Monday, February 23, 2009

Ahhh, Frittata!

By Perry Washburn

Ok, make sure you have read Kathie's post on frittata below first, as this is a response to hers. But I thought it might be worth pulling out for another view.

Frittata is one of our favs, but we almost always make these stove-top, not baked. This comes from making dozens of these while camping...huge skillet, but no oven! I have a series of cast iron skillets I use for these, which I choose depending on the size of the crowd. My 15-inch skillet gets nearly double Kath's ingredients, and will feed a mob. The even heating and heat retention of cast iron, or a good skillet (I have All-Clad) helps at the end of this dish.

I made one of these Sunday morning for breakfast. I cheat with the potatoes, as I do for camping. Wash the potatoes, stick them with a fork, put on a paper towel and microwave for 5 minutes. For camping, these go into a plastic bag, once cooled, then into the cooler. For home use, just wait until they are cool enough to handle. Cube, perhaps 1/2 inch. Get the oil (or BACON GREASE!) hot, and add the potatoes. Ideally, you are looking for a single layer. Let them sit, don't be messing with them, until they are browned. Try to turn in layers with a spatula, to ensure more even browning. Again, once turned, try not to mess with them. The goal is to get the taters browned, staying in cubes, not mushed. You may need to add more oil half way in.

When the potatoes are getting close to done, add the onions. I consider this a must - potatoes like this are not "right" without onions. Don't be tempted to put the onions in too early. One of the reasons I microwave the potatoes is to get them done more quickly. I get impatient standing over a skillet waiting. And I DESPISE uncooked potatoes. But if you put the onions in before the potatoes are cooked through, you can end up with burned onions, which is about as bad as uncooked potatoes.

The rest of the ingredients - Kath uses bacon, peppers, chives - is up to personal preference. On Sunday morning, I hit the freezer for leftover pizza fixings and came up with some cooked sausage. I like all kinds of sausage, and concur with the chorizo! I also love leeks, green onions, celery and all kinds of peppers. For the skillet version, put the harder veggies - celery for instance - in with the onions. Add the softer ones like bell pepper when the onions are nearly translucent.

At this point, pour in the eggs/milk. Let it set and brown on the bottom. Cut into quarters and turn. Immediately sprinkle with cheese, and cover with a lid. When the cheese is melted, and eggs are browned on the other side, you are in business.

Bacon Cheese Potato Frittata

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

It was clean out the refrigerator night. So I made a frittata! This Italian egg dish is so versatile and can have veggies, cheese, or meats in it. For this dish, I used leftover bacon bits, along with a leftover chopped onion, green pepper, and fresh chives from my AeroGarden and some cheddar cheese that needed to be used. This is an excellent dish....a perfect dinner for the two of us but could be a great breakfast treat as well.

I love frittatas both with and without potatoes. If you are not using potatoes, add more eggs. For a more filling frittata, the potatoes really help make it a one dish meal. In the summer months, I'll throw in garden veggies with kielbasa or chorizo and make a simple dinner dish. This dish served 2 of us for dinner with leftovers and was outstanding!

Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Yukon Gold Potato Frittata

1/2 pound bacon bits or pieces
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1 minced garlic clove
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
4 eggs
3/4 c milk
2 T chopped fresh chives (or whatever herbs you have--mine came from my AeroGarden)
1 c shredded cheese, I used cheddar
2 T olive oil

Saute the bacon until cooked but not crisp in a well-seasoned (of course) cast iron skillet. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towel. Drain off the bacon grease (yes, get rid of it!) and add 2 T extra virgin olive oil.

Saute the onion, green pepper, and garlic. Remove the veggies from skillet--I added it to the plate with the bacon bits. Add the sliced potatoes and saute until they just begin to brown--do not cook completely through. The thinly sliced potatoes become like a crust on the bottom of the frittata. To the skillet, top the potatoes with the bacon and sauteed vegetables but do not stir--leave the potatoes intact as the bottom layer.

In a bowl, beat 4 eggs with the milk, chives (or any fresh or dried herb--super tasty with basil!), salt, pepper (I used Penzey's black and red). Add to the skillet. Top with the grated cheese.

