Sunday, May 26, 2013

California Eggs Benedict

The first food I learned to make, using a kitchen appliance other than the microwave, was chocolate chip cookies. My family has a ridiculous sweet tooth, and weakness to anything chocolate, and thus, if I wanted more than just one helping of desserts and sweets, I learned early on that I would have to make them myself. So in about fifth grade I taught myself the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag, and for the next four years I knew that recipe by heart. 

There was a silent agreement in our household that, if you brought home chocolate chips, I would make cookies. Unfortunately, learning how to bake cookies didn't quite solve the problem of lack of sweets in my house, because they would always be gone by morning. I would end up filling up on cookie dough, and wait to eat the actually cookies until the next day (aka breakfast), but they would have all been devoured during midnight snack time. My family never liked talking about their cookie addiction, and thus I lived most of my childhood without cookies (but I did consume amble amounts of dough). 

The next food I learned to make, other than pasta and scrambled eggs, was hollandaise sauce. When the family was all together, my dad would sometimes make eggs benedict with smoked salmon on Sundays. I would prepare the sauce, allowing my dad to finish off everything else. The way my dad taught me to make hollandaise sauce was very similar to how he taught me to drive; going on the freeway my the first day, and me freaking out at 40mph in a 65mph zone. I was instructed to add egg yolks and butter in a small sauce pan at low heat, but not to let it curdle. Of course, I had no idea what curdle meant, but I learned very quickly.

There were times when I really started to question my dad's cooking logic, as everything is always changing, and I have never once seen him use a recipe, but, in the end, there is always something amazing to eat. I mean, I really can't complain about growing up with eggs benedict with smoked salmon. However, I have no problem complaining about how he is always eating all my cookies. The funny thing is, my cooking habits are very similar to his, and I always end up making decisions on a whim.

Total time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

  • English muffin
  • 2 pieces of ham (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 thick slices of tomato
  • Small handful of spinach and arugula 
  • Dijon mustard
  • Lemon wedge
  • Olive oil & balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

This is really quite simple. While you poach the eggs, toast the english muffins and warm the ham (remove ham for a vegetarian option). Spread mustard on the english muffins and top with ham. Next add the spinach, arugula and tomatoes. Finally place the hot eggs on top, drizzle oil and vinegar on top, and garnish with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. Next time I would consider adding a side of avocado and maybe a little basil mixed in with the greens.

On a side note, I started a new batch of hard cider last week! Today I will rack the cider, removing all the dead yeast and sediment, and start secondary fermentation (hopefully). The apple juice started at a dark brown color last sunday. The juice was loaded with sugar, and has the possibility of having at least an 8% alcohol content. I am currently working on label designs, since I am going to make the effort to bottle and store this batch, instead of drinking it all right away like the last batch.

A peak inside my hutch: port glasses and spiced peach jam.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blueberry Tart

I have been singing along with Taylor Swift this week, as I turned 22 on Saturday. This part of my life is wrapping itself up rather nicely. I was able to see many of my UCD friends, and talked to a lot of people scattered across the country. It is nice to look back on all the different connections I have made, and think of all the new ones to come. 

There is a month until graduation and my trip to Peru. When I get back in July, I will be working at a winery in the central valley of Northern California. Not completely sure what my job will entail, but I will be learning the ins and outs of winemaking. Even though I am extremely excited to start this new chapter in my life, and explore career opportunities, my time in Davis cannot be replaced. I will never forget the warm nights spent eating way to much frozen yogurt with friends, or the early mornings spent fretting over homework I forgot to do. 

Total time: 20-30 minutes
Makes 4 tarts

  • 4 cups of blueberries
  • 1 tbs cornstartch
  • 1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup of sugar or 1/8 cup of honey
  • 1 pie crust or olive oil crust

The trick to saving time is to bake the crust first. I used traditional pre-made pie crust, but in the future I want to try an olive oil crust. The olive oil crust also eliminates any animal products from this tart. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. However, if you are not using pre-made crust, the time to make this fabulous treat will most likely increase.

