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Tag Archives: Easter

Easter Foods and a Vegetable Frittata

21 Mar

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My son recently told me that he likes Easter more than he likes Christmas. This was not entirely surprising to hear, since the kid, as I may have mentioned before, has a thing for rabbits. The thing about my son’s relationship to Easter is that, while he loves bunnies, he is not in any way interested in eating bunny-themed treats. Just as in the case of the aforementioned carrot muffins, things shaped like bunnies are, according to him, “too cute to eat.” Chocolate eggs are fine, but, as evidenced by the pile of animal-shaped chocolates we have had sitting on a kitchen shelf for two years now, chocolate bunnies are off limits.

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What is not off limits, thanks to the preponderance of egg-related art projects that come along with Easter, is food made with eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. Whether you are decorating hard-cooked eggs, making cascarones, or creating your very own Easter egg tree (no, seriously, click on that link and behold the glory of a tree decorated with 10,000 individually decorated Easter eggs, and then sit back and dream about the type of omelet that family could make with the insides of those 10,000 eggs that they blew out one at a time), you’re likely to find yourself with a few eggs sitting around this time of the year.

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Though you may not have to think up as many egg dishes as the Kraft family of Germany, chances are you’ll have a few eggs at your disposal this Easter. This is where I come in to help. For the next week or so, it’s going to be all eggs, all the time, or at least until Easter passes and we can all go back to focusing on what we normally focus on around here, which is to say: cake and salads, because that seems to be the theme as of late. (Not at all related, by the way.)

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We’ll start here, with the simplest of egg dishes. A frittata is like a delicious compost pile for all of your refrigerator leftovers. Throw in a bit of this, a bunch of that, stick it in the oven, and moments later you’ve got yourself one delightful meal. The frittata I feature here is comprised of half of a leftover baked potato, the last ribs of a sliced onion, and some day-old garlicky sautéed kale, all topped off with a nice lid of shredded Parmesan cheese. Suitable for any time of the day, it’s a two-part winner for your leftovers and your tummy. Everyone wins.

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Last Year: Chocolate Swirled Bread–another great entry in the cake-as-bread category

Vegetable Frittata

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup thinly sliced onion

½ cup diced, cooked potato

1 cup leftover cooked greens (chard, spinach, greens, what have you)

4 large eggs

salt and pepper to taste

dash of good hot sauce (Tapatio, Tamazula, and Cholula are all good candidates)

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven’s broiler. Arrange an oven shelf in the highest position.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, stir to combine and heat through, then add cooked greens. Stir to combine, the reduce heat to low.

In a small bowl, combine eggs, salt and pepper, and a dash of hot sauce. Whisk with a fork until eggs are combined. Add Parmesan cheese, and stir to combine.

Pour eggs over vegetables in skillet. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, coax any egg run-off back towards the vegetables. Allow to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the bottom of the eggs seem somewhat set, and the edges of the eggs appear be just beginning to dry. Place skillet on top shelf of oven, directly beneath the broiler. Broil frittata for 2 to 4 minutes, until the middle is set, the top is puffed, and the color is just tinted golden.

Remove from oven, loosen frittata with spatula, and serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 3 to 4 people.

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Yeasted Buttermilk Biscuits

22 Apr

In the past ten years, I can recall a total of one single Easter that did not suffer a torrential downpour of spring rain.  Spring (and autumn…and winter) puts forth a formidable battle in the Pacific Northwest, challenging trees and flowers to bloom, then pounding them with the type of rain that can oftentimes only be described as being vaguely menacing.  Easter egg hunts will be completed by children wearing heavy raingear, and casual brunches will be held indoors while a fireplace roars with every effort to try and stave off the soggy chill of the morning.

