Gordon Hamersley’s Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Tart

baked tart

This tart is really fun. And different. And delicious. I can’t promise a quick-and-easy dinner with this recipe — beets must be roasted; a tart shell must be baked — but with a little planning, assembly of this tart is quite simple. And it is so worth the effort.

Why are beets, goat cheese and walnuts so good together? And why did I never think to bake them all together in a flaky, buttery shell? Gordon Hamersley recommends serving this tart with a little mixed greens tossed with a bright vinaigrette, which is exactly what I did.

I spotted this recipe in a recent Cookstr newsletter entitled “10 Dishes Under $10.” Under $10 very likely it was — my bunch of beets cost $2 at the farmers’ market, and I still have all of the greens remaining to use for another meal. 

Let’s see. I did make a few changes, only one of which is significant. I substituted buttermilk for the heavy cream. The recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream, which, and I hate to be so girly, amounts to 700 calories. The substitution of buttermilk brings that down to 90. Nine. Zero. I mean that is seriously significant. And while I can’t speak for the taste of the full-fat version, buttermilk does not compromise the flavor. This tart is fabulous. I ate leftovers for breakfast and dinner. Yum yum yum.

The other changes are minor and noted in the recipe.

beets

Above: Beets purchased from the San Clemente Farmers’ Market. I like to buy my beets from Eli’s Ranch. (They park in front of the library and sell the best avocados, too.)

Below: To blind bake a tart shell, line it with plastic wrap and dried beans. Fold the plastic up and over so that the crust is exposed. Bake for about 20 minutes at 375ºF.

preparing to blind bake the tart shell

unbaked tart

baked tart

Be warned: If you care about your cutting board, don’t cut beets on it. I forgot to use my plastic one for this job. Oops. 

beet board

Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Tart

Source: Gordon Hamersley via Cookstr
Note: Below is a simplified version of the recipe. Find the original here.
Serves 4 to 6

1 recipe tart dough, shaped and blind baked
Yield: 12 ounces, enough for one 10-inch tart or 6 individual tarts

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and well chilled
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Quickly cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry blender or the back of a fork, until the butter pieces are the size of large peas. (Alternatively, cut the butter into the flour by pulsing it 8 to 10 times in a food processor, being careful not to overheat and overmix the butter.)

2. Add the ice water. Using just your fingertips and working quickly, combine the flour mixture and the water. Work just until the water is absorbed. The dough will be ragged but should hold together when you squeeze it. If it seems dry, sprinkle on a few more drops of water. (I had to add a few more tablespoons of water.)

3. Gather the dough up into a ball — it’s fine if the dough does not come together completely at this time. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap, flatten it a bit, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before rolling. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also freeze the dough, well wrapped; allow it to defrost for a day in the refrigerator before using it.

4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Roll the dough into a large circle — large enough to overlap whatever sized tart pan you are using. Press the dough into the corners and into the sides of the tart pan. Trim off any excess dough. Line the tart with plastic wrap and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Fold plastic up and over to expose the crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove beans from tart.

Meanwhile Prepare the Tart.
Note: This recipe has been slightly modified from the original, which can be found here.

2 to 3 small beets (Note: Since you are roasting beets, you may as well roast a few more. When assembling the tart, I used about 2 heaping cups of diced beets)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine (or Sherry or Madeira — whatever you have on hand.)
1 recipe tart dough (above)
3 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream (I used buttermilk)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese (I used less. Add according to taste/preference.)
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used less. Add according to taste/preference.)
1 tablespoon walnut oil (Optional — I did not use.)
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Wash the beets. Place the beets in a small ovenproof pan (like a brownie pan or a pie plate.) Add water to reach 1/8-inch up the sides. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.

2. Allow the beets to cool. (Or not). Rub the skins off of the beets with your fingers, then dice the beets into small cubes. (Be careful, as beet juice can stain counters, towels, and even your hands; you may want to wear gloves for this step.)

3. Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a little salt, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onion is just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the alcohol and cook for another minute, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. (Note: I caramelized my onions a bit more — cooked them slowly for about 25 minutes.)

4. Heat the oven to 350°F. Add the beets and onions to the blind-baked tart shell. (Note: I added the walnuts at this step as well, but Hamersley adds them after the tart has already baked for 20 minutes. Your call.)

