Tag Archives: brunch

Squash Soufflé

squash souffle

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a little while. I would like to apologize but also admit to you that I do not always prioritize my little blog: after working (and I was traveling for work a great deal in January, consuming an exorbitant amount of my time), I also like to sleep, and get outside, move my body, and yes, cook. I do sometimes cook things without telling you, or even Instagram (although it is much easier to snap a photo and post than write a whole recipe out, so that does happen more frequently).

I did have a lovely little sojourn in the city of my birth, San Francisco, where you can follow my food-biking tour around the city via Instagram. Here’s how it went: bike—Tartine (best chocolate croissant I’ve ever had)—bike—Ferry building farmers’ market—walk-Chinatown (bought tea)—walk—Rancho Gordo lunch at Ferry building, and coveting everything else—bike—Pier 39 and sea lions—bike/walk (too much hill to straight bike)—Lombard Street—bike—Ghiradelli sundae + break for digestion—bike—Chrissy Field beach relaxation—bike—Golden Gate Bridge—bike through Presidio—bike through Haight-Ashbury—tea break—bike through the Castro—bike home. Next day: Tartine round two, and a Mission burrito to take on the airplane. Not bad for a quick trip!

However, all that adventure aside, I am now home, and glad to be getting back into routine. I don’t promise to always post consistently, because I never know how life will go, but know that you are still important to me. Perhaps we can relax together.

It is time to take a breath.

You may then feel inclined to hold it for a moment, however, afraid to mess up what is breathing itself in the oven (soufflé is French for breath). Don’t worry, ovens are not as finicky as they used to be. Soufflés are not terribly difficult (although it helps to know a little French for reading about the components) but they are still exciting. I found myself warning my roommates not to yell too loudly, or open the oven before it was time. A classic soufflé is just some very good cheese in the base; but you can add puréed anything (leeks? caramelized onions? spinach?) for added flavor.

What I like about soufflés: they are showy, vegetarian main courses, good for brunch or dinner, don’t take too many fancy ingredients, are light, soft, and luscious, and present the magical powers of eggs quite magnificently.

bechamel with squash for souffle

Squash soufflé
1/2 butternut squash (or another variety with similar moisture content), roasted and puréed (maybe 2 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
3 tablespoons flour (gluten-free flour works!)
1 cup milk
A dash each of sweet paprika, nutmeg, and a little more of salt and pepper
5 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup hard cheese: gruyere or some parmesan variation if you don't have anything fancy

If you haven’t already, roast, cool, and purée the squash (can be refrigerated at this point or before puréeing if you like).

Butter a soufflé dish, or large straight-sided dish of some kind (or ramekins/small dishes if you’d like to do individual ones). If you want, sprinkle a little grated cheese in to stick to the sides. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Make the béchamel (white sauce): Heat up the milk (I usually use the microwave, but a stove works too), warm but not boiling. Make the roux (equal parts fat and flour, the thickener): melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan, gradually sprinkling in flour and whisking to form a paste. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking, and continue heating (and whisking) until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in the seasonings. Let cool for a moment.

Separate the eggs into two different bowls, the whites in a large mixing bowl (you can put the yolks right in with the puréed squash, if it isn’t hot—you don’t want to cook them prematurely). When the béchamel has cooled slightly, whisk in the yolks, squash, and cheese. It will be fairly thick.

Whip the whites until they form soft peaks, but are still shiny. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently add it back to the rest of the whites folding it all together (gently!) until no obvious streaks remain.

Pour into the baking dish and place in the oven. Turn oven down to 375ºF, and set your timer for 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven to look, since temperature variation can cause it to fall, but use your oven light (if you have one) to watch it puff up and brown on top. After 20 minutes (although it will probably take closer to 30, so try not to be too excited), you may open your oven briefly to check. It is done when it is all puffed, golden brown, and doesn’t jiggle anymore when delicately tapped.

Remove, and serve immediately. It will fall as it sits, but remain delicious.

 

Cream Cheese Leeks on Cheese Biscuits

leek cream cheese

Lunch, breakfast, dinner. It matters not. Not for these. Something like a classic bagel topping, but lighter, greener, and a little cheesier.

I adore leeks. And as it is now fall (you can feel it in the air and see it in the brilliant trees), they are quite available, and looking for attention. Let them shine on top of a simple cheese biscuit, with plenty of cream cheese.

