Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's Breakfast Thyme

Some people adore Saturday/Sunday breakfasts; I am not one of those people. On weekends I prefer to sleep in late, 10- 11am late. (Friday and Saturday are generally late-nighters.) If I have to wake up early, I am useless in the kitchen. My imagination is sluggish around that time so I reach for simple foods, if anything at all. Skipping breakfast is a terrible thing, I know, roll your eyes all you want, I happen to have different priorities than others. If at best, I serve a mean bowl of milk and cereal and for the lucky ones an omelet, toast and coffee. I am much better at creating dishes for lunch and dinner, probably because I have creativity, variety, and versatility on my side.

Saturday was a hectic day. Other culinary students and I volunteered for a pig roast at Makers Mark that day. We met in downtown for American Culinary Federation meeting at 8am (!), drove 4 hours (really it’s supposed to take us 2 1/2 hours but our bus driver got lost) and prepped food for the pig roast for 400+ attendees. We all had a fabulous time, obviously since food and whiskey were involved. We arrived home much later than expected, 3am (!)

The next morning I woke up to a hungry husband and an upset stomach of my own. I remembered one of Ina’s herbed baked eggs recipe. At the time of watching the show I thought if making breakfast food in the morning means breaking couple eggs, adding them to a gratin dish with heated milk or cream and butter with herbs, I can handle it. Thanks Ina for convincing me of the baked eggs' simplicity and lack of need of imagination in the morning. As you can see from the name change, I followed her recipe loosely.

Thyme Baked Eggs

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk, divided
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler for few minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Crack 6 eggs carefully in a 3 separate bowls, 2 per bowl. In another bowl, combine fresh thyme and parmesan and set aside. Using 1/2 tablespoon of butter, grease the three gratin/flan dishes. Divide 1 tablespoon of milk amongst three dishes and add 1/2 tbsp of butter to each dish. Place the three dishes on a baking sheet and under the broiler for couple minutes, until the liquid is bubbly. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, pour (two) cracked eggs to each dish, add equal parts of the thyme and parmesan mixture to all three, sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Carefully place the baking sheet under the broiler for 4- 6 minutes, until the egg whites set. Do not over broil otherwise the eggs will burn; eggs continue to cook after removing the dishes from the oven.

The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set before serving.

Toast with Avocado
2 slices of bread
1 avocado, sliced
sea salt

While the eggs are in the oven, cut avocado lengthwise. Rotate two halves to detach from each other. Remove the seed with a knife. Make slits in each half of the avocado for long slices. Scoop out the flesh with a large spoon.

After the eggs are done, toast wheat bread in the broiler for 30 seconds.

Spread sliced avocado on toasted bread, sprinkle with sea salt and serve with baked eggs.

Changes to the recipe. I used milk to make my baked eggs because I did not have cream on hand. Although it tasted good, I plan to make it again with cream. I am sure with the 40% fat in cream, it’ll give the eggs a rich taste. Let me know if you try it with cream before I do. And next time I’ll also add garlic because everything is much better with it.

Because Thyme was the predominant flavor in this dish, I am submitting my recipe for Thyme Baked Eggs to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Jai and Bee over at jugalbandi.

And on a much serious note, Thyme is slowly but surely gaining momentum in my favorite herb list; however Cilantro isn’t going to give in easily so it’ll be a tough fight.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Granola, slang for Liberal- ha

For the past year, really 6 months, I have been eating oats in the morning. I attempt to eat it daily but haven’t surpassed the once a week threshold. When oats are cooked with water or milk they look gooey, taste bland and have a pretty crappy after taste. Sometimes it’s so painful I close my eyes and pinch my nose and finish the bowl at work (forcefully). It’s a ritual; I am sure coworkers wonder if I am making myself eat dirt. Even though bad looks and taste are generally grounds for strike out in my book, I won’t eliminate oats because they have an abundance of nutrients and offer health benefits for the body.

After reading Molly’s post about homemade granola, I wanted to make a batch for our household. Granola is the basic all-encompassing health food that can be eaten in place of morning cereal or afternoon snack. It consists mostly of oats, dried fruits and nuts. Oats come in multiple forms: groats, rolled and instant. For people short on time, instant suffice but I personally prefer rolled oats, also known as old fashioned oats. Granola is almost always made with rolled oats. When I read homemade, I quickly jumped on the band wagon.

I searched high and low for a good recipe and found one I liked. Most recipes called for either sunflower seeds, shredded coconut or both. I never have sunflower seeds in my pantry so decided against adding those. I wanted to add coconut but didn't because the husband threatened to not eat the granola if it had coconut. And that's when I almost hit him with a wooden spoon. I used the Slashfood recipe as a guide, cut their recipe in half and combined ideas from various sources to make my own. Don’t be surprised.

Granola (Adapted mostly from Slashfood)

1 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/8 cup toasted wheat germ
1 tbsp Flax seed
1/4 cup dried fruit, I used dates
1/8 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup honey

Heat oven to 300F degrees. Toast almonds in a heavy sheet pan for 6 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the oats, sesame seeds, wheat germ, and flax seeds. Add toasted almonds. If you have a 1/8 measuring cup, use it to measure oil-I didn’t so I used a 1/4 cup and poured oil until it was half full. It’s important to add oil first because it keeps honey from sticking to the cup. Measure honey and add to the bowl with oats (twice if you’re using a 1/8 cup). Mix everything well enough so the oats and grains have a coating of oil and honey. Pour the mixture in a heavy sheet pan. Bake for 30 minutes with a wooden spoon. Stir everything half way through the cooking process. When finished baking, add dates (or dried fruit of your liking) and combine. It is important to stir gently when it’s warm to avoid breaking the mixture and large clumps.

So you ask, why isn’t there a picture of this fabulous granola? There isn’t a picture because I did not stir half way through the baking as clearly stated in the recipe. And if that wasn't enough I read the temperature 300F as 400F. damn those numbers screwing with my head. When turning on the oven, I cranked up the heat to 400F so when it was done we had few burnt pieces. Fortunately it wasn’t all burnt so I rescued everything else. This goes back to my earlier point about being a professional baker. Not happening.

Regardless of my own stupidity, the granola was scrumptious the next morning. It wasn’t too sweet and just a little scorched. Even with a slight burnt taste, we finished it in a week. This weekend I’ll make another (bigger) batch with the oven on at 300F.

I must say I am happy to have found a recipe that will replace my disturbing oat-eating morning routine. I am a permanent convert.