A Basic Omelet

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There was a summer many years ago when I taught cooking classes to four little girls – two sets of sisters who were homeschooled. Their mothers thought that cooking classes would satisfy many interests and teach quite a few skills to the girls. And indeed, I’ve always thought that cooking classes are fabulous for not only learning about food, but also grasping important applications like math and chemistry.

During those classes we had a session on eggs – how to appreciate them for the wonderful little package of food they are, and how to treat them with respect in the kitchen. And one thing we made together were omelets. (Also a pavlova, which was a huge hit!)

Now, it may not seem that creative to put an omelet on my blog, but on the contrary, I think that an omelet requires learning some skills. Plus, there are a lot of terrible omelets out there, so perhaps I’m doing a community service with this post. I hope so.

To me, there are a few criteria for making the perfect omelet:
1. good eggs
2. good cheese, for a cheese omelet
3. the right skillet
4. a lid
5. patience

Of course it goes without saying that the ingredients that you choose for your omelet have to be good. It’s especially nice to have access to farm-fresh eggs – the kind that are almost impossible to break open because the shells are so hard.

Cheese is subjective – there’s no “right” cheese. I like Fontina, Gruyere, or even a good Monterey Jack. Who am I kidding?! Any cheese that melts well will work.

The right skillet is important because you want your omelet to end up a decent thickness. Place your whisked eggs in too large of a skillet, and you will get a thin omelet. Unless you like that kind, I don’t recommend too large of a skillet.

The skillet I use for my one-person, 2-egg omelet, is actually a crêpe pan. It’s got a flat bottom and flat sides. The outside diameter is 8″; the inside diameter, or bottom, measures 6″ in diameter.

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A perfect-fitting lid is also important for making a good omelet.

And then the most important aspect of making an omelet – patience. As Rome wasn’t built in a day, an omelet can’t be prepared in one minute. I know everyone likes fast food, but if you rush your omelet, it will taste and feel like something purchased at a fast food restaurant. Which would make me wonder why you’re even bothering to cook an omelet at home in the first place…

For today’s omelet, or omelette, I chose butter, 2 eggs, grated Fontina, and some diced, leftover ham. And here’s what I did.

A  Basic  Ham  and  Cheese   Omelet

2 eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Diced ham, optional of course
Cheese of choice – grated, or sliced fairly thinly

Whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl with a fork, before you begin heating the skillet. Also, please don’t think that brown eggs are better than white. My mother had chickens that laid many different colored eggs, depending on their breed.

Place the butter in the skillet over medium heat. It should begin melting immediately, but not burn. If you think the skillet is too hot, remove it from the heat source for a minute. Cooking is a lot about common sense.

You need to work fairly quickly at first, but don’t worry, it’s not a race. Just have all of the ingredients available, as well as the skillet lid. And don’t forget to adjust the heat on the stove. That’s why there are knobs. Or, if you panic, completely remove the skillet from the heat source and collect yourself.

Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet. The butter has browned a bit. You can see that the skillet is “grabbing” the eggs and the cooking process has begun.

Immediately place the ham and cheese over the top of the eggs and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. Trust me.

Then place the lid on the skillet. Let the omelet cook slowly, with the lid on, over the lowest heat, for about 4 minutes.

At this point, the top of the omelet will look like this:

Most of the cheese is melted, but there is still a bit of egg that need to cook through. Remove the skillet completely from the heat source, but leave the lid on.

After about 1 minute, the omelet should be ready. I prefer an omelette baveuse, or soft. Cook a little more if you can’t handle runny eggs!

You can use a thin spatula to remove the omelet from the skillet and fold over gently, or slide it out for an open-face presentation. Alternatively, use the skillet to slide the omelet on the plate, then fold it over into a semi-circle using the edge of the skillet.

The egg part of the omelet is cooked and somewhat puffy, almost like a soufflé, but not to the point of rubberyness. I don’t mind a bit of browning on the eggs.

Notice the cheese is fully melted inside because the lid on the skillet allowed the cheese to warm and melt, just like with a quesadilla.

What’s important is that in spite of the fact that this omelet took a little time, the results are superb.

I swore off omelets at restaurants a couple of decades ago. No more rubber omelets, ever!

Sausage, Salami and Cheese Tart

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I’ve had this recipe quite a while. I recognize it from Bon Appetit, which was my favorite food magazine. The cut-and-paste method was my way to save recipes. Until computers, of course.