5. Whisk together the eggs and cream (or buttermilk), season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and carefully pour over the beets and onion, letting the mixture seep evenly into the beets. Dot the goat cheese all over the top of the tart. Put the tart on a baking sheet and bake it for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the tart and drizzle the walnut oil over it, if using. Return the tart to the oven and bake until just set, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tart with the chopped parsley and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Final Notes: If you can roast the beets ahead of time and prepare the tart shell (or make the tart dough) in advance, this tart can be assembled in no time.

Zuni Cafe’s Fried Eggs In Bread Crumbs

eggs in bread crumbs

I wish I were a hen;
I wouldn’t have much to do.
I’d lay an egg most every day,
And Sundays sometimes two.

— German nursery rhyme

Just a little jingle I thought you all might like. I found it in the book I’m reading: My Fine Feathered Friend by William Grimes.

Anyway, I’ve found my latest favorite way to eat eggs: fried in bread crumbs. This recipe comes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which devotes a whole chapter (a very small chapter) to egg recipes. At Zuni, these eggs appear on the Sunday lunch menu accompanied by house-made sausage or bacon (sounds amazing), but Zuni’s chef-owner Judy Rodgers likes these crunchy eggs for dinner with a salad of  bitter greens. I couldn’t agree more: A simple salad of arugula, oranges, Parmigiano Reggiano, maybe an avocado and a couple pieces of toast couldn’t make a better dinner. 

These eggs are so yummy. Just after the eggs finish cooking, they get sprinkled with a little vinegar — don’t omit this step — which adds the perfect amount of bite. Even I refrain from dousing these eggs with Tabasco. It would ruin them.

I’ve made these eggs two nights in a row now and very likely will bring the streak to three tomorrow. When you plan on making them, be sure to read the whole recipe through — there’s nothing tricky about it, but it’s not your standard-issue recipe either.

Just some last thoughts, too: If you can find some farmers’ market greens and eggs, this meal will be all the more delicious. I feel like a brat saying this given that I live in sunny southern California, but if you do a little research, regardless of where you are, you’d be surprised what you might find. I remember buying delicious greens, even in the colder months, from various sources at the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia.

For you locals, pictured below are Don’s eggs, Blue Heron Farm’s arugula, and Eli’s Ranch oranges, all of which can be found at the Sunday San Clemente farmers’ market.

egg on toast with arugula and oranges

The pan. The Zuni cookbook recommends using a 6- to 8- inch French steel omelet pan. I’ve used my 9.5-inch carbon steel crepe pan that I bought at Fante’s in Philadelphia. A nonstick pan will work just as well.

French steel omelet pan

Fresh, soft bread crumbs:

freshbreadcrumbs

Bread crumbs “oversaturated” with olive oil, as instructed by The Zuni Cafe Cookbook:

crumbs saturated with olive oil

To clean your skillet, dump some kosher salt into it and place it over medium heat. Let the salt heat up and begin to change color. Turn off the heat.

salt
Next, take a paper towel and rub in a circular motion, scraping off all the bits of food from the bottom of the pan. Wipe out all of the contents and discard. Drizzle pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and rub the surface to coat.

pan with salt

Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs
From The Zuni Café Cookbook
Serves 1

Notes from the cookbook: This recipe has been written for one because these eggs are easy to make and fun to eat when you are alone. If you are making them for more than one person, use a larger pan and cook the eggs in batches of four to six. Also, see the note at the bottom of the recipe regarding toasting the bread crumbs in an oven.

1 loaf of white, bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or a boule
(This is to make the fresh, soft bread crumbs. You only need 3 tablespoons of crumbs, so you’ll likely need just a portion of this loaf.)
kosher salt
about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
a few fresh thyme or marjoram leaves (optional)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon red wine, white balsamic, balsamic or sherry vinegar

1. To make the bread crumbs: Carve the crusts off a loaf of white bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or boule. (Discard the crusts or add to your compost pile.) Break the tender insides of the loaf into large chunks, then grind in the food processor. Don’t grind too finely or evenly.

2. Sprinkle the crumbs with a pinch of salt, then drizzle with enough of the oil to oversaturate them.

3. Place the crumbs in a 6- to 8-inch French steel omelet pan or nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. (If you like your fried eggs over easy, reserve some of the oiled raw crumbs to spinkle on top of the eggs just before you flip them.) Let the crumbs warm through, then swirl the pan as they begin drying out — which will make a quiet staticky sound. Stir once or twice.

