Saturday, May 26, 2012


This is another dish I've used from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, the first type of frittata I'd ever really made. It basically is an egg pie that can be used for any meal though we typically make it for Sunday brunch, especially when we have a harvest of home grown chard available. It took a few times to get it right especially since at first I didn't quite get the idea of using a small (10-inch) skillet to cook down what seemed to me to be a lot of onion and chard but the directions  certainly are the way to go as they reduce quite a bit during cooking.

Red onion slices and chard

Red onion slices cooking down

Chard leaves stripped from the stems and chopped

Fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, parsley, garlic

Herbs pounded into a paste

Adding the chard to the onions to cook down

Grating the gruyere

Cooling down the cooked vegetables in a chilled bowl

Herb paste ready for the egg mix

Eggs added

Grated gruyere and parmigiano

Eggs added to the hot skillet

Pie ready to broil

Under the broiler

Finished pie from the broiler

3 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
1 bunch fresh chard, leaves only, chopped
1 garlic clove
6 large eggs lightly beaten
Several branches fresh flat-leaf parsley 
2-3 twigs fresh thyme
2 branches fresh oregano
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over low heat in a 10-inch skillet. When hot add the onion slices and cook until translucent without coloring, about 10-15 minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until the moisture has cooked off and the leaves are wilted, about 15 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, mash the garlic in a mortar with a healthy pinch of salt then add the herb leaves pounding it all into a paste. 
Crack the eggs into a bowl to beat lightly then add the herb paste with salt and pepper. Stir the paste in the eggs so that it is well-distributed, that is so that there are no clumps of paste in the egg mix. Once I didn't take the time to do this and got a biteful of herbs - a bit much.
Once the vegetables are cooked in the skillet empty them out into a mixing bowl. Once the vegetables have cooled down a tad, empty them into the bowl with eggs to mix well with the grated Gruyere and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Preheat the broiler and heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil in the skillet and, once hot, add the egg mixture. Give it a stir keeping the heat high for about a minute to allow the bottom to set a little then set the heat down to low. Cook the eggs uncovered until the top is set but still a bit moist about 10-15 minutes. I like to take a rubber spatula a few minutes and carefully run it around the inside perimeter of the eggs in order to separate them from the sides. Top the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano then put in the broiler to top heat for a couple of minutes or so to brown the top nicely.
Remove from the broiler and allow to sit for a minute or two. You can then either invert the skillet over a large plate or serve from the skillet directly. Slice serving portions like a pie.

Mac and Cheese

A good friend of mine with whom I used to work was famously known among us for being an amazing chef as he would routinely bring in superb dishes for our crew when we worked around the clock on a year long massive software project for a world-wide corporation. One thing I missed of his was his mac and cheese dish so before I departed the company a few years ago I made sure to ask him for the recipe as my wife is a huge mac'n'cheese fan and the crap you get in packages in the Safeway would never do it for her. Unfortunately I lost the recipe but recall his mentioning that it was loosely based on Alton Brown's Baked Macaroni and Cheese which is also available online at the Food Network site. Some day I will get back my friend's version but for now thought it would be good to take on Brown's recipe first as practice.
I finally got around to making this as a surprise dinner for my wife last week and here's how it went.

Minced onion
Elbow macaroni
Powdered mustard and all-purpose flour
Prep for the bechamel: first up the melted butter
Whisking in the mustard and flour for the base roux
Bechamel coming together with the milk
Shredded high-quality cheddar
Tra-la! The well-tempered egg
Sauce with the onion, egg, and cheese
Noodles folded into the sauce
Sautéing the panko 
The dish prior to oven with cheese and panko spread out on top

A couple of notes here:
A high quality cheddar makes a real difference in how this dish turns out. You can use a Kraft product or some such but you'll only get out of this meal what you put into it. Also make sure to use whole milk and powdered mustard for the sauce and temper the egg before adding it in unless you really are in the mood for a weird form of frittata here.

