reemerging

Well, hello! It’s been a while since sugar cured has gotten some attention. Much as we aspired to maintain weekly posts during boards time, studying got the best of me in the last two weeks. But I’m happy to report that the gnarliness has come to an end and the blogging has resumed! In fond memory of the past six weeks, I’d like to share one of the best lunches I had during that time.

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Since I was studying at home, I had the luxury of preparing a fresh lunch every day. I welcomed that midday break as a time to shut off my left brain and ignite my right brain with culinary creativity. The concoctions were usually simple, but they recharged me both physically and mentally for the afternoon ahead.

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One of my favorite lunches was this avocado egg salad. In lieu of mayo, I mashed an avocado with lemon juice, salt, pepper. I added some sprigs of dill and a handful of torn spinach to the mix and then broke in medium-boiled eggs that were still a bit drippy in the center. Piled atop lightly toasted rye bread and adorned with ruby red tomato slices from my parents’ garden, this healthy and satisfying salad provided just the right nourishment that my mind and body needed. I hope this recipe provides you with the same.

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It’s good to be back!

Avocado Egg Salad

Serves 2

2 eggs

1 hass avocado

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper

a few sprigs chopped fresh dill (optional)

1 handful fresh spinach, torn into small pieces

Place eggs in a small pot and fill pot with water until the eggs are barely covered. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 7-8 minutes, depending on how soft/hard you like your yolk.

While eggs are cooking, mash avocado in a bowl with lemon juice, spinach, dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Once eggs are done, rinse them under cold water, peel them and add them to the avocado mixture. Mash until combined. Serve atop toasted bread with tomatoes or toppings of your choosing.

rising from the rank

This week we once again bring you an ingredient switch. But this time, it is not predicated on a lack of finding the ingredient. Oh no, I found epazote. I even added (and quickly removed) a few leaves of it to my dish. Let’s just say, if lemongrass is my new perfume, then epazote is what I am going to use to ward off my enemies. This stuff is frankly foul. My sister Erica, who has a knack for characterizing scents, declared that epazote smelled like “cheap industrial bathroom cleaner.” I had to agree. So, in the interest of saving Kate the physical and olfactory trouble of acquiring and using epazote, and of saving you all from reading about malodorous creations, we adopted a new ingredient. Still sticking with a Mexican theme, this week we’re taking on the poblano pepper.

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On Saturday, my then-quest for epazote took me to one of my favorite South Florida gems, the Homestead Farmer’s Market. This open air market caters to a largely Mexican and Central American community and carries a plethora of Latin ingredients: dried chiles, homemade queso fresco, warm freshly made tortillas, tomatillos, and poblanos to name a few. I came home with three overflowing bags of goods, and more importantly, with inspiration and guidance from conversing with women at the market to try my hand at a classic Mexican dish.

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Chilaquiles. It seems that there are a million versions and techniques of making this conglomeration of fried tortillas, warm salsa, drippy eggs, and cheese, but I used my limited experience with eating chilaquiles at restaurants and my desires to try my hand at making a poblano and tomatillo salsa to guide the way. I broiled a big, bright green poblano pepper with a bunch of plump tomatillos and a jalapeno to impart them with a smoky flavor. Once blistered and blackened, I whirred them up with key lime juice, onions, and cilantro to make a quick and fresh salsa that had a healthy dose of heat.

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We had the good fortune of being able to buy warm, freshly made corn tortillas from a stand at the market. I cut them into wedges and gave them a light fry and sprinkling of kosher salt to make a warm and crunchy bed for the salsa and eggs. If you’re in the market for an addictive appetizer rather than a brunch-y creation, then I’d suggest you stop here and dive into a bowl of fresh chips and poblano tomatillo salsa. But we found the self control to press on with the chilaquiles, soaking the chips in the warm salsa, and topping the saucy mixture with fried eggs.

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For my family, the most fun part of making and eating chilaquiles was getting to adorn them with all sorts of accompaniments: queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, crema, and—what deserves a future post in itself—pulled ancho chile spiced lamb that Erica had seemingly effortlessly stewed. We ate this as breakfast-for-dinner, and I’m already looking forward to making this for a brunch in the near future, perhaps experimenting with new techniques, flavors, and toppings. Rest assured, epazote will not be one of them.

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Chilaquiles with Poblano Tomatillo Salsa

Poblano Tomatillo Salsa

1 lb tomatillos, peeled and rinsed

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded

1 poblano pepper, seeded

½ medium onion, chopped

½ cup cilantro

1 lime, juiced (or juice of 3-4 key limes)

1 tsp salt

Set broiler to high. Cut tomatillos, jalapeno, and poblano in half and place on a large baking sheet. Broil until mostly blackened, about 4 minutes on each side. Place roasted tomatillos and peppers in a blender with onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Puree until blended.

Tortilla Chips

8 corn tortillas

Vegetable oil

Salt

In a large skillet, heat ½ inch oil to 350. Cut tortillas into sixths. Once oil is hot, fry tortillas, about 1 minute on each side, until golden brown. Drain onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot.