As you can see, I thought the recipe was very good, but I needed to add onions and garlic to the tart next time. That time never came until now; I decided to substitute mozzarella with fontina, and make a couple of minor adaptations.

Sausage, Salami and Cheese Tart
Printable recipe below

1 refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces Italian sweet sausages, casings removed
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
5 ounces finely chopped Fontina
3 ounces diced Italian salami, such as Genoa
4 ounces grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup cream
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Unfold crust on work surface. Press together any cracks in dough to seal crust. Place crust in 9” diameter tart pan with removable bottom; fold in excess dough and press, forming double-thick sides that extend about 1/4” above rim of pan.

I used a 10” deep-dish pie pan. From all of the comments on this recipe online, the egg and cream mixture overflowed, so I wanted to avoid that mess. Plus I chilled the crust first.

Pierce crust with fork. Bake crust 5 minutes; press with back of fork if crust bubbles up. Continue to bake until crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the sausage with the onions and garlic pepper. Break up the sausage so that there aren’t any large pieces. Lower the heat if necessary; you don’t want much browning.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and onion to a bowl and allow to cool. Add the fontina, salami, Parmesan, and basil to the sausage mixture. Toss gently to combine. Then gently place in the prepared crust.

Beat eggs, cream, nutmeg and white pepper together to blend, then pour the custard over the sausage and cheese mixture in crust. I was so smart and made the pie pan larger so all of the egg and cream mixture would fit and not leak, but I was using my left hand for my “pouring” shot, which already isn’t coordinated, but with the help of recent surgery… a significant amount was poured in between the pie pan and crust. See it?!!

Bake tart until filling is set in the center and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes and serve. Fortunately, despite the leakage, the pie sliced well.

Depending when you make this tart, serve with a tomato salad, or a simple green salad.


Or an arugula and tomato salad!

If you don’t have any fresh basil on hand, you can thin some basil pesto with olive oil and drizzle it over the baked tart or on the serving plates.

 

 

Mimi’s Tomato Pie

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I started making this savory pie when I was perhaps a young teenager. I’m pretty sure my mother had clipped the original recipe from McCall’s magazine. I loved the pie so much that I dubbed it “Mimi’s” tomato pie, which is a bit pompous. I think I was excited to finally learn to love tomatoes, which I hadn’t previously.

This savory pie is made with ripe tomatoes, so I only make it in the summer.


If you love the combination of tomatoes, Swiss cheese and bacon, and basil, you’ll love this pie. It’s simple and wonderful.

Mimi’s Tomato Pie
printable recipe below

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces sliced or grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces bacon, preferably uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust. I use two sizes of tomatoes and two different varieties.

When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing 1/3 of the Swiss cheese on the crust.

Add 1/2 of the tomato slices, filling in as many holes as possible using the smaller slices.

Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then add the other half of the cheese and tomatoes, seasoning the tomatoes. You will end up with 2 layers of cheese and 2 layers of tomatoes.

Lay the bacon slices in a lattice or radial pattern on top of the tomatoes.

Bake the pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes. The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.

Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.


The pie is good with a nice Viognier, an Albariño or a rosé.

Oh, and the pie is really good heated up for breakfast…

As I mentioned above, if you love tomatoes, cheese and bacon…

Tomato Pie

Pie crust for 9” pie pan
Fresh Tomatoes
12 ounces grated Swiss cheese
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces uncured bacon
Fresh basil

Bake the pie crust, lined with weights, at 350 degrees Farenheit until just lightly golden. Remove the weights and let the crust cool.
Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and place them on paper towels. They need to be as dry as possible so as not to mush up the crust.
When you’re ready to assemble the pie, begin by placing half of the Swiss cheese on the crust.
Add half of the sliced tomatoes, filling in as many holes as possible.
Season the tomatoes generously with salt and pepper, then top with the remaining cheese and tomatoes, again seasoning them with salt and pepper.
Bake the tomato pie at for 30 minutes, then raise the heat up to 375 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
The bacon should be cooked and the cheese bubbly.
Before serving, top the pie with a basil chiffonade, or simply strew basil leaves on top if you prefer.

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.

Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.

I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Springtime Baked Brie Tartlets

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Blogging is so addicting fun for me, that posts are scheduled months ahead. But as a result, when I come across something new that I must make ASAP, posts get pushed back, which is exactly what happened to these baked brie tartlets.

I wanted to make them last Christmas, but now here it is April. Instead of postponing them until the following Christmas, I decided to make a springtime version. I mean, why not? Warm cheese isn’t only for winter holidays. And instead of cranberry chutney or some similar festive variety, I’m using strawberry onion chutney.

