Bacon, Bean, and Egg Skillet.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m eating a little bit differently now than I have in the past. One of the big changes I’ve made is cutting way down on grains and sugars, and completely eliminating them at breakfast time. It’s been kind of hard, given that a lot of the most delicious breakfasts in the world involve both of these things. So I’ve had to get a little bit creative, especially when I’m in the mood for something more dramatic than simple eggs or yogurt. That’s what this is. I don’t really have a story for this bacon, bean, and egg skillet, other than that it was delicious. I had been craving a recipe from Rachel Khoo that is similar but involves béchamel sauce and white bread, so I altered it a bit and created this dish. Yum. And if you’re making this, please see my note about bacon – it definitely makes an improvement on my original recipe.

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INGREDIENTS

3 slices of turkey bacon or regular bacon* (or however many it takes to line your skillet or baking dish)
1/4 cup refried beans (or, again, however much it takes to spread in the dish)
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded cheese, for sprinkling

*A note about bacon: Cook your bacon halfway before you use it in the recipe. I didn’t pre-cook mine, and when the whole thing was done, the bacon was just barely cooked. Still delicious, but it would have been even better if I had given it a few minutes on the stove or in the microwave. It just won’t get the cooking love it needs when it’s covered up by the beans and eggs. Do yourself a favor and pre-cook it.*

Just the Recipe link: Bacon, Bean, and Egg Skillet

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cook your bacon about 50% of the way. Then lay your pre-cooked bacon in the bottom of the pan, forming a base for the beans.

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Watch out for little bacon-lovers, who may be drawn to you at this point.

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Spread the beans in a smooth layer all over the bacon, a little higher toward the sides of the pan and a little shallower in the center, where the eggs will go.

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Crack the eggs into the center of the dish.

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Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cheese.

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Bake until the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny. Watch them carefully so as not to overcook. Be sure to cut right into those yolks and let them run all over. Oh yeah.

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And watch out, in case the little bacon-lover returns to beg.

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Eggs in Purgatory Soup.

This is one of those magical dinners that happen sometimes. You aren’t sure what to make, so you just start cooking, and about halfway through the meal prep, it comes to you. The night I made this, I had set out to make a vegetable-packed egg drop soup. But when I saw that the fresh veg we had at hand weren’t particularly thrilling, I raided the pantry. There, I found some inspiring cans of things, tomatoes among them, and altered our course to tomato soup, a la this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. But lo, as I was opening the can of tomatoes, I had a culinary-spiritual-visitation from Nigella Lawson, who in her intervening wisdom reminded me of her eggs in purgatory recipe that I’ve been wanting to try. And so, long story long, this spiced Eggs in Purgatory Soup was born, and it was a delicious surprise. I had two big helpings and as I write this, I am stuffed. No regrets. Make this soon, folks.

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INGREDIENTS

olive oil
butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 can (28 oz) canned tomato (crushed, diced, whatever – if you use whole, give them a chop first)
14 oz water
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
4 eggs
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Just the Recipe link: Eggs in Purgatory Soup

DIRECTIONS

In a soup pot (or if you have them, individual skillets), heat olive oil and butter over medium and add onion with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and just starting to brown.

Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder, and red pepper flake. Stir in and cook a minute or two, until fragrant.

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Pour in the entire can of tomatoes and juice. Then fill the can up halfway with water and swirl to make sure you get all the juices out of the can, and pour in. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 15 minutes.

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When the tomatoes have simmered, stir in the Greek yogurt and turn the heat down nearly as low as it can go – you want to see just the tiniest bubbles floating to the surface.

Gently crack in the eggs, nestling them into the soup so that no eggs are touching. Don’t stir or agitate the soup as the eggs poach for a few minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.

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Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs to their bowls, and ladle the soup over the eggs.

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Sprinkle with Parmesan and, if you have it, fresh parsley (I was out, boo). Enjoy!

And here is my second bowl. I’m a big fan of the Parmesan.

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Egg in the Pepper.

Red Pepper Egg in the Hole? Egg in the Red Pepper Hole? Actually it’s more like Egg in and Around the Hole. I wasn’t sure what to call these. Basically it’s your standard egg in the hole, only instead of being in a hole, they’re in slices of red pepper. I love the shape of red pepper slices, and I was just struck with the idea to do this while I was making breakfast over the weekend. Eggs in the Pepper are really good for breakfast, and here’s why: They’re easy. They don’t have a lot of ingredients. They’re fast. And they feel fancy. Happy eating.

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INGREDIENTS

1 red pepper
olive oil
2 slices of ham (or use some baby spinach instead, if you like)
6 eggs
cheese, for sprinkling (I used cheddar and mozzarella)
salt and pepper to taste

Just the Recipe link: Egg in the Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Lay the red pepper down horizontally and cut into 6 slices, cleaning out all the seeds and stuff inside.

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Heat oil in a pan and fry the peppers a few minutes on eat side, until tender and lightly browned. Work in two batches until they’re all cooked.

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Then fry up the ham (or spinach instead, if you like). Just give it a minute or two on each side, and remove it to a plate. This will be the base for the peppers and eggs.

