Friday, January 21, 2011


Or, Eggs in Purgatory. I chose to title this post Cucurumao because that is the dish’s Sicilian name and I wanted to sound more intelligent than I am. You may call it Eggs in Purgatory if you actually have to tell someone what it is. Luckily, I just have to type it.

Brunch is my favorite meal. I am a happy girl when pancakes, muffins, banana bread, oatmeal with fruit and sugar, or waffles are put in front of me. Yes, my tendency to go directly to the “raise-your-blood-sugar-to-unprecedented-levels” section of an IHop menu is a problem on which I am working, but recently I challenged myself to make a savory brunch dish. And I must say, it was definitely worth it.

This was one of those recipes that I saw and said to myself “I can totally make that!” But then, at step two of the recipe, I began to doubt myself. How long before the sauce is supposed to reduce? (Much longer than the original recipe suggested when I did it on my stove.) How is this not just like tomato sauce? (It isn’t that much different except poached eggs + tomato sauce + Parmesan cheese + toast = substantial yumminess.) When is a poached-in-tomato-sauce-egg done? (About four minutes earlier than when I took mine out.)

So I will let you learn from my mistakes.
Although “mistakes” may be a bit harsh of a word. I will let you learn from my second guessings. Happy Brunch!

Brunch! by Gale Gand (I was a big fan of her show on Food Network back when Food Network was just show after show of one camera focused on someone cooking in a kitchen. I think it was called Sweet Dreams. I also appreciate her use of the exclamation point in her title.)
Serves 3 to 4

2 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-ounce can whole or crushed Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 pinches sugar, to taste (optional – I didn’t use any because I find tomato sauce pretty sweet already)
4 fresh basil leaves, torn
6 large eggs (I used 5.)
Grated Parmesan Cheese for sprinkling
1 loaf crusty Italian bread

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes - if whole, crush them with the back of a spoon. Cook until the mixture is fairly thick, about 20 minutes; then season it with salt and pepper. (This took much longer than I anticipated and I think I could have waited a bit longer for it to thicken even more.)

Taste the tomato sauce – add sugar if you think it should be sweeter. Adding sugar can be used to cut down on the acid of the tomato sauce. (Thanks Mrs. Swallen!) Stir in the basil leaves.

Make six (or five if you are using just five eggs) depressions in the tomato sauce and break one egg into each depression. Baste the eggs with a little tomato sauce. Cover the pan, and cook over medium heat to poach the eggs, about four minutes. (Not eight, like I did. I swore they didn’t look done but the yolks were definitely cooked by the time I cut into them with my fork. Next time it will be four minutes.)

Carefully remove a couple eggs and sauce into a bowl. Top with grated Parmesan and serve with thick slices of hearty bread. The best bite consists of a bit of the egg on the toast smeared with the tomato sauce.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tabasco & Asparagus Quinoa

Did you know Texas Pete is made in Winston-Salem, NC? It should be called Winston-Salem Pete but I guess naming it after Texas gives it a little more ‘street cred.’ Another interesting fact I learned through making this dish – quinoa is a very fun ingredient with which to work in the kitchen. These teeny, tiny discs of dullness turn into cups and cups of fluffy, light protein-packed deliciousness. And they have these little curlicues in them that pop out when they are cooked so it’s like a little surprise hidden inside an unassuming package. Oh and it is pronounced “Keen-wah.” At least I think it is.

This is one of those meals that will last you awhile. Make it on a Monday and plan on eating off it all week. You can mix it up and add a scrambled egg to it or throw some grilled chicken or shrimp on a reheated serving. And if we are still doing the ‘resolution’ thing, this dish is perfect. Hearty, good-for-you grain? Check! Heavy on the protein side? Check! Has some fresh veggies? Check! After watching the Golden Globes and Miss America this weekend, I am even more inspired to be able to wear a backless Armani Privé dress like the best of them (I’m talking to you Anne Hathaway). Or rock a tiara and sash like it’s my job. (I’m already pretty close on that one.)

And don’t let the butter scare you. It is not much for a very large batch of quinoa. The original calls for twice the amount as listed below and says you serve it on the side but I halved it and only used that amount. I figured I could add more Tabasco (or Texas Pete!) if I wanted even more flavor.

