Bacon and Egg Salad.

The French really know how to dress up a salad. I ate a dish just like this in Paris a few years ago, and I’m thrilled with how my recreation turned out! Thanks to Laura Calder for the recipe, which is really just an extravagant excuse to eat bacon and eggs for lunch. All the fatty, breakfast-y glory of the bacon and eggs, served atop a salad that helps you rationalize away all your nutritional doubts. One suggestion: to avoid wilting leaves and a hardening egg, this salad should be eaten immediately after it’s prepared. I’m betting you won’t have a problem with that.

INGREDIENTS

3 strips bacon
1 egg
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, plush a splash
olive oil
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Cook bacon to your liking and remove from pan.

Crumble into pieces and set aside.

On low heat, add 2 tbsp vinegar to bacon fat and boil to reduce to about a tbsp or two.

Then add enough olive oil to the pan to make a dressing for the arugula and stir. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, poach the egg: heat a pot of water with a splash of vinegar until it’s about to boil. Crack an egg into a ramekin. Stir the water gently so that it flows in a circle and gently pour in the egg. Poach until the white is cooked but the yolk is still runny. Remove from water with a slotted spoon.

Toss arugula in the pan of warm dressing.

Then, assemble! Arugula first, then bacon, then egg. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley. Make sure to break the yolk over the arugula so that it becomes a sort of dressing of its own. Mmmm.

Clementine Cake.

Rosy lips above the water
Blowing bubbles mighty fine
But, alas, I was no swimmer,
So I lost my Clementine.

Maybe Clementine had a slice of this dense, nutty-sweet almond cake in her pocket the day she “fell into the foaming brine,” because she sank straight to the bottom, poor thing. This cake is named after the fruit, not the miner’s daughter, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less melodious. And as it bakes, the whole house smells wonderfully of toasty almonds and fresh citrus.

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cups raw almonds
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 cup sugar
3 clementines
splash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a food processor, blitz almonds to about the consistency of wet sand. A few small chunks are okay.

Combine sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl and beat until they form a pale cream.

Add vanilla, the zest of the 3 clementines, and the juice of one of them (save the other two), and stir until combined.

Then stir in the ground almonds.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Take a spoonful of the whites and stir it into the yolk mixture to even out the consistencies a bit.

Then, gently fold in the whites until combined.

Pour into greased spring-form pan and bake for 40 minutes, until cake has set and is golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before icing.

In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar and juice of the remaining two clementines, adding more powdered sugar as needed to reach desired consistency. Spoon or drizzle icing over the slightly cooled cake and allow it to soak in. Just before serving, dust cake with powdered sugar. Enjoy a big slice, but wait an hour before going swimming, lest you end up like poor Clementine.

Drunken Squirrel’s Cake.

Yes, Drunken Squirrel’s Cake. Named for two of its distinguishing ingredients, walnuts and Kahlua, this flourless cake is gooey and delicious with a hot cup of tea on a chilly afternoon. Inspired by a cake from Laura Calder, it bakes up brown and beautiful and has a super-tender soft texture thanks to its nutty flourless batter. If you can, use a more petite cake pan, as this little guy is meant to be smaller and taller rather than wide and flat. The air that we’ll beat into the eggs makes everything puff up while baking and then fall down while cooling, which makes for a cake that’s both dense and airy at the same time. Squirrels and people everywhere, rejoice!

IMG_0615

INGREDIENTS

2/3 cup walnuts
about 2 tbsp plain breadcrumbs (I’ve used regular bread crumbs, panko, and a crumbled up piece of toast, and they all work great)
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp grated semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp warm honey
1/4 cup melted butter (melted just to easy pouring consistency, but not so melted that it becomes oily and separates)
1 tbsp Kahlua
powdered sugar for serving

Just the Recipe link: Drunken Squirrel’s Cake

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat a pan over medium and add the walnuts. Toast them until they’re nutty and fragrant, careful not to burn them. Then blitz the walnuts and breadcrumbs in a food processor until powdery.

Separate eggs into two bowls. Don’t use a plastic bowl for the yolks, as you’ll need to whisk them over heat. Add the sugar to the yolks and place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water in the pan. Whisk over heat until the yolk mixture has tripled in size and is “thick, pale, and ribbony.” Remove from heat.

