Tomato Toast

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Move over, avocado toast. (But don’t leave me forever! I still love you.) The Brandywines and Cherokee Purples have arrived, and they’re taking over breakfast duty for a while.

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Unlike my hot peppers and cucumbers—which I don’t think I could kill if I tried—the tomatoes have struggled this summer. They’ve suffered through miserably hot heat waves that make them wilt like tired toddlers in the middle of the day. They’ve survived weekends of neglect while I’ve been off enjoying summer travels. And the birds! If I don’t pick a tomato as soon as it thinks about maybe turning a little pink, I lose it to the vicious robins that peck it to death and leave it to bleed out on the vine. Current score: me, 9 tomatoes; birds, 6.

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Beautiful bread from Heidelberg Bakery.

So, what do you do with the opposite of a bumper crop? With my pitiful harvest, I want to make sure to fully enjoy every tomato that I’ve kept it watered in the heat, rescued from the birds, and slowly ripened on the windowsill. A few weeks ago, about to leave town for a while and not wanting to sacrifice a flawless Cherokee Purple to the compost, I sliced it up and put it on some toast with a bit of whipped cream cheese, a sprinkle of fresh herbs from the garden, and a drizzle of olive oil. It is tomato breakfast heaven, and I’ve been reluctant to use my homegrown tomatoes for anything else since. Avocado toast, we’ll always be friends, but I might not see you again until tomato season is over.

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Note: Choose the most perfectly ripe tomato you can find.


Tomato Toast

for 1 serving; can easily be doubled, tripled, etc

  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 nice slice of good-quality whole-wheat or whole-grain bread
  • 2-3 Tbsp. whipped cream cheese (this is important; the regular kind is too stiff to spread unless you wait an hour for it to come to room temperature.)
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • a couple of leaves of fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • a 2-inch sprig of fresh oregano, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  1. Cut two 1/3″ slices from the tomato and let them sit on a paper towel to soak up excess liquid while you prep everything else.
  2. Toast the bread. Spread evenly with the cream cheese and top with the tomato slices. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with the salt and fresh herbs.
  3. If you are vehemently opposed to refrigerating the leftover tomato—or if you just want to eat more of it because it’s delicious—I highly recommend chopping it up with a small pinch of salt and enjoying it with cottage cheese.

 

 

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A (Peanut Butter and Banana) Smoothie for Non-Smoothie Lovers

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There is something about smoothies that makes me think of the Three-Course Dinner Chewing Gum from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s the notion of having a meal without consuming anything solid. In Roald Dahl’s book, if you chew Willy Wonka’s incredible gum, you feel like you’re eating whole a dinner, complete with roast beef and a baked potato. With the smoothie trend, there’s a similar illusion that you’re consuming a balanced meal, thanks to the handful of greens and scoop of chia seeds that you’re sucking through your straw. At least you don’t turn into a blueberry after you have a smoothie.

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When you have too many over-ripe bananas but don’t want to make banana bread.

I enjoy a smoothie every once in a while, but I have a hard time appreciating their popularity. First, the whole idea of drinking something substantial is not particularly appealing. Besides smoothies, when else do people drink their food? When they go on trendy diets, or sometimes after medical procedures. Neither of those situations is enjoyable. It’s undeniable that the act of chewing and eating makes food more pleasurable. Moreover, it lets us experience texture. Wouldn’t you choose a bowlful of thick, creamy yogurt topped with fresh, ripe berries over a homogenous yogurt/fruit/juice beverage? Or, let’s imagine that you get to choose between a gorgeous, fresh navel orange and….a glass of orange juice. Or between a cool, crisp apple and…a bowl of applesauce. Which do you choose? Almost 100% of the time, I’d choose the whole fruit over its liquified or puréed form. In a smoothie, juicy strawberries, firm pineapples, and buttery mangoes all get sadly blended away into plain old strawberry, pineapple, and mango.