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Now put 3 of the cooked pepper slices back into the pan with some more oil. Crack 3 of the eggs into the middle of the peppers – no worries if some of the egg spills out the sides; it probably won’t be perfect. Cover the pan with a lid.

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When the eggs are almost done, sprinkle some cheese on top and cover again to melt.

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Remove from heat and plate on top of ham or spinach. Repeat with the last 3 red pepper slices and eggs. We served these with hash browns – such a great breakfast!

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Spinach and Tomato Tart with Bleu Cheese.

Most of the time, I like recipes that are quick and easy, require minimum dish-washing, and have an ingredient list that’s more like a haiku than a novel. Most of the time. But every once in a while, I am overcome with a sort of culinary patience and concentration that allows me to make a recipe like this one. There are a few separate characters in this play: the tart shell, buttery and crumbly-good; the creamy filling, eggy and spicy; and the veggies themselves, that make this whole thing totally worth it. So if you’ve got a good 2 hours or so and you really want to spoil yourself with something rich and beautiful, this is your guy. Of course, you can always use a store-bought tart crust, which would cut the prep time down, well, a lot. Either way, this dish combines the best of the tart and quiche worlds into one mega-brunch food.

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for tart shell:
12 tbsp cold butter, cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
water, if needed

for filling:
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1/3 cup ham, cut into lardons, or strips
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp dried parlsey
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
3 small tomatoes, de-seeded and sliced
crumbled bleu cheese, to taste, for sprinkling (feta or goat cheese would be delicious here, too)

Just the Recipe Link: Spinach and Tomato Tart with Bleu Cheese

DIRECTIONS

Get the crust going first. In a food processor, blitz together the butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper until the dough is the consistency of wet sand. You’re looking for the dough to just hold together, so check to see if it does. If it’s a bit too dry, add a splash or two of water at a time and pulse the food processor until the dough reaches the right consistency.

Turn the dough out on to a sheet of wax paper. Form it into a flat disc, wrap in the wax paper, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

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While the dough chills, get the fillings going. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, careful not to let it burn.

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Add spinach. It will look like a ton of spinach, but it will cook down a lot.

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Cook the spinach, stirring, until nearly wilted. Turn off the heat and continue to stir until completely wilted.

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Put spinach in a bowl lined with paper towels or a washcloth (it will stain green, so use one you don’t care about).

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When it’s cool enough to touch, squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the spinach. I usually start with my hands and then realize that I can get more liquid out if I squeeze it between two dishes. Once you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten enough water out, set aside.

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Heat the same pan over medium high and cook the ham, just to give it a bit of color on each side. Set aside.

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Finally, cook the onions. They’re best cooked last because they can soak up all that flavor goodness leftover in the pan after the ham! Add a bit of olive oil and cook until softened. Set aside.

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When 30 minutes have passed, take the tart dough out of the fridge. Let it sit 5 minutes before you roll it out on a floured surface. Then roll it to the general shape of the pie dish you’re using (I used a spring-form cake pan because I left my tart shell at my apartment – whoops).

Drape the dough over the pan and use your fingers to press it into shape. This step always take me a while because I’m not very good at getting the dough to stay in one piece while I’m moving it! Notice how I have no photos of this; I get distracted. A good trick is to roll the dough onto your rolling pin and move it that way, but even this doesn’t make my life much easier. Look at it this way – it’s food. Who cares if your tart shell is a little uneven?

After you’ve gotten the tart shell into the pan, put it back in the fridge for 15 more minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

When the shell is chilled, put a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and fill the shell with dried beans, or something else heavy. When I don’t have my baking beans on hand, I use another smaller pie pan.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until just starting to turn golden. Remove from oven and remove the beans and parchment paper.

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While the shell bakes, mix up the liquid part of the filling. Whisk together the yolks, egg, yogurt, and stock. Add parsley, paprika, mustard powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the onions and ham, and set aside.

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Pour the filling into the baked shell. Scatter the spinach evenly over the top.

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Lay the tomato slices on top in a circular fan pattern, and top with bleu cheese. Be careful not to use too much cheese; the other flavors are delicate, and too much bleu could easily overwhelm the tart. See this picture? I used just a bit too much, so learn from my mistake!

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Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, season with a bit more salt and pepper if you like, and pop it back in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the filling has set. Serve immediately; also good at room temperature.

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Souffled Omelet with Sweet Peppers and Asparagus.

Introducing my new favorite breakfast item: the souffled omelet. So light it melts in your mouth, with a surprising textural contrast of the almost crispy bottom and the airy inner egginess. It’s a perfect example of how a simple change in technique can transform a dish. Rather than beating the eggs with a whisk (or even a fork) as you would for a standard omelet, this one is made by separating the yolks and the whites and fluffing them up pretty much as far as they can go—much like in a souffle. It’s a fun way to prep eggs and it makes them go so much further than they would in a regular omelet; just look at the photo, that big fluffy thing is a two egg omelet! And of course, you can stuff it with whatever fillings you like. I had some leftover grilled asparagus and mini sweet peppers, so I chopped them up and sprinkled them over along with the cheese. Thanks to Laura Calder for the recipe, who (as usual) inspired me to try something new, and (as usual) it turned out pretty groovy! Also pretty groovy: the truffle salt I used to finish the dish. Optional, but recommended.

