Friday, January 28, 2011

rosemary gruyère baked eggs

Philosophical question:

Are ramekins worth the space they take up in your (very small rental) kitchen cupboard?

Sure, they sit there looking all cute and individual, but do I ever pull them out and actually bake things in them?

Possibly twice, since I picked them out after our wedding almost four years ago.

At the time, I really liked the idea of them: sweet little casserole dishes especially for each person. I bought two sizes and promptly stacked them at the back of the cupboard. Where they stayed.

Until now.

Until baked eggs entered my world. 

I even used both sizes of ramekin. (Although that was because I buttered the larger size and realized it was too large, so had to pull out the smaller. But those ramekins sure felt useful, let me tell you.)

Baked eggs fit perfectly into my smaller ramekins, with just enough extra space for cream.

I have Mark Bittman – he of the addictive and delightful three-minute New York Times videos – to thank for the inspiration. His original video recipe calls for prosciutto, tomato and basil, although he did note that baked eggs can adapt to almost anything.

My husband has declared that his favourite version so far has rosemary and Gruyère cheese – a combination I stumbled upon by checking the fridge’s cheese section and also remembering that rosemary was the only herb left in the deck garden. I also found a lone Californian tomato* on the counter . . . which offered the perfect tang for the creamy, cheesy egg.

Really, you can use almost anything, as long as it includes an egg in a ramekin. Oh, ramekins, I believe I will let you stay.

* Shocking, I know. But sometimes a girl needs a tomato and California is the closest place. Still more local than Mexico!

rosemary gruyère baked eggs

bakes 2 eggs

1 tsp. butter
2 – 4 slices tomato
1/3 c. Gruyère cheese, grated and divided
sprinkle of fresh rosemary, finely minced
2 tbsp. whipping cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Use fingers to liberally butter the ramekins (possibly the funnest part of this recipe).

Place tomato slice(s) on the bottom of each ramekin. Sprinkle rosemary over. Divide the grated cheese, saving half for the tops. Sprinkle cheese in ramekins. Carefully, break each egg into a ramekin. Pour cream in each ramekin, along the side where the egg didn’t reach. Add salt and pepper. Top with the rest of the cheese.

Bake in the oven until the egg white is set, about 12 – 15 minutes. Check on them after 10 or 11 minutes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

glorious hummus for bean month

Perhaps January should be the official month of the bean?

I pulled out the chickpeas and whirled up a batch of glorious hummus in early January, feeling content I could use the humble and healthy chickpea to make such a tasty spread.

And suddenly – everywhere I looked – there were beans!  

I see that soup is also emerging as a January theme. If you must have both soup and beans, may I also suggest red lentil coconut curry soup? Or, ripe bean soup?

Now, back to the hummus for bean month. This hummus is everything I ever wanted in a hummus: subtly spicy with a kick of sriracha hot sauce, rounded out with just enough roasted red pepper to make you wonder what the secret ingredient is.

The recipe has evolved in three distinct stages, and I was lucky enough that my friend Queenie passed it on to me at its third and most delicious stage.

As you might have guessed by the ingredient list, it also has an impressive multicultural pedigree. It is a Middle Eastern-Chinese-Haligonian recipe. Seriously.

The recipe was born at the Coburg Coffee House in Halifax, a cozy coffee shop in an old house near Dalhousie University. Queenie, who is from Hong Kong, worked at the coffee shop for a few months this fall. While she was there, Queenie made the original glorious hummus recipe. Then, her coworker Denise shared her secret recipe: add sriracha hot sauce, curry powder and roasted red pepper or pimentos. Queenie loved it, but then she took it to the next level . . . with honey and cinnamon.

Honey and cinnamon in hummus! I was shocked, but I trust Queenie, so I tried it. She is, of course, absolutely right. You don’t really taste the honey and cinnamon, but they add another sweet round dimension to the hummus. Trust us, you will like it.

Happy bean month!

last january: shortbread in january

glorious hummus

28 oz. chickpeas, canned (or dried and softened)
1 tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 clove garlic
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. curry powder
sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 sundried tomatoes, softened and chopped finely
1/4 c. roasted red pepper or 2 tbsp. pimentos
1/2 tsp. sriracha hot sauce (for a moderate kick)
1 tbsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Set aside the chickpeas. Process everything else in a food processor or blender until it’s a nice paste.

Add half of the chickpeas and process until everything is blended. Add the rest of the chickpeas and process again until you have a smooth, glorious hummus.

Delicious on its own with crackers and carrots, or in a wrap or on a sandwich.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

naomi's granola


It is strange that I have to travel more than halfway across the country from sleepy Vancouver Island to the big city of Toronto to eat breakfast outside, but it’s true.

Our friends Naomi and Ian have the kind of house that made me fall in love with Toronto: full of art and a warm welcome and surrounded by big old city trees.

The first couple mornings of our visit, my husband and I stumble up to the kitchen, dazed by the time change and looking for an easy breakfast. Without fail, I pull open the cupboard and see the familiar square Tupperware container: granola. I smile, spoon some into a bowl and put the kettle on for tea.

And then, right there from the kitchen at the back of the house, I open the door onto a patio that gradually drops down into the park behind them. Naomi is a gardener and for most of the year, there are leafy green things and birdfeeders to watch while we sit at the little table and linger over our breakfast. This is vacation.

Finally, I realized that while I can’t bring their patio back to our tiny apartment, I can make the granola. Naomi gave me the recipe, and she says she got it from someone else. Now, I’d like to pass it along to you.

It’s originally called, “mixed fruit granola” and the two fruit involved are dried cherry and cranberry. But can two fruit truly make something “mixed”? Anyway, I just call it, “Naomi’s granola” and we’re happy.

It’s delicious. Eat it outside when you can. When eating it inside, dream about the summer to come.

A note for the gluten-free among us: This recipe will only work for you if you can tolerate oats. Make sure you find oats that were grown in an uncontaminated field and processed in an uncontaminated factory. My favourite oats come from Cream Hill Estates. Also, make sure to use rice bran, not wheat bran.

naomi’s granola

3 c. oats
3/4 c. bran (wheat or rice)
1/2 c. almonds, whole or chopped roughly
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. almond extract­­­
2 tbsp. oil, optional*
1/2 c. dried cherries
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Mix oats, bran, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix honey, almond extract and oil. Pour over the oat mixture and toss. Spread on sheet.

Bake, stirring every 10 minutes or so until lightly roasted, about 45 to 55 minutes. Stir in fruit. If you’d like the granola to be a bit more clumpy, drizzle a bit more honey over and stir. Cool completely.

* Use a light oil, such as canola, vegetable or grape seed. Do not use olive oil; it will be too strong.