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Second, let’s talk about that kale and spinach that found their way into your smoothie. I don’t know about you, but I’m an adult who likes leafy greens, and it’s been quite a few years since anyone has had to use any gimmicks to get me to eat my vegetables. Unlike my coworker’s son, whose peas and zucchini have to be diced into infinitesimal pieces and elaborately disguised in pasta sauces and meatloaves, I actually choose to eat vegetables because I like them. There’s not really a need to drink green veggies that taste like pineapple and strawberry when you’re getting enough in the salad you’re having for lunch or vegetable frittata you made for breakfast.

Lastly, I’d like to give the muffin (aka “cake for breakfast”) some company by embracing the smoothie for what it really is: a milkshake for breakfast.  Okay, okay—smoothies are not completely devoid of nutrition, and they can help people who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables increase their consumption of produce. But they can also have quite a bit of sugar, and they don’t usually stick with you for a long time. So, when I make a smoothie, it’s not with the goal of adding extra fruits or veggies into my diet, or because I’m convinced that they’re nutritionally superior to other breakfast options. It’s because it’s hot out and I want a milkshake for breakfast. Or at least something cold, sweet, and creamy like a milkshake, but not quite as bad for you as a milkshake.

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The combination that I keep coming back to has banana, peanut butter powder, and dates. (Powdered peanut butter is kind of gross as a reconstituted substitute for the real thing, but it’s great for smoothies, or peanut butter pudding pops.) If I were in advertising, I would also tell you this smoothie has “no added sugar” and “more protein than an egg”! But honestly, the dates are really high in natural sugar, plus there’s extra sugar in almond milk if you go that route, and even though it has some protein, I’ll freely admit that it doesn’t keep me as full as things like oatmeal. However, none of that matters if you’re embracing the smoothie as a milkshake. Instead, you can just enjoy the classic peanut butter-and-banana combination in a cold, creamy, not-overly-sweet breakfast form.

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Note: You can use regular dairy milk or light vanilla almond milk. If you choose regular milk, it will make the smoothie creamier and increase its protein content, but it will be less sweet. If you go for light vanilla almond milk, the smoothie will be sweeter and nuttier but have less protein. I’ve never tried it with plain almond milk or fully-sweetened vanilla almond milk.


serves 1

  • 1 very ripe medium banana
  • 2 dates, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk, regular dairy or light vanilla almond (see note)
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract, optional, only if using dairy milk
  • 5-10 ice cubes
  1. One night to several weeks in advance: Peel the banana and cut or break it into chunks. Place the banana pieces in a plastic bag and freeze until solid.
  2. The night before: Pit the dates, chop them, and place in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Add the peanut butter powder, milk, and vanilla extract (if using). Put the lid on and shake to mix. Refrigerate overnight. (This will help the dates plump up and blend more easily, and it will make the smoothie a little thicker. If you skip this step, you could end up with unblended date chunks (if your dates are especially dry and/or your blended is especially crappy, like mine) or a slightly watery smoothie.)
  3. The morning of: Place the frozen banana chunks in a blender, then add the milk, date, and peanut butter mixture. Blend well. Add ice cubes and blend until you get the desired texture.

 

 

Baklava for Breakfast: Yogurt Bowl with Oranges, Pistachios, Walnuts, and Spiced Honey

I went to H-Mart the other day and geeked out because they were selling bags of blood oranges for $2.99. An entire 2 pounds of absolutely beautifully unblemished (albeit smallish) blood oranges for $2.99! I immediately grabbed a bag and put it in my basket. And then got home and had no idea what to do with them.

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Turns out that blood oranges are the fresh produce equivalent of high heels. I bought them because they were just too gorgeous to pass up, not because they were practical. I didn’t actually have a need for them. I was in love with the idea of them. When I got around to trying to use them, I had to admit that professionals make them look way sexier than I do.

