summer squash frittata

This public service announcement has been brought to you by fancyfoodfancy and eggs. Mercury is in retrograde. If you’ve recently found yourself more distracted than usual or have experienced a serious bout of indecisiveness or brain fog, Mercury is to blame. I had a feeling something was going on with the cosmos, but I thought it had do with the moon. After a little bit of googling, I found this. And then this. Being a Mercury ruled Virgo or Gemini will make you even more susceptible to all this retrograde business. So, if you have any big decisions to make, or serious discussions that need to be had, wait until after August 8th. I’ll be marking the next Mercury retrograde (November 6-26, 2012) on my calendar; you should do the same. You’ll thank me later. Good luck.

Now, let’s talk about eggs.

I’m an eggs for breakfast kind of girl. I have them just about every morning. Every now and then I mix it up and have oatmeal or a smoothie. But I always go back to eggs. It’s true. I feel like the day doesn’t start until I’ve had my two eggs – scrambled, over easy, poached. I don’t discriminate.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been much of a frittata fan. But I think that’s because I’ve had a few not so great frittatas in the past. This needed to be remedied.

The squash at the market last weekend looked too good to pass up, so I picked up a few varieties. As I was driving home and contemplating breakfast, I decided that my squash were destined for a fritatta. Eggs, cheese, and summer squash; the combination reminded me of the zucchini casserole my Aunt Maggie makes. I couldn’t wait to make breakfast.

I absolutely love this frittata. It was such a pleasant surprise. This particular frittata has layers of zucchini and yellow squash and is fragrant with thyme and lemon. A generous sprinkling of parmesan provides the perfect amount of savory richness. Frittatas are pretty much great for any meal. I see eggs for lunch and eggs for dinner in my future. And I couldn’t be more pleased.

summer squash frittata

serves 2-4

4 large eggs

1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or ghee

1/2 medium onion, diced

1-1/2 small squash, sliced into thin rounds 

zest of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the squash to the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the squash is softened. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme and continue cooking for another minute. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Transfer the squash to the eggs and stir. In the same skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat and coat the entire surface. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and cook, undisturbed until the edges begin to brown and the top is just starting to set. Sprinkle the top of the fritta with more cheese and transfer the entire pan to the oven about 6 inches from the heating element and broil. Check after a minute or so, to ensure it doesn’t overcook. The frittata is ready when the top is fully set and nicely browned.

Remove from the oven. Run a thin spatula around the edges of the frittata to help loosen from the pan. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and then flip over to release the frittata. Serve immediately.

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apricot almond breakfast cake

Apricots are in the house! Is anyone else excited? A good apricot is one of my favorite treats. And there is such a small window of time between late spring and early summer when the apricots are just perfect – fragrant and quietly sweet and juicy. I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Blenheim apricots and I am smitten. I haven’t had a bad one yet. They are so pleasant (and pretty!). I can’t stop thinking about them.

The original plan was to make jam. But what I really wanted was an apricot cake. Actually, what I really, really wanted was an almond apricot cake. So I tried the first recipe I found. It was fine, but if I’m being completely honest, it wasn’t anything to write home about. Then a few days later, while working on a scone experiment, I came across another recipe that totally fit the bill.

This beauty comes from Tartine. It’s an almond breakfast cake, which is essentially a coffee cake, made with almond paste and almond meal and welcomes any seasonal fruit to be scattered over the batter, my choice of course being apricots, though I am certain that blueberries would be another fantastic choice. This is a very decadent cake, dense and buttery in the best possible way. I love the richness and the almond flavor of the cake paired with the jammy, sweet-tart pockets of fresh apricot. The almond crumble is excellent and adds a nice contrast in texture. I plan to use it on other streusel-topped goodies in the future. I also plan on making this cake again and again. I’ve already made it twice.

apricot almond breakfast cake

from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

makes one 9-inch cake

crumble topping

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2/3 cup natural almond meal

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

cake

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (6 ounces) almond paste

1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

8-10 apricots, depending on size, pitted and halved

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, preferably with a removable bottom or a springform pan. Set aside.

for the crumble topping:

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until creamy. Add the flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt and mix only until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You do not want a smooth mixture; it should have a crumbly appearance. Transfer the crumble topping to another bowl, making sure to scrape the mixing bowl clean. Set aside.

for the cake:

Place the almond paste in the same mixing bowl used for the crumble topping (no need to wash the bowl first). Mix on low speed until the paste is broken up. Add the sugar and gradually increase the speed to medium. Continue to mix until the sugar breaks up the almond paste fully and there are no more lumps. Add the butter and mix until creamy, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula. On low speed, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs all at once, then increase the speed to medium and mix just until everything is combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Place the apricot halves over the batter, cut side up. Distribute the almond crumble evenly over the entire cake. (At this point you can cover the assembled cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, remove the cake from the fridge and leave it out at room temperature for about 45 minutes before baking.)