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups whole milk
1 small onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon pimenton
1 large egg
12 ounces high quality sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes to gently cook making sure to keep it free of lumps as you whisk. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika to combine. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Next, you want to temper the egg into the sauce. You do this by beating the egg in a small bowl then adding a bit of the sauce from the pot into the bowl with the egg a tablespoon or so at a time in order to combine and stabilize the temperature of the egg without allowing it to coagulate. Once you have it as a stable liquid, pour the egg liquid from the bowl into the pot with the sauce and combine.

Stir in 3/4 of the shredded cheese into the pot and season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix then pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Voila from the oven - delish!

If you have leftovers, a great way to re-use them is by frying separate portions for subsequent meals.

Check this dish out and let us know how it goes with you!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Steak and Arugula Salad

Back home from our trip to DC and New York, we found that the greens I seeded last month really took off while we were gone. When we're lousy with arugula one of my favorite spring dishes is steak and arugula. This particular recipe is one I've come up with based on several takes on steak salads I've made before making liberal use of spices and various vegetables in addition to grass-fed flank steak and the arugula picked right from the garden. I cooked the steak, peppers, and onion on the Big Green Egg grill.
Cumin seeds, hot pimenton, and kosher salt ground in the mortar

Fresh oregano from the garden with a couple cloves of red garlic

Paste from the spices with a bit of red onion and olive oil

Red bells and red onion slices


Roasting the peppers on the grill

Grilled red onion slices

Grilled flank steak

How the peppers ideally should look prior to peeling

Vinaigrette with the peeled and sliced peppers 

Sliced steak with the onion slices

The salad ingredients ready for combining

And here's the finished salad

As always, feel free to substitute as you see fit for the ingredients and directions. For instance, the beef needn't be grass-fed, the salt doesn't need to be kosher, nor does it require garden fresh arugula. Also feel free to use a blender or food processor to make the marinade paste. The recipe here includes what I used and the way I made the dish. 

1 pound flank steak (ideally grass-fed)
1 large red onion - 1/4 cup diced, the remainder sliced into 1/4 inch slices
2 large bunches fresh arugula, leaves only, stems removed - about 4-6 cups
2 medium red bell peppers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh-cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon hot paprika
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Leaves from a couple of fresh oregano branches (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 cloves garlic peeled
1/4 cup diced red onion (from above)
1 tablepoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

To make the marinade, combine the dry spice ingredients (paprika, cumin seeds, salt) and ground coarsely. Add the oregano leaves, garlic cloves, and diced red onion to combine and pound into a paste adding the olive oil at the end to smooth. Lay out the flank steak and rub completely with the paste. Put the steak into a ziplock bag and put in the frig to marinade while you start the fire and prepare the remaining ingredients.
Start the fire on the grill. Once hot, roast the peppers, turning in order to completely blacken them evenly. Once blackened, put the peppers into a paper bag, close the bag and allow the peppers to steam in it. Grill the onion slices. I use a grill basket as I've never had much luck cooking the slices directly on the grill, usually sacrificing half to the fire god underneath. Turn the slices to cook evenly. Remove the onion and oil the grill well. Remove the steak from the marinade bag and place directly on the hot grill. Let cook for about 90-120 seconds on one side then turn over. Cook for about another minute or so, until the meat is medium rare to the touch. Remove and allow to rest under foil while preparing the other ingredients.
Peel the peppers completely, remove the stem and seeds inside, then slice into 1/4 inch strips. (If well blackened, the pepper skin should be easy to remove by just rubbing the peppers with your hands.) Add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil along with a healthy pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper mill into a glass jar, cover tightly and shake well in order to emulsify the dressing.
Move the rested steak onto a cutting board and slice thinly across the grain. Put the arugula leaves in a large bowl and add the various components (pepper strips, onion slices, steak slices) a bit at a time and combine to make sure everything is well distributed. Add the dressing and mix to combine completely.
Serve from the bowl with tongs.