Rosemary-Goat’s Milk Gelato & The Chino Vegetable Stand

strawberries

Sometimes I like to test my husband’s taste buds. Here’s an example. The other night, Ben was pacing around the kitchen after dinner looking for some more food. “Can I make you a bowl of cereal?” I asked. Sure, he said. So, I filled up a bowl with a mixture of Kashi Heart To Heart and Barbara’s Shredded Oats, sliced in a banana and poured in the milk … goat’s milk that is. I gave Ben the bowl then returned to the couch.

I could hardly contain myself. “Do you notice anything different?” I asked.

“Yeah. What am I eating?” Ben asked.

“Goat’s milk,” I said. “Do you like it?”

“I prefer cow’s milk,” he said. “In my cereal that is.” Ben is such a good sport.

Now, the reason I had goat’s milk on hand is because I had been craving Capogiro Gelato, particularly the rosemary-goat’s milk flavor. Since I haven’t found a gelato shop near me yet, I decided to make my own. I picked up a quart of goat’s milk at Henry’s Market one day and set to work. I followed a recipe I like for vanilla gelato in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook. I steeped the rosemary for about 30 minutes, tempered the egg yolks, chilled the mixture and then froze it in my ice cream maker.

The result? The gelato had a very nice texture, and the flavor was, well, shall I say, unique? The rosemary was a little too powerful. I’ve written the recipe below with a much shorter steep time.

I don’t know how Capogiro does it, but one trait I love about their rosemary-goat’s milk gelato is its pure white color. Some of their gelatos are made with eggs, some are not, and they’ll tell you if you ask. I forget if their rosemary gelato contains eggs or not. Also, I have asked many times how gelato differs from ice cream, and I never seem to remember the answer, but this is what is coming to mind: Gelato is churned more slowly. Gelato is more intensely flavored. And, according to Mario Batali’s cookbook, gelato is lower in fat.

I should note, too, that the rosemary I used came from the Vegetable Shop at the Chino family farm in Rancho Santa Fe. I have heard so much about this stand from friends living in Del Mar, and over the weekend, I finally got to see it. I picked up the most beautiful produce: two bunches of mizuna; two bunches of Swiss chard; two bulbs of green garlic; and a pint of the strawberries pictured above and below, which lasted about five minutes in my apartment. They were so sweet! They sort of tasted like grapes. The man at the stand called them “French” strawberries. Yum.

Oh, and next week, stay tuned, I have five more muffin recipes to share with you. I’m seriously up to my eyeballs in muffins.

Rosemary-Goat’s Milk Gelato
Adapted From Mario Batali’s recipe for vanilla gelato in Molto Italiano (Harper Collins, 2005)
Yield = 1½ pints

2 cups goat’s milk
½ cup sugar
one sprig rosemary
kosher salt
7 egg yolks

1. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk with ¼ cup of the sugar, the rosemary and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture just to a boil, making sure the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat, remove the rosemary and discard.

2. Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar until the mixture is pale yellow. Ladle some of the milk into the eggs whisking constantly. Repeat until half of the milk has been added to the eggs. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. DO NOT BOIL. When the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, remove pan from heat and strain into a shallow vessel. Do not second-guess yourself: When the mixture thickens, it is done. (I returned mine to the heat and it curdled. Too stubborn to start over, I strained the mixture through a very-fine chinois. It seemed to work — the gelato did not taste eggy at all. Try to avoid having to do this, however.)

3. Place vessel in the refrigerator until cold.

4. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat immediately or freeze until ready to serve. Once frozen, let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Philadelphia Farmers’ Markets

rhubarb

Hi again. Just a quick reminder to all my Philly friends that farmers’ market season officially commenced this past weekend with the opening of the Sunday Headhouse market. Headhouse is where you can find my favorite Birchrun Hills Blue cheese, the best tacos and wonderful produce.

And tomorrow, Tuesday, the market I frequented most re-opens at 2:00 p.m. at South and Passyunk. Wish I could be there!

Here is a schedule of all 44 farmers’ markets operating in the Philadelphia area this season.

To read more about the 2008 farmers’ market season read Market Fever in The Bulletin, May 2, 2008 or visit the Farm To City and The Food Trust Web sites.

Farro Risotto with Asparagus

farro

My mother has been telling me about this asparagus risotto for a little over a year now. She adapted the recipe from one printed in Gourmet last spring as well as from one in the New York Times submitted by Mark Bittman via Mario Batali. The recipe calls for puréeing about a pound of cooked asparagus and stirring it into the risotto in the last five minutes of cooking. The remaining pound or so of asparagus tips and stems are also added toward the end — the heat of the risotto slowly cooks them. The purée allows every bite of this risotto to burst with the taste of asparagus and the tips provide a nice crunch as well as additional flavor. Farro or barley are two healthier alternatives to the traditional Arborio rice, but many grains, as long as they are long-cooking grains, will work equally well.