Bake the cake until the crumble topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 1 hour and 20 minutes (the book says 40 minutes, but my cake took much longer, possibly because of the amount of liquid from the apricots). Start checking the cake after 1 hour, and then every 10 minutes going forward. It is difficult to test the doneness of the cake with a cake tester, as the fruit is moist and the tester wont come out clean. Don’t worry about overbaking – the fruit and almond paste will prevent the cake from becoming dry. If you are not sure if the cake is done, insert a small knife into the center and gently push some of the cake aside to see if it is cooked. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before releasing it from the pan and serving.

scrambled eggs with salmon caviar (aka fancypants scrambled eggs)

Did you hear that? That, my friends, is the sound of relief. I don’t know what kind of mental blockage I was having, but I just couldn’t get my taxes done this year. My w-2 went MIA for a few weeks. There was a box full of receipts that had to be sorted through – the absolute last thing in the world I wanted to do. And then at the eleventh hour, I finally got my act together. Needless to say, I am delighted that that shiz is filed. It was really beginning to feel like a hostage situation up in this joint.

Since I was here last, which was forever-ago {insert sad face}, there has actually been quite a bit of activity in my kitchen. Easter came and went. I feel like I missed it. I went about business as usual that day – baked a couple dozen cupcakes (yes, there were cupcakes!), ran to the farmers’ market to buy strawberries for the rugrats (no Easter candy from Auntie Sandy this year), got my hair did. And before I knew it, I was late to dinner and still frosting cupcakes.

I did manage to squeeze in a little treat for myself that morning. After the cupcakes were out of the oven, I moved on to breakfast. Farm fresh eggs. Salmon caviar. A splash of heavy cream. A dab of butter. You get the picture. It was a whole lot of decadence.

These scrambled eggs were inspired by a little place called Zuni Cafe. Lee and I met there for brunch a few Sundays ago. We sat at a sunlit table on the ground floor of the dining room and enjoyed a few adult beverages. I ordered the rabbit salad with a poached egg, he ordered the scrambled eggs topped with steelhead caviar. I had one bite of those eggs and wished that I had ordered that instead. Those eggs were everything. Little pops of salty ocean goodness enveloping silky curds of the most perfect soft scrambled eggs. I seriously contemplated ordering a second entree, but ultimately decided against it.

Instead I promised myself that I would make those eggs as soon as possible. It happened two weeks later. Because it’s such a simple dish, the ingredients are key. You should be able to find cured salmon roe, also known as ikura in Japanese cuisine, at any market that sells sushi-grade fish (I bought mine at Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley; if you’re in San Francisco, Nijiya Market in Japantown is where you’ll want to go). And if you can get your hands on fresh farm eggs, they are definitely worth the extra bucks; those amazingly bright orange yolks produce a richer, creamier, super delicious cooked egg. I like to call this dish eggs on eggs or fancypants scrambled eggs. It’s my new favorite breakfast and I totally wish I had ikura on hand everyday (salmon roe is loaded with omega-3s – hooray!). And in case you were wondering, a glass of rosé pairs really nicely if it’s that kind of morning. Bon appétit!

scrambled eggs with salmon caviar (aka fancypants scrambled eggs)

inspired by Zuni Cafe

serves 2

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup cured salmon roe

large pinch of salt

fresh cracked pepper

Crack the eggs into a medium size bowl. Lightly beat the eggs with a fork or small whisk, being careful not to over mix. Add cream and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter and melt until it begins to bubble. When butter is foaming, add the eggs to the pan. As the eggs start to set, push the egg curds to the center of the pan using a rubber spatula. Continue to push the eggs around until no longer runny, but still moist. Be careful not to overcook. When the eggs are just about done, remove the pan from heat and distribute the eggs between two plates. Toss a generous amount of the salmon roe over the eggs and serve immediately with toasted baguette or sourdough.

yogurt pancakes with mascarpone butter

Sometimes you just need to round up a few friends, throw your essentials in a bag, and skip town. Make a stop at In-n-Out for dinner on the way. Have a few bourbon negronis when you reach your destination. And just relax.

Sometimes a weekend in Tahoe is just what the doctor ordered. Especially when that weekend is filled with good company, good energy and some good eating. And waking up to morning snowfall is really the cherry on top of a perfect weekend.

Sometimes on a snowy Sunday morning you just need pancakes. In this case, it had to be yogurt pancakes. In my world, there would be no yogurt pancakes without Adrian.

Adrian used to make these yogurt pancakes that I was obsessed with. I’m not even really a pancakes for breakfast person, but those yogurt pancakes were something special. Notice all this talk in the past tense? That’s because the recipe mysteriously disappeared a few years ago, and we have been without yogurt pancakes ever since. Sometimes he jokes that I snatched the recipe, and now I kind of wish that I had because then at least one of us would still have it.