Frittatas can be both stove top or oven baked and we do both. For this version, I used the oven just to be a bit different. I put the skillet in a 350 degree F oven and baked for 10-15 minutes until the cheese browned. Cut into pie shaped wedges and enjoy!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

And More Basil--Tomato Soup, too

By Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Perry is right that for those of us in northern climates, finding basil in the winter is a task. Perry's find of inexpensive fresh basil at the Asian grocery store spurred Nathaniel to visit his nearby Asian grocery in Tampa and he came home with the same large bag of basil for only a few dollars.

There are no Asian groceries near us so sadly, that option is not available. I have an indoor AeroGarden which I use in the winter months to grow herbs. I love it! I currently have an abundant crop of purple basil, sweet basil, dill, mint, thyme, chives, and parsley. I don't know how I made it through the winter without the AeroGarden. There is a separate post on the blog about the AeroGarden.

In the summer, I usually have 3 different kinds of basil in the garden and as the season ends, I 'put up' the basil in a variety of ways. We can marinara sauce, lots of it using my tomatoes (70 tomato plants last summer!) We dried baskets full of basil using the dehydrator--wow, does each tiny jar of basil require a large quantity of fresh basil.

And I freeze basil in cubes as I described to Perry in my comments to his posting. Easy to do with any herb that you have extra of: rinse and chop, pack into ice cube trays (I had to buy some to use for the herbs since we no longer use ice cube trays to make ice!), top with water to cover, freeze, and then pop out of the trays and put in a freezer bag. I typically freeze 8-10 trays of basil to use in the winter.

One of our favorite quick winter soups is a Tomato Basil

2 32-oz. jars of tomatoes, I only used the ones I've canned, so if you have to buy canned tomatoes (AAGGHH!), use 2 28-oz cans
2 T olive oil
1 minced onion
4 garlic cloves minced
2 c vegetable stock
8 cubes of frozen basil (or 1 1/2 t dried or 1/4 c fresh basil, minced)
salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, basil cubes, salt and pepper (I use Penzey's black and red pepper).

Simmer for 15-20 minutes breaking up the tomatoes while they cook.

Serve with fresh croutons. I make mine with cubed leftover bread tossed with a little olive oil and Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


By Perry Washburn

Basil is one of my favorites. Kathie grows tons of it, in her brief summer. I grow it in pots on my deck. David T undoubtedly has better access to fresh basil than those of us snowbound. But we here in snowy Iowa just had a wonderful, tasty week, thanks to some fresh basil.

I get annoyed at basil prices. $3.99 for a few nasty looking leaves? Well, I HAVE done it.

But this week was our friend Vickie's birthday. I decided, late in the day, on Thai. And happened to be near my fav Asian grocery. THAT is where to look for basil. I ask the woman in the back for some. She goes into the cooler, bags me up a gallon bag full for a buck or 2, and I am in business.

Fried rice. It stopped the meal, lots of ooohhs and aaahhs. Just chop up a bunch (as little as, say, 3-4 tablespoons for a batch made from a 4 cups of cooked rice. More won't hurt!). Put it in just before serving. As Aida says: this tastes so FRESH!

The fried rice I made last week was simple. Rice, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy, Asian broccoli, and basil. This "deluxe" version is one I use for cooking classes. Both are GREAT.

Fried Rice with Chicken and Basil

4 cups cooked white rice, refrigerated several hours or overnight
3 Tbs sesame oil
1 egg, beaten with 2 Tbs water
1 lb diced chicken thighs
3 green onions, chopped (including the green)
3 Tbs chopped garlic
2 Tbs chopped ginger
¼ cup red bell pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup basil, coarsely chopped (Thai basil if you can get it)
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (omit if you worry about tastebud overload)

In a wok or non-stick skillet, fry the egg in a bit of the oil. Cut into pieces, or chop, and set aside. Add remaining oil to skillet. Add the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and chicken, and fry until the chicken is just tender. Add the rice, breaking up any lumps, then the green onions, egg, fish and soy sauces. Stir, and heat through. Add the basil and cilantro, stir well and serve.