If you’re not familiar with cooked fruit chutneys, they are different from compotes in that there are savory components. My favorites to use are combinations of onion, garlic, and ginger. The resulting flavor profile includes a bit of zing, as well as sweetness.

Recently on Instagram, I saw a cheese board from Murray’s Cheese in New York City, and I asked about a certain beautiful, orange-rinded cheese. Turns out it’s called Brebisrousse D’Argental, a sheep milk cheese from Lyon, France.

I thought the orange rind and white paste would be beautiful paired with the strawberry chutney.

Just for the ease of preparing these tartlets, I purchased pre-baked phyllo cups. You just fill and serve, and they’re basically a one-bite size.


Springtime Baked Brie Tartlets

1 package (15) phyllo tartlets
Cheese of choice that melts easily, like Brie, Fontina, or Raclette
Strawberry chutney, or choice of zingy condiment
Good balsamic vinegar

Place the tartlets on a microwave-safe serving dish. Fill them about halfway with the cheese you’re using. Gently warm the cheese, using a low-strength microwave setting.

Add some of the chutney, and then top with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

And you’re done.

I know I called these baked brie tartlets, but baking isn’t necessary, since all you have to do is warm the cheese. I also didn’t actually use Brie…

Now I get to have friends over and finish up this amazing cheese that I just discovered! Yes, it melts well, but it’s also good as-is!

Get creative with this kind of tartlet. You can choose your cheese, as I did, and also choose your condiment. There are so many available for purchase these days – from apricot to tomato chutneys.

Cabbage Rolls, Deconstructed

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I am completely aware that the term “deconstructed” is overused these days, but that’s exactly what innocently came to mind when I first thought about this recipe.

Cabbage rolls have always been a favorite of mine – mostly because of all the varieties of stuffings potentially hiding inside. Ground pork with rice and raisins, reminiscent of dolma, or sausage rolled in cabbage, smothered in red sauce – all delicious, comforting, and reliable.

There’s nothing tedious or challenging about making cabbage rolls, but it’s easy to run out of the nice big cabbage leaves.

So I was staring at a cabbage the other day, and thought I could simply parboil the cabbage, and create a layered “casserole” of cabbage and sausage. But I also needed a white sauce and cheese.

I not only was thinking of traditional cabbage rolls, but also a recipe I made which was bacon and mushrooms in béchamel and wrapped in cabbage leaves – more of a side dish than a meal, and deliciously rich.

So here’s what I did, combining the components of both recipes.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls
printable recipe below

1 large head of white cabbage, about 3 pounds
1-2 tablespoons oil or bacon fat
2 pounds Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Approximately 4 cups of bechamel, double this recipe
Grated Gruyère, about 16 ounces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Have a large pot of slightly salted water heating on the stove. Slice the cabbage in half and remove the core.

When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbage halves and keep them submerged. I used a plate with a weighted lid.

Cook the cabbage for about 6-7 minutes, or until the leaves soften a bit. Place the cabbage in a colander to drain and cool. When you can handle the leaves, separate them slightly and let them drip dry on a dish towel or paper towels.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage, pork and onion over medium-high heat, along with some oil, until barely any pink shows; don’t overcook.

Add the fennel seeds and white pepper. Taste for salt.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13″ baking dish.

Begin with adding cabbage leaves to the bottom of the dish.

Next add one-fourth of the sausage mixture, topped by one cup of bechamel, and sprinkle with about 4 ounces of grated cheese.

Repeat these layers three times or, if your baking dish is shallower, form only three layers, using thirds of the sausage mixture, bechamel, and cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Serve with some buttered potatoes for a really hearty meal!

One could certainly add celery, carrots, and parsley to the meat mixture.

Or, go a different direction with seasoning the meat component to make it Italian-inspired. There are so many options.

note: This deconstructed cabbage roll casserole would be just as good with a red sauce instead of a cheesy white one, and definitely less caloric, if you worry about that sort of thing.

 

 

 

Antipasti Pasta Salad

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This pasta salad recipe isn’t remarkable on its own, being that there are hundreds of pasta salad recipes, but this is remarkably good!

Inspired by my favorite antipasti platters, I used Italian dry salami, Prosciutto, Provolone, Fontina, plus olives and pepperoni. Then I added pasta and fresh vegetables to create an easy pasta salad that is definitely extraordinary.

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My vinaigrette is classic, made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and garlic.

