In Case of Clouds, Add Mimosa

Brunch is one of my favorite meals ever. You can eat to your heart’s content and have plenty of time to burn it off later, plus it’s the perfect excuse to start drinking early on a Sunday. My Mimosa of choice is Louise d’Estree Brut 3/4 full glass with the rest Villa Italia Blood Orange Soda, both from Trader Joe’s.  I like it because it’s not too sweet and the color is beautiful.

I was feeling pretty creative this morning and took my time preparing this yummy brunch.

My good stuff on hand: Dried Shitakes, Organic Jumbo Eggs, Bread from the local bakery Frank’s, Swiss Chard, Dill, Basil and Leeks (all from my garden), Goat Cheese, Hot house tomatoes (i usually don’t buy tomatoes, but they were on sale), Balsamic, Olive Oil and just a splash of Fish Sauce.

First, I frizzled my leeks in olive oil and used them to top a pretty tomato slice and a slice of goat cheese on the plate. I then added fresh ground pepper and topped with a little chopped dill.

Next, I sauteed the Chard quickly with a little garlic and put it to the side. The Shitakes I had soaked so I drained them and dry fried them with the Basil, adding the dash of fish sauce to deglaze the pan. Toasted Bread was then added to the plate and here’s where I got creative. One slice I  dressed with a quick little dressing I made with the Oil/Balsamic/more dill/dried herbs and then topped with the cooked chard. The other slice I left dry and mounded the mushrooms on top. I meant to poach the eggs, but kinda forgot and did the Greek Fried Egg like I mostly do. I topped each bread slice with an egg and sprinkled on a little more chopped dill and basil.

the first flavor layer on the bread base and my pretty tomato stack

The beauty behind the presentation is this: My hubby likes goat cheese, but doesn’t like a lot of it. Having the little stack of tomato and cheese on the plate made it so we each could add as much as we liked as a condiment to the eggs. Plus, it was funner to have it presented in a pretty way. I have to say while both versions were excellent, my favorite was the Swiss Chard one with plenty of the tomato/goat cheese stack added.

Shawns "overhard" version. Def would be prettier with poached, but still yummy!

No, we did not have the ubiquitous pile of potatoes on the side like you get in so many restaurants. No butter was harmed (or used!) in the making of this brunch and it really was not heavy at all, just fresh, elegant and delish.

On to the rest of the Mimosas and a great Sunday!

Buddha Approved!


Porchtime Pickle Preview

Finally. My first pickling attempt has taken place and….it was fun!

I kind of knew that I would enjoy the process because I generally love to make dishes that require some assemblage such as enchiladas, lasagna, spring rolls etc. and the pickling process was right up my alley.

I pickled eggs for a couple of reasons. For starters, my cucumbers are not ready yet and also Henry’s had eggs on sale for 88 cents. At that price, it was buy them and throw them at the cars driving by on Washington or pickle those bad boys!

I found a recipe online for “Sweet Pickled Eggs” which I of course altered except for the brine. I added garlic, dill, a radish and a carrot to each jar. The brine was simply water, vinegar, sugar and pickling spice. I didn’t have pickling spice, so I used Zataran’s crab boil as it was practically the same thing. I’ll have to update y’all when we taste them in about a week, but they sure look yummy!

Comfort Food Cravings

I swear you are all going to think that all I do is fry things! I promise I don’t, it’s just that its so yummy, I’m inspired to write about it.

Remember the Fried Chicken Mushroom post? Well, the other night we had family over to include my super skinny 18 and 20 year old nephews Nick and Ryan and their friend Will, and wow can they eat! I love cooking for people that really love to eat like that.

Here was what I made for them (of course all from scratch)

Chicken Fried Steak Mushrooms

Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom/Buttermilk Gravy

Garden Greens

Broccoli Cheddar Corn Muffins

and for dessert, Meyer Lemon Scented Sponge Cake with Strawberries/Blackberries and Whipped Cream

I knew I wanted to make the chicken fried mushrooms again, but we had decided to make them with the seasoning from Paul Prudhomme’s Chicken Fried Steak recipe. I bought the Organic King Oyster Mushrooms this time and wow! what a great texture. I sliced them lengthwise and marinated them in the buttermilk and the spices as before. The new spice mix was much better, more complex and really gave it that country style taste.

