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brunch

book review, recipe

Cloud Atlas + Cloud Eggs

My friend Deanna, who you may know recognize from my short series of Gilmore posts, absolutely loves David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. I had read one of his other novels a while back and wasn’t a fan, so when she actually let me borrow it (an embarrassingly long time) ago, I was reluctant to read it and find it underwhelming. But, I finally decided I should rip off the bandaid, so to speak, and recently gave it a try. It was definitely not underwhelming.

Cloud Atlas David Mitchell Book Cover

Cloud Atlas is a complicated story five spanning centuries, going from the 1800s to the distant future and back again. Each character has only two chapters, one where they’re introduced as we move through the future and one as we head back in time to the beginning. (Excepting one, of course, who is there only in the middle of the story.) It’s a very interesting concept, and I probably wouldn’t have chosen to start it on a boat in the middle of the 1800s, but it is what it is. Thankfully, Deanna had warned me about the first chapter, and though it took quite a while to get into, I persevered.

As with all books, there were characters I liked better than others and some i disliked altogether. The problem with the structure, however, was that I was stuck with the ones I didn’t really like for a long time in a row and then I had to “look forward to” seeing them again on the boomerang back. The novel was also a little too self-aware for my taste. Mitchell wrote a lot of commentary on the structure and the characters and the meaning of it all into his own characters’ mouths and thoughts, which I typically don’t enjoy.

I know my review isn’t exactly glowing, but I didn’t hate it. I’m actually glad I read it, and I can see why Deanna (and others) like it so much. The story it tells is very intriguing. Weirdly, it made me want to see the movie for a different and visual perspective. It also made me want to make some cloud eggs. A book that fit perfectly with the latest hipster trend – what luck! (Kidding, but only a little bit.)

In my research, I found a recipe that wasn’t too intimidating (though most of them seemed mostly doable). I also found an interesting article from NPR that made me feel a lot better about the whole cloud egg trend. Wouldn’t you know it, what’s old is new again – in food as in everything else.

To start, I preheated my oven to 450 degrees and assembled my ingredients and bowls. I separate the old-fashioned way (hands only), so I just had a couple of bowls to divide the whites and yolks into.

With the whites separated, I seasoned them with salt and pepper and used a hand mixer to whip them into stiff peaks. I carefully folded in the Parmesan cheese. On the baking sheet, I made 4 separate mounds of the whipped whites and indented them so my yolks would have somewhere to lie later.

Egg Whites, Cloud Eggs, Baking

After they baked for 3 minutes, I took the sheet out of the oven and added one egg yolk to each egg white cloud. It went back into the oven for 3 more minutes, until the yolks were set. I served with toast, perfect to mop up the runny yolks.

Cloud Eggs

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 3 TBS finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray lightly with baking spray.
  2. Separate egg whites and egg yolks, placing the egg whites in a large bowl and each yolk in its own small bowl.
  3. Season the egg whites with salt and pepper. Using a whisk or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in Parmesan.
  4. On the prepared baking sheet, create 4 mounds of egg whites and indent the centers of each to look like nests. Bake until slightly golden, about 3 minutes.
  5. Carefully add an egg yolk to the center of each egg white cloud. Season yolk with salt and pepper. Bake until the yolks are just set, about 3 minutes more. Garnish with chives, if using, and serve immediately.

Adapted from: Delish

The original recipe doesn’t call for spray the parchment paper, but I found that my finished eggs were a bit difficult to get off after baking. Additionally, the original recipe has you add all egg yolks to one bowl – obviously this creates less dish cleaning afterward, but it’s much trickier to get them out later without breaking them. (I broke two, despite being extremely careful.) The call is ultimately yours, but be careful!


PLUS: If you haven’t entered for your chance to win a free book yet, there’s still time! Enter my 1 Year Anniversary Giveaway through Friday, 8/11. More details in Sunday’s post.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Housekeeping + Poached Eggs on Mushroom Arugula Toast

Marilynne Robinson is perhaps best known for her Gilead series, of which the first novel was published to much acclaim about 25 years after the book I’m here to share today, Housekeeping. This novel is understated, following sisters Ruth and Lucille, as they are left in the quiet, flood-prone town of Fingerbone to live in their grandmother’s house.

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After their grandmother dies, the house is passed on to two great aunts who move in to take care of Ruth and Lucille, though they seem to doubt their abilities to do so. Late one evening, the girls’ Aunt Sylvie appears, seemingly unaware of her mother’s passing. She is greeted with surprise and a quick meal of poached eggs.  