I tried to find the recipe online a while back, but there are a ton of yogurt pancake recipes on the internet, and the ones I did try weren’t quite right. I actually gave up kind of quickly. But recently I got this hankering for yogurt pancakes. So the search resumed.

After a couple of tries and some tweaking here and there, I ended up with a yogurt pancake that is pretty close to the original. It’s a flatter, creamier pancake; not as fluffy as a buttermilk pancake, but it does have some body and a similar tang. I like them with a little mascarpone butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, or a squirt of lemon juice and powdered sugar. A dollop of this warm blueberry sauce is also a really nice treat. And you definitely can’t go wrong with a few slices of bacon on the side. Sometimes only yogurt pancakes will do.

yogurt pancakes with mascarpone butter

adapted from the Washingtonian

makes about 12 6-inch pancakes

for the mascarpone butter:

1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and mascarpone on medium speed until smooth. Store, covered, in the fridge. Makes about 1 cup.

for the pancakes:

3/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt (not Greek style yogurt)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 eggs

1 teaspoon grated lemon or tangerine zest

1-1/4 cups milk, or more as needed (same note as yogurt)

1-1/2 cups self-rising flour (you can substitute 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder, mixed together)

3 tablespoons sugar

vegetable oil, butter, or bacon fat for greasing the pan

maple syrup and/or lemon wedges and confectioner’s sugar for serving

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, melted butter, egg, zest, and milk and beat well with a whisk or electric mixer. Add the flour and sugar. Stir carefully until incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Add more milk if the batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of a milkshake.

Preheat the oven to 175°F. Heat a griddle or nonstick pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of oil, butter, or bacon grease. To see if the griddle or pan is hot enough, throw in a little batter. You should hear a light sizzle but shouldn’t smell or see smoke.

When the griddle or pan is ready, use an ice cream scoop to pour the batter. Watch for little bubbles to form on the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Keep the pancakes in the oven until you’re ready to serve.

Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup and 1 to 2 tablespoons of mascarpone butter. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and a lemon wedge.

millet muffins

It has recently occurred to me that I almost never make muffins. I think it had been well over a year since my last batch. And then these millet muffins happened.

I love millet. Lately, I’ve been throwing a few spoonfuls in with my oatmeal in the morning. I especially I love the texture it lends to baked goods, that super satisfying crunch. I’ve never met a millet bread that I didn’t like.

So when I spotted millet muffins in Super Natural Everyday, which has become one of my favorites, I immediately flagged the recipe and couldn’t wait to make them.

I’ve made these muffins twice now and I’m sure I’ll make them again. Here’s why:

These guys are made with whole wheat flour without tasting like they’re whole wheat. In other words, they’re moist and have a really nice crumb – not too delicate, not too dense. They’re sweetened with only honey, making them just sweet enough; not quite dessert sweet, but more of a breakfast or midday sweet, which means a little butter and jam are perfectly welcome. They are fragrant with lemon and most importantly, they’re studded with crunchy bits of millet. These are definitely a keeper in my book. And a nice way to get reacquainted with muffins.

millet muffins

from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

makes 12 muffins

2-1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 cup raw millet

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 cup plain yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/2 cup honey

grated zest from 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of juice

Preheat the oven to 400°F and position rack in the top third of the oven. butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are browned and just beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

apple graham coffee cake

Hey rhubarb! Where you at?

This is the pressing matter at the moment. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I swear there is usually rhubarb at the farmer’s market this time of the year. But I’ve been checking every week. And nada. No rhubarb is an indication to me that it’s not really spring yet. And this makes me yearn for springtime even more. Oh well. Hopefully I’ll have some rhurbarb deliciousness to share with you in the not-too-distant future.

In the meantime, I’m doing a bit of spring cleaning over here. I recently took an inventory of my pantry and have come to realize that I have a lot of flour. Like a lot. Some of it is leftover from past experiments. And then there is some that I’ve been hoarding for future projects. It’s a little bit out of control, so I’m making a point to use what I have before I buy anything else.


Enter Good to the Grain. This lovely book has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time, waiting patiently for a little attention. It’s full of recipes that call for flours other than your run of the mill all-purpose variety. Since there is a whole chapter devoted to whole wheat flour, I decided it was time to finally crack open the package of graham flour that I’ve been holding onto. And since I had apples on hand, it seemed the only thing to do was make this apple graham coffee cake.