To assemble: 

Heat salsa in a saucepan until hot. Divide tortilla chips into four bowls. Divide hot salsa evenly over chips and allow it to sit while you cook the eggs. Cook the eggs to your liking (we liked ours with a runny yolk). Place cooked eggs over chips and salsa. Serve immediately with a panoply of toppings! Recommended: queso fresco, crema, lime, cilantro, onion, avocado.

in excess

Here we have some quantities that are slightly excessive:

1) Bean/legume recipes on sugarcured lately. Lentils+chickpeas+chili+stew= a sure sign that the season of hibernation fare is upon us.

2) Cups of coffee I consumed this weekend. I am mostly incapable of studying on cold days unless I have a warm drink close at hand. I should probably learn to like decaf.

3) Pharmaceutical agents I need to memorize in the next 2.5 weeks

4) Onions caramelized in my kitchen in the last 48 hours.

Sometimes I get flavors stuck in my head the way normal people get songs stuck in their heads and this weekend caramelized onions were on repeat.

The lion’s share of those vegetables-in-candy’s-clothing went into this frittata. The recipe was loosely adapted from Marcella Hazan and largely governed by the ingredients I had in my fridge. It turned out so nice that I made it twice- for both Saturday and Sunday brunch.

This frittata is ridiculously simple. The only key to success here is to really caramelize these onions. I wish I had gotten around to writing a rant about the way recipes suggest that onions can be properly caramelized in 5 minutes before this author beat me to the punch. Figure on at 30 minutes to get the onions sufficiently soft and delicious.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Frittata

1 T butter

3 c onions, thinly sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

1 t sugar

1 c thin slices of zucchini or summer squash

6 eggs

1/2 c crumbled feta or goat cheese

1 large tomato, thinly sliced

First, you’ll need a heavy skillet that is safe to go under the broiler. It should be 8-9″ in diameter and nonstick or cast iron.

Preheat the broiler on high heat.

Heat said skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onions, stirring to coat, and continue to cook until they are very soft and beginning to brown. If they start to get crispy before they are soft, turn down the heat. When they start to soften significantly (after 15 or 20 minutes of cooking), add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue to cook until golden brown.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, and whisk thoroughly. Add half the cheese and whisk again to combine. Set aside.

Add the zucchini and cook for about 4 minutes until it is tender but not soggy. Add the eggs and stir to mix the liquid with the vegetables. Place the tomato slices on top in a single layer and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let cook about 6 minutes over medium low. The bottom half of the egg mixture should cook through but the top will still be liquid.

Transfer the skillet to the broiler and cook another 3-4 minutes until the eggs are solid and the cheese begins to brown. Be careful not to burn yourself when you remove the pan from the oven- it will be flamin hot (not that I have ever done anything klutzy like that). Let cool at least a few minutes before serving. Serve hot, warm, or at room temp, cut into wedges.

good eggs, or confessions of a cheap/broke foodie

The other day, scanning food blogs while eating a quick dinner of scrambled eggs with veggies, I bookmarked a recipe for ratatouille with baked eggs. The author called “a great date recipe,” and I had to laugh at one of the commenter’s response to his claim: “pretty sure I’d be onto the fact that my date was cheap/broke if he served me eggs for dinner!”

While I can think of dozens of dinners more romantic than ratatouille with eggs, I’m pretty sure that this 20something cheap/broke vegetarian foodie would be onto the fact that my date knew a thing or two about quick, delicious, inexpensive suppers. While some would call my eggs-for-dinner habit cheap or lazy, I’ll side with Julia Child on this one: she called her rolled omelet recipe “dinner in half a minute.” Maybe ten years and a regular paycheck down the road, I’ll see things from that snarky commenter’s perspective. But it’s more likely that I will have perfected Julia’s omelet technique by then and I’ll be showing it off to anyone who’ll deign to have such a peasant’s meal.

This shakshuka, another gem of a recipe from Plenty (see green couscous and baba ghanoush posts), is pretty nearly my perfect food. It’s comforting but light , it’s tomatoey, and it has a kick. I served it- without shame of being judged as cheap- at a potluck dinner this week, and my only regret was that I had to share it. It’s great for feeding a crowd but could easily be scaled down. Ottolenghi’s recipe doesn’t call for hot peppers, but I added a poblano to intensify the smoky flavor.

Shakshuka

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1 large onion, sliced

1 red and one yellow pepper, sliced

1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, diced

1 T sugar

2 T fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems

1/4 c chopped parsly

2 T chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish

6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tsp paprika

Salt and black pepper

8 eggs

Start by prepping all of the vegetables. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will make the process run much more smoothly.

In a large pan (I used my soup pot), dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the oil and onion and saute until the onions are soft and have a little color. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add peppers, sugar, herbs, and paprika and continue cooking on high heat for 5-10 minutes, until everything is fairly soft.

Add the tomatoes (with any juice that escaped while you chopped them) and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. The mix should have the consistency of a pasta sauce. Add water if it seems too thick and simmer longer if it seems too thin. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Divide the sauce between 2 medium sized frying pans. Make 4 gaps in the mixture in each pan with the back of a spoon and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until the eggs are done to your liking. The white should be just set and the yolk runny. You can baste the egg whites with the tomato liquid while they cook, but don’t disturb the yolk. Sprinkle with cilantro and feta cheese and serve with crusty bread or pita.