Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baked Eggs with Tomatoes

So in my current quest for fast and easy dinners, I have gotten on an egg kick. Partly because I bought a lot of eggs from the local farmer and they are wonderful with dark yellow yolks that stand up high because they are so fresh. But when I make eggs for dinner, which is actually quite often, I need to add things to dress them up a bit. In looking through my fridge, I came across 6 whole formerly canned tomatoes - the other half I used for pasta two nights before and I decided to bake my eggs in a tomato nest and added the rest of the cherry tomatoes I had on hand. I made a lovely tomato sauce with garlic and onions and a little sugar. I chopped up some leftover ham and shredded up some fresh basil and parsley and added them in and sprinkled the whole thing with some Parmesan Cheese for that wonderful Umami flavor on top. Of course, you could use other vegetables too. After cooking the sauce in a small ovenproof skillet - or you can put the sauce in individual ramekins - you break whole eggs over the sauce and bake for about 10 -15 minutes. That's it! Served with buttered toast or in my case - slices of toasted baguette, it is a wonderful savory little meal. I made enough for two and this dish can easily be doubled and it would be great if you have to serve a crowd for breakfast. It is even better with fresh tomatoes and I am waiting not very patiently for tomato season.

Baked Eggs with Tomatoes

3 - 4 eggs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup minced ham
1 14 oz can plum tomatoes (or in my case 1/2 can plus 8 cherry tomatoes cut up) or you could use about 6 - 8 medium fresh tomatoes cut up
1/2 teaspoon sugar (if using canned tomatoes)
salt and pepper to taste
6 basil leaves sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
2 Tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees

In a small ovenproof skillet, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is soft and add in ham, cooking until just heated through. Add tomatoes and break up with the spatula. Add sugar and cook until sauce is bubbling. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and add basil.

Push sauce aside with a spoon in 3 to 4 places in the pan to put in the egg or put 1/4 of the sauce in 4 buttered ramekins. Break eggs over sauce gently and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and parsley.

Put pan or ramekins in the oven. Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes or until whites are just set. Serve with buttered toast.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element and so does ham so that element is covered. Tomatoes add the Fire Element. The Parmesan Cheese, garlic, onion, basil and parsley bring in the Metal Element. The toast being made of wheat contributes the Wood Element. The only thing missing is the Earth Element and that can be added by serving this dish with some fried potatoes or some fruit for dessert. Then you will have a balance Five Element meal.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tortilla Egg Scramble

In my current quest for comfort food due to my writing schedule (almost done), I have been making things that are super easy and fast, which is always a good combination when I am stressed. And, from my frugal Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry, I am quite obsessed with using up leftovers as I hate to waste food. So, here's what I found: a bag of stale tortilla chips - about 2 cups worth, some leftover meatloaf, 1/2 of an onion, 1/2 of a red pepper and a bit of corn - about 1/4 cup. What to make with that? Well, with several eggs - 4 to be exact, you can make what my kids call Tortilla Eggs. 

My older son never liked eggs when he was younger and the only way he would eat them was if I put a lot of stuff in them to disguise the eggs. Actually the eggs became a binder for whatever I had on hand and could be made into a scramble or a frittata. The resulting combination of eggs and assorted meats and vegetables were dubbed "Eggs and Stuff" and became very popular in my household. Their favorite combination was whenever I added stale corn tortillas cooked in butter until browned or stale tortilla chips. Sometimes that's all I would put in but I like it even better with more stuff. As I have a great love of breakfast for dinner, it is also a wonderful way to create a meal in less than 15 - 20 minutes. This may be something you already make, but if you haven't yet, you need to try this. Just for the record, the name of this dish in Mexico is Migas.

Tortilla Egg Scramble

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups tortilla chips (or about 6 corn tortillas cut or torn into pieces)
1/2 cup of meat - ham, beef, chicken, chorizo sausage, meatloaf, taco meat - cut in small pieces
1/2 onion minced
1/2 red or green pepper or both cut in a dice
2 Tablespoons of butter (may need more if using fresh tortillas)
Optional: I used 1/4 cup corn

In a large bowl, add the eggs to the tortilla chips while you are cutting up the rest of the ingredients.

Heat butter in a frying pan and add onion and red pepper and cook until onion is wilted. (If using fresh tortillas, this is when you add more butter and cook them until lightly browned.) Add other vegetables if using and cook until onion is just beginning to brown. Pour in egg mixture and pull back sides to let more of the egg cook underneath. Let it set only slightly before turning it over and then cutting it up into large chunks with your spatula. Cook until the eggs are just past being runny or it will be overdone and put on a serving plate. Serve with salsa on the side.