To make the mushroom gravy, I simply used trim from my Oyster mushrooms and a few dried shitakes and simmered them on the back of the stove to make a mushroom stock. After frying the mushrooms, I kept them warm in the oven and used the mushroom stock to deglaze the pan. There was already flour in the little bit of oil from frying the mushrooms, so I just simmered it down and then added a little buttermilk and more of the seasoning. It was great on the potatoes and the “chicken”.

You’ll notice that we had greens, of course! I made them more traditionally than usual with balsamic and a little prosciutto, garlic and some red onion and cooked them down. The meal was rounded out with the corn muffins, which I snuck even more veggies into with a little chopped up broccoli.

you'd think his mother never fed him!

I was very pleased with the cake, because I don’t bake that much and usually feel a little intimidated. I knew I wanted a strawberry shortcake type dish but did not want to buy those gross little ones from the store. The cake was actually really easy and everyone wolfed it down. I also got to use my really nifty whipped cream maker, fun!

Except for the 1/4 cup or so of diced prosciutto, this meal was completely vegetarian. The cake was completely organic, even the whipping cream.

Feeding people I love is such a joy, thanks for coming over guys!

Greens Gumbo for a Gray Day

My garden is absolutely exploding with greens right now. I’ve given them away to neighbors, friends and my daughter, I’ve incorporated them into every recipe I can and I am still swimming in them! My fear is they will be wasted when they bolt (go to seed) and I hate wasting food, so today Shawn and I are making a Greens Gumbo which will be a bastardized version of a Paul Prudhomme Gumbo recipe. To go with the soup, we are also making a really yummy Biscuit Muffin also from Chef Paul. I’m really hoping that we can use up a good mess of the Collards, Mustard, Rainbow Chard and Lacitano Kale in this tasty and rich soup.

Looking at that basket of produce, can you see why I haven’t ordered my FMB today? My garden is really paying off now! Shawn was able to use all the carrots and all but just a few of the greens in the soup today. I will admit that my only contribution was to go down and collect this basket of goodies for him, then he was on his own. Remember I said I’ve been distracted? Well, today I had a hair up my ass to work on sanding that deck. I probably could have finished the whole thing except for the forecast of rain made it not a good idea to paint or seal anything, but I did get alot done!

Shawn and I are both big proponents of using what you have on hand and not running to the store unless you absolutely have to. Gumbo usually calls for Gumbo File, Paprika,Okra, which helps to thicken it and Cajun cooking’s trinity calls for a red pepper. Of course we did not have any of this stuff. The paprika we had is the Spanish smoked variety.

Lo and behold, he still managed to make an absolutely delish Gumbo that was thick and seasoned beautifully. I will post the actual recipe for you soon. I’ll have to quiz him in detail to figure out everything he did. For certain, he started with a beautiful and rich Roux.

I ended up making the biscuit muffins, although we were so hungry the smell of them baking almost made me swoon!

They are super easy to make. These Southern Biscuit Muffins were easily modified using buttermilk instead of milk (which of course we were out of) and were perfect with the gumbo. I pigged out on about four of these bad boys.

The batter came out quite a bit thicker because of the buttermilk and they were not as pretty as the last time I made them, but oh so tasty! There is a little sugar in them which gives them a bit of a crystalized texture on the crust and the slight sweetness complimented the spicy Gumbo.

This is definitely the fullest I have been in days….mmmmmmm

Anytime Noodles

Hi Guys, thought I would share with you a quick and easy meal you can enjoy any time of day.

This particular dish is very customizable and you can literally use any veggies you have on hand. It is a wonderful pan fried noodle dish, crispy on the outside and really satisfying

For our “Anytime Noodles” this morning I used: Enoki mushrooms, mint,cilantro, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, ginger,garlic, green onion and Thai basil. For a little sauce and flavor I mixed up a little fish sauce (you could omit if you don’t want to use), hoisin and soy sauce and a little hot red pepper.

Simply mince up the garlic, ginger, green onion and stir fry with a little oil with the mushrooms. At first, I left the mushrooms whole, but then decided to cut them up and I just did it in the pan. Add the chopped up cilantro and basil and carrots, and cook until a lot of moisture has evaporated.

Then, I added the bean sprouts and mint, stirred for just a second then took it all out of the pan and set aside. Meanwhile my fresh Chinese noodles had finished cooking and I drained them well.

