Tuesday, January 27, 2009



Italian frittata's and Spanish tortilla's are essentially the same things, a thick, egg, almost quiche-like omelet filled with various ingredients. Like a regular omelet, you can put whatever you want in a frittata and naturally, it's a great way to use up leftovers. Unlike regular folded french omelets, the fillings are cooked suspended in the egg rather than wrapped up like a crepe.


You can eat them hot out of the pan or at room temperature. They are not limited to the breakfast plate however. Sliced up they also make good tapas. They're great with a salad for lunch and would even make a substantial protein for dinner.

Fresh herbs I had in the fridge

Boiled sliced spuds

I always like to include a lot of chopped fresh herbs and boiled sliced potatoes in mine. This time around, I also added some caramelized onion and red bell pepper for color.

Caramelized onion and red pepper

Runny side up, ready to "flip"

Preparation goes something like this. Chop up all your ingredients, par boil the potatoes and let cool. In the meantime, saute your veggies if using. Beat eggs (I usually go with about three per person). Heat up a non-stick pan. Gently fold in herbs, potatoes, and veggies into the beaten eggs and season with a little s&p. When pan is hot, stir around a couple of teaspoons of butter or olive oil, or give it a shot of cooking spray and slowly pour in the egg mixture. Tilt the pan to distribute everything evenly and allow to cook on medium-low to medium heat for a few minutes. The time will vary depending on how thick the mixture is and how hot the pan is. The trick is to have the heat low enough to not burn the bottom as the top takes time to dry up a little. Test the frittata for doneness by lifting an edge with a wooden spoon. If it comes away from the pan and more or less holds it's shape then you are ready for the flip. Take a plate that is just as large as the pan and cover the frittata. Using both hands, lift the plate and the pan and turn the whole thing upside down. The frittata is now on the plate cooked side up. To finish cooking, slide the frittata back into the pan for a few seconds just to finish cooking the runny side.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fettuccine con Verdure Fresche

Fettuccine con Verdure Fresche

Okay, I don't know what to call this or what I was thinking when I made it other than I was hungry. Sometimes, despite good intentions, things don't always come out awesome in the kitchen. In fact, a lot of meals are just like this one, utilitarian in nature, but I decided to post this concoction anyway in the interest of complete transparency. Yeah, sometimes you just have to eat and you eat what ya got.

So what is it? As mentioned before, I have no idea what to call it but it started with some fettuccine. To this, I par-boiled some veg before transferring it to a wok with some minced garlic and olive oil and tossed it around for a bit. Then I added a hand full of Parmesan cheese and voila! I ate it.

Actually in retrospect, it wasn't too bad after all. It wasn't the nicest presentation but I guess you can say it was healthy enough and it did what was intended, "it filled a hole" as they say.

Now if it had an Italian name, maybe it would sound intentional. How about "fetuccine con verdure fresche"? Yeah that's it... That's what I had intended to make all along.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

French Toast

French Toast

I was 15 years old when the Academy Award winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer was playing in movie theaters. Thinking back, it was a pretty heavy movie for a 15 year old to be watching, after all, it dealt with divorce, probably the last thing on a high school kid's mind unless they were unfortunate enough to have had experienced it first hand. I have no idea what made me and the other kids I saw it with think it was going to be age appropriate, maybe because it won an Oscar and it seemed like a good idea at the time, either that or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was already sold out.

After all these years, I can't remember much of the plot of the movie itself, I do however, remember a specific scene toward the end in which Dustin Hoffman had to prepare one final breakfast for his kid. Hoffman's character, a newly divorced father raising his young son played by a very young Justin Henry, frantically made a complete mess of his kitchen in his attempt to cook the perfect French toast. In addition to that very specific memory, I also recall that after the movie, all I could think of eating was French toast. That revealing fact in a nutshell seems to explain why I am a foodie today.

French toast, or Gypsy toast as it's known in parts of England, couldn't be easier to make. Beat some eggs, add a little milk, dunk some bread slices in it and fry it up in a little butter. Although some folks like their French toast with savory toppings, I like to treat it like a lazy man's pancake. Similar in concept, French toast boasts all the flavors of a nicely executed flapjack without the necessary technical skill to make one. You know how when you make a batch of pancakes the first couple are always sacrificial, meaning they always turn out funky before the pan gets the perfect seasoning to brown them correctly? Well French toast is by far easier to make.

I top mine with butter and maple syrup. This usually means I'll be having something salty like ham or sausages on the side to balance out the sweetness of the French toast. I know it's a pretty boring way to eat them given the fact that French toast is a perfect foundation for all kinds of toppings. For a few ideas, check out IHOP's menu.

Another Bean Salad

Cannellini and Green Bean Salad

Bean salads have become one of my go-to side dishes because they're so easy to make with whatever you have on hand, and they're filled with fiber and flavor. They are good as an accompaniment to pasta, a sandwich or a homemade pizza. My formula is a simple one; beans (of course), vegetables, something from the onion family, oil and an acid.