IMG_0599

Add nut mixture, chocolate, honey, butter, and Kahlua to yolks. Gently fold together.

Now whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This takes some elbow grease, but don’t lose heart–you’ll get there.

Add a spoonful of whites to the yolk mixture and gently combine, to loosen the yolk batter. Then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into a well-greased cake pan.

IMG_0602

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan; because we beat so much air into the eggs, the cake will fall a bit, so don’t worry if you see it starting to sink.

Remove the cooled cake from the pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with another walnut or two. Lovely!

IMG_0610

Asparagus with Hard-boiled Egg Dressing.

Adapted from seven spoons, this alternative salad is unique, fresh, and bright. It’s perfect for dressing up a simple main dish, like a roasted chicken breast or mushroom ravioli. Welcome the spring with a vibrant and healthy asparagus dish, and watch out, or you might just eat the whole platter yourself.

IMG_1874

INGREDIENTS

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced, whites and yolks separated
2 bunches asparagus, bases snapped off
1/8 tsp salt, plus more to taste
2 green onions, white parts finely diced, green parts sliced (keep them separate)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp brown mustard
olive oil
red pepper flakes
parsley, chopped
pepper

IMG_1865

DIRECTIONS

In a medium-sized bowl (you’ll be mixing your dressing in here), stir together 1/8 tsp salt, the white parts of the green onion, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

IMG_1862

Fill a shallow pan with a bit less than an inch of water. Bring to a boil and add the asparagus. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, drain, and place asparagus in an ice bath, so that they stay crisp and bright.

Combine mustard, half of the diced egg yolk, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Mix until smooth. While stirring, slowly add more olive oil until consistency is slightly runny. Stir in scallion mixture and egg whites, and add red pepper flakes, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Mix well.

IMG_1869

Place asparagus–either cold or hot, both are good!–on a platter and top with dressing. Garnish with remaining egg yolk and green parts of green onion. Happy St. Paddy’s Day!!

Czech Goulash (Old recipe).

For the updated Czech Goulash recipe, click here.

This is my original recipe for goulash. I’ve since updated it, and I really like the new version much better – it’s more potently paprika-ed and also more authentic, in that it’s less like a chunky vegetable stew and more like the slow-cooked, warming, fortifying dish I ate in Prague. I recommend checking out the updated recipe instead, but in case this one tickles your fancy a little more, I didn’t want to delete it!

INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
2 lb stew beef, cubed
3 cloves garlic
4-6 celery stalks, chopped
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp caraway seed
3-5 tbsp flour, depending on desired thickness (I use all-purpose, but potato flour works just as well, for those with gluten allergies)
8 oz canned crushed tomato
3-5 cups cold water or stock
salt, pepper to taste
marjoram or parsley, sour cream for garnish
2 medium potatoes, boiled and cubed (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium in Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Add onions and cook until transparent. Then add the beef and cook until browned.

Add garlic, paprika, caraway seed, salt, pepper, and flour, if you’re using it. Stir and cook about 2 minutes, careful not to let the seasonings burn. Then toss in the carrots and celery and cook another two or three minutes, until the seasonings coat the veggies and they start to soften.

Add tomatoes and some of the cold water or stock, adding more as needed throughout the process (goulash can be stew-ier or soup-ier, however you like it).

Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. I go for 3 hours whenever I can, and it’s worth it!

Serve with sour cream and parsley or marjoram for garnish. If you’re using potatoes (which we keep separate to avoid making the soup too starchy) add them to your bowl just before serving.

The Egg.

We can all make toast and pb&j. The first real dish I learned to cook was scrambled eggs. I was about seven years old and I had seen it done a thousand times: crack the eggs into a bowl, add a splash of milk, scramble. Pour into a hot pan, add all the cheese your heart desires, stir. It’s not hard, but success in scrambled eggs gives a young cook confidence. If she can cook eggs, maybe she can  bake a loaf of bread, and if the bread turns out, maybe she’ll roast a chicken.

I love expanding my cooking horizons, and I try a new recipe about once a week. Foreign cuisines, unknown ingredients, new techniques–I’m here to try it all, and make some delicious food along the way.

So to answer the age old question, as only a cook could: the egg came first.