Saturday, March 21, 2009

Waaay Over the Top

Ok, so when I gave you the recipe for my very favorite frittata, I mentioned that I like to serve it with berries. BUT I DIDN'T MEAN WITH BERRIES ON TOP!!! Look closely at the picture above. Why, yes, that is a berry and bacon garnish you see!

What better month than this to say that I think Better Homes and Gardens has taken brunch a little too far? Allow me to give you their Bread Pudding Quiche with Berries and Bacon. Oh, and did the title forget to mention that it's made with a cinnamon swirly buttery crumb crust? Or that the filling is more cinnamon swirl bread with gruyere, onions, and HAM? Yup...

And let me tell you, I love all the things listed above. But dear, dear BHG, I also love smoked salmon and chocolate, and you don't see me making smoked salmon truffles! My point here is that I am all for innovation and mixing flavors, but this is entirely too much. Basically, I think this dish is what happens when you are too lazy to use more than one serving platter.

Better Homes and Gardens, please, for the love of all that is tasty, stick to your dried flower boquets and teddy bear decor and skip the food experiments. Thanks.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Little Word of Advice

If you never listen to anything else I tell you listen to this....If you want to impress people, and make them think you are a super good and fancy cook, you will always make French toast using challah bread. I hope you know what challah is- I am surprised to find how many people don't. But just to make sure:

Challah is a traditionally Jewish bread that is made with white flour, eggs, and a bit of sweetener (sugar or honey). It's braided into a loaf (sounding familiar now?), and then baked with an egg wash to make the crust golden, soft and shiny. Like so:

So, when you're making French toast and you've already started with a soft, rich, sweet, eggy bread, once you add all the ingredients to make the bread softer, richer, sweeter, and eggier, you have got a combonation that can't be beat! The recipe I am sharing with you today is a great recipe, but really you can use any French toast recipe that you might like. Just replace your normal bread with challah. You can even do it with the "it's too early to read a cookbook and/or measure things out and I'm just going to estimate the ingredients" morning French toast.

I am sharing with you a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. I have only made it once, and it was quite delicious (the only reason I have not made it again is our complete lack of self control at the breakfast table when the platter was set before us). What set this recipe apart from others is that it uses orange juice and zest to give the French toast a good kick. Usually, if it's just two of us eating I will cut the recipe in half. I buy a whole loaf of challah and then freeze the second half for later use.

Challah French Toast
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon good honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large loaf challah or brioche bread
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vegetable oil
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Good raspberry preserves (optional)
  • Sifted confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, orange zest, vanilla, honey, and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large saute pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven. Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it's all cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup, raspberry preserves, and/or confectioners' sugar.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Where is the Best Brunch is Seattle?

That's a toughie. I don't know if I can tell you that, but I can tell you that without a doubt, the restaurant we go to more than any other is Geraldine's Counter. And when I say we go there alot, I mean it's kinda like our Cheers. In fact, when we walk in everyone says, "Norm!" Not really. They don't know our names, because it seems the wait staff is always changing. I am sure that they recognize Raj (he's easy to recognize). Anyway, it's the kinda place we go to and order without even looking at the menu. Our frequency there is partly due to the fact that it's the closest good food to where we live in Seattle, and mostly because we like the food and it's very affordable (we can both eat and be full for around $20).

Geraldine's is simply a diner and nothing more. What sets it apart is that, unlike when you are sitting at some other diner with your disgustingly greasy grilled sandwich and flavorless soup, this is the way you always hope your diner food is going to be. Yes, your bowl of soup may cost $7 instead of $4, but isn't it worth it to get soup made in the restaurant rather than shipped there in a tub and reheated?

So, of course we rarely have soups or sandwiches (unless I have a late night hankering for their BLT with avocado and yam fries) since we are almost always there for brunch. Usually I go in with the intention of getting the steel cut oatmeal with fresh fruit or the Cafe Fanny organic granola and yogurt. These things are delicious and leaving me feeling pleasantly full and healthy. Inevitably, I walk in and realize that I can't possibly leave without eating the French Toast. It is the most unique french toast I have ever had- crispy on the outside, soft on the inside- and always has a different fruit topping. Everyone who dines here must try it once.

So go try Geraldines- just not on a Saturday or Sunday since it's already crowded and I don't want to you to be in front of me in line to be seated. And don't go on Monday, either! It's closed, and Raj and I have made that mistake more than once....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Food as Fashion as Food....?

Speaking of brunch...what will you wear? I think the creative directors of Prada were reading, and inspired by my blog. Just look at some of the outfits from one of their Fall/Winter '09 collections!

Few things don't make he hungry...this is one of them. You may think Prada is just a kooky, over the top designer, but other labels are taking cue.

Betsey Johnson has an entire "kitchen inspired" line:

For the man in your life, you could get one of these creepy butchers outfits from Alexander McQueen:

Or if food isn't your bag, you could always just dress up like a monster from a 70's Saturday morning TV show.....

