Sunday, March 31, 2013

Egg Salad

Egg Salad Sandwich on Black Acrylic

Hard-Boiled Eggs Never Tasted Better

What to do with extra hard-boiled eggs?  That’s a question many of us are asking ourselves this time of the year, when we have loads of leftover dyed eggs from Easter.  Luckily, I have the perfect recipe:  Egg Salad.  Especially in a sandwich.

If you haven’t made Egg Salad for a while, this week might be the perfect time.  What do you have to lose?  Nothing — except all those leftover Easter eggs!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kitchen Riffs Burns Down the Kitchen!

That’s right, I’m Kim’s featured victim interviewee on her Burning Down the Kitchen series at Cravings of a Lunatic.

If you don’t know Kim’s blog, you’ll enjoy it. She has a zany sense of humor that comes through in each and every blog post. Kim is also the “Turtle Queen” of the internet. Seriously, she has a massive addiction to anything turtle, and has put up more turtle recipes than I can count. Of course, I only have 10 fingers and 10 toes — but I know it’s way more than that!

Anyway, I’m honored that Kim chose to interview me for this week’s Burning Down the Kitchen. You can check it out right here. And find out which of my recipes Kim decided to prepare, and whether I responded to the “dare” she challenged me with!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict on plate with napkin and fork in background

Perfect for Easter Brunch — or Any Special Occasion

People love Eggs Benedict for brunch — especially at festive occasions.  And why not?  The dish offers a terrific combination of flavors and textures:  Toasted English muffin topped with sautéed Canadian bacon, which in turn is topped by poached egg.  All of which receives a glorious blanket of Hollandaise sauce. 

It’s a rich dish, so most us don’t eat it too often.  But it’s perfect for special days — like Easter.  Which, if you haven’t noticed, is on tap for this Sunday, March 31.  It would also be perfect for Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 12).  Or for any holiday, really.

It tends to be a “restaurant only” dish for many people.  I’ll bet the majority of us rarely (heck, never) make Eggs Benedict at home.  And that’s understandable — there are aspects to this recipe that give many cooks pause.  To begin with, it requires poaching eggs (which lots of people assume to be difficult).  And it requires Hollandaise sauce — something that even quite experienced cooks may find challenging. 

But if you break the dish down into segments, it’s not really that hard.  Glance at my recipes for Poached Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce, and you’ll see that both are quite doable. The biggest challenge with Eggs Benedict is juggling several different tasks at the same time. But I have a strategy for coping with that (it includes making the poached eggs ahead of time).

So for some special occasion soon, maybe you should step outside your comfort zone and tackle Eggs Benedict. People will start applauding when they hear you’re even considering it. And when you actually serve your Eggs Benny? Expect overwhelming adulation — with a side of adoration.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Poached Eggs

Poached Egg on Black Acrylic

Making Them is a Lot Less Scary Than You Think     

How often do you poach eggs?  Rarely?  Never?

Join the club.  Most people think poaching is difficult and fussy, so they never prepare eggs this way at home.  Too bad, because poaching might be the one of the healthiest ways to cook eggs (no added fat).  And poaching is even simpler than hard-boiling — no hot eggs to cool off and peel.  How about flavor?  Glad you asked!  Because poaching may be the best way to showcase an egg’s natural tastiness. 

Poached eggs are great breakfast fare.  They’re also wonderful as a garnish on salad (and a necessity for the classic Salade Frisée).  And if poached eggs didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them just so we could make Eggs Benedict.

By learning just a few simple steps, you can become a poach meister.

Then the next time you’re preparing eggs for brunch, be sure to ask how people want them cooked.  Some wiseacre (you know the one) will say he wants his poached.  You can just smile and say, “Of course.”  It’ll probably ruin his day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buttercream Candy Easter Eggs

Buttercream Candy Easter Eggs with Chocolate Coating in Easter Basket

These Fresh-Tasting Chocolate-Covered Delights are Easy to Make     

Easter is early this year — Sunday, March 31st.  So we’re already hankering after baskets of chocolate candies.  Especially the kind with luscious buttercream centers. 

We won’t be visiting the candy aisle, though.  Instead, we’ll be whipping them up at home.

And they’re easy!  If you can make buttercream cake icing, you’ll find it a snap to mix the filling for these candies.  And your friendly microwave can melt the chocolate for a rich coating in a just few minutes.

Best of all?  No weird chemical preservatives. 

Your own homemade Buttercream Candy Easter Eggs might not have the year-long shelf life of the commercial ones.  But you’ll find their fresh taste to be more intense — and just all around better.  Besides, who keeps these things around the house for months, anyway?  They’ll be gone within a week, tops.

Or maybe the same day you make them (I’m just sayin’).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel

Pasta with Sardines and Fennel on white plate with napkin and fork in background

This Variation on Sicilian-Style Pasta Sports a Tangy Tomato Sauce

When was the last time you used sardines in a dish?  For a lot of us, the answer may be “never.”

