All Seasons

The Great Scrambled Egg Debate

I was pretty little the first time I made scrambled eggs. I can remember standing on a chair in the kitchen with my mom standing behind me. She guided my hand while I held the spatula, and together we stirred the eggs in the pan. To my small hands, the pan seemed so hot. It is the first thing I remember making in the kitchen and, to this day, it is one of my favorite things to cook. It is the perfect weeknight meal, especially after being at the gym or out on a run.

Most of my life, I’ve cooked scrambled eggs the same way. It is the way my mother taught me, and the way I thought was best. It is a simple method that begins with melting butter in the pan, adding a little milk to the eggs while scrambling them in a bowl, and then cooking them over medium heat until just barely cooked through (I hate dry eggs). Sometimes I would add chives or cheese. Over the years, I stopped adding milk, mostly because I seldom have it on hand. Simple and straightforward.

But then I met my fiance, and he taught me a different method of cooking eggs, one inspired by Julia Child and demonstrated in the video below my Gordon Ramsey. It is a slow method, that involves taking the eggs on and off the heat and adding the cream or milk after the eggs are done cooking.

The eggs come out creamy, just the way I like them. It takes a long time, though, which can be a problem after a long run, and the eggs cook down a lot.

This lead me to start researching ways to cook eggs, and I found this other very different method by Alton Brown. Unlike Julia Child and Gordon Ramsey, Alton Brown cooks his eggs in 30 seconds on high heat and still manages to make them come out creamy.

So which method is better?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start experimenting with scrambled eggs and post my results here. In the meantime, I’ll ask my readers the ultimate egg question: What’s your favorite way to cook scrambled eggs?

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Falafel

I love falafel but until now, I’ve never been able to make it. This recipe is perfect.

I got the recipe from The Shiksa in the Kitchen. I hope you don’t mind that I repost it here!

Here is the recipe, but I recommend you follow the above link because she gives a lot of good tips and easy to follow instructions:

  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (I prefer roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • Vegetable oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, and peanut oil work well)

I didn’t use as much oil as she did, so as you’ll see in the photos below, my falafel are not as evenly fried. I also used safflower oil, because that’s what I had on hand.

My tips:

  • You absolutely must use dried chickpeas. Soak them overnight or during the day while you’re at work. Canned won’t give the right texture.
  • Also, don’t skip the fresh parsley. Just don’t do it.
  • I used my cast iron skillet to fry them, which worked perfectly.

And my photos:

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Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

I can’t stop eating these.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Use cooked or canned chickpeas. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Toss with olive oil and spread the chickpeas onto a cookie sheet.

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Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until brown and crunchy. (Be careful. They go from crunchy to burnt very quickly!)

These are the perfect protein snack or salad topper. And they are so addictive!

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Chicken Pastina Soup

Pastina soup has a long history with my family. It’s baby food, it’s sick day food, it’s I-need-extra-comfort-today-food. My great-grandmother used it, my mom uses it and now I use it. And the absolute key, must-have ingredient for this soup is homemade chicken broth. It is just not the same with the boxed stuff.

There are an endless number of vegetables you can use for this soup, but I like it simple. The broth is so rich and flavorful that I don’t like to overwhelm it with too many ingredients. So below is the most basic recipe I use for this soup.

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Begin by heating olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add:

1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
a touch of salt

Cook until the carrots and onions are soft and tender (but not brown), at least ten minutes. If your broth is already plenty salty then be very careful how much salt you put on the onion and carrots. Just enough to bring out the flavor. Next add:

6-8 cups of homemade chicken broth

I say 6-8 cups because it really depends how much soup you want to make and how much broth you want. Sometimes when I’m sick, I want more broth than veggies/pasta or sometimes I want a more even broth to pasta/veggie ratio. Also keep in mind that the broth will cook down a little bit while the pastina boils. And speaking of pastina, next add:

1/4-1/2 cup of pastina (aka Acini di Pepe)

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Half a cup doesn’t look like much, but it always cooks up more than I expect it to. Once again, use less pastina if you want mostly broth.

Turn up the heat and bring the pastina to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let the pastina cook until tender. Then add:

cooked chicken, pulled off the bone and torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup of frozen peas

I use the same chicken that I used to make the broth, so it’s usually dark meat. I vary the amount of chicken I use every time, so add however much you want. (You may have noticed by now that the measurements for this soup really don’t matter. That’s the beauty of this soup. Maybe one day you’re in the mood for more peas than chicken. Or maybe lots of pastina. Switch it up and figure out which proportions are right for your mood.)

Cook for a few more minutes until the chicken and peas are heated through. Taste for seasoning. Serve the soup with crackers, crusty bread, or even a sprinkle of Parmesan or Romano cheese on top. Enjoy!

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Homemade Chicken Broth

I managed to make it from last autumn all the way to late August without a single sign of sickness and then boom! Days after realizing how much unused sick time I had at work, I came down with one nasty little cold. Though I count myself lucky that I made it almost an entire year without any sort of ailments, I still couldn’t help but be annoyed by the sudden appearance of a minor virus. But as luck would have it, I had just made a large pot of chicken broth when this cold appeared, and thank goodness, because no matter how good western medicine is, there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup.