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Despite its name being a blunt and obvious warning (hello, blood orange here), it’s still shockingly gory when you slice into one. The color and the juice make your cutting board look like a crime scene. I mean, red beets have nothing on these guys. And yet, I was still tempted to get past the mess and make something pretty with them. Haven’t you seen all of those Instagram photos where spectacular rainbows are made from translucent slices of winter citrus? (Yes, you have.)

These things are way too messy to eat out of hand, unless you don’t mind looking like you finger-painted with cherry Kool-Aid powder. Perhaps this is why I’ve seen plenty of drink and dessert recipes that call for blood orange juice, but not many that use the fresh fruit, which is what I wanted to do. Preferably over yogurt, because I could supreme the orange and mostly avoid the stained-hands problem. Also because a yogurt bowl with seasonal fruit sounded like a delicious way to get out of my cold-cereal breakfast rut.

I surveyed the kitchen for what else would work well with the blood oranges. In the fridge, we had pink Cara Cara oranges (thank you, Trader Joe’s). In the freezer: an arsenal of nuts (thanks again, TJ’s). In the liquor cabinet: orange flower water (thank you, husband who likes making fancy cocktails). I decided to go for baklava-inspired toppings: toasted pistachios and walnuts, and a honey drizzle with a little bit of orange water, cardamom, and cinnamon. No, there aren’t any phyllo crumbles, but it is a nice change from the typical yogurt bowl.

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Note: I call for roasting more nuts than you need because it’s a pain to roast just 2 tablespoons, and the extras will keep for a long time in a sealed jar. Also, adjust away. I recently discovered that I love mixing half plain yogurt with half vanilla because—for me—it makes the yogurt the perfect amount of barely-sweet for adding toppings. If you like your yogurt less sweet, use all plain; more sweet, use all vanilla. You could also increase or decrease the amount of honey.


serves 1; can easily be doubled, tripled, etc

  • 1/4 c. raw pistachios
  • 1/4 c. raw walnuts
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) plain Greek yogurt (I’m partial to Fage 2%)
  • about 1/3 c. (or 1/2 an individual-serving container) vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 small blood orange
  • 1 small navel orange, I used pink Cara Cara
  • 1/2 Tbsp. honey
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cinnamon
  • the tiniest pinch of ground cardamom
  • a tiny pinch of table salt
  • a few drops of orange flower water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roast the nuts until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool completely, and then chop. Transfer to an airtight container.
  2. Mix the yogurts together in a cereal bowl.
  3. Over another small bowl, supreme both of the oranges: First, trim the top and bottom. Next, cutting from top to bottom, trim all of the pith away. Finally, remove the sections by slicing next to each membrane; the sections should easily pop out. Remove any seeds you come across.
  4. Put the honey in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat it for 5 seconds or so, just long enough to get it thin and barely warm, which makes it easier to mix and pour. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and orange flower water. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
  5. If you want your yogurt to stay thicker, remove the orange segments from their bowl and place them on top of the yogurt. (And then drink the juice that collected at the bottom of the bowl! Yum!) If you like your yogurt thinner, just dump the orange slices and their accumulated juices on top of the yogurt. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chopped nuts, and drizzle with the honey.

 

 

Potato Cakes (and Garlic-Mashed Potatoes)

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Question: If you’re cooking dinner for just you and your significant other, do you really need to make two full pounds of mashed potatoes? Answer: Definitely. Because then you are guaranteed not to eat them all, which means you get to have potato cakes for breakfast on the weekend. Maybe even for two days in a row.

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I rarely cook something with the intention of making a specific dish with the leftovers. Sure, I’ll do a big batch of soup and plan on eating some now and freezing the rest, or I’ll throw together a sandwich with whatever we need to use up, but these potatoes cakes… The teacher in me freely admits that there was some backward design involved. My desired goal was potato cakes. My method of getting there was volunteering to cook dinner and then purposely making way too many mashed potatoes.

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I have been craving potato cakes since Thanksgiving weekend, when I made them for my family on Friday morning and they turned out disappointingly mediocre. They stuck to my parents’ stainless steel pan, and they were kind of goopy. Was the problem the pan? The potatoes? I’m not Alton Brown, so I couldn’t tell you for sure, but my hunch is Yes and Yes. What I can tell you for sure is that the combination of a well-greased griddle pan plus my garlic-mashed potatoes works great for potato cakes.