4. The moment you see the crumbs begin to color, quickly add the remaining oil (or a dab of butter) and the herbs if using, then crack the eggs directly onto the crumbs. Cook the eggs as you like. (So far, I’ve made them two ways: without flipping them, but by finishing them in a heated oven so the tops cooked through a tiny bit; and flipping them, but cooking the eggs only briefly on the second side — the yolks were still runny.)

5. Slide eggs onto a warm plate ( … right), then add the vinegar to the hot pan. Swirl the pan once, then pour the drops of sizzling vinegar over the eggs.

Note: If you are preparing the eggs for more than a few people, it is a little easier to toast the seasoned bread crumbs in advance in a 425ºF oven instead of in the skillet. In that case, toast them to the color of weak tea. Then scatter them in the skillet, add the remaining olive oil and proceed as described above.

Serve these eggs with a simple salad tossed in a citrus vinaigrette (recipe below):

How to make a simple vinaigrette

I learned to make salad dressing from Chez Panisse Vegetables. This simple recipe calls for macerating shallots in lemon juice and vinegar for about 20 minutes. Once you master this simple recipe, you can alter it as you wish — use orange juice, lime juice, or any number of vinegars in place of the lemon juice and champagne vinegar. I often add sugar to taste as well.

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette
Source: Chez Panisse Vegetables

2 small shallots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white balsamic vinegar*
2 tablespoons lemon juice*
¼ teaspoon sugar (optional — this is not in the original recipe, but I always like a pinch of sugar)
½ teapoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

*As I noted above, you can substitute what you wish for the vinegar or citrus. You also could use only vinegar or only citrus juice. Use whatever you have on hand or whatever you like best.

To make the dressing, place the shallots in a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Stir and let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to make an emulsified dressing. Set aside.

Here are some other dressings you might like:

Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Orange & White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Orange Dressing, Especially nice with Roasted Beets
Sally Schneider’s Blue Cheese Dressing
Tartine’s Caesar Dressing

Swiss Chard Tart

I have an excellent recipe for a buttery, cornmeal tart shell. It NEVER fails to please. Why then, I ask you, must I continue to experiment with other recipes? Oiy. Rarely do they measure up. Tonight I’m annoyed. Truly. I mean, this tart would have been unbelievably delectable had I just stuck to the tried-and-true recipe I know.

Alas. This tart closely resembles the breakfast pizza I made several months ago. The topping is nearly identical: sautéed Swiss chard with garlic, grated cheese (whatever you have on hand), and a couple of eggs — a combination I really adore. OK, fine, I adore eggs on everything, but you know what I mean.

So, I can’t in good conscience leave you with a foolproof recipe today, but I can give you some guidance. Use this recipe for the tart shell and follow this recipe for the topping. Combine the two and you’ll likely create a yummy dinner. Again, I regret, I am leaving you with yet another recipe that must be revisited shortly.

My Swiss chard plants are still going strong. In fact, they have been consistently productive since I planted them. For all of you novice gardeners out there, Swiss chard is a great vegetable to start a garden with — it is easy to grow and very tasty.

Corn Pudding

Several years ago, I received two non-stick All-Clad mini baking pans as a birthday gift. They are adorable! And, before this evening, entirely useless. Tonight, I am happy to report, I finally found a use — a very good use — for them: corn pudding.

Corn pudding for two, that is. This original recipe, printed in the July 2007 issue of Gourmet, feeds 8-10 people as a side dish. It is such a wonderful recipe, and I made it several times last summer after hearing my mother rave. Tonight, in an effort to minimize potential leftovers, I made a third of the recipe and baked it in one of my adorable, All-Clad baking dishes. Success! I love this recipe. It takes only minutes to prepare and is a perfect late-summer, early-fall dish.

For the past few weeks I have been buying delectable corn at the San Clemente farmers’ market from the same Carlsbad farmer that sells the Cherokee Purple tomatoes I have been obsessed with all summer. I am submitting this recipe to the September 20th Farmers’ Market Report. If you have a farmers’ market story/recipe/discovery you want to share, you can play, too. Just read the rules first, then submit your post.

Happy first day of fall.

