Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Greens and french toast

As I mentioned in my previous post, two combined concepts gave me a new jumping off point for a wealth of possibilities. If ever there was a fresh, savory, tasty spring brunch dish, this is it: Sauteed spring greens over savory french toast. I love this dish perhaps more than any of those I have tested for this site. The concept here has limitless range. In future recreations, it could have grilled or slow roasted vegetables, different combinations of spices, grilled chicken or fish, or the addition of hot sausage in the saute. So many things are possible. This is a creativity- reinvigorating dish and I am pleased to share it with you.

Sauteed Spring Greens over Savory French Toast
Serves 6
Adapted from this concept and this recipe

Lovely with a young, green Sauvignon Blanc and a stunning view.

1/2 pound asparagus tips, washed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 teaspoons coarse salt for the blanching water
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed of stems
2 teaspoons sugar for the blanching water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced fine
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons of your favorite dried herb/s in any combination
12 slices 1-inch-thick sturdy bread such as sourdough loaf or Tuscan pane
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups arugula washed
French gray sea salt for dusting over top of finished dish

Fill a large pot with water and set over high heat add 2 teaspoons salt. When the pot reached a rolling boil, add the asparagus. Cook 2 minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and with a slotted spoon remove to a paper towel lined plate. Do not discard the blanching liquid.

Add the 2 teaspoons sugar to the pot, stir to dissolve the sugar, and be sure it remains at a boil. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and cook 3 minutes. The leaves will be wilted and the crowns bright green. With a slotted spoon remove the rabe to the plate with the asparagus. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil, allow the butter to melt and stir quickly to combine. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to color or scorch. Add the asparagus and broccoli rabe to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, tossing or stirring gently occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, Parmesan, herbs, and salt.

Place the bread slices in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Pour egg mixture over bread; soak 10 minutes. Turn slices over, and soak until bread is soaked through, about 10 minutes more.

Return to the asparagus and broccoli rabe mixture and gently toss in the arugula. It will wilt happily into the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet; set aside. Heat 2 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry half the bread slices until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to wire rack; place in the warm oven while cooking remaining bread.

Repeat with remaining butter, oil, and bread. Keep in oven until ready to serve. Heat remaining onion mixture in a small skillet until warm. Serve French toast warm, topped with reserved asparagus, broccoli rabe, and arugula mixture top with shaved Parmesan and gray sea salt, if desired.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A place to launch

The other day, I was excited. In a world of expected dishes when someone can do something with food at home that is healthy, creative, and outside the box, it reminds there is so much more yet to learn and reinvigorates my cooking.

My Sister-in-Law, Amy, does not give herself credit when it comes to her ability to study or work with food. But she has a keen sense for flavor and lightness when reading recipes and chooses the bright lights of the fresh food revolution. My heart breaks for her a little that she is not cooking in area with year round fresh produce, like much of California. And as Amy hones her skills, I could easily imagine her in the bountiful day markets of France or Italy. In our corner though, with six-months of winter in metro New York City and most of the food grown elsewhere, the produce has left any freshness behind in its crate from South America. But she manages to find the gems always, in the recipes and the ingredients.

She made, and my brother helped to grill, a dish recently from a Donna Hay cookbook. It called for chicken and vegetables to be marinated at room temperature and then grilled. Once cooked and while still warm, they were tossed with arugula and topped with an arugula mayo. It tasted as pretty as it looked. No joke, these are photos of the food placed in front of me, there is no styling involved:

Amy served it with garlic bread which was a perfect accompaniment for a family of carb addicts.

This dish and the bread got me thinking: First, about what a great dish it would be in any number of variations: Oven roasted veggies in the winter. Sauteed blanched greens. With dense grilled fish. Marinated in olive oil with za'atar spice. Grilled portobello instead of chicken. And so on. It has a huge food universe of possibilities.

Similarly, I have had on my mind a Martha Stewart recipe for savory french toast which has been bothering me for its expected-ness. It is another idea with endless possibilities. Why kill it dead by dragging out the expected bacon? Yawn. Sigh. Snore.

Some other creation should be born of Amy's great start and this French toast bore... their moment of greatness awaits.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm not a Make-Ahead Ninja

But you already knew that.

My Husband has called from very far away places on this planet while floating around in his big grey tuna can and asked me why I have to go to the grocery nearly every day. It's French, I say. And he will sigh. In truth, it has to do, with either my fierce determination that all our food be fresh or my insatiable food reading habit. Maybe I also cannot stand a $400 tab but, in the end, he is right, we will spend it so we might as well get on with it. But I come from frugal stock, even if we are only kidding ourselves (which is a completely free preoccupation, I might add). So understanding that I am totally incapable of providing certain types of info to you, I have to hand you off to other bloggers who can comment on things like group monthly cooking experiments, for example.

I read this post at Like Merchant Ships like a stranger in a new world. It might be interesting to you too. And also my Husband, who will surely tell me his Mom was absolutely a ninja at make ahead food, which is okay by me because I write blogs and consider myself a blog ninja. Enjoy.