Something about the cold weather is making me crave cheese and butter and all I can think about at work is coming come to bake something fatty and delicious. Good job body, preparing for winter. (You should too)

You may be interested to learn that my style of no-recipe teaching recipes is somewhat of a trend, as it happens. I think it’s a good one—after all, you can learn how to follow rules all day, but eventually shouldn’t you eventually know why they exist, and begin to create your own? (We should probably all go into policy, following that prescription.) It is indeed not about the recipe, but engaging you to think about food: the way certain vegetables lend their flavor to other parts of a dish, the composition that blends to create a whole mouthfeel. Yes, there are some ingredients that need to be exact—baking is particularly stickling (hence the detailed measurements below)—but more important are the ideas. The Internet is awash with recipes; I aim to offer you not only ingredients and methods but a conception of a meal, a menu, a combination, at the very least.

If you ever have questions, let me know.

Leeks on cheese biscuits with cream cheese
Biscuits:
2 1/2 cups flour 
1 tsp salt 
1 Tbsp baking powder 
¾ tsp baking soda 
1/2 cup cheddar, or other hard sharp cheese, grated
8 Tbsp cold butter (1 stick)
1 cup yogurt 

Leeks (1 per person, assuming you like them)
Butter, salt
Cream cheese

Make biscuits: Preheat oven to 425ºF. Blend all biscuit ingredients except yogurt in food processor (or knife/pastry blender) until a sandy texture, with small nuggets of butter, similar to making pie crust. Stir in grated cheese without destroying the large grated chunks, then add yogurt and pulse; mix until almost forms a ball. Roll out on a floured board about 3/8 inch thick. Cut out circles (big or small, depending on the crowd and what you want—large size is better for topping with leeks) and place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, until golden on top. Remove from oven, take off baking sheet and let cool for a few minutes on a rack.

Slice leeks lengthwise and clean. Sauté with butter and salt over medium-high until soft, shiny, and slightly caramelized.

Cut biscuits in half, slather with cream cheese, and drape with leeks. Add a little fancy salt and pepper if you’re feeling decadent. If you want something heartier (again, lunch/breakfast/dinner, top with a fried egg, or some salmon (smoked or otherwise).

leek cream cheese

Eggs Florentine

eggs florentine with runny yolk

Otherwise known as The Best Brunch Eva or The Sauce I Am Always Thinking About. Hollandaise is a phenomenal invention. Light and airy but rich and bright, so satisfying on so many items.

I’m presenting it with eggs because it’s where I first discovered it, and the classic, but please please please do not stop there. Asparagus, green beans, fish, fiddleheads, on a spoon—this sauce could go on anything.

Eggs Florentine is much like its cousin Benedict, except that it has spinach to go along with the poached eggs and hollandaise instead of ham (there’s also Arnold, which has smoked salmon). I like spinach better, both for the purposes of decreasing meat consumption (I never have ham lying around) and to make it a little lighter, fresher, greener. Chard or kale is also lovely (make sure to cook the kale enough, since you want it soft and velvety so as not to disrupt the luxurious smoothness of the hollandaise). Mmm.

eggs florentine

So, three different components to this dish: 1) Poached egg, 2) Hollandaise (yumm), and 3) Spinach/greens. The third is by far the easiest, and can be creamed or just sautéed (creamed=sautéed with cream and maybe a little nutmeg). I prefer a light sauté with some olive oil, to keep it fresh and light. Item 1 I find the trickiest to get quite right, I suspect because I haven’t done it much. I manage it successfully much more often than not, I just flail around a bit when it’s cooking and get all nervous. The Kitchn has some good tips if my instructions aren’t clear enough.

There are a bunch of ways to make hollandaise. The classic (Julia Child’s version) is to cook egg yolks with lemon juice first (whisking constantly), then add soft butter and whisk like mad until it’s emulsified. On the other end of the spectrum is blender hollandaise, where you put eggs yolks and lemon juice in a blender and blend, pouring in melted butter while in progress. I like the mid ground, where I get to whisk a bunch and feel it come together and get all foamy, but it remains relatively foolproof. I imagine that whisking and cooking also achieves a thicker sauce than the blender version, because you cook the eggs a bit first, other than just being heated by the melted butter.

whisk like mad!
Whisking like mad

If you really want to be fancy, you can clarify your butter before you begin, by melting and skimming off the foamy bits and or even straining them out. Clarified butter has more fat (you are skimming off water content and milk solids), so you can use a little less of it. I haven’t been bothered yet, but I shall have to try it just for experiment’s sake sometime.

eggs benedict prep
Ready, set (note the container for freezing egg whites!)
Eggs Florentine
Eggs
Toast, or English muffins
Spinach
Olive oil

Hollandaise sauce
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
Pinch cayenne
Salt

Put a pot of water on to boil for the eggs, then prep the spinach: I like mine sautéed gently (it should be soft) with a little olive oil and some garlic. Add cream if you like.