Feel free to make this salad your own. It’s one of those “use what you like” recipes. Change up the meats and cheeses, add sun-dried tomatoes or marinated artichokes, chives or shallots, or your favorite dressing. It will all be delicious!

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Antipasti – Inspired Pasta Salad

16 ounces pasta of choice, I used rotini
Olive oil
Salt
10 ounces dry Italian salami
8 ounces Provolone
8 ounces Fontina
6 ounces Prosciutto
12 ounce jar peperoncini
6 ounces Greek Kalamata olives
6 ounces pimiento-stuffed Spanish green olives
12 ounces spinach
Fresh cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Vinaigrette of choice

Begin by cooking the dry pasta based on the package directions. Drain well, then return to the cooking pot. Stir in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a little salt; set aside to cool.

Cut up the salami and cheeses in a sort of julliene shape. Place in a bowl and set aside. Chifonnade slices of Prosciutto, or alternatively, slice in to bits. Set aside.

Place the drained pepperoncini and olives in the jar of a food processor and pulse until in pieces. Set aside.

Chifonnade fresh spinach leaves and place on a large platter or pasta bowl. Add the cooled pasta on top.

If you don’t want a “composed” salad, all of the ingredients can alternatively be tossed in a large bowl.

Add the salami and cheese mixture, plus the Prosciutto.

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Add some of the pepperoncini-olive mixture to the center of the pasta salad.

Sprinkle generously with coarsely-ground black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes.

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If desired, add some cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves.

Serve at room temperature with the vinaigrette.

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note: I would normally have added a little vinaigrette to the cooked pasta, but I’m always wary about guests not liking vinegar. But all components of this salad could first be tossed with some vinaigrette, including the spinach, if the salad will be served immediately. If your guests also don’t like pepperoncini and olives, the mixture could be served on the side.

Cheese Log with Walnuts

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It seems like I’ve been entertaining a lot lately. I love having company. But what that means is that I have a lot of extra cheese on hand, because I always purchase good cheeses for entertaining.

Inspired by a recipe by Jacques Pepin, I decided to combine all of my leftover cheeses and make a cheese log. Jacques Pepin calls this fromage fort, which literally translates to “strong” cheese.

That’s really a misnomer because there’s nothing strong about this cheese unless you choose to make it strong. It’s all about your choice of cheeses. I used goat cheese, Manchego, and Fontina.

In his book, Chez Jacques, Jacques tells the story about how his father always made crocks of cheeses created by whatever leftover cheeses they had on hand. He also included other things like wine and sometimes garlic. His father’s cheese creations were definitely strong because he aged them for about 1 1/2 weeks in the cellar before serving.

Mrs. Pepin follows the same method of combining leftover cheese to make fromage fort, but unlike the “old” days, uses a food processor. She also adds some cream cheese or cottage cheese if the cheeses are on the dry side. I use butter for that purpose.

I’m not including cheese weights in this “recipe,” because the whole point of making this fromage fort, or potted cheese, is using what you have left over.

Cheese Log with Walnuts

Goat cheese, at room temperature
Manchego, chopped or grated
Fontina, chopped coarsely
Butter, at room temperature
Walnuts

I placed the goat cheese and the grated Manchego and Fontina in a large bowl. Then I added some butter just to make things a little softer and smoother.

cheese6

I toasted the walnuts. Then I chopped them on a cutting board.

I layed out a piece of plastic wrap on my workspace, and then carefully placed some of the chopped walnuts on the plastic wrap. I did this instead of just pouring the walnuts onto the plastic, because I didn’t want to include the walnut “powder” that comes from chopping the walnuts. I wanted the bigger, cleaner pieces.

cheese3

I used my hands to mix everything together – it was almost like kneading a greasy bread. It all could have been done in the food processor as well.

cheese4

Then I formed a log of sorts and pressed it down onto the stretch of walnuts.

cheese2

Then I added more walnuts, and kept turning over the log until all sides were completely covered with walnuts.

cheese1

Wrap the log securely and store in the refrigerator.

At least 2 hours before serving, remove the log from the fridge and place on the serving plate. Then let it come to room temperature. Serve with crackers or bread.

This is really good cheese to serve with charcuterie and olives or cornichons, as well as other cheeses.

You don’t have to turn your cheeses into a log. If you prefer, just place the mixture in a crock. But if you stick to the log idea, different nuts can be used. Instead of nuts you could use only chopped herbs in the summer. And, you could use dried fruit as well – think dried cranberries and pistachios for the holidays!!

Do this yourself some time and create a new cheese with your leftovers!