Corn Pudding For Two
Serves 2 as a side dish
(Note: Click here for the recipe written to serve 8-10 people)

2 ears corn, kernels scraped from cob
cilantro or basil to taste
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch kosher salt
2/3 cup 1%, 2% or whole milk
2 small or one large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF with rack in the middle. Butter a small shallow baking dish (such as the one pictured above) or individual crème brulee dishes or ramekins.

2. Pulse half of the corn in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the herbs, flour, sugar, salt and remaining corn. Whisk together milk and eggs and add to bowl with the corn. Stir until just combined. Pour into baking dish or ladle into individual dishes.

3. Bake until the center is just set. About 30-35 minutes. (Maybe longer — I kind of lost track of time.) Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Breakfast Pizza For Dinner

Oh, how I wish I could take credit for this ingenious creation. Alas, I cannot. A very good friend of mine, after observing my egg obsession, kindly directed me to this Apartment Therapy site, offering me yet another way to enjoy my beloved eggs. (Thanks, Amanda!) The eggs, cracked atop the pizza during the last few minutes of baking, retain a runny yolk, which, when cracked, ooze into the crust and toppings — sautéed Swiss chard and cheese, in this case — making each bite unbelievably tasty. This combination was particularly yummy, but I suspect these eggs would enhance various topping combinations, from sausage and peppers to tomato and basil to ricotta and spinach — oh, the possibilities are endless.

Not too long ago, I made a flatbread with brie, prosciutto and watercress — a recipe I spotted in a recently published cookbook Blue Eggs, Yellow Tomatoes. Well, I must confess that the dough recipe I have enclosed below is far superior. Adapted from Todd English’s The Figs Table, this wet dough — admittedly a little difficult to work with — yields a thin and crispy crust. I’m not sure why I bother experimenting with any other recipe — my family (my mother) has been making the Figs’ pizza dough for years with great success.

One note: Unless you have a very powerful food processor, don’t use one. I burned out the engine on mine making this recipe and had to finish the kneading by hand. Use a stand mixer if you have one or knead by hand from the beginning.

This recipe makes a very wet pizza dough. Once baked, however, the dough becomes a light, thin, crisp crust. My family has been using this recipe for years, and one of our favorite topping combinations includes caramelized onions, grapes, blue cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh basil. This dough freezes well, too: After the two-hour rise, punch it down, wrap it in plastic and throw in the freezer. When ready to use it, let the dough sit at room temperature for a few hours prior to cooking.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Todd English’s The Figs Table
Makes 4 8- to 10-inch pizzas (Serves 1 to 2 people per pizza)

¼ cup whole wheat flour
3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Place the flours and salt in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. With the mixer on low, gradually add the oil-water mixture into the bowl. Knead until the dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes. The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. I liberally coat my hands with flour before attempting to remove it.

2. Divide the dough into four balls, about 7½ ounces each. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. (Be sure to oil the parchment paper.) Place two balls on a sheet. Lightly rub the balls with olive oil or lightly coat with cooking spray, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. The dough is very sticky and wet, so, be sure to coat the balls or the plastic with oil. Let the balls rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in bulk, about two hours.

3. To roll out the dough: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a generously floured work surface. Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer portion should be a little thicker than the inner portion.

Breakfast Pizza: Sorry for these undetailed instructions, but I really just threw this together.
Serves 2

cornmeal

olive oil
Swiss chard, washed, stems diced, leaves roughly chopped
garlic, minced
kosher salt
crushed red pepper flakes
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano and cheddar and crumbled goat cheese (use any grated cheese you have on hand)
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Follow the instructions above for rolling out the dough. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet and transfer the dough to the baking sheet.

2. Meanwhile, sauté the Swiss chard stems in the oil until slightly tender. Increase the heat to high, add the greens, season with salt, red pepper flakes and garlic. Rearrange the greens with tongs until nicely wilted. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. Top pizza with a thin layer of greens and cover with the grated cheese. Place in the oven for about eight minutes, or until about three minutes away from being done. Remove from the oven and crack the eggs over the pizza. Return to the oven, cooking just until the whites are set and the yolks are slightly runny.

4. Serve immediately.

Round 2: Low-Carb Cottage Cheese Muffins with Cheddar & Scallions

These are fun. Unlike any muffin I’ve ever tasted. Textured like a cross between a souffle and a quiche. Savory. Can be flavored in any way: with ham, bacon, herbs, peppers, spinach, whatever. A nice, portable breakfast especially for those who eat on the run. Recipe can be halved. Batter can be baked in ramekins. If using paper liners, be sure to coat with nonstick spray. Adapted from a low-carb muffin recipe posted on the blog Kalyn’s Kitchen via the blog 101 Cookbooks. So yummy!