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The garlic-mashed potatoes I make contain no milk or cream; instead, I use sour cream and cream cheese, plus a little bit of Dijon mustard and a lot of roasted garlic. They are tangy and creamy and on the stiffer/drier side. As in, they would be able to hold their shape if they were served with an ice-cream scoop in a school cafeteria. In my book, that simply means that they’re just right on the night that you make them (want to sculpt a mashed potato mountain with a gravy lake? go for it), and they’re the perfect texture for making potato cakes a few days later.

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Once you’ve made the mashed potatoes, the only thing left to do is add some sautéed onion (I think a little texture is nice) and snipped chives (it’s pretty) to your leftovers, shape your cakes, and avoid turning up the heat to cook them faster because you’re so excited about eating them. They go great with fried or poached eggs and a cup of coffee.

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Note: The pictures are from the first batch of potato cakes that I made, which were thicker than my second batch. The recipe below will give you thinner cakes, which have a better crunchy-outside-to-creamy-inside ratio.


 

Potato Cakes:

makes 4, serving 2

  • 2 1/2 tsp. butter, divided
  • 1/4 small yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 c.)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 c. leftover garlic-mashed potatoes (see recipe below)
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the butter in a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion with the pinch of salt until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat if the onion starts to cook too quickly.
  2. Thoroughly mix the cooked onion and chopped chives with the leftover mashed potatoes.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter with the olive oil in a medium griddle pan or non-stick pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, shape the potato mixture into 4 patties, each about 3″ in diameter.
  4. When the griddle is hot, cook the patties until golden brown, flipping once, about 3-5 minutes per side. They can be a hard to flip, so lift them up a little to make sure the bottoms are brown enough, and when they’re ready, really shove your spatula under there. Serve immediately.

 

Garlic-Mashed Potatoes:

makes enough to serve 2 generously and then have leftovers for 2 batches of potato cakes on Saturday and Sunday

  • 1 whole head garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 3 T. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 T. sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 4ooº. Slice the top 1/2″ or so off of the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with a little olive oil, and seal the foil tightly. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. (Now is a good time to take the cream cheese, sour cream, and butter out of the fridge.) Cool slightly.
  2. Bring the potato chunks to a boil in a pot of salted water (salt it like you would pasta water), then turn the heat down to maintain a low boil and cook until fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well. I usually shake them around in the warm pot again after I drain them, just to make sure they’re nice and dry.
  3. Mash the cooked potato chunks with next 5 ingredients (cream cheese through kosher salt) and the cooled roasted garlic—just squeeze the head of garlic, and the soft roasted cloves will come out of their skins where you chopped the top off; no need to peel individual cloves. Add more salt if desired and freshly ground pepper to taste.

 

Zucchini Eggs

Sometimes the last day of vacation makes me feel like I’m reliving one of the more forgettable parts of adolescence: that unshakable grumpy mood and, accompanying it, an overwhelming sense of sheer crapiness pervading everything. Fortunately (for me, and for those who have to be around me), this sullenness isn’t the all-day affair it used to be, at least partially because there are two things I always look forward to when I come home. The first is catching up on snuggles with this puppy:

And the second is seeing what happened in the garden while we were gone. I am like those proud aunts who exclaim “The last time I saw you, you were only this big!,” only I’m saying it to my squashes and peppers. I mean, we got home at 11:30pm and I was literally out there with the flashlight app on my phone, knowing it was too dark to see much but not being able to resist a quick glance through everything. I had asked a friend to help herself to anything that ripened while we were gone, but when I really checked out the garden in the daylight, would I find any new baby watermelons? Did everything survive? Would there be anything that was ready to pick? The answers, as I discovered the next morning, were: Yes, Mostly, and How did I not see that zucchini before I left? Did it seriously grow a foot and a half in a week?