The upside to steeling oneself for a brisk and sodden Easter is the still welcome addition of piping hot baked goods.  It’s not that warm days do not allow for steaming hot treats that come straight from the oven, but it’s not difficult to notice that such things are greeted with a higher level of affection when presented on a chilly, wet day.  The only downside to making a baking commitment on Easter morning is the inevitable time crunch that will inhibit your productivity and, unfortunately, raise your crabbiness level to DEFCON 5.  Because the Easter Bunny waits for no one.

To remedy this problem, I have come up with the ridiculously simple time saving solution of merely spending the previous evening completing 50% of what needs to be done.  If it sounds totally over simplified, it’s because it is.  You are not, collectively, doing any less work, but you are managing your time in a way that makes it feel like you are getting away with something.  You can crack your eggs into a big bowl and leave them covered in the refrigerator to no ill effect.  You can slice bread for French toast, chop vegetables for a frittata, measure out dry and wet ingredients for pancakes or waffles, or you can whip up a batch of what has become my most favorite addition to any brunch or breakfast: yeasted buttermilk biscuits.

Allowed to sit in the refrigerator overnight, the dough for these biscuits has time to develop a fantastically light texture and flavor.  The mixing of the dough is simple to the point of being almost unbelievable, and the next morning’s work involves nothing more than a couple of passes kneading the dough, a quick roll and cut (assisted, in my case, by an eager preschooler), then a short rise while the oven preheats.  15 minutes in the oven later, you’ve got rich, flaky biscuits that are just waiting to be paired up with some tart jam or a selection of delicious flavored butters.

If you are in the presence of an Easter ham, word has it that these biscuits are amenable to being utilized as a soft and pillowy vehicle for ham consumption.  Brought while still warm to a recent to a potluck, these biscuits were received with great joy.  They were eaten outside, in a newly planted garden, while a soft rain fell.  An experience joining belly-warming sustenance with the damp shiver of the season, it was the perfect signifier of spring’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest.

Yeasted Buttermilk Biscuits

From that old standby, James McNair’s Breakfast 

It’s worth noting that this dough keeps in the refrigerator for several days.  This means that you can keep a batch in the fridge, then cut off, roll, and bake however much you want, whenever you want.  This realization–that I could bake fresh yeasted buttermilk biscuits every morning, several days in a row–was nothing short of magical for me.

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons, or 1/4 ounce) quick-rising active dry yeast

5 tablespoons warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees F)

5 cups all-purpose flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup canola or other high-quality vegetable oil

2 cups buttermilk

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water, stir to dissolve, and let stand until soft and foamy, about 5 minutes.  (Discard the mixture and start over with a fresh batch of yeast if bubbles have not formed in 5 minutes.)

In a bowl or food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.  Cut the oil into the mixture with a pastry blender or the steel blade of the food processor until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal.  If using a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl (I recommend a very large bowl, because this mixture will expand a great deal more than you think).  Pour in the buttermilk and softened yeast.  Stir the mixture quickly to combine the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.

Lightly grease baking sheets, or line with parchment paper, and set aside.

Form the risen dough into a ball and turn out onto a generously floured surface.  Knead lightly and quickly, about 1 minute.  Roll out with a lightly flour rolling pin to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a floured 2 1/2 round cutter and place barely touching on the prepared sheets.  Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise just until puffy, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the biscuits are rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.  I bake two sheets of biscuits at a time, placing one sheet on the upper-middle shelf and one on the lower-middle shelf, then swapping the two sheets’ positions halfway through baking.

Makes about 48 biscuits.

Carrot Muffins

10 Apr

Sometimes I forget that just because someone likes something, it does not necessarily mean that that person wants to eat that thing.  Allow me to explain.  If one was to walk into our house, what one would discover almost immediately is that a certain member of the household is very, very interested in bunny rabbits.  There are bunny rabbit books, bunny rabbit toys, bunny rabbit decorations, and occasionally, bunny rabbits in custom made articles of clothing.

It was in the culinary interest of this bunny rabbit interest that I made the decision to purchase a 24 cavity silicone bunny rabbit baking mold.  Call it a moment of temporary insanity, or perhaps just an instance of intensely debated coercion, but the fact remains that I am now the proud owner of a baking mold in the shape of a small child’s most favorite animal.