This risotto is best eaten the day it is made mostly because the asparagus pieces deteriorate a little bit after a day or two. That said, Ben raved about this dish even two days later. On Friday, after being in the field for a week, Ben shoveled down two bowls, wiping his dish clean with a nice hunk of bread. Then he turned to me and said, “You should blog about this.” Sometimes he knows just what to say.

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Hazelnuts
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
Adapted from Gourmet and Mark Bittman and The New York Times

2 lbs. asparagus, peeled, trimmed and cut into one-inch-long pieces, tips reserved
4 to 6 C. chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. butter, room temperature
½ medium onion, diced very finely
1¼ C. semi-pearled farro* or arborio rice
½ C. dry white wine
1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
¾ C. grated Parmigiano Reggiano
½ C. toasted, coarsely crushed hazelnuts
¼ C. finely chopped parsley

*Purchase at Italian specialty shops (Hulled barley or Arborio rice can be substituted)

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add half the asparagus stalks (not the tips) and cook until quite soft, at least five minutes. Rinse quickly under cold water or put in ice water. Put cooked asparagus in a blender or food processor and add ¼ cup water. Purée adding more water one tablespoon at a time if necessary. Set aside.

2. Put stock in a medium saucepan over low heat. Put oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over medium heat. When it is hot, add onion, stirring occasionally until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add farro and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine, stir, and let liquid bubble away. Add the salt. Add warmed stock, ½ cup or so at a time, stirring occasionally. Each time stock has just about evaporated, add more.

4. After about 15 minutes, add remaining asparagus pieces and tips, continuing to add stock when necessary. After 5 minutes, begin tasting the risotto. You want the grains to be tender but with a bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes total to reach this stage. When it does, stir in ½ cup asparagus purée. Remove skillet from heat, add cheese, hazelnuts, parsley and remaining butter, and stir briskly. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately.

Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad

I cook fava beans once a year. When I spot the first of the season at the market, I fill up a bag, take them home and set to work, peeling, blanching and then peeling again. I open Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables and weigh my options: purée them and stir them into risotto or eat them raw with prosciutto and Pecorino. I’m sorry, but anything that calls for two peelings is not going into my blender. And so, I eat the fava beans raw, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice and mixed with parmesan or Pecorino. And I don’t share them with anyone because the two pounds I peeled yields only enough for a small snack. But they are so good. Definitely worth the double peeling. At least once a year.

OK, so I’m being a little dramatic, but seriously, fava beans are a lot of work. I will cook them more than once this year, and I will share them, but I will cook them only at opportune times, like when I invite friends over who have small children with little fingers who will work swiftly.

With this salad, I like the Pecorino to be in big chunks. I’m a big fan of shaving cheese with a peeler or with a sharp knife, but with this salad I use a different technique: I stick the point of a large, sharp knife directly into the block of Pecorino and twist. It breaks into nice, flaky shards. Parley is a nice addition to this salad, but not critical. And a finely chopped shallot or red onion is also a nice touch.

Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad
Serves 4

2 to 3 lbs. fresh fava beans, shelled
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. Pecorino Romano
extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 lemons
finely chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook for one minute. Drain, then plunge the beans into an ice bath and let cool. Drain again. Peel the beans and place into a mixing bowl.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Break the Pecorino into big chunks and sprinkle them into the bowl.

3. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and toss. Sprinkle with lemon juice to taste. Add the parsley, toss again, and serve.

More American Tuna, Eggs & Whole-Grain Muffins

openfacetuna

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.

Cinder-Block Garden How-To

cinderblock

Hello. Over the weekend, I (OK, Ben) planted a garden. As Ben laid the bricks, tilled the soil and planted the seeds, I read him instructions from the e-book Cinder Block Gardens. The details of our experience can be read here, Feed The Soil, Not The Plants, but I’ve outlined the method below if you’re looking for a quick read:

Step 1. Marry someone strong who will do all the heavy lifting in the project.

Step 2. Download Lynn Gillespie’s e-book Cinder Block Gardens for $19.95. Read the book.

Step 3. Make a list and head to Home Depot, Lowe’s or your local garden shop. A pickup truck is handy for this trip. The supplies weigh in total almost 1500 pounds.