Artichoke, anyone?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Save the Best for First

I really wasn't much of a cook four (and three quarters!) years ago when I got married. Out of pure necessity of life, I began to dabble and experiment and eventually began to love the joy of making delicious foods to nourish Raj and I. I began my food journey with two books, How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson, and Everyday Italian by Giada De-Italian-Lady-With-the Huge-Teeth-Laurentis. In my next blog (I'm doing good with previews lately, yes?) I will talk about Nigella, but today is about Italian. For brunch, you ask? Yes!

So back to Everyday Italian. I must admit I can't stand the TV show on the Food Network. I find myself not paying attention to the recipes but rather pondering over the host's giant bobble head, and the music and camera angles make me feel slightly uncomfortable (as in, a little bit weirded out that I may be watching more than a food show if you know what I mean). BUT...I have made probably 70% of the recipes from that book, and they have all been simply delightful.

Our favorite is this frittata. It is so simple, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand, so it really has become one of my best "go to" recipes. I most often make this when we have friends over for brunch and serve it with fresh berries. Of course, the best thing about it (like many brunch dishes) is that it's as good for early meals as it is for dinner. In fact, just thinking about it made me decide to make it for dinner along with some turkey meatball soup and a baguette.

Please, I dare say, try it at any time of the day that makes you happy.

Frittata With Potato and Prosciutto by Giada De Laurentis

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (7-ounce) potato, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 ounces sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy 9 1/2-inch-diameter skillet over medium heat. Add the potato, onion, and garlic. Season the potato mixture with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute over medium-low heat until the potato is golden and crisp on the outside, tender inside, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, cream, Parmesan, prosciutto, and basil in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the egg mixture into the potato mixture in the skillet. Cook over medium-low heat until the egg mixture is almost set but the top is still loose, about 3 minutes. Place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from skillet and slide the frittata onto a cutting board. Cut the frittata into 12 wedges.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Now For What I Promised

Like so many others, I had a bad view of buffets growing up. Usually "all you can eat" means highest possible quantity and lowest possible quality (as I so often say). Especially when the "you" is just a "U" like, "All U can eat." That's a dead give away to avoid eating there. I mean seriously, if a restaurant is too lazy to put the entire word "you" in a sign, do you really think the food is going to be held to a higher standard?

My first experience with a fine dining buffet was when I was 19. This was before I even knew what good food was, but thank heavens peer pressure made me shell out the $45 for dinner at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas (that was nearly 8 years ago- anyone know what it costs now?). That was also the first time I ever had creme brulee. I had almost 3 before someone told me what was in it.

I dare say on Sunday I went to a brunch buffet that even beats my memory of the Bellagio- Salty's on Alki. Salty's is one of those places that, if you have been in Seattle for more than 2 days, chances are you have been to. I'm not sure how it took us 5 years of living here to get there. But wowee! First of all, the big tourist draw is the panoramic view across the puget sound of downtown Seattle (pictured above). Second of all, the variety of food was incroyable. I listed most of what I ate in my previous blog.

I actually had a few teachers in pastry school who worked at Salty's, and the pastrys display definitely showed that. What I was most impressed about was that this brunch buffet not only had such high quality food, but the volume of food being served was enormous! It was Raj's dream.

Anyway, I highly recommend that if you live in Seattle that you don't take 5 years to get to Salty's- for the food and for the experience of it all. Also, if you get there before 9 on Sunday, you get $5 off each person on your bill. But that kinda takes the fun out of brunch, doesn't it?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Just Stopped in to Say Hello

I just want to tell you that I love brunch. It is by far my favorite meal for many a good reason. First of all, everyone knows that the term "brunch" was created from combining "breakfast" and "lunch," right? This means that if I am eating brunch that I have not had to get up early, but rather been able to sleep in until I am fully rested. This often also means- as so often happens with brunch- that I am about to have a long, leisurely meal, which, by natural consequences, means that I probably don't have anywhere else to be- namely, work- during or around that time. And think about it, brunch is by far the most social meal a person can eat. Really, one never eats brunch alone, am I right? Usually you are with someone you love, or at least sincerely like being with, when you have brunch.

With that said, of course the absolute best part of brunch is the food. Anything that combines the best of two meals has to be good. Brunch dishes are my absolute favorite. In fact, pondering these dishes is what inspired my theme for this month. I am going to call it "brunch month." So, for the entire month I am going to be sharing with you my favorite brunch recipes, and my favorite restaurants to have brunch, and maybe other things that may have to do with brunch. (A side note: writing the word "brunch" so many times has mad me realize it is a stupid sounding word. It's too bad, really, since the name doesn't do the meal justice at all. Any suggestions for a better term?)

My next post will be about the brunch buffet we had yesterday. It was the first time we've been to this certain place, an lemme tell you, it was tres bon. I don't want to give too much away, but lets just say it involved crab legs, oysters, waffles, omelets, biscuits, mac and cheese, sticky buns, a lot of fruit, and a chocolate fountain....I know....