Which is where my initial point comes into play.  After bringing home the bunny mold and wondering our loud what I might be able to do with it, it was brought to my attention (by the same party who lobbied so very heavily for the item’s purchase) that, no, it would not be all right to eat something shaped like a bunny, because, hello? That would mean that you were eating a bunny.   It was a thought that, though riddled with illogical assumptions, actually made a tiny bit of sense to me (when thought about from the perspective of a preschooler, that is, which means that most of your thinking will end up being sort of nonlinear and riddled with images from Richard Scarry books and The Country Bunny).

My only course of action at this point, if I wanted to get any use out of that pan, was to change the direction of the train of thought that equated bunny-shaped foods with bunny-cide.  In a moment of near genius (in the low-bar world of bargaining with a small child), I proposed that perhaps if a food made of something that bunnies like to eat themselves was prepared in the bunny pan, maybe that would, in effect, bring one closer to eating like a bunny rather than eating an actual bunny.

My some miracle, my tactic worked.  Thirty minutes later, my son and I were sitting down to feast upon some of the most sweet and savory muffins we’d ever had the pleasure of meeting.  My rescue was courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum, who not only makes the brilliant suggestion of using turbinado sugar in the recipe in lieu of regular sugar (which has the effect of taking the sweetness of the muffin to a place that is more caramelized, and less distractingly sweet), but also recommends that the baked item (which she bakes as a 9” x 5” loaf of bread) sit for 24 hours in order for the moisture to properly distribute throughout the entirety of the loaf.

 

Not one to argue with Ms. Beranbaum, but definitely interested in eating the carrot muffins before the dawn of a new day, I exercised my newly flexed muscles of rationalization and came to the conclusion that, baked as tiny little muffins, these carrot delights would be, at most, a mere 1 inch thick and 1.5 inches tall.  Using math skills only previously displayed by recipients of the Fields Medal, I thus determined that the muffins would only have to sit for a maximum of five minutes before they could be fully enjoyed at the height of their deliciousness.  A logical judgment in mathematics?  Probably not.  But an exercise in deliciousness?  Definitely.

Carrot Muffins

Adapted from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

As previously mentioned, Beranbaum developed this recipe to be baked as a single loaf of bread. I modified the recipe to fill 24 bunny-shaped cups (with a small amount of batter leftover to make 6 mini muffins), which resulted in cutting the recipe in half.  This left me with the unfortunate task of having to somehow halve 3 eggs, but I soon realized that by using 1 extra-large egg instead of using 1.5 large ones, a similar effect could be achieved. This is a long way of explaining why some of the measurements listed here seem a little peculiar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place an oven shelf on the lower-middle level.

If using a bunny-shaped mold, very lightly grease the insides of the bunny cavities (silicone isn’t supposed to stick, but the nature of the bunny ear shapes makes for some serious sticking with these very moist muffins).  There will be enough batter left over to make six mini muffins (lightly grease the mini muffin cups) or one smallish regular-sized muffin (use one paper muffin or cupcake liner). Alternately, you could just make 6 regular-sized muffins and call it good.

3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 extra-large egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar, preferably turbinado

1 3/4 cups finely grated carrots

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl or a mixer bowl, using a wooden spoon or a hand-held or stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) on low speed, mix together the egg, oil, and sugar for one minute or until blended. Add the flour mixture and continue stirring or beating on low speed just until incorporated, about 20 seconds.  Add the carrots and continue stirring or beating for another 10 seconds or so.

If baking bunny-shaped muffins, using a small spoon (I used a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon), drop enough batter in each cavity to fill it 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Utilize remaining batter as previously mentioned. If making 6 regular-sized muffins, evenly fill all 6 muffin cups.

Bake the muffins for 12-15 minutes if you are making mini and bunny shaped muffins.  Bake regular-sized muffins for 20-25 minutes

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