Summer squashes are better when they’re on the smaller side; they can get bitter and tough when they get too big. Being practically incapable of getting rid of produce simply because it’s past its prime, though, I couldn’t toss this monster directly into the compost bin. He would just have to be grated and cooked into submission.
“Zucchini eggs,” as I uninventively call them, have been a summer brunch staple for 5 or 6 years now. They are one of my favorite weekend breakfasts because they taste awesome. Oh, also, they’re easy and quick, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. And, unlike some brunch fare, they don’t put you in a food coma or make you feel like you don’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

Basically, you sauté some zucchini with a bit of garlic, crack an egg into it, and scramble it all up. The trickiest part is forming it all into a couple of patties, which you then place on a toasted English muffin, top with some cheese, and pop in the broiler for a couple of minutes. It’s better with normal-sized zucchini, but if you have a gargantuan one to use up like I did, it works just fine with those too.



Note: You can double this recipe, and I have successfully tripled it before, but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than doubling it. It just gets too unwieldy in the pan.


Zucchini Eggs

serves 1; can be doubled (see note)

  • 1 English muffin, split
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (about 1/2 medium)
  • kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 oz. sliced mild melty cheese, such as provolone or Colby Jack
  1. Have a small baking sheet ready. You will also need a silicone-coated or wooden spoon and a small flexible spatula (the pancake-turner kind).
  2. Turn the oven on 350º and put your English muffin halves directly on the oven rack to toast. No need to preheat the oven; the muffin will toast slowly as you make the zucchini and egg.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan to just over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally with the spoon, until the zucchini has started to release its water. Stir more frequently until the water has evaporated.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
  5. Check your muffin. Mine is usually done toasting now. Take it out of the oven and place it on the baking sheet. Turn the oven up to broil.
  6. Crack the egg directly on top of the zucchini, break the yolk, and mix it all up really well. Stir frequently with the spoon so that it cooks relatively evenly. Add a little more salt if you want. When the egg starts to dry out enough to hold some shape, separate the mixture into two mounds, mold them into patties that are roughly English muffin-sized, and let them cook a little on one side. Flip the patties once with the spatula, and continue cooking until the eggs are done.
  7. Place the two patties on the toasted English muffin and top with the sliced cheese.
  8. Broil until the cheese is melted, just 1 or 2 minutes.

(Mostly) Egg White (Sort of) Frittata

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I did not make this (sort of) frittata from (mostly) egg whites because I wanted it to be healthier and threw away all the yolks. (That will happen after I enjoy holiday food.) No, it has mostly egg whites because I had a ton of them leftover after making lemon curd, pastry cream, and tart crusts. Why the glut of decadent desserts? Well, I’m not above bribing my students, so every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I give them raffle tickets when they participate, and then we have a drawing for prizes on the last day of class before winter break. This year, tartlets, eclairs, madeleines, and—the most prized possession of all—homework passes were in the mix.

After the frenzy of baking, I made a mental note to collect money from my classes next year and buy treats from a local bakery in order to maintain my sanity. And then I tried to figure out what to make with the 7 egg whites and 1 whole egg (it didn’t want to separate nicely) that I had. Anything sweet was out of the question because I was on a sugar overload after all those bowls and beaters that I had licked, so a frittata seemed like the best way to go. And, as the title says, it’s not really a “frittata” because it’s cooked entirely in the oven and not at all on the stovetop. I supposed you could call it a “crustless quiche,” but “crustless quiche” makes me feel the same way a lot of people do when they hear the word “moist,” so I’d prefer to misname it a frittata. Also, it’s cooked in a cast iron pan, which is not nearly dainty enough for anything that calls itself a quiche.

I make frittatas pretty frequently; I usually use whole eggs and keep it vegetarian. I was afraid that the egg whites would make it bland, though, so I fancied it up a little more than I usually would. First, I found some Trader Joe’s chicken breakfast sausage links in the freezer, so I browned up a couple of them to add. Next, I harvested all the kale in the garden that’s threatening to die every time a frost comes around. It’s Red Russian kale, which supposed to be very cold tolerant, but it looked like it might be on its last leg.