And while I was enjoying my soup, it came to me that I’m constantly saying on this blog to use homemade broth, yet I have yet to post a single recipe on how to make any sort of broth. So here’s my first: homemade chicken broth. It really is a miracle concoction and so simple to put together. There are so many ways to make it, so I will show many variations as I go.

First, a quick word on the difference between broth and stock. It is my understanding that stock is primarily made with bones, vegetables, and aromatics. It is generally used as a base for a recipe. Broth, on the other hand, is made with meat, as well as bones. It makes a richer product and can stand alone. For this reason, I prefer using meat, as well as bones.

You must start with the right kind of chicken. I only use local chicken, when possible, to make broth. Sometimes I use a whole chicken, if I want a bunch of leftover chicken to add to soups, stews, salads, etc. Or, if I don’t want a lot of chicken leftover, I just use chicken thighs. Chicken wings are another good choice or anything with dark meat. That’s where the rich flavor comes from. Just make sure to select cuts that still have the bones.

Along with the chicken, I also always add the following ingredients:

  • 2-4 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs (plus leaves)
  • 1 whole onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • kosher salt (this is not a time to skimp on salt!) and pepper (either whole peppercorns or freshly ground)
  • various fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves (I use whatever I have on hand.)

That will give you a basic broth. You can also add any of the following. Each item will change the flavor.

  • mushrooms (dried or fresh)
  • leeks

I love adding leeks to broth but seldom have them on hand.

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Now you simply have to fill the pot with water. I place all the ingredients in first and then add the water. I fill it until it almost reaches the top, but leave room for the water to boil without boiling over. Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it continues to simmer. You don’t want it to be at a rapid boil, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. Just a simmer is perfect. I partially cover the pot, so that steam can still escape. (If using a slow cooker, completely cover the pot.) It it starts to cook down too much, you can always add more water. And the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. How do you know when it’s done? If you can snap the chicken bones in half, it’s done. I cook mine until the vegetables are mush and the chicken is quite literally falling off the bone.

But of course, usually I’m in and out of my apartment all day, so unless I’m enjoying a lazy day at home, I don’t want to leave a pot on the stove all day. That’s where a slow cooker comes in handy. My slow cooker is small, so it doesn’t make as much broth as my large stock pot, but there’s really nothing better than coming home from work to the smell of chicken broth that’s been simmering all day.

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When the broth is done, I pour it through a strainer to remove all of the chicken pieces and vegetables. Often I use the broth as a base to soup, add it to sauces and stews or drink it straight out of a mug. My favorite way to enjoy chicken broth is by making my great-grandmother’s pastina soup, which will be my next post.

Made more broth than you can use in one recipe? It’ll last in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze it. Just be sure to leave extra space in the jar/bowl for it to expand in the freezer. And try freezing it in different size containers (even ice cube trays), that way if you ever need just a small amount of broth for a recipe, you don’t have to defrost an entire jar.

Be creative. Don’t think of this as a bread recipe, in which forgetting a single ingredient will ruin the entire thing. Try different vegetables, cuts of meat, and aromatics until you get the broth you want. Or, if you’re like me, just use what you have on hand, and you’ll get a slightly different broth every time.

 

 

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Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Mascarpone

This pasta looks a lot more sinful than it is. It’s creamy without a heavy cream sauce and it’s comforting without leaving you feeling like you overindulged. And even better: it’s simple.

Start by setting a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. You’ll want to start cooking the pasta while the mushrooms cook. Try to time it so that the pasta is ready about the same time as the mushrooms so that you can add the pasta directly to the pan of mushrooms. It’s better if the mushrooms are ready before the pasta. Also, be sure to cook the pasta just to al dente. It will continue cooking when you add it to the mushrooms.

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The recipe below is for 1/2 pound of fettuccine. Double everything if you’re doing the entire pound.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté:

1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped.

(You can certainly do more mushrooms, if you want, or you can switch up the mushrooms. I used shiitake, because I happened to have those on hand from the farmers’ market.) 

Let the mushrooms cook until they are nicely browned and they have released all of their moisture. Remember: don’t salt the mushrooms until they have started to brown. If you salt too soon, the salt with pull the liquid out of the mushrooms too quickly. Always let them brown first.

Once they are nice and brown, add:

Salt and pepper
A few splashes of white wine

I say a few splashes, because you really need just enough to get all of those brown bits off the bottom of the pan and give the mushrooms some more flavor. Let them cook until most of the wine has been absorbed. Turn the heat down to medium low and then add:

about 3 generous spoon fulls of mascarpone cheese

Reduce or add mascarpone to achieve the level of creaminess you want. You may want to add a ladle of pasta water to help make the mascarpone thinner.

Once the mascarpone had melted down, add the pasta to the saute pan and let if all cook together for a minute. Then poor it into a large pasta bowl and, using tongs, toss it all together. If you wish, add:

1/4 cup of parmesan or Romano cheese.

Give it another toss and then top with:

Fresh basil and parsley, chopped. 

And that’s it. The mushrooms and wine give the sauce such a wonderful flavor that you won’t miss that heavy cream sauce.

 

 

 

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