Basic supplies include:
• 24 cinder blocks ($0.79 each)
• 2 bales 3.8 c.f. peat moss ($12.00 each)
• 10 50-lb. bags all-purpose sand ($2.80 each)
• 3 bags 2 c.f. compost ($6.00 each)
• 1 roll commercial-grade weed barrier ($11.00)

If you are a novice gardener, consider these additional items:
• garden hose
• spray nozzle
• sink adapter if you don’t have an outside water source
• shovel and rake
• rebar stakes and sledgehammer if building on a slope

Costs to consider down the road:
• mulch
• cages for plants such as tomatoes
• trellis for plants such as pole beans

Related Post: Garden Update and Garden Update II

Step 4. Find a flat space and follow instructions in the e-book for garden construction.

Step 5. Consult the “Vegetable Reference Guide” chapter to decide what and how much to plant. Buy seeds or starter plants from a local garden shop. Be sure to buy the tomato plants that come with the lady with the red foot. Plant accordingly.

Step 6: Watch your garden grow.

Step 7. Consider starting a compost pile. Purchase a compost container on-line or from your home-garden center, or construct one following Ms. Gillespie’s instructions. This is the one I have my eye on. It only costs $500.

Pictured above is garlic. I planted each of these cloves in its own cinder-block hole. Each one will grow into a full bulb.

I also planted two bunches of basil, two bunches of cilantro and one bunch of oregano. Each of these grows in its own cinder-block hole as well.

Backyard Chickens & Thin-Crust Pizza

prosciuttopizza

A few months ago, I mentioned I was looking forward to the day when Ben and I have room in our place to fit a freestanding freezer, (one large enough to fit a half or quarter steer.) Well, I’ve added something else I’m looking forward to getting as soon as space permits: chickens. I can’t believe I never thought about this before. And, as far as I can tell from this new cookbook I’ve been reading, chickens don’t seem like that much work. I guess I’ll find out.

So, this cookbook is called Blue Eggs & Yellow Tomatoes. I’ve now tried several recipes from it including penne with asparagus, meyer lemon scones, and thin-crust pizza with brie, prosciutto and watercress. The penne was good, but way too cheesy — the recipe called for 15 ounces of ricotta and a half cup of parmesan cheese for one pound of pasta. The scones were good, too, but not as good as almond-buttermilk scones. The pizza, pictured above, however, was delectable. The dough recipe yields three eight-ounce balls and freezes well. Tonight, I thawed one of the balls at room temperature for three hours, as instructed, rolled it out and baked it topped with sautéed Swiss chard, Parmigianno Reggiano and smoked Gouda. I actually preferred this pizza to the one with brie and prosciutto. Call me crazy, but as I was eating the one topped with watercress, I kept thinking it needed something else, maybe a poached or fried egg on top.

Anyway, despite a few so-so recipes, I am still very happy to have stumbled across this book. Why? It inspired me to plant a garden. The author, Jeanne Kelley, an L.A. resident briefly describes a way of gardening — in raised beds made from plywood — that she says vegetables grow best in. I had just read an article in Acres U.S.A about a woman in Colorado doing the same sort of thing but with cinder blocks instead. I went to the Web site, The Living Farm, noted in the article  and downloaded the author’s E-book called Cinder Block Gardens. It cost $19.95. Over the weekend, I went to Lowe’s and Plant Depot and purchased everything I needed for my garden. I still need to figure out what I want to grow, but the blocks have been laid, the soil mixed and the ground watered. I cannot wait to start planting.

Once I get some seedlings in the ground, I’ll post some pics. Seriously, if you have any desire to start a vegetable garden, check out this E-Book. You don’t need a perfect patch of land — we built ours on a slightly sloped, rock-hard area measuring about seven feet by four. The author, Lynn Gillespie, has painstakingly detailed the process — the book is worth every penny.

And, once I have the space, 10 or 20 years from now, I will consult the final chapter of Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes, which describes in detail how to raise backyard hens.

I think one reason why I preferred the Swiss chard pizza to the prosciutto is that I didn’t have enough Brie to cover the surface and make it really tasty. This emerged from the oven looking a little freaky.

Brie and Prosciutto Pizza with Watercress
Adapted From Blue Eggs & Yellow Tomatoes (Running Press, 2008)
Yield = One 12-inch pizza

8 oz. Pizza Dough (recipe below)
8 oz. double-cream Brie (any type of Brie works fine, too)
Cornmeal
3 to 4 thin slices prosciutto
2 cups watercress or arugula leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
pepper

1. Prepare the pizza dough as directed in the recipe.

2. Place the Brie in the freezer until it is firm but not solid, about 15 minutes. Trim off the rind and cut the Brie into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a waxed-paper-lined pan and refrigerate. (I didn’t do this. I think if you use the really good stuff, this step might be necessary, but for regular Brie, leaving it at room temperature should be fine.)