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DIRECTIONS

2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Parmesan)
grilled veggies, like asparagus and sweet peppers, chopped
1 pat butter
truffle salt (optional)

Just the Recipe link: Souffled Omelet with Sweet Peppers and Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

Eggs first. Put the yolks in a glass or metal bowl (they’re going over a double boiler). Season them with salt and pepper.

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Bring a small pot of water to a low boil in the stove, and set the yolk bowl over it (but don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water, or they’ll cook too fast.) Using a whisk, beat the yolks over the double boiler until they’re ribbony, pale yellow, and just about tripled in size. Scrape into the center of the bowl and set yolks aside.

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Next, use your whisk to beat the whites until they’re fluffy and stiff.

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Pour the whites into the bowl with the yolks. Using a spatula, gently fold them together.

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Heat a pan over medium high and melt the butter. Pour the fluffy eggs into the pan and cover with a lid.

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When the bottom is starting to turn golden brown and the foaminess on top is starting to firm up a bit, spread your veggies and cheese over the whole surface of the omelet.

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When the bottom is browned to your liking, gently loosen the sides of the omelet from the bottom of the pan and carefully slide it out. As you do so, fold one half of the omelet over the other. Sprinkle with pepper and truffle salt, if you’ve got it, or else regular salt. Then just float away on this cloud of a breakfast (or lunch, or dinner….).

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Back from Scotland! and a Strawberry Custard Tart Recipe.

Hello again! I am safely returned from an amazing adventure in Scotland. Good whisky, otherworldly fish and chips, fun people, and gorgeous hills and sky everywhere you look—not to mention, my calves still burn with the effort (and satisfaction) of summiting Ben Nevis, the British Isles’ tallest mountain. Here are a few highlights of the trip (culinary and otherwise)…

First, some gorgeous sightseeing with my family, who hosted me for a night of authentic Scottish food and great fun!

Then in Edinburgh, my fabulous traveler friend Caroline and I met up. We had a very tasty breakfast and great cup of tea at an adorable cafe called Urban Angel (note the butter portion):

   

My first souvenir purchase was, of course, Nigella Lawson’s new book Nigellissima (which I love with every centilitre of blood in my body, despite the book’s use of the metric system).

We tried haggis

…and devoured it!

And we couldn’t say no to my favorite Irish late-night classic, garlic cheese chips:

One of my favorite parts of the trip was our visit to the battlefield at Culloden Moor near Inverness. Not only was it very moving and historically cool, but you could pretty much turn your camera in any random direction and still end up with a gorgeous photo:

Then in Fort William, we befriended an Aussie and a Kiwi, and together we climbed Ben Nevis in a rather impressive 6 hours flat! I’m pretty proud of us. Fans of The Simpsons will appreciate the similarities between Ben Nevis and Springfield’s Murderhorn (“yes, that’s it….just to the right of the one you’re looking at.”) Who needs PowerSauce Bars?

And another favorite moment was our glorious high tea at Stewart Victorian Tearooms in Glasgow. Mmmmm. Clotted cream.

It was a fantastic trip.

But my hands were itchin’ for the kitchen by the time I got home, and this was the first treat I prepared: my own birthday custard fruit tart. This tart is inspired by a custard from Laura Calder and a shell from Ina Garten, and it’s every bit as good as you’d expect a dessert from those two to be. It was super easy even though I did make the shell myself, but if you really want to streamline the whole process, you can buy a premade pie shell and simply cook the custard and top with berries. Creamy and light and a great alternative to birthday cake!

INGREDIENTS

for tart shell:
12 tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
water, if needed

for filling:
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
splash of vanilla
1 scant cup Greek yogurt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups strawberries, sliced
lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

First, prepare the tart shell. In a food processor, pulse butter and sugar until just combined. Add the vanilla and pulse. Then combine the flour and salt in a bowl and add in two batches, pulsing until just combined. The dough should just hold together when pressed, so if it doesn’t at this point (mine didn’t), add a few drops of water and pulse until it reaches the right consistency. Turn the dough out onto wax paper and press into a disc. Wrap in paper and let it rest in the refrigerator at least half an hour.

Take the cold dough and carefully roll it out to to the size of your greased tart tin or pie dish. Press the dough into the dish and up the sides. Put it back into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Take the tart shell out of the fridge and carefully lay a sheet of parchment paper over the dough. Fill the parchment-lined shell with dried beans, or fit another smaller pan into the shell. This will help it keep its shape while it bakes.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the beans or pan and use a spatula to touch up any thin or slipping parts of the shell base or sides. Prick a few times with a fork and place it back in the oven to cook another 13-17 minutes until golden brown.

Remove shell from heat and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the custard. Whisk together eggs and sugar. Then add vanilla and yogurt and stir until smooth.

Pour the custard into the shell through a sieve so that it’s totally smooth. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg.

Bake 18-24 minutes, until set. Let cool completely.

When the tart is completely cooled, arrange the strawberry slices on top of the custard. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy! Happy birthday to me.