Five Element Analysis

Eggs belong to the Water Element so there is plenty of that element represented in this dish. Corn tortillas add the Earth Element and so did the beef that I added in. The onions bring in the Metal Element and the red pepper and the salsa bring in the Fire Element. The only thing missing is the Wood Element and using chicken would solve that, but so would adding any green vegetable to the dish or on the side and that would make this part of a balanced Five Element meal. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chinese Peanut Noodle Salad

Cravings are a funny thing - when you have them, you just have to eat that food and nothing else will quite do. You can try to satisfy that craving some other way, but you somehow end up just feeling dissatisfied. Luckily, with a fully stocked cupboard and freezer, most things are possible. I've been working on the photos for my book and it has been intense and all of a sudden, I started craving Chinese Peanut Noodle Salad. Actually, I first started craving peanut butter but didn't have any celery and I didn't want any jelly. And then it came to me that I needed to make this classic Chinese Peanut Noodle Salad. Noodles or pasta of any kind are comforting to me. This was one of those dishes that I had only once in a while as a child and I just loved it then and still do now. Luckily, it is so easy to make as long as you have peanut butter on hand and I always do. I also had a leftover chicken breast in the fridge along with a red pepper and some green onions. I also had some leftover spaghetti noodles so this meal ended up taking only minutes to make and it was so delicious. 

Peanut Noodle Salad is a great pot luck dish and I often serve it for Chinese New Year, but the only caution is that you shouldn't mix in the sauce until the last minute or the noodles can go pretty soft. It's a lovely light lunch on a hot day and an amazing midnight snack. Who am I kidding? I could eat it for breakfast too! If you cook the pasta right before making it, make sure to rinse them in cold water or the salad will be a little warm and I like it a little on the cooler side. But as my noodles were cold from the fridge, I warmed them slightly by running hot water over them. In any case, if you love peanut butter, you will love this salad. Try it - I think you will be very happy with it!

Chinese Peanut Noodle Salad

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons or more Hot Water
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar (unseasoned) - can use white wine vinegar instead
1 1/2 Tablespoons Toasted Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
1/2 cup cooked chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1 red pepper, cut into small pieces
3 - 4 green onions (depending on size) cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded and cut into chunks

1/2 pound Spaghetti or Linguine noodles cooked according to package directions, rinsed and drained

2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

Mix hot water with sugar or honey and stir until dissolved. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar. Taste and add salt if necessary (depending on the brand of peanut butter) and pepper. In a large bowl, mix together noodles, chicken, green onions and red pepper. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and red chili flakes if you like it hot.

Five Element Analysis

This is actually a very balanced dish and the biggest clue is that it is colorful. The peanuts add the Earth Element. The soy sauce and sesame oil bring in the Water Element. The spaghetti noodles, chicken and vinegar come belong to the Wood Element. The red pepper and red chili flakes provide the Fire Element and the green onions add the Metal Element. This is balance in a bowl!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chinese Chicken Soup

I've been cooking very little these last two weeks as I have been traveling, teaching and seeing clients and going out to eat. Now I'm heavily into the last part of writing the second edition of my book as the deadline for submission is fast approaching. So, I've been taking just enough time to fix something that's easy and nothing is better for me or more comforting when I am stressed than chicken soup. This soup recipe is based on a classic Chinese chicken broth made with Chinese Rice Wine, ginger, garlic along with regular and green onions. Like many Chinese soups, the noodles are cooked separately and the green vegetables - in this case Bok Choy - is stir fried before they it is all put together in the bowl. You can change the vegetables to suit what is in your fridge. It is very good with spinach, bean sprouts, Napa Cabbage and regular green cabbage too. You could egg drop if you want more protein - just beat one of two eggs in a bowl and add them in at the end - swirling the soup while you are pouring. Then let it cook for just a few minutes. You can also use rice noodles or rice instead of wheat noodles. It is seasoned with just a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil to finish and it is a wonderful bowl of savory, soothing goodness.

Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup

2 chicken legs and thighs, skin left on
8 cups water
1 small onion, cut into big pieces
1 - 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
8 green onions - roots cut off and white parts cut for broth, green part sliced and reserved
2 clove garlic peeled and smashed
1/2 cup Shaoshing Rice Wine

Place chicken pieces in a large pot and add water, onion, ginger, white parts of green onion, garlic and Rice Wine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off foam. Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove chicken pieces from soup and cool and then take meat off the bones and cut into bite sized pieces. Strain soup and return back to the pot - keeping the soup at a simmer.

1/2 pound of Wheat Noodles or Rice Noodles
1 small head Bok Choy or 3 - 4 baby Bok Choy, end cut off and cut into about 1" pieces
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 - 3 teaspoons Tamari
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package instructions - usually 5 minutes for Rice Noodles, 5 - 10 minutes for Wheat Noodles. Drain and put aside.

In a small frying pan, heat oil until hot and add Bok Choy. Stir fry until wilted and add soy sauce and sesame oil.

Place noodles in bowls until half full. Add about 1/4 cup of Bok Choy. Pour in soup with chicken meat over the noodles and vegetables with a ladle. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve with Sriracha Hot Sauce or Chili Garlic Sauce on the side.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is by its very nature a Water dish and the soy sauce and sesame oil contribute a bit more. But the chicken, wheat noodles and Bok Choy bring in a lot of the Wood Element. The rice wine and the chili sauce that you add at the end add the Fire Element and the green onion tops, the garlic and ginger add some Metal Element. The long cooking onions are the only representative of the Earth Element so adding mushrooms or using regular cabbage might be good or you could serve a fruit dessert to balance out the meal.