3. Position one rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat it to 400ºF. Sprinkle a large, heavy baking sheet baking sheet lightly with cornmeal (about one tablespoon).

4. Roll the pizza dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round. Transfer the dough to a prepared sheet. Distribute the Brie evenly on top of the dough. Bake the pizza until the Brie melts and the crust is golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Distribute the prosciutto evenly on top of the pizza.

5. Toss the watercress with the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Top the pizza with the watercress and season with pepper. Cut into wedges and serve.

Pizza Dough
Adapted From Blue Eggs & Yellow Tomatoes (Running Press, 2008)
Yield = Three 8-oz. Balls Pizza Dough

1 cup lukewarm water
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat flour works fine, too)
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Whisk the water and yeast together in a two-cup measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flours and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Whisk the olive oil into the yeast mixture. With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube and process until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. (If the dough does not form a ball, add lukewarm water by the teaspoons until the dough comes together.)

3. Knead the dough briefly on a lightly floured surface for about one minute. Brush a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to a bowl and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let the dough stand until it doubles in volume, about 1½ hours.

4. Punch the dough down. Divide the dough into three even balls, about eight-ounces each. (Refrigerate up to two days or freeze for one month. Let refrigerated dough stand for one hour and frozen dough thaw four hours at room temperature before rolling.)

Same dough as pictured above, but topped with sautéed Swiss chard, Parmigiano Reggiano and smoked Gouda:

American Tuna

AmericanTuna

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve made a new discovery: American Tuna. Now, before you start freaking out that “women of child-bearing years should not be eating tuna,” give me a minute to explain. This tuna, caught in the Pacific Northwest, is young albacore tuna and unlike most of the tuna caught today, hasn’t had time to accumulate many toxins. Older albacores, blue fins and yellow fins — the varieties most often packed into cans today — can be over 40 years old and pose the biggest risk to consumers.

Let me tell you a little about this company, too. Six families make up the American Tuna fishery, which is based out of San Diego. Every June, the American Tuna fleet (five boats) departs the Port of San Diego and heads to the Pacific Northwest. These fishermen, each equipped with little more than a fishing pole, reel in young albacore tuna one at a time. (If you have a moment, visit the American Tuna Web site and watch them in action — it is amazing!) When their boats are filled, they deliver the tuna to canneries located along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The fleet does not return to San Diego until November.

At the canneries, the fish are hand-filleted, hand-packed, canned and sealed. The tuna is cooked in the can in its own juices. Most canned tuna today has been cooked (often two or three times) as a whole fish and mixed with soy products, vegetable broth, pyrophosphate, salt, water and/or oil before being canned. American Tuna, in contrast, contains one ingredient: albacore tuna. (In the flavored varieties, however, garlic, jalapeno and salt are added in small quantities.)

American Tuna contains more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional brands. A two-ounce serving of American Tuna provides 2.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids whereas a two-ounce serving of Starkist tuna provides 0.36 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. What accounts for the dramatic difference? Young albacore living in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest have more body fat and therefore a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids. When they migrate to warmer waters, they lose their body fat along with many of these beneficial nutrients.

What else can I say about this company? Oh, they belong to the American Albacore Fishing Association (AAFA), a family-run, 21-boat association operating out of San Diego, which the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) recently certified as a sustainable fishery, making it the first and only tuna fishery in the world to bear this eco-label. MSC is an independent organization that promotes responsible fishing practices. Moreover, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch places North Pacific troll- and pole-caught tuna (such as American Tuna) on its “best choice” list.

If you are interested in learning more, read on: Tuna, At Last, Without All The Guilt, The Bulletin

Whole Foods Markets nation wide carry American Tuna.

Oh, and this tuna melt, packed with tarragon, was amazing.

Tarragon Tuna Melt
Serves 4

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
1 loaf of bread, bakery-style French or Italian
softened butter
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 small bunch arugula
grated cheddar cheese

1. 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.

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

3. Slice bread into eight rounds. Spread one side of each with the softened butter. Turn bread butter-side down. Begin assembling sandwiches: Place a small handful of arugula on four of the rounds. Top each with a mound of the tuna salad. Top tuna with tomato slices. Top tomato with cheese. Cover with bread.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. When hot, add a small dab of butter, then place sandwiches on the cooking surface. Cook until golden brown. Carefully flip each one, and cook on other side until golden brown.

5. Remove from heat, cut in half, and serve.

Purchase American Tuna at your local Whole Foods Market.


Baked & Scrambled

eggsincup

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?

eggontop

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.