I’m a sucker for apple cakes. There is something so simple, even humble about an apple cake. Apples, cinnamon, sugar, flour, you get the picture. I was pleasantly surprised by this particular apple cake; I have to admit that I get a bit nervous when whole wheat flour is involved. I live in fear of heavy masses of dry, flavorless dough. But this cake is exactly the opposite – it is incredibly moist with a light crumb and bit of a rustic feel from the coarse graham flour. And the caramelized apples baked into the surface of the cake are just perfect, tender and sticky with cinnamon and sugar. Not only will this cake satisfy your sweet tooth, but you might just join the whole-grain fan club.

apple graham coffee cake

adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

makes one 9-inch round cake

apple topping:

2 large tart apples (I used Granny Smiths), peeled and cored

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon sugar

dry mix:

3/4 cup all-purposr flour

3/4 cup graham flour

3/4 cup whole-grain pastry flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher salt

wet mix:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup whole plain yogurt

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350°F, with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan with high sides (I used a 9×3-inch pan with a removable bottom). Set aside.

Quarter the apples, then cut each quarter into thirds. Slice the thirds into pieces as thick as your thumb.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon over medium-high heat until bubbly. Add the apples and toss to coat, then let sear for 1 minute without stirring. Cook for 6-10 minutes, until tender and caramelized, stirring once a minute or so. Remove the caramelized apples from the heat and scrape them onto a plate with the buttery sauce.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk together the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, scrape the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Spread the apple topping evenly over the batter.

Bake on the middle rack for 40-48 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The cake is ready when it is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, or when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

blueberry-filled doughnuts

Imagine warm blueberry pie, with that gorgeous, naturally sweet, just set, deep violet filling. Now imagine that filling inside of an airy, fried pillow of dough. This is what I daydream about these days. During a family dinner last month, my cousin’s husband requested jelly doughnuts. And they’ve been on my mind ever since.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been cleansing for the past three weeks. Every morning I drink a tall glass of cold water mixed with psyllium husks as fast as I can (which gives me brainfreeze), followed by a smoothie that consists of frozen blueberries, soy protein powder and flax oil, and then another dose of psyllium husks before bed. It’s really not so bad. But what makes this morning routine bearable are the blueberries. I’ve got mad love for blueberries.

Of course, when on any type of cleanse, I tend to obsess about the things I should be avoiding, such as beautiful, deep-fried, blueberry filled doughnuts. Something had to be done.

The first batch was nearly a disaster. I threw the dough together and refrigerated it overnight as instructed. When I woke the next morning, I discovered that the bowl I used was too small and the dough had runneth over. And it was runny, more of a batter than a dough. I took one look at it and knew that it couldn’t be rolled out. So I moved on to plan B, and tried another recipe. And did the whole thing by hand rather than use my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. The initial results seemed much better. And I loved kneading the dough by hand. I loved kneading the dough so much that I was convinced that I could salvage that first batch of dough. So I added more flour. And then more flour. I kneaded until the dough came together into a huge, smooth, elastic mass.

I was actually quite happy with that batch of doughnuts, but since I used three different types of flour (all-purpose, bread, and pastry) and had no idea how much I actually added to the original recipe, I thought I should give it another go. And then I found another recipe that looked promising, so I made a few adjustments. And spent another Sunday making doughnuts.

Through all of this trial and error, the greatest lesson I’ve learned is this: the key to being a happy, successful doughnut maker is to be sure that there are people around to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Because raised doughnuts take time. And patience. But there is nothing quite like a doughnut, freshly fried, filled with warm fruit, and coated in powdered (or granulated) sugar. And they must be devoured immediately, preferably by loved ones.

blueberry filled doughnuts

adapted from FoodFest 365! and The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

makes 1 dozen doughnuts

5 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dry active yeast

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted ,  plus more for dusting

6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 large eggs, room temperature

1-1/2 cups whole milk, warm

5-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

canola oil for frying

blueberry filling or your choice of jam

In a medium bowl, combine the water with the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of flour and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 10 minutes to rise.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, nutmeg and salt. Add the milk, eggs,  and butter and mix until well combined.

Add the yeast mixture to the dough and thoroughly combine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead. If the dough is sticky, add more flour until the dough hardly sticks to your hands. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 7-10 minutes. Put the dough in a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, undisturbed.

Punch the dough and then turn onto a floured surface. Knead dough a few times and then roll out until it’s  1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds with a 3-1/2-inch cutter. Set on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured kitchen towel. Cover with another towel and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

While the doughnuts are rising, fill a large heavy bottomed pot with oil about 2 inches deep. Heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F on a candy thermometer.

Place a round of dough in the hot oil and fry until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the doughnut with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Repeat until all dough has been fried.

To fill the doughnuts:

Pour the blueberry filling into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Using a chopstick, poke a hole 3/4  of the way into each doughnut. Gently rotate the stick to make a well for the filling. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the hole and fill until the doughnut feels heavy. Place the filled doughnut in a bowl of powdered or granulated sugar and coat evenly. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. Serve immediately.

for the blueberry filling:

makes about 3 cups

4 cups blueberries

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Stir often to dissolve the sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until a thick syrup has formed, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. The mixture will thicken as is cools. Set aside.