Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Reclaiming the Fridge: Spinach and Broccoli Frittata

Sometimes you have a lot of eggs. It happens. Maybe you went a little crazy at the supermarket because who doesn't need three dozen eggs? Or maybe you have friends with chickens. Productive chickens. Or maybe both things happen at once and your fridge is overflowing with eggs and oh dear lord what should you do?!

Chill. It's cool. This is what frittata was invented for. Also, all those extra veggies you never seem to get around to using up? We've got you covered.

So relax. Crack out the skillet. Get a little crazy with some random vegetable combinations. Maybe even go wild with the Parmesan cheese. It will be awesome.

Spinach and Broccoli Frittata
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
1 medium-small onion, diced
1 head of broccoli, chopped fairly small
10 ounces spinach (fresh or frozen)
olive oil for sauteing

If your spinach is frozen, set it out to thaw a little while you're preparing everything else.

Saute the onion in a large, oven safe skillet until translucent and then add the broccoli. Let the broccoli cook for several minutes, stirring regularly. In a medium-sized bowled, beat the eggs until yellow and creamy and then add the milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Once the broccoli has started to soften, turn the heat down and add the spinach to the skillet. If it is frozen, heat it until it has fully thawed and most of the excess moisture has evaporated. If it's fresh, you just want it to wilt slightly.

After giving them a final stir to make sure the milk is fully combined, pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir everything for the last time with a rubber spatula to ensure that the veggies are evenly distributed and then leave it alone for five minutes.

The eggs should now have started to set. Now finish off the frittata by broiling it for another 5-10 minutes. Check it after a few minutes and if the top is browning too quickly, turn of the broiler and place the skillet on a lower shelf in the oven. Check that the eggs have set all the way through by making a small cut in the center. If it's still wet and custardy, give the frittata another couple minutes in the oven.

When it's fully cooked, slice into wedges and enjoy!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kitchen Nirvana: Honey Whole Wheat Bread

You know what's beautiful? Bread. It's one of those glorious miracles of human civilization. With just a few ingredients and a bit of patience, we can harness the mighty powers of science.

I mean, how freaking awesome is yeast? Tiny bacteria that just need some sugar and a little private time and they'll do all the flavor-building, bubble-producing work? Yes please!

I love watching yeast dissolve into fluffy froth in warm water, boiling furiously just beneath the surface. I love the smell of honey and flour and the sticky satisfaction of a glossy, well-kneaded lump of dough.

Wafting on waves of oven warmth, the smell of freshly-baked bread fills the whole house, the homiest, most smile-inducing scent on earth.

And biting into the perfect, soft, ever-so-slightly sweet slice of bread is one of the simplest ecstasies I have ever experienced.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
(recipe from allrecipes.com)

3 cups warm water
1/3 cup honey
4 1/2 teaspoons dried active yeast
5 cups all purpose flour

3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup honey
2-4 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons of melted butter

In a large bowl, combine the water, honey, and yeast and leave it to sit until frothy (usually 5-10 minutes). Now stir in the 5 cups of plain flour. Cover and set aside in a warm place for about an hour (or until it has become bubbly and has roughly doubled in size).

Add the butter, salt, and additional honey and stir to combine. Scatter two cups of whole wheat flour on a clean surface and tip the dough out onto it. Sprinkle roughly half a cup more of whole wheat flour over the dough and begin kneading. As the flour is combined with the dough, it will start to get sticky again. Add more flour, a little at a time, if the dough become unworkable but try to maintain a fairly sticky surface.

Place the dough in a large bowl and very lightly grease it by pouring a little oil in the bowl and turning the dough a few times until it is coated. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about two hours).

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into three pieces using a knife. Shape each third and place them in lightly greased loaf pans. Set the pans, covered, in a warm place for the final rise.

While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 350º F (170º C).

Bake in the lower third of the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter when they come out of the oven to prevent them from hardening.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Juuust Right: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes size matters. A lot.

Sometimes, a cupcake just won't cut it. Too much frosting heaped on a disappointing little nubbin of cake. No.

Then again, a full-sized cake can be a challenge. A cake that sits around, challenging everyone in the house to break the one-slice-a-day limit of the post-holiday season. A cake that gets a little bit more dry every day, pressuring you to eat more than you really want. And cake is a terrible thing to waste.

Never fear! The geniuses of bake ware design have actually thought of this problem. Hello, 7 inch cake pan. My ideal, not-too-big-not-too-small cake pan, perfect for the Goldilocks within.

So this carrot cake recipe is for a 7 inch pan (it's pretty much my--slightly adapted-- carrot cake muffin recipe, baked in a cake pan and slathered with cream cheese deliciousness. I might possibly have mentioned that carrot cake is my absolute favorite cake. Ever. And this one turned out pretty darn well. It's delicately spiced and filled with scrumptious raisins and slivers of carrots. The aromatic orange oil is delicious, cutting creaminess of the frosting but orange zest and a little juice will do just as well.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
for a 7 inch cake pan

1 1/4 cups all purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange essence/oil
2 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs thoroughly, until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and combine well. Add the oil, vanilla, and orange.

Now gradually fold in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Finally, add the grated carrots and raisins.

Pour batter into a greased pan and bake in the preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup superfine sugar
a couple drops of orange essence
a couple drops of vanilla extract

Cream the butter until it's light and fluffy. Add the sugar and thoroughly combine them before adding the cream cheese. Beat the mixture until it's all combined and has become smooth and then add the orange and vanilla.

When the cake has completely cooled, it can be iced. Store the iced cake in the fridge because the cream cheese in the frosting won't keep when at room temperature!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day: Truffles and Kitchen Magic

As does much of life, cooking sometimes happens incidentally, through a series of--occasionally unfortunate-- events. Sometimes your fridge breaks and you find yourself stuck with several pints of rapidly warming cream that you just can't let go to waste. Sometimes you end up throwing things in a pot, hoping it all works out in the end. And sometimes it does.

Cooking without a recipe can actually be one of the most relaxing and zen-like experiences. You're not bound by expectations-- fantastically unrealistic expectations based on cookbook photography. It's all about flavor and texture. Discovering what you like and how to make it happen.

Of course, it doesn't always turn out well. Plenty of kitchen experiments result in unsalvageable disaster. But that's what makes the successes so sweet.

So, there's no recipe. Too much distracted kitchen experimentation and not enough writing things down.

It started with chocolate. And cream.

And tasty kitchen magic happened.

They're not the prettiest but they pack a flavor punch. And that's the important thing.

Happy Valentine's Day!