Here's another one made with cannellini beans, green beans, red bell peppers and green onions. This salad is dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pear, Gorgonzola and Medjool Date Pizza

Pear, Gorgonzola and Medjool Date Pizza

Okay, so perhaps I'm being hypocritical by posting this pizza so shortly after writing that the evolution of pizza has gone too far and it's time to get back to basics, but it is one of my favorite "new" pizzas.

The pizza I'm talking about is the pear and Gorgonzola pizza. Although I've had versions that eat more like a salad on a bread plate, my aim was to bake a sweet dessert pizza, more like a pear tart on a pizza crust.

After rolling out the leftover dough from the last batch I made, I topped it with Bosc pear slices, chopped Medjool dates and a sprinkling of funky Gorgonzola. Into the outdoor grill it went and when it was all nice and crispy (about eight minutes), out onto the cutting board it slid to cool a little before it got drizzled with some clover honey.

The toppings were sweet but the sweetness was nicely offset by the savory Gorgonzola and the crust which took on an almost smokiness imparted by the grill. Some vanilla ice cream was definitely in order... if I had some in the freezer that is. Guess there will have to be a next time.

Tomato Feta Caper Onion Pizza

Tomato, Feta, Caper, Onion Pizza

Pizza's have evolved quite bit since the first ones I can remember eating. In the town I grew up in, there was a Magoo's pizza wagon parked on the main highway through town. The selection was pretty standard for the day; pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, a combination, the "Hawaiian" ham and pineapple (I'll say more on this some other time), or you could select your own combination of toppings. Pizza proved to be a popular treat in Hawaii as evidenced by chains like Pizza Hut and Domino's quickly staking claim in mini-malls all over town. Today, pizza is an ubiquitous fixture on America's food landscape. Open any phone book, (wow, am I dating myself or what?) rather, do a search online in any metropolitan area and your pizza choices are vast.

The humble pizza's evolution has brought us Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen, just two of many institutions that aren't shy about baking anything on top of a crust and calling it a pizza. Now, I like myself a good barbecue chicken pizza once in a while just like the next guy, but there is such a thing as taking things too far. Often, pursuits in innovation and novelty result in losing touch with the fundamentals. I needed to get back to basic pie making.

Practicing my pizza dough recipe I came up with this Greek inspired pizza recipe. Well, Greek only because feta cheese stands in for the usual mozzarella. At the time of writing this post, I Googled "Greek pizza" and found a fantastic Greek food blog called Kalofagas. Turns out the Greeks have been making pizza or "ladenia" as it's called on the Greek island of Kimolos, probably as long as, if not longer than the Italians have. For all food Greek, the Kalofagas blog is a must. Check it out. I will definitely be sampling his recipes in the future.

So here's my pizza dough recipe. Just five ingredients go into my fool proof pizza dough (hey, if I can do it...); 2 to 3 cups of all purpose flour, 1 packet of yeast, 1 cup of lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.

In a large bowl, pour in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over the surface and add the pinch of sugar to activate the yeast. Let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes in a warm draft free place until it starts to get all frothy. Next, add a cup of flour and the salt while stirring. As the flour begins to absorb the water yeast mixture, continue adding flour until the mixture starts to form a ball and comes away from the bowl. Plop the dough ball onto a floured work surface and knead for about ten minutes or until you get tired of kneading, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from getting too sticky. The more you knead, the more elastic the dough will become. A little kneading will produce more of a bread like consistency once baked, similar to a foccacia bread. A lot of kneading will give you a dough that will bake into a crispy thin crust. At this point, transfer the dough into a lightly (olive) oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for about forty five minutes. It should double in size. While you're waiting for it to rise, you can prepare all your toppings.

After the dough has had a chance to rise, dump it out onto a floured surface and you should have enough dough for two large pies or one gigantic trash can lid sized pie. I suggest going with two. Roll out half of the dough and make it as thin as you'd like. I prefer mine thin and crispy. Top with sauce, and cheese and anything else you'd like.

Now comes the baking part. For me, nothing works better than my outdoor grill. I crank the heat up as high as it will go, around 600 degrees, and stick the pizza in. I forgot to mention, I use a perforated non-stick pizza pan or you could probably get even better results if you use one of those expanded metal mesh pans found at a restaurant supply place. Why? Because more heat will hit the bottom of the crust directly making it super crispy. Ten to twelve minutes later, and the pie is done; crispy on the bottom, nicely browned on top just like I like 'em.

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Here's a simple lentil soup made with beef broth, diced carrots, onions, celery and Portuguese sausage.

Although we never ate much in the way of lentils while growing up, I've grown to really enjoy them. Lentils have a certain meatiness to them and are extremely versatile. They're good used in soups of course, and salads or as a hot side dish or even fried in patties for a vegetarian main course. In addition to the fact that lentils are used as an ingredient in many old world cuisines, they contain a good amount of fiber and really fill you up, making them a good choice to keep stocked in your pantry.