Eventually, Sylvie becomes the girls’ caretaker, though she isn’t much for mothering, cooking or housekeeping, instead piling up cans and newspapers in the living room, preferring to eat her food cold and allowing the girls to skip school. Her transient ways leave her restless in the house. In response, Lucille seeks out a more normal childhood; Ruth can’t help but be drawn in, with implications that last their whole lives.

Shortly after Sylvie takes up permanent residence, a flood seeps into Fingerbone, covering the town with water and dampening everything, including her spirits. So, I thought some local mushrooms, which require a damp environment to grow well, would pair nicely with the poached eggs Sylvie ate upon her arrival. This weekend’s brunch was Poached Eggs on Mushroom Arugula Toast.

First, I roughly chopped my mushrooms (so nicely picked up by Scott at Eastern Market on Saturday morning) and my flat leaf parsley.

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I set a high-sided skillet mostly filled with water onto the stove to begin coming to a boil for the poached eggs. In another medium skillet, I heated through a tablespoon or so of olive oil and added the mushrooms. After a few minutes, when they were lightly browned and softened, I added the minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

About a minute later, I added the goat cheese and milk and stirred until combined. I seasoned with salt and black pepper before adding the butter. At this point, I turned off the heat because my poaching water was ready to go. I also slipped my bread into the toaster.

I poured approximately 2 tablespoons of vinegar into my softly boiling water (vinegar will vary based on the amount of water, but for about 3 inches of water in a 10” pan, 2 tablespoons worked perfectly). I started with 2 eggs and cracked each into its own small bowl, lowering them one at a time into the water so that a bit of the water could seep in and help to start setting the egg white. I slowly poured the egg into the boiling water and used a wooden spoon to “collect” the egg whites around the yolk. I repeated with the second egg and set a time for 3 minutes.

I reignited the heat under the mushrooms and added the parsley and arugula so it could begin to wilt while the eggs finished poaching. I placed the finished toast on a plate, topped with the mushroom mixture and, once the eggs were done (fish them carefully out of the water with a slotted spoon), I added them to the top of the toasts.

Poached Eggs on Mushroom Arugula Toast

  • Servings: 2
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Slightly Adapted From: Shutterbean (whose pictures are much nicer than mine)

Ingredients

  • 2 slices hearty bread, toasted
  • a glug olive oil
  • 6 oz. mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • a pad of butter
  • kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
  • a pinch red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • a handful of arugula
  • 4 eggs, poached in two batches

Directions

  1. Begin by heating a deep-sided skillet or wide pot filled with about 2-3 inches of water over medium-high heat. This should be brought to a soft boil while you cook the mushroom topping.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat with a glug of olive oil. Add in mushrooms and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
  3. Add in the milk, and goat cheese, stirring until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in butter. Turn off the heat while you make the poached eggs.
  4. Add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the softly boiling water. (If it boils to aggressively it will cause the whites of the eggs to fall apart.)
  5. Put each egg in a small bowl (a measuring cup works well too). Carefully tip the bowl into the pot so that a bit of the hot water helps to start setting the egg and then pour the egg slowly into the pot. Using a wooden spoon or similarly blunt cooking utensil, gently push the egg whites over/around the yolk. Repeat with the second egg. Allow eggs to cook for approximately 3 minutes.
  6. While the eggs cook, put your toast in the toaster.
  7. Turn the heat back on under the mushrooms and add the parsley and arugula. When arugula has wilted, take mushrooms off the heat and transfer them to the top of the toasts. Place a poached egg (or two) on the top of each mound of mushrooms. Season with salt & pepper and serve immediately.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

Welcome to Braggsville + Belgian Waffles

A story about a small town in Georgia starts at UC Berkeley with a group of four unlikely friends. In an alternate history class, the “4 Little Indians” hatch a plan that has D’Aron bringing them all back to his hometown for a reenactment of the Civil War. Their demonstration is expected to raise eyebrows and challenge the local mindset, but it ends up changing more than just opinions.

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Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson was chosen as the inaugural book for my office’s new Diversity Council Book Club. It certainly spawned some interesting conversation around race, class and unconscious bias and challenged the thinking of everyone in the room.

While I struggled with the writing style, which made it hard to tell who was speaking, if anyone was speaking at all and sometimes what the heck was actually going on, I realized (after some discussion with the group) that that might have been the point. Throughout the book, there is some confusion as to what events actually unfold and how, but one scene that is a very clear turning point in the story happens at a waffle house, while the foursome eats breakfast.

After finding a waffle recipe to accompany this novel, I borrowed a waffle maker from a generous coworker and set to work. With quite a few steps (and dishes), this recipe certainly isn’t as easy as some of the ones out there, but it was definitely delicious. If you have the time on a weekend morning, I suggest giving it a try.