While the crust is baking, combine 1/8 cup water and 1 cup of blueberries in a small pot on medium heat. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, sugar (or honey) and cornstarch, and add the contents to the boiling blueberries. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. The blueberries should burst as they are heated. 

Pour the blueberry paste into the four different crusts. Be frugal with the blueberry paste to ensure there is enough for each tart. Then top the warm blueberries with the rest of the fresh blueberries. In the end you are left with pretty much a blueberry explosion. I recommend eating this tart warm with a little cranberry ice cream. The contrast between the tart ice cream and the sweet blueberries is something you will not forget easily. 

Birthday shenanigans and lake Barresa. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Cream Cheese Tart with Saffron

This weekend is the Whole Earth Festival in Davis. Walking through the quad, many childhood memories from the Renaissance Fair came flooding back. There was everything from hand made ceramics, overly scented soaps, flower tiaras, to glass wind chimes. Finding a shady spot all to myself, I watched from afar as locals started to sprinkle their way in. 

Two girls on my right asked a stranger to take their picture, in the middle of a wooden teepee. Behind me, a woman was selling hand bound leather booklets. Laying down, I looked up into the little tree providing me a safe heaven from the heat, as the sun sparkled against the brand new leaves. 

I wanted to make something that reflected the rich diversity on campus. The lemon cream cheese base of this tart is sweet and savory. A hint of saffron enhances the aroma. The simplicity of the blueberries  against the tart lemon tones down the strong savory feel of the cream cheese. 

Prep time:10 minutes
Total time: 2 1/2 hours

  • 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 5-6 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp saffron
Mix together the sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese. Next add the lemon juice and zest. Finally mix in the saffron. I used a traditional pie crust, but a graham cracker or almond crust would be nice.

Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool for 1-2 hours in fridge.  Makes three small tarts. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Goat Cheese Polenta with Poached Egg and Pesto

Folding my small desk back, and picking up my backpack, I squeeze past the student next to me, heading towards the front of the lecture hall. Placing my completed papers in the pile corresponding to form A, I can feel the stress melt away. It starts at the corner of my lips with a flicker of a smile, and then I can feel it in my shoulders as they begin to fall. 

My blue bike is tinted green from the pollen that has engulfed the town. The ride home is short, about ten minutes. The ninety degree heat is masked by the ravenous wind, leaving only a slight tingle of warmth on my skin. Back inside my apartment the stagnant air collects the heat, and I scramble to turn on all the fans. 

I stick my head in the fridge, and realize the majority of our food has gone bad. Their are some miscellaneous toppings left over from previous meals, and somehow the eggs haven't been polished off yet. My mind goes to pesto pasta, but theres no pasta in the cupboard. I'd resort to cereal, but theres no milk. If I hadn't taken off my pants already I would have half a mind to go to the store across the street, because it looks like my last resort is eggs and rice. 

Then it hits me. I have polenta! These beautiful pictures begin to race through my mind flooded with poached eggs, creamy cheese, and bright yellows and greens. My mouth begins to water, and I become conscious of how many times I've swallowed in the past thirty seconds. The fifteen minutes it will take to make this meal seem a lot closer to two hours. 

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of polenta
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs. vinegar
  • 1 tbs. goat cheese
  • 1 tbs. pesto
  • milk (optional)
  • parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add 1/4 cup of polenta to one cup of boiling water. Stir the polenta for a minute before turning down the heat to medium low. Continue to stir the polenta off and on until it thickens, about 5-7 minutes. If the polenta hardens more than your liking feel free to loosen it up with some milk. 

Meanwhile poach an egg by boiling some water in a small saucepan or pot with about a tablespoon of vinegar. The goal is to place the egg in the water a couple minutes before the polenta is done. It will take roughly 3-4 minutes for the egg to cook in slightly boiling water. 

Mix the goat cheese into the polenta and then top it with the egg and pesto. Add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. 

I'd eat this for breakfast lunch or dinner any day. Although, when I am embarking on a lazy day, I substitute the poached egg for sunny-side up. Every 1/4 cup of polenta serves one person.

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