The only tricky part of this dish is to make sure your pan is hot and your oil cold. Add the drained noodles to the pan and just sort of spread them out. DON”T STIR. Just let them cook. You will end up turning the whole pile over and they should be a little brown and crispy. After you turn them over (after maybe 5 min) add the cooked veggie mixture to the top and then add your sauce. Continue to cook for about 5 min more until the under side is crispy as well. As with a lot of things I make, this dish is excellent with a Greek Fried Egg on top.

This is how the noodles should look once you turn them over

If the noodles stick to the pan, don’t worry. Just take them off the heat for a couple of minutes then scrape up with a metal spatula.

They should not stick if you get the pan hot, add cold oil, add noodles AND DON’T STIR. It’s always so tempting to mess with stuff when it’s cooking, but sometimes it’s best just to let it be.

I have made this dish also with chopped and sauteed greens from my garden and served with a side of marinated and baked tofu to my young adult nephews and their friends and got a huge “thumbs up”.

Anytime Noodles are definitely a family favorite.

Let me know if you make them!

We Thought They Were Chickens, but They Were Hens!

We bought beautiful organic mushrooms from the Asian market. My husband was excited because they were called “Hen of the Woods” or “Maitake”. He thought he was buying the hard to find “Chicken Mushroom” and hence the confusion!

We brought them home to make an old recipe that my husband has been wanting to make for years “Fried Chicken Mushrooms”, a dish that utilized the technique of frying chicken and a buttermilk dressing to dip the fried mushrooms in.

Well, upon beginning to write this post, I decided to do a little research on the Maitake mushroom and sure enough they are easily confused with Chicken mushrooms. Well, it turns out that these mushrooms are really quite cool and have some promising medicinal value and we are just going ahead and making them in the fried chicken style anyway.

The basic recipe needed alot of doctoring. There was virtually no seasoning and the recipe for the buttermilk dressing didn’t call for enough sour cream.

To begin with, Shawn made the dressing. Sour Cream, Buttemilk and herbs from our garden and plenty of black pepper. Meanwhile, I cleaned the mushrooms and set them to rest in salt and pepper, buttermilk and a sprinkling of cajun style seasonings. The recipe called just for salt and pepper. We decided to let them soak a little bit in the buttermilk knowing we could drain it off and reuse the buttermilk. That’s one of the beautiful things about cooking with vegetables. There is no blood contamination. I think that seasoned buttermilk would go great in buttermilk biscuits.

Next step is to dip the mushroom pieces in seasoned flour and fry. We simply stirred together about 1/2 cup each flour and cornstarch and the rest of our seasoning mix. Each piece was allowed to drain before dipping in the flour. My god. The smell coming out that wok was almost enough to make a vegetarian swoon! It smelled exactly like chicken fried steak or something and the mushrooms resembled fried boneless chicken thigh meat.

As soon as one came out of the oil, we just had to sample it! The crust was incredible and the mushroom hot and tender inside the very crispy, seasoned crust. Dipped in the home made buttermilk/herb dressing, this humble fried mushroom was absolutely superb. I would love to see something like this on a bar menu as they hold their heat and crispy-ness really well.  What a great Saturday night snack with a movie.  I think a squeeze of lemon would be great on this.

Looks like the Broccoli Fritters have competition!

The Vegetable Broth Tutorial

Brace yourselves, people. Today’s post may be a bit lengthy:

  1. I have a cold, so I plan on sitting on my keaster all day
  2. I’m just heating up the last of my freezer broth so I need to make more
  3. I enjoy making broth, so it’s easy to write about

If you have read my post “Yay for FMB Day” then you already know a little bit about my broth making. Upon reading it, you might say”The girl’s got skills!” , or “man what a cheapo!” or “waaay too much time on her hands”, but in my opinion it’s just healthy and smart to use up vegetable trim to make nutritious and handy stock.

Up until a few years ago, before the vegetarian /flexitarian urge took over, I used to make stock from chicken carcasses or beef bones. My husband had learned years ago about browning the bones first and them simmering for several hours. We almost always used up leftover meat and bones for stock. Since then, it’s all changed.

I only started making veggie stock about a year ago, when we moved from Little Italy to Mission Hills. Living in Little Italy, we went out to eat quite a bit and my husband did most of the home cooking. Since taking up home vegetable gardening here in San Diego’s most perfect gardening habitat, I have begun to branch out into the endless possibilities of Vegetable Broth.