Cottage Cheese Muffins with Scallions & Cheddar
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yield = 6 to 8

2/3 C. cottage cheese
¼ C. grated Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ C. whole wheat flour
2/3 C. almond flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
4 eggs, beaten
3 T. water
½ C. sharp cheddar
2 T. sliced scallions
Other ideas: diced ham or bacon; sun-dried tomatoes; herbs: basil, tarragon, chives, thyme, parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cheeses, flours, baking powder, salt, eggs, and water. Mix until well combined, then fold in the cheddar and scallions.

3. Line a muffin pan with six to eight liners*. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Divide batter between the muffin cups. Bake muffins 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top and set. *Alternatively, line ramekins with muffin cups, place on a sheet pan and bake.

More American Tuna, Eggs & Whole-Grain Muffins

So, I am happy to report that the American Tuna I recently smothered with cheese and wedged between two pieces of buttered bread tastes just as delectable when prepared in a healthy manner. These open-faced sandwiches, made with the same tarragon-tuna salad prepared for the tuna melt plus a couple tablespoons of capers, make a very tasty, light lunch or dinner. Toasted olive bread is an especially nice base.

Additionally, I must report my latest egg preparation: soft-boiled. Yum. The recipe I followed produced perfectly colored and textured soft-boiled eggs. I’m not sure I’m crazy about the method, however, which calls for submerging the eggs in cold water, which makes the eggs, as expected, cold. In any case, soft-boiled eggs atop asparagus, prosciutto and mascarpone-slathered toasts make another great open-faced sandwich.

Lastly, down below, you’ll see another batch of the whole-grain muffins I made several weeks ago. In this batch, mashed bananas and pecans have replaced the Fuji apples.

Asparagus Toasts with Mascarpone, Prosciutto & Soft-Boiled Eggs. To make these toasts, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Slice a loaf of french bread into four 1/2-inch thick pieces. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toast until golden. Meanwhile, place four eggs in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water. After three minutes, peel and slice the eggs. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch one bunch of asparagus for 30 seconds. Spread the toasts with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese. Top each with a slice of prosciutto, a few pieces of asparagus and the sliced eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

Open-Face Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Serves 4

1 loaf of olive bread
extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of half a large lemon (about 1½ tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 6-ounce can American Tuna
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons capers
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 small bunch lettuce

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice the olive bread into four thin rounds. Place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise with the mustard and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Dressing will be thin. Taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary.

3. Place tuna in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, tarragon and capers. Pour dressing over top and combine mixture gently with a fork. Set aside.

4. Assemble sandwiches: Line bread rounds with tomatoes. Top each with a small handful of lettuce. Top each with a mound of the tuna salad. Cut in half, if desired. Serve.

The 100% whole-grain muffins pictured below are filled with mashed ripe bananas and crunchy pecans. As FarmGirl promised, this recipe can be adapted in countless ways.

Baked & Scrambled

I wasn’t kidding. I’ve been eating a lot of eggs. But i’ll cool it after this post, because I’ve made a new discovery: American Tuna. I’ll have more to say about the tuna later. For now, I’ll concentrate on the eggs.

So, just a few quick things. Shortly after Easter, a friend forwarded me an on-line Whole Foods newsletter all about eggs … shocker … and I made this recipe for huevos rancheros cups. The recipe was pretty good, but I must admit, baked eggs taste best, at least in my experience, when baked in ramekins. I’ve included two recipes here, one for the most delectable baked eggs — my family makes them every Christmas morning — and one for the huevos rancheros cups, which are fun to make and fun to eat, but not as tasty as water-bath, ramekin-baked eggs smothered with Gruyère cheese, Tabasco and herbs.

Incidently, I’ve slowly been making my way through Heat, and I recently stumbled across as passage, which I’d like to share with you. At this point in the book, Bill Buford, on a quest to learn how to make fresh pasta, has traveled to Italy where he discovered that an egg, “provided it was a very good egg,” was the most important ingredient in the pasta-making equation:

“If the white was runny you knew the eggs had come from a battery-farmed animal, cooped up in a cage, and the pasta you made from it would be sticky and difficult to work with…[These yolks] were pale yellow, like those most of us have been scrambling for our urban lives. But a proper yolk is a different color and, in Italy, is still called il rosso, the red bit, arising from a time when you ate eggs in spring and summer, the egg season, and they came from grain-fed, half-wild, not just free-ranging but virtually proprietorial chickens that produced a yolk more red than yellow, a bright intensity that you can see today if you’re lucky enough to get your eggs not from a supermarket but a local mercato or a small farm.”