Tabasco & Asparagus Quinoa
From 101 Cookbooks, another great cooking blog and you may recognize her cookbooks!
Serves 4 - 6

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp Dijon mustard
12 drops Tabasco (or Texas Pete!) sauce
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
sprinkling of salt

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch segments

2 c uncooked quinoa
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
more Tabasco (or Texas Pete!) sauce to taste

Cook Quinoa - Combine 2 cups of well-rinsed dried quinoa with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until quinoa is tender and you can see the little quinoa curlicues.

Make Tabasco Butter - In a food processor, or with a hand blender, whip the butter until it is light and airy. Add the mustard, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice and salt. As I mention above, you can make it stronger if you like, adding more hot sauce to taste, or wait and add it to your individual servings.

Boil the asparagus in a large pot of well salted water, for just for a minute or so - depending on the thickness of your asparagus. Drain. Stop the cooking with cold water or a dunk in an ice bath, then drain well before using.

Take the 4 cups of hot cooked quinoa and toss with the tabasco butter. Stir in the asparagus and pine nuts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Bottom Cupcakes

I think winter got mad at me when I called it a tease in the last post because I woke up to three inches of snow on the ground but luckily, it got me a snow day. What makes a snow day better? Cupcakes. And not just any cupcakes. Black Bottom Cupcakes that, if you use your imagination, kind of look like little mini adorable snow-topped mountains (to continue the theme). But oh are they delicious. The recipe makes just twelve so it is the perfect amount to enjoy with your friends and not worry about having the leftovers sit around the kitchen to ruin the rest of the week’s diet (because, like me, you probably give yourself just one or two (or three) days to eat what you like each week).

I found this recipe in David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate which I purchased last year from Amazon when they got me with one of those “Get this book & another one for 25% off if bought together!” I’m such a sucker for a semi-good deal. But boy am I glad I snagged it along with his other baking cookbook Ready for Dessert (which explains my state about 95% of the time). Ironically, my first recipe to test out comes from the add-on book. David is hysterical and I highly recommend his books and blog. He lives in Paris (hence how I discovered him when we were doing Paris Honeymoon research) and apparently bakes all day. At least that’s what I like to think he does.

So, enjoy a cup of warm milk along with these little delights. They may not be Starbucks’ version of the black bottom cupcake (do they even make those anymore?) but they are easier to get your hands on when the roads are ice rinks and people are driving their Mustangs and Camaros like it is the Indy 500. Enjoy!

Black Bottom Cupcakes
From David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate

For the Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used semi-sweet morsels.)

For the Cupcakes:
1½ c all-purpose flour
1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tbsp naturally unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 c water
1/3 c unflavored vegetable oil
1 tbsp white or cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Make the Filling:
Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.

Make the Cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring just until smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine.
5. Bake for 25 minutes (Did you read that? 25 minutes! Such a short amount of time to enjoy such greatness!), or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.*

*Since you can’t eat all twelve right out of the oven (this is not a challenge), I found the leftovers even better nuked in the microwave for about 12 seconds.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chipotle Turkey Chili