End note:

Friday night, our traditional pizza night, brought the basil out again. A simple sweet tomato sauce, some diced leftover chicken, a healthy covering of loosely chopped basil leaves and a thin coating of mozzarella. WOW!

Head to your local Asian grocery, if you have one. They know basil. What a winter treat!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Black Beans & Yellow Rice

by Kathryn Washburn Breighner

Many years ago, we had this dish at Barnacle Phil's on North Captiva Island, just across the water from David T, and I was hooked. This restaurant used to sell a take-home black bean package mix with a recipe and packaged spices and I could recreate back in Michigan this wonderful dish.

Black beans served on yellow rice is traditionally a Cuban-style dish and we are Cuban food fans. I love black beans any style--in a simple salad with chopped onion, green peppers, fresh corn, cilantro, olive oil, and vinegar. For a side dish, I love a cumin style black bean side dish with sauteed onions and garlic, toss in a can of rinsed black beans, add a little chicken stock, salt, pepper, cumin.

But black beans and yellow rice----my favorite. This dish is a meal by itself served with a salad or bread. This is a meatless dish but I also have made it with ham. And now, medical reports show that turmeric is good for many health concerns so this turmeric yellow rice is not only tasty but good for you!

This is my version, a take off on the Barnacle Phil's dish. These beans are just as good a day or two later!

1 lb. Black beans
1 med. onion
1 med. green pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 T cumin
1 T chili powder (I use the new Penzey's Chili 9000--awesome!)
1 t paprika (home dried, of course, from Serbian paprikas)
½ t white vinegar
1/4 c. oil

Bring 3 qts. water to a boil and add rinsed beans and chopped onion and green pepper. Simmer for 1 hour and keep beans covered with water at all times. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour adding water if necessary.

Yellow Rice

2 T oil
2 cups rice
3 3/4 c water
1 small onion
½ green pepper
1 T turmeric
1 T chicken base (Penzey's)
2 cloves garlic

Saute onion and green pepper in oil. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, simmer for 15 min. or until rice is tender.

Serve beans on rice topped with chopped onions, olive oil, and hot sauce.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

by Dave Washburn
I am the soup maker. Come to the alter of Soup.
Half head of cauliflower
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 cup good cheddar shredded
One and a half cup chicken or turkey broth
2 cups whole milk ( don't even THINK about that shitty reduced fat crap- don't waste my time)
Half sweet onion minced fine
Salt and pepper

Chop the cauliflower into small pieces. Simmer with the chicken stock and onion in a covered pan until tender (about 10 minutes)
Remove to a bowl. Puree half the mixture in a blender.
In the original pan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk (OK you're making a roux) 3 min. Add the milk whisk and bring to a boil- reduce heat to a simmer and cook 5 min.
Add the cauliflower, chunky and blended, - bring back to a simmer- add the cheese until melted-salt and pepper to taste, serve.
This makes about three servings- double or triple at will.

Stilton Spread

By Dave Washburn
OK, I had some Stilton left so I made dip. Really good even by my own standards.
4 oz Stilton cheese room temp crumbled.
4 oz cream cheese room temp
8 oz sour cream
half red onion minced fine
1 clove garlic minced fine
good shot Worcestershire sauce
sea salt
fresh ground pepper (I'm using a combo of Penzey's black and white)
Mix well in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours. Use on anything.

Stilton Pecan Stuffed Dates

By Dave Washburn
Had a party to go to last weekend- nothing to take- raided the pantry-
1 8-oz pkg pitted dates (about 40)
whole pecans (about 40)
4 oz Stilton cheese room temp
good quality thin sliced bacon
Slice the dates down the side (they pit then like they do olives- at the ends, just slice them down one side). Schmere each pecan with a little of the Stilton- stick each one in a date, pressing to close- this is real easy because the dates are sticky and pliable. Wrap each stuffed date with half slice bacon, secure with a toothpick. Bake on a cookie sheet 400 degrees until brown (about 7 min.) turn bake until the other side is browned. Drain on paper towel. Serve room temp.