Sardines don’t get much respect in the US.  Which is too bad, because they’re inexpensive, abundant, and widely available (although most often in canned form).  But many people shy away from them because of their distinct “fishy” flavor.

If that’s you, don’t worry.  Sardines have been eaten in Mediterranean countries for thousands of years, so cooks there have figured out how to handle these little beauties.  No place is more Mediterranean than Sicily — and one of its signature dishes is pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines).  In Sicily, cooks usually combine the pasta with fennel, raisins, and saffron, and these ingredients help mellow the flavor of the sardines.

March 19th (Tuesday) is Saint Joseph’s Day, a widely celebrated saint’s day around the world.  Many people consider St. Joseph to be the patron saint of Sicily (according to legend, prayers to St. Joseph helped prevent a famine there during the Middle Ages). Because St. Joseph’s Day falls during Lent, the festive foods are meatless.

What better way to celebrate one of Sicily’s special holidays than by making their signature (meatless) dish? You’ve heard the phrase (made memorable in Alka-Seltzer ads), “try it, you’ll like it.” When it comes to this dish, it’s true.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread in Skillet with plates and napkin in background

Make This Easy Bread as Plain or Fancy as You Want

In the US, we tend to think of Irish Soda Bread around March 17th — Saint Patrick’s Day.  The rest of the year?  Not so much.  Which is too bad, because it’s easy to make.  Not to mention tasty.  And its flavor blends well with the simplest meal or the fanciest dinner.

In its original form, Irish Soda Bread was quite plain.  But over the years, bakers have made additions to the recipe.  Nowadays, you’ll see elaborate versions that include butter, eggs, and sugar.  Even the plainest loaves sold in the US now commonly contain raisins (or currants) and caraway seeds. 

So today’s post is a twofer:  We present both a simple version of Irish Soda Bread, and a more elaborate alternative.  One of these is sure to appeal.

But be warned:  It’s tough to choose.  You may decide to do what we did — and make both!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Colcannon

Colcannon in ramekin with butter garnish, overhead view

Mashed Potatoes and Kale Flavor this Traditional Irish Dish

When the topic is Irish food, what do you think of first?  If you live in the US, the answer is likely Corned Beef. With cabbage, of course. Second? Probably potatoes (who hasn’t heard of the Irish Potato Famine?).

Potatoes have been an important food in Ireland since the late 17th century, and historically formed the foundation for many a meal. Equally important historically are cabbage and kale (kale is actually a form of cabbage). These two foods would appear on most tables many times each week. So of course someone eventually decided to combine them — in a dish that became known as Colcannon.

Colcannon mixes mashed potatoes with kale (or cabbage). For extra flavor, many cooks add onions, leeks, or scallions. It’s a hearty dish that’s almost a meal in itself (and at times it no doubt was). Today most of us would probably serve it as a side dish. It pairs well with almost any meat, but particularly shines with ham, sausages, or corned beef.

Almost everyone will love this dish! After all, mashed potatoes are a near universal favorite, and the addition of kale adds terrific healthy flavor. Best of all, this is a pretty simple recipe to make.

So with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner (a week from today), maybe it’s time to try Colcannon. Once you taste it, you may contemplate moving to Ireland. I may join you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee with Whipped Cream Garnish in Glass Irish Coffee Mug

Perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day

March 17th is the feast day of Saint Patrick, the best known of Ireland’s patron saints (the others are Saints Brigid and Columba). Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated by people of Irish descent around the world — and by those of us who decide to become Irish, at least for the day.

In the US, we’ll consume a lot of Corned Beef (which is good stuff) and green beer (which usually isn’t). For a much better drink, try Guinness. Or better yet, Irish whiskey.

Prefer your liquor in the form of a cocktail? Then let’s mix up an Irish Coffee.

A sip or two of this excellent elixir, and you’ll be ready to get your Irish on.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chocolate Fudge with Nutella

Chocolate Fudge with Nutella on black acrylic

Marshmallows Add Oomph to this Easy Microwave Fudge

Making fudge in the microwave takes most of the work — and worry — out of the process. 

Heating the ingredients until they reach the elusive “soft-ball” stage?  A thing of the past.  Cooling, then stirring (continuously!) until the fudge sets up properly?  No longer an issue.  Great taste that has you coming back for seconds and thirds?  Very definitely!  

Microwave fudge delivers superb flavor and texture in less time (and with much less fuss) than traditional stove-top recipes, as discussed in our post on Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge.

But hey, what about chocolate? Isn’t that what most people think when you say “fudge”?

Well, this recipe has you covered. It combines chocolate with Nutella, the European hazelnut spread that has taken the US (and most of the world) by storm. And it adds some mini marshmallows for interest.

Make this fudge and share it, and you may have a new BFFL (or several).