With my oven at 200 degrees F, I combined the dry ingredients – flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With that set aside, I also combined most of the wet ingredients – buttermilk, milk (I used 2%), vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks.

In yet another bowl, I used a hand mixer to whip up my egg whites. Once they formed soft peaks, I added 3 tablespoons of sugar and continued whipping to form stiff, glossy peaks.

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At this point, I turned on my waffle maker to preheat. (It didn’t take very long to get up to temperature.)

While whisking, I poured the wet ingredients into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and mixed until they were just combined. Finally, I folded in the egg white mixture. With the batter all ready to go, I began making the waffles.

I had to use about 1 cup of the mixture per waffle, but be sure to follow the directions on your waffle maker. Since I could only make one at a time, I followed the suggestion of Jaclyn at Cooking Classy and used the warm oven to keep them from getting cold while I finished up.

Though there are plenty of ways to “fancy up” the waffles, we went the classic route and topped them with a bit of butter and some maple syrup. I hope you enjoy as much as we did!

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Buttermilk Belgian Waffles

  • Servings: about 6
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Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup milk
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil or canola oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 3 TBS granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Preheat a Belgian waffle iron (if you don’t have a Belgian waffle maker a regular waffle maker would work fine). In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt for 20 seconds, make a well in center of mixture and set aside.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl whisk together buttermilk, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on high speed, whip egg whites (make sure there isn’t a drop of yolk or they’ll never fluff up) until soft peaks form. Add sugar and whip until stiff glossy peaks form.
  4. While whisking, pour buttermilk mixture into well in flour mixture and mix just until combined (batter should be slightly lumpy). Fold in egg white mixture.
  5. Cook batter in waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions. Once each waffle is done, transfer to warm oven and allow to rest until crisp. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Variations: Serve with sweetened whipped cream, fresh berries and raspberry/blueberry or strawberry syrup. For churro waffles, brush top of waffle with melted butter (be sure to get in each square) then pour a generous amount of cinnamon sugar into a 9-inch pie dish and dunk butter coated side in cinnamon sugar mixture.

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Girls + Watermelon Lemonade

Emma Cline’s The Girls turned out to be the perfect novel to close out summer. It follows 14-year-old Evie Boyd during the last summer before she leaves her home in Northern California to begin boarding school. Although heavily based on the Manson cult, it is not the charismatic leader who draws Evie in but one of the girls instead.

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After wondering at the girls from afar, it seems fated when Evie’s busted bike chain leaves her stranded. The girls (and Guy) pull up in their bus and rescue her back to their ranch for the summer solstice party. The celebration is nothing like a traditional party, watermelon broken open on the picnic table while greedy children dig at it with their fingers. Evie sees past the dirt, decay and deviance. She is entranced.

Suzanne, one of the girls, is entranced as well – but with the group’s leader Russell, always attuned to his presence and ready to follow his every whim. Over the course of the summer, Evie becomes similarly obsessed with Suzanne. Though she leaves the ranch often, it’s the thought of Suzanne that keeps Evie going back, and it’s because of her that Evie pushes the boundaries of her prior life.

Dependent on donations and stolen food, meals at the ranch are meager and infrequent. As the summer lolls by, the girls reach near-starvation yet remain devoted to Russell. Any appearance of food is a cause for celebration, any remaining sense of etiquette gone until the food, too, has disappeared.

Lemonade is a drink that invokes long, lazy days – a summer classic. When you add in some watermelon, to call back to the summer solstice party and the “sticky juice” one of the girls drips all over the floor during a trip off the ranch, it makes an excellent fit for Cline’s novel.  

I found Cooking Classy’s recipe for watermelon lemonade and made some this past Labor Day Weekend, a fond farewell to summer.

I cubed about a quarter of my too-large watermelon and pureed it, using my food processor in two batches. Starting out with 4 cups of puree, I ended up with about 3 cups of juice once I strained out the pulp.

I ended up using 5 lemons for the juice, with an extra leftover for garnish. I combined the water, lemon juice and sugar using a wooden spoon until the sugar was dissolved. I only needed to use the ⅔ cup recommended – it was a little tart, but it worked really well once mixed with the watermelon juice. Add some fresh mint and ice and serve on a hot day.

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Watermelon Lemonade

  • Servings: 6-8 (Yields about 8 cups)
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Ingredients

  • 6 cups cubed seedless watermelon, chilled* (2 lbs after peeling)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup fresh strained lemon juice, chilled*
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
  • Ice and fresh mint for serving

Directions

  1. Add watermelon to a blender and pulse until well pureed (there should be about 4 cups). Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
  2. In a large pitcher whisk together water, lemon juice and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