I like my frittatas with a lot—and I do mean a lot—of vegetables. Even though my pile of kale was overflowing the salad spinner, it barely weighed 8 ounces, so I decided to use all of it.

Next, I usually just toss in some raw onion, but I caramelized half of a yellow onion instead. Finally, for the cheese, we had provolone but, oddly enough, it was a really nice provolone that was quite strong, and I found it to be almost overwhelming. So, I used just a bit of it and added some mozzarella for gooeyness and to let the other flavors come through.

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Note: I was double-checking the size of the skillet I used, and it says 5 on it, but it was about 7″ in diameter. And so I learned that the numbers on cast iron skillets correspond to certain standard pan sizes, not the actual diameter in inches of the pan.

You could make this in the same size pan with 4 whole eggs instead of egg whites. Also, my 8 oz. of kale didn’t need to be de-stemmed. If you have to de-stem your greens, you might want to start out with more than 8 oz., or just weigh them after you stem them instead of before. For the sausage,  I used 2 links of  breakfast sausage, and they weighed about 2 1/2 oz. before I cooked them. Lastly, this frittata reheats nicely in the microwave and will keep well for a day, but after much longer than that, the cheese will start to take on an unpleasant texture.


(Mostly) Egg White (Sort of) Frittata

serves 2-3

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. kale or other cooking greens
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 7 egg whites and 1 whole egg
  • 2-3 oz. sausage, cooked and then cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 oz. provolone or mozzarella, or a combination of both
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Add 1 tsp. of the olive oil to a #5 (6.75″) cast iron skillet, and put it in the oven to warm up while you prep everything else.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. When it’s warm, add the minced garlic and stir until just fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add a handful of the greens and a couple of healthy pinches of kosher salt and stir until the greens start to wilt. Keep adding greens by the handful until they’re all in the pot and are completely wilted. Remove from heat and let cool. This will happen faster if you put them in a different bowl instead of leaving them in the pot.
  3. While the greens are cooling, caramelize the onion. First, heat 1 more tsp. of the olive oil with the 1 tsp. of butter in a small pan over over medium-high heat. Slice the onion thinly crosswise. When the pan is hot, add the onion and a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and keep cooking, stirring regularly, until well-browned, about 10-15 minutes more. Remove from heat.
  4. Dice the cheese into 1/4″ to 1/3″ cubes. You could grate it, but I like how it doesn’t disappear into the frittata if you leave it chunkier.
  5. By this time, your greens should be cool. Squeeze them out as much as you can. Seriously, put some muscle into it and get them as dry as you can; otherwise, it while make your eggs gross and watery. Chop up the squeezed-out greens.
  6. Whisk the egg whites and egg in a medium bowl. Add the sausage, greens, onion, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, but keep in mind that you’ve already salted the greens and the onion, and that the sausage has salt too.
  7. Use an oven mitt ! to remove your hot cast-iron skillet from the oven. The oil should be nice and shimmery. Swirl the oil around or use a spatula spread it out until it evenly coats the bottom of the pan, and then add the egg mixture and smooth the top. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the eggs are done.
  8. Remove from the oven and run a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen up the frittata a little. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then use the rubber spatula to slide the whole thing out of the pan. Enjoy immediately, or wait until it cools completely and then refrigerate it for later.

First Post: Yogurt with Sautéed Apples and Spiced Pecans

 

I rediscovered a bag of apples in the basement a few days ago. They were leftover from an apple-picking / winery-visiting afternoon in September. At first, I left the bag on the kitchen table, and I would grab one to have with lunch every day. After I finished the ones that met my apples-eaten-fresh-must-be-crisp standards, the rest of them just kept sitting there, taking up space on the kitchen table. At some point, we had friends over—which is the only time our house ever gets cleaned—and I put the apples in the basement to get them out of the way. And then I forgot about them for a month or so.