To poach an egg: Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add vinegar. Turn down the heat so the water isn’t rolling, but at a light simmer, and start swirling the water so it spirals. It helps to have an assistant here, but is doable solo too. Crack in your egg and keep swirling so the whites wrap around the egg. Cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and how runny you like it (ideally the white is cooked but still soft and the yolk is runny). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a towel, being careful not to break the yolk. If making for company, you can poach a bunch of eggs ahead of time and then right before the hollandaise is ready, put them back in boiling water for a scant minute to warm up again. In that case, definitely go with a shorter cooking time in the beginning because you don’t want to overcook them.

And now, the Sauce. Mm. Melt butter in the microwave (or stovetop if you prefer), preferably in a glass Pyrex with a pouring spout. In a double boiler—not heated yet (I use a glass bowl and later place it over a small pot of boiling water), whisk yolks, then whisk in lemon juice, and keep going until it gets foamy and a little lighter. Heat until slightly thickened, whisking constantly (you don’t have to do this for long, just until a little thicker). Continually whisking, add the melted (clarified if you like) butter in a stream. It should emulsify and become yellow and light. Whisk in cayenne and salt, taste for lemon and add more as needed.

Serve: Toast an English muffin or bread, top with spinach, warm egg (dunk in boiling water to warm up if needed), and warm sauce. If sauce gets too thick, whisk in a little water. If you wait a little bit to serve it, keep warm and whisk often (I decided to take hollandaise to a brunch potluck once and as I was driving over I was reaching over to the passenger’s side to whisk frantically every few minutes to keep it emulsified. Turned out splendidly and was well appreciated, and I didn’t crash to boot).

Broken sauce tips here (fear not, it’s probably saveable).

eggs benedict
Good without spinach, ham, or salmon, too…

Weekend Brunch: Omelette

P1020263

Hello, mes chers amis, mes chères amies. I hope you have been off baking bread.

During the week, I pretty much eat yogurt and fruit for breakfast every day, which I love and somehow don’t get tired of. It’s funny how breakfast seems like a much more personal affair than any other meal, and also okay to be repetitive. Perhaps it’s because we aren’t taught to take part in family breakfast the way we are for family dinner. Many people don’t even eat breakfast (silly people. Breakfast is delicious and awesome).

Brunch, however, is an occasion. Even by yourself, it feels much more leisurely, meant to be enjoyed over a long cup of tea. And that calls for something a little fancier.

P1020251

You have heard about how I am obsessed with eggs. Well, here is another rendition of that enthusiasm.

Single Omelette
Cheese: asiago, cheddar, swiss...basically whatever you like (err on the light side in terms of amount)
Meat, if you want (chorizo would be good, or bacon pieces)
Veggies: zucchini, broccoli, garlic scapes, tomatoes, onions, potatoes...
2 eggs
A splash of milk (or water if you have none)
Salt, pepper, and other herbs/spices (I like oregano or parsley)
Olive oil

Grate the cheese and cook whatever meat you are using, if any. Gently sauté the veggies in oil for a few minutes until mostly soft but still a little crunchy. Take them out of the pan and put them on a plate, top with the cheese.

P1020261

Mix the eggs with the milk or water and seasonings with a fork until smooth. Heat up the pan (it helps to have a small pan. I only have one pan and it is a 10-inch cast iron, which really is too big for a proper omelette, but somehow it worked out okay) with a little oil. Pour in the egg mixture—it should form a very thin layer. You can kind of swirl around the pan (again, this is hard with a giant, heavy pan) and lift up what is cooking to get the liquid layer underneath. This whole process takes maybe 30 seconds.

When there is just a little liquid left on top of the egg in the pan, add in your veggies/cheese/etc. Put them on one side of the omelette and then fold over the other half. Turn of the heat, slide it out back onto the plate (no sense in getting extra dishes dirty), and eat. Excellent paired with some buttered toast or home fries (cut up potatoes, either raw or cooked. Salt/pepper/paprika. Cook in hot oil in a pan until cooked and crispy).

P1000135
This is from a few summers ago, and is a little thicker in a smaller pan, as you can (sort of) see.