Anyway, if you are not sick of reading about eggs, here are links to two articles, one about a New Jersey farm that supplies wonderful eggs to the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia and one about Don Davis, the man who brings the eggs I have been enjoying to the San Clemente farmers’ market every Sunday:

San Clemente’s Sun Post News: Good Eggs Make Good Eggs
Philadelphia’s The Bulletin: Liquid Gold

The Best Baked Eggs
Serves 8

3 T. finely chopped parsley
1 T. finely chopped thyme
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
1 T. finely chopped sage
1 T. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup heavy cream
Tabasco to taste
8 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 T. grated Gruyère cheese

1. Combine herbs in small bowl. Butter 8 4-oz ramekins with the softened butter. Pour 2 teaspoons cream, 1 teaspoon herbs and a few dashes Tabasco in each ramekin.

2. Break one egg into each ramekin, spoon 1 teaspoon cream over each egg, sprinkle with herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste and top each egg with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese.

3. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Boil water in a teakettle. Place ramekins in baking dish. Pour boiling water in dish so that it comes 1/3 of the way up the sides of the dishes. Bake 10-11 minutes for medium cooked eggs.

For the recipe for the best scrambled eggs, visit the Sun Post News’ Web site:Good Eggs Make Good Eggs

Huevos Rancheros Cups
Adapted from Whole Foods Market
Serves 8

8 (5-inch) corn tortillas
Canola oil spray
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans
8 large eggs
kosher salt and pepper
¼ cup queso fresco or other fresh cheese, crumbled
Tabasco (optional)
½ cup salsa
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and oil a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

2. Heat corn tortillas one at a time in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 seconds on each side, just until they are soft and pliable. Spray each warm tortilla with canola oil on both sides. Press and fold each tortilla into a muffin cup. Place a small ball of foil in the center to hold in sides of tortillas. Bake 5 minutes.

3. Remove foil and add 2 tablespoons of refried beans to each corn tortilla cup, pressing them down into bottom of cup. Make an indentation in the center of the refried beans and carefully crack an egg into each indentation. Season each egg with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top each with a pinch of cheese and a splash of Tabasco if desired. Bake in the middle of the oven until whites are just set, about 15 minutes.

4. Remove tortilla cups from the muffin pan carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas. Top with a spoonful of salsa and sprinkle with more queso fresco and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Don Davis with his eggs at the San Clemente farmers’ market:

New Theory: Everything Tastes Better With An Egg On Top?

I know. My egg consumption is out of control. I can’t promise the end is in sight either, so please just bear with me as I plow through a few more dozen.

On another note, I have a story to recount about my husband that you might not believe. Last night, Ben almost threatened not to accept my “friend request” on Facebook. I know. Unbelievable. It was one of the sadder moments of my life.

This is what happened. Yesterday after dinner, while Ben was washing dishes, I mentioned that I had just become friends (on Facebook) with one of his old hockey buddies. Great, Ben said, and then admitted to feeling bad about not checking his email more often and rarely responding in a timely fashion to “friend requests.”

“You have a Facebook account?” I asked as I typed his name into the search box. “I’m going to invite you to be my friend.”

Brace yourself, this is where it gets sad. Ben turned to me and said, “OK, but don’t expect … ” stopping mid-sentence upon seeing my face.

“What?” I asked. “You to be my friend?”

“Well, it’s just that … it’s just that I’m never …”

It was too late. Ben could utter no words that would repair the damage. “It’s cool,” I said, as the world as I have known it silently shattered. We didn’t speak for like 2 minutes. It was terrible.

When Ben finished the dishes, he hopped on his computer and confirmed my friend request. While my heart still stung, I couldn’t bear the silence, and I appreciated the cyber gesture. I know, deep down, my love of life meant no harm. (I apologize for all the drama … maybe it’s the eggs?)

On another note, I learned on Sunday that one of the vendors (I forget the farm’s name) from Carlsbad will be bringing these zucchini blossoms to the San Clemente farmers’ market every week from now until the end of summer. These might be one of my favorite foods.

