latkes Latkes Latkes

I have wonderful memories of my mom making latkes when I was younger. Back then we hosted the family Hanukkah party and she would make latkes from scratch and making enough for everyone was practically a day-long project (for those of you not familiar, latkes are fried potato pancakes that can be made from shredded potatoes or from a box mix). The problem was that my dad, sister and I would eat the latkes almost as fast as my mom could make them, sneaking latkes every time she turned away. Eventually, my mom would get fed up and send us to go see a movie so she could finish frying in peace.

Latkes - pan frying Latkes

It’s been a long time since we made latkes, and my mom had the “brilliant” idea of deep-frying them, a technique she saw on the Today Show. Despite her good intentions, it turned out not to be the best idea. For starters, she forgot to tell me advance so I could bring my candy thermometer and/or mini deep fryer, so we had a difficult time regulating the temperature of the oil. Secondly, the few latkes we made were too fluffy and lacked the coveted crispy edge. After a few not-so-good attempts, I finally convinced my mom to return to our traditional method of shallow frying the latkes in a skillet, a job my sister happily took over.

Another big event I cooked for was my sister’s annual holiday brunch where she gets together with her high school friends for their traditional Hanukkah gift exchange. I cooked for them last year and apparently the girls liked the food so much that my sister volunteered me to cook for them again. It’s fun for me, I’ve known these girls almost my entire life and I enjoy the opportunity to catch up with them.

While I was thrilled they enjoyed last year’s meal of baked challah French toast and savory frittata so much (a few of them even made the French toast on their own), I was worried I wouldn’t find a way top it. These girls love brunch food, which is a meal I don’t often cook, so I stuck with the general concept of an egg and vegetable dish, along with something starchy, and instructed my sister to provide fresh fruit.

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls

The starch was the easiest decision: Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls from my new favorite cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (see Caramelized Onion and Herb Dinner Rolls). I’m not going to post another recipe from the book because I think everyone should buy it, but I will say that these rolls were amazing with just the right proportion of dough to the sugary sweet topping that seeped its way all around the rolls.

The egg dish was a bit more challenging. I wanted something that could be prepared in advance so I wasn’t cooking to order, and had a nice presentation. Somehow, while searching the Internet for ideas, I came across a number of blogs with posts about Gale Gand’s torta rustica (here’s the post at Pastry Heaven that I based my torta off of), essentially an egg and vegetable layered casserole baked inside puff pastry.

Torta Rustica

Torta Rustica

I didn’t follow the recipe precisely, but did use it as a guide. The most significant changes were adding a layer of halved cherry tomatoes, sauteing shallots with fresh spinach, omitting the ham, and using fontina cheese in place on mozzarella. Although it was a little fussy, the torta succeeded as a delicious showstopper, and you can see that I had some fun decorating the top with a star using pastry scraps (it was a Hanukkah party, after all) but you could easily add whatever decoration you liked.

Marci's Brunch - sticky roll and torta rustica

Marci's Brunch: Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls and Torta Rustica

Those are just a few of the things I’ve been busy cooking these past two weeks and I promise to bring you new recipes soon.

Also, in January I’ll be taking part in the Ten in ’10 Challenge as a way to start eating and living a bit healthier. Not that I’ll be giving up sweets or obsessing about weight loss, but I do want to make more of an effort to eat better and get my butt moving, both challenges for me to do in the winter months. It’s not a New Years resolution (I don’t make those), but rather an idle thoughts whose time has come.

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