Remember that giant rainstorm a couple months back? Silly question, sorry! Well, that’s when I really got creative with broth and started playing around with flavor profiles. The house we live in has no heat and is pretty drafty, (and I wouldn’t trade it!) so making broth helped warm up the house and us so I experimented quite a bit. Since then, I almost always have several quarts in the freezer and a container of fresh on hand. I do like to have a seasoned, rich broth version and a light, basic version handy.

I started out following a basic broth recipe from one of my favorite books “The Culinary Institute of America: Vegetables”, and then expanded and really totally changed how I was making broth.

There can be a lot of waste when you are prepping veggies, and I have learned to keep my “Trim Bowl” handy on the counter when I prep. Here is just a sampling of trim I’ve used:

  • Carrot peel, ends and trim
  • Green onion root ends, tops
  • Bell pepper stems and seeds
  • Leftover/getting wilty herbs such as Cilantro, Dill and Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Leafy parts of the center of a Celery bunch, and trim
  • Trim from Chard/Collards/Mustard Greens
  • Beet Tops (very little)
  • Ginger trim
  • Lemongrass tops
  • Artichoke stem peel
  • Lettuce trim
  • Mushroom stems
  • Cauliflower trim (very little)
  • Turnip greens and trim
  • Leek tops
  • Kohlrabi greens
  • Green Garlic trim

The only hard part about this method is getting your partner to keep trim for the bowl! I hate looking in the garbage and seeing great trim I could have used. Ideally, of course, we would be composting veggie trim and even the cooked vegetables from making broth. It’s on my to-do list, I promise!

For my most basic, unseasoned broth I put whatever trim I have, usually about 3 to 4 cups in all,  and a quartered up onion with a little peel left on in my soup pot and cover generously with water.  I bring it up to a good steady simmer and let it cook for about an hour, more or less.  I then strain the broth thought a mesh sieve and allow to cool. If we aren’t using it right away, I may freeze in ice cube trays or other containers. This basic broth is great to have on hand if you need liquid without too much competing flavor to add to a recipe or use as a base for another soup. You can use it instead of water for making rice to add nutrients or to thin a cooked soup that has thickened too much.

Here’s an example of broth with a whole lot of Chinese Celery in it, Green Onion trim, Leek trim, Pepper trim and the top of an onion.

For a basic, lightly seasoned broth I follow the steps above adding bay leaf, peppercorns, a garlic clove or two and various herbs to the broth.  This makes a great base for pasta sauces, gravy, and Rissoto.  Of course you can use for making rice as well. You can also use this as a base for making Miso soup. Heat your strained broth until simmering, add a pinch of Bonito flake, 3 or 4 pieces of seaweed, and a very finely sliced green onion or green garlic and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon or so of Miso. Stir with a wire whisk to make sure the Miso dissolves completely and serve. You can add some finely cubed Tofu if you like. Never cook the Miso, however. It kills the beneficial, live cultures in Miso.

For a richer broth, add another step. After straining your cooked vegetables out of the broth , return the broth to the stove and simmer until the volume is reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2. Then cool and store. This version is great to use in dishes that call for chicken broth .

Now for a fun one! I love to make a vegetarian version of a favorite Vietnamese Soup called “Pho” (fuh) which is usually made with a very rich beef broth. It is handy to make this one when you have plenty of Asian type vegetable trim around. I use lemongrass, ginger root, Chinese chives and bok choy trim etc.  For seasoning, you need an extra onion (over and above whatever trim onion you have) 5 or 6 whole Star Anise, 10 or so Sichuan Peppecorns,  A cinnamon stick, about a tablespoon of sugar and a splash of Fish Sauce. Strain and then simmer again over low heat until the broth is very rich, about another hour. Salt to taste if using right away and serve with cooked rice vermicelli noodles, Thai basil, fresh bean sprouts, lime juice and a little Hoisin sauce.  This version is soothing and tasty just to sip plain as well.

I could go on and on about this topic, but I think that is enough for now. Just remember that there is no right or wrong way to make broth and experimenting with it can be fun. And, it is so much quicker to make than a meat broth. If you don’t have stock on hand, you can easily start a batch while you are preparing something else. It will be done before you know it and be ready to use.  If you don’t have enough trim, just break up a couple of carrots, celery and quarter an onion and there you go!

Thanks for reading and commenting!