I think the best way to prepare them is this: Buy some goat cheese. If you feel like it, season it with salt, pepper, some herbs, shallots, whatever. If you don’t, don’t — plain goat cheese works just fine. Place a small — small — amount of goat cheese inside each one. Don’t over-stuff … it doesn’t make them better. Pinch the flower closed. Place a small amount of milk or buttermilk in a shallow vessel. Place a small amount of cornmeal in another shallow vessel. Heat a nonstick pan over medium fire. Add a mixture of oil and butter. Meanwhile, dip each blossom in milk and then in cornmeal. When the butter begins sizzling, add the blossoms to the pan. Let them cook until golden brown. Remove and serve with anything.Yum.

Also, I just tried the curry spaghetti from Delaney’s Culinary Fresh. I have sworn by the red pepper linguini in the past — still my favorite, I think — but this curried spaghetti was awesome. I didn’t add anything to it, except for some reserved cooking liquid, salt and pepper. Oh, and a fried egg.

And I sort of, though not very meticulously, tested my theory about cooking fried eggs slowly. In a nonstick pan, I heated some butter over medium fire. I added the egg when the butter sizzled. I covered the pan, and after a few minutes, when it looked done through the foggy transparent lid, I removed the egg and threw it on my pasta. There is something really special about an egg yolk over pasta. Or rice. Or salad. Or bread. Or everything, I have concluded.

Poached Eggs Over Flax Bread

So, as you know, I’ve been eating a lot of eggs. I’ve been cooking them in various ways — scrambled, poached, and even baked into tortilla shells (thanks for the recipe, Ann … next Friday I’ll post my results) — and I’m starting to notice a pattern: Eggs need to be coddled. Pardon the pun, but what I mean is that eggs, prepared in any way, need to be cooked gently — slowly over low heat. And, as I mentioned recently, if you start with really fresh eggs all you need is salt, pepper and a splash of Tabasco.

Now, I haven’t tested my theory on fried eggs, but I will, and I’m guessing this method won’t fail me.

As for the bread you see pictured, I’m still in disbelief that it emerged from the oven looking somewhat like a loaf of bread. Let me explain. I had been reading this book about omega-3 fatty acids and became inspired to make flax-seed bread. I found a recipe on the Internet, but the quantities were given in gram form. Not to worry, I converted the grams to ounces, and then from ounces to cups. ( My digital Salter scale is still in storage.)

I mixed together all the ingredients, kneaded the dough briefly — the recipe told me to do so — and placed the ball in a bowl. Twenty-four hours later, the dough had not budged. I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away, however, so I dissolved another packet of yeast in some water, let it bloom and then mixed it with some white flour. I broke the flax-seed rock into my new flour-water-yeast mixture and began kneading. After 10 minutes, I placed the dough in a bowl to rise, I hoped, once again.

Twenty-four hours later, the dough had made a little bit of progress, so I threw it in the oven before it could collapse on me. The results, well, let’s just say, were better than I had expected? Made mostly with whole wheat flour and loaded with flax seeds, this bread tastes a little nutty and very wholesome.

Yesterday afternoon, while we celebrated my uncle Jerry’s birthday, Aunt Vicki sliced up some of this bread, toasted it up and served it with butter and orange marmalade. It actually made a nice little snack. And cousin Jay, after slicing the bread very thinly, made a tasty looking avocado and turkey sandwich. The flax bread, although having the effect of feeling “like a steel glove in the stomach,” as uncle Jerry noted, was a hit.

Perfect Poached Eggs

vinegar
eggs, however many you want
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a small, shallow saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add a capful of vinegar. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a ramekin or small vessel. Reduce the heat of the pot to just a simmer — seriously, the water should hardly be moving. Using the end of a wooden spoon, swirl the water to create a mini whirlpool. Gently drop the egg into the center of this whirlpool.  Turn up the heat to maintain that very gentle simmer, then add another egg in the same manner to the pan.

2. To test for doneness, remove one of the eggs with a slotted spoon. Gently press the yolk with your finger. If it feels too soft, return egg to water. Cook for a total of about 3 minutes or less. Remove with a slotted spoon and gently dab the top with a paper towel — I lay a paper towel over the egg briefly to absorb the excess water. Serve the eggs over toast. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco, if desired.