These were sad, wrinkly apples. They were super soft, which is how I like my cookies, but not my raw fruit. They weighed next to nothing because they were so dried up.

Wrinkly apples

With the salvageable ones, which were all Golden Delicious, making applesauce didn’t sound that appealing, and I wasn’t sure they would make a very tasty pie. Sautéing them to use as a yogurt topping sounded like a winner though. In general, I think real fruit mixed into plain or vanilla yogurt is way better than flavored yogurt. I’ve done the real-fruit-and-yogurt combo with juicier fruits like raw berries, but never with apples. Also, I have tried some apple-cinnamon flavored yogurts, and I always wish they tasted more like apple and less like cinnamon.

I didn’t want the apples to be overly sweet or buttery, because I was looking for something that would be more like a breakfast and less like a dessert, something I could eat on a weekday and not feel like I was indulging (too much). I also found that cooking the apples for a really long time gave the most concentrated flavor and the best textural contrast because they almost got a little chewy—if I didn’t cook them long enough, it just tasted like applesauce mixed into yogurt: mush and mush.

Lastly, I wanted to add nuts, for protein and for crunch. I tried adding toasted plain pecans, which were good, but chopped-up candied pecans were even better, and also added an extra boost of cinnamon-y deliciousness.


 

This is definitely a sweeter breakfast, and I did like it best with vanilla yogurt, but you could use plain yogurt or plain toasted pecans (or any other nut) to make it less sweet. I don’t call for much cinnamon in the apples because there is also some cinnamon in the spiced nuts, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the apple flavor. If you prefer more cinnamon or if you use plain nuts, you could increase the cinnamon in the apples. You can also scale back the apple recipe for one serving–just use 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar per apple, and cinnamon and lemon juice to taste.

 

Yogurt with Sautéed Apples with Spiced Pecans

Sautéed Apples:

serves 4

  • 4 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 cooking apples (peeling optional; I kept it on)
  • healthy pinch of table salt
  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Set a large, 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter.
  2. Cut each apple into quarters and core them. Slice lengthwise again (so you have 8 slices per apple), and chop crosswise into about 1/8″ wide slices.
  3. Add the apples to the butter, then sprinkle with the brown sugar and the pinch of salt.
  4. Sauté over medium-low for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The heat should be low enough that you really don’t need to pay that much attention to them. 30 minutes is a long time if you’re just staring at the pan. It’s a perfect time to do something like get caught up your Serial podcast, which is what I did.
  5. After 30 minutes, turn the heat up to medium, and sauté for another 15 or 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and quite shrunken. (My 4 apples shrunk down to less than 2 cups.) Stir more occasionally to avoid burning.
  6. When the apples are brown to your liking, remove from heat, and stir in the cinnamon and the lemon juice.
  7. Let cool, then serve over plain or vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of chopped spiced pecans (see recipe below).

 

Spiced Pecans:

yields about 2 cups

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s sugar-and-spice candied nuts, which was adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. Note: You will only use about 1/4 of the egg mixture. The original recipe calls for 1 egg white for 16 oz. of nuts, and I scaled it down to 4 oz. of nuts, partly because even just 4 oz. will make way more than you need for 4 servings of yogurt topping, and partly because they are really snackable and I didn’t want to be tempted to chow down on a pound of spiced nuts. Trying to measure out 1/4 of an egg white seemed like an exercise in futility, so just use what you need and dump the rest. And no, I’m not going to make a post on what to do with 3/4 of a leftover egg white that’s been mixed with water.

  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg
  • 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 4 oz. pecan halves (about 1 cup)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300º, and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Mix together both sugars, the salt, and all the spices until no longer lumpy.
  3. Beat or whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.
  4. Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pecans, until they are just coated.
  5. Add the sugar and spice mixture to the pecans, and toss until evenly coated. It is going to look like more coating than is necessary, but it works.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.