Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ode to a Grecian Breakfast: A Recipe for Strapatsada

For as much as I hated eggs as a child (just ask my family about "Rachael's egg stories"), I can't believe that I'm actually blogging about this breakfast.  But it is so good and so quick and so easy, I simply have to.  It is called strapatsada: Greek scrambled eggs with tomatoes, feta, and oregano.  Chef Reiton saw it being made by Bittman on Times On Air, JetBlue's video magazine, and came home with the recipe written down on a airplane beverage napkin.  We tried them and--mamma mia! New favorite breakfast in the Reiton house!

To those of you who don't like eggs, give this recipe a shot.  I know this may sound strange considering you are technically eating scrambled eggs, but--it doesn't taste like eggs.  The whole concoction is a delicious blend of flavors and textures that oddly doesn't resemble American scrambled eggs at all.  Instead of being squishy and mild, strapatsada are tender and robust and herby.

This cooks together quickly, so have everything ready before you start.

You will need: a hand grater, a small bowl, a fork or a whisk, a small rubber spatula, a small non-stick pan.

To make a single serving, this is what I use (but you can multiply this times however many people you are serving):
  • 1 small tomato-on-the-vine tomato (or a plum tomato from the garden. Yum!)
  • 1 1/2-ish Tblsp. olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 2 separate portions of crumbled plain feta cheese, 1 Tblsp. each (use less if this is too much for your taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, crushed or 1 tsp. fresh leaves, roughly chopped with a few as garnish
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 eggs, whisked together until well-blended

1) Slice the very bottom off the tomato.  Hold the hand grater at an angle in the bowl, place the sliced bottom of the tomato against the grater, and then grate the tomato into the bowl.  As you slide the tomato up and down the grater, the skin will peel back and flatten out on the face of the grater and the flesh will squeeze through the holes into the bowl.  Set the pulp aside and toss the skin.

2) Heat the olive oil in a small non-stick pan and toss in the garlic for about 30 seconds.  Add the tomato pulp, salt and pepper to taste, and the oregano.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so that the mixture is at a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook until you don't see any more water in the pan when you push the tomatoes to the side with the spatula.  You want to be only seeing the more viscous liquid of the olive oil left.  I would say give it a good 7 minutes or more, depending on the heat setting.

3) Add the eggs and one of the portions of feta cheese and start slowly stirring.  The tomatoes and the eggs will begin to blend.  Continue stirring until the eggs are opaque and have cooked mostly through, about 4 minutes.  They will finish cooking on the plate from the residual heat.  You will still see liquid in the pan, but this is from the oil and tomatoes, not the eggs.

4)  Plate your strapatsada, sprinkle with the second portion of feta and your oregano garnish, and dive in!

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Lazy Creation: Messy Caprese Salad Recipe

To accompany our Italian-themed dinner the other evening (I totally cheated--it was a pre-seasoned Italian pork loin.  Sorry.), I decided to make a Caprese salad to use some of our beautiful Roma tomatoes and sweet basil from the garden.  But--due to my laziness--I just wanted to throw it all together and not take the time to get all pretty with the typical layering.  So that's what I did, darn it! And what resulted tasted better than almost any Caprese salad I have ever tasted! It doesn't look as pretty (especially with a kind-of crappy photo), but you can count on those flavors melding together for a true Italian eating experience!

I'm going to pull a David Rocco on you and tell you to quanto basta everything: use how much you want to—no exact measurements needed! I'll tell you below what I did, but definitely feel free to use more or less of an ingredient to suit your own tastes.

The amounts below fed just two of us, so gauge your quantities from there, too.

What you'll need:
  • good, ripe Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and then sliced into chunks: I used 3
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-sized pieces: I used 3 balls, still dripping brine, from BelGioioso's Bocconcini tub, usually found in the "nice cheese" section near the deli
  • fresh basil leaves, slivered or torn
  • fresh lemon, juiced: I used half a lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil: I used about 3 Tblsp.
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper until it looks like everything has completely incorporated.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss gently but well, making sure everything is coated.  Let the salad rest in the fridge while you finish dinner.  Toss once more before serving.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Making Homemade Ghee (and Making Butter Dairy-Free!)

I am grateful for you, readers, all puns aside.  I started this blog how many years ago having no idea that people from around the world would be reading my cooking and eating thoughts and adventures. And now when I write, instead of thinking I am writing to my mom and sisters as I did in the beginning, I find myself imagining who some of you may be, and I write to you.  And my mom and siblings.  Ye all have made my world expand, and it's wonderful.  Thank you.

Speaking of ghee, Chef Reiton has been yearning to make ghee (pronounced "gee" like "ye" hence my horrible puns) for an eternity.  Ever since he bought his cookbook titled "Oriental Step-by-Step Cookbook" (seriously), he has wanted to make this high heat-tolerant oil used in pan frying, sautéing, etc.  When he found out a few months ago that ghee is also paleo, he had a batch made within the week.

Having used up that batch a few weeks ago, I made another batch the other day.  I tried to document the melting process as best I could for you.  Here's the step-by-step process for making about 1 2/3 cups of oil from one pound of organic unsalted butter.  (This process takes awhile, so it's a good project to do while you are making something else in the kitchen.)

Unwrap four sticks or one 1-pound block of unsalted organic butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Set the pot on a burner set to the lowest heat setting.  As the butter begins to melt, you will see the whitish milk solids separate from the clear, yellow oil.  DO NOT STIR.

Soon the milk solids will rise to the surface, and the oil will begin to simmer.

As the oil simmers, the milk solids will begin to brown.  Some of them will settle to the bottom of the pot.  This is okay; the oil will be strained at the end.  

When the solids are a nice nutty color, strain the oil through a mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth.

The result? An oil that is extremely heat tolerant and free of milk solids that tastes deliciously of butter.  

Pour your ghee into a jar, let it cool, then cap it and store it in the fridge.

Now, for my veteran ghee makers out there: did I overdo my browning? I don't remember my husband's being as dark... It tastes good; I just want it to be "right."  Let me know if a comment if you have the answer.

Good luck to "ghee" all!

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