So far, 2011 has been such a tease. Sunday we encountered a sunny afternoon with temperatures inching up towards the 60s and I thought to myself “When did March follow New Year’s?” Even though just a little over a week ago the entire state of North Carolina had encountered a snowstorm, I thought maybe we had fast-forwarded to March 20th and I should be watching the NCAA Tournament instead of the new Bachelor premiere (speaking of teases . . .).
But alas, it is January and when Sunday was followed by Monday with a high not even reaching 50 (I can hear those folks north of Maryland scoffing at my definition of ‘cold weather’) I got the inkling for some chili. So I made some. I am once more cozy in my apartment and accepting of a couple more months of winter weather. Afterall, I need these weeks to infiltrate into the many reality shows that premiere this month and next month. For additional information and because I know you care, here’s the line-up for this season so you have something to watch while you enjoy your chili:
Jan. 3 – The Bachelor (OMG. I cannot explain my adoration for this show except to say it is a train wreck and I can’t not watch.)
Jan. 6 – The Biggest Loser (I watch this for inspiration and because I like the way it brings me to tears every time they vote someone off. It clears my sinuses.)
Jan. 19 – American Idol (Still not tired of it even though 66% of the judges are new. And I’m a Ryan Seacrest fan. No lie.)
Feb. 6 – Glee (It may not be a reality show but it is my reality life in my dreams. Can you tell I recently watched Inception?)
Feb. 16 –Survivor (A classic. And it helps me feel better about my semi-monotonous lunch routine of Lean Cuisines. At least I’m not having rice for every meal.)
Feb. 20 – The Amazing Race (The one reality show I would most like to be on until I realize I would embarrass myself due to some unintential inappropriate comment and/or get sick on national television because I ate a bowl of pig intestines.)
Feb. 23 – America’s Next Top Model (I’m still trying to perfect my ability to smise.)
Ok, that's the current line-up until warmer weather and Big Brother starts.
Samuel, out.
Serves 6 (The original recipe says it serves 4 but I highly doubt that unless you are feeding four bottomless pits. I got 6 servings out of it.)
1 package ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can black beans
1 can (15-oz) refried beans (I used refried black beans.)
½ c Chipotle Salsa (I made the special effort to buy Chipotle Salsa not regular salsa. Can’t say how much of a difference it made but it was yummy.)
2 tbsp barbecue sauce
Sour Cream for dolloping
Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions five minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until brown, breaking it up as it cookies. Add ground cumin and cook one minute longer. Add remaining ingredients (refried beans should be broken up and stirred into the chili until they are dissolved). Let chili come to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for ten minutes. Garnish with sour cream if one so desires.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Raspberry Crumb Squares

January 1st, 2011. How did that happen? We are already a decade into the 2000s. I officially enter the late-20s on my birthday this year. I graduated from high school ten years ago (which I reminded my husband of and his immediate response was to shout an expletive and put his head down lamenting on how he hasn’t done much in his life). Anyway. Happy New Year!

As comes with every new year, I stayed up till 12:15 am to welcome the year with open arms only to quickly tell it goodnight; I made my promises for this year to myself and my family; and I wrote down my ten resolutions.

One of these resolutions is to blog more. Hollaaaaa! I know, dear readers (all four of you) that this has made your 2011. Or at least the first 20 hours of it. I should probably make a resolution to actually spread the word about my blog a little better, but that will come with time.

Another resolution is to be more healthy and usually, after the onslaught of the holidays and various gorgefests involving cookies, pies and all things sweet, I am ready for this time of cleansing and healthy eating. This feeling wears off just in time for Valentine’s day and the cravings for chocolate to pick back up again . . .

Anywho, in the meantime, if you are looking for a way to ease off the sweets, I recommend this recipe. It looks like a dessert but is actually a buttery, crumbly, not-that-sweet bar that looks pretty and is perfect for a snowy morning. You can trick yourself that it is dessert by topping it with some cool whip. Don’t be alarmed by how much flour is in it. Just remember that I warned you about its not too-sweet taste. Robbie calls it a “gourmet pop tart.” However, pop tarts are quality too so I recommend keeping them both around.

Raspberry Crumb Bars
From Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

2 cups unsalted butter, melted
4 cups all purpose flour


1 1/4 cup raspberry jam (I splurged with this ingredient and got the fancy schmancy Swiss preserves kind).


4 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 cups unpacked light brown sugar
2 cups softened unsalted butter - cut into small pieces
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter over low heat while stirring. Don't use high heat, or you will end up with clarified butter! Combine melted butter with flour in a large bowl. The dough will be soft. Spread dough evenly on an ungreased baking sheet or a jelly roll pan (12 by 18 inch pan). Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. This could take up to 50 minutes.

(A word of warning – I don’t make a good crumb crust. I don’t know if it is because I don’t let the butter soften enough or if I let it soften too much. Or maybe there is too much flour. Who knows? I even used my new pastry blender that I got as a wedding present. That just made my knuckles messy with buttery flour.)
Mix flour, brown sugar and salt. Add softened and cut butter to flour mixture. Mixture should be crumbly. Or, as in my case, mixture should be at the point where you just don’t want to mess with it anymore.

Beat raspberry jam till it is smooth and spread it over the cooled base, leaving 1/4 inch edge all around. This was tricky for me because the jam kept pulling the base up. I would almost add a little more jam to make it easier and probably even yummier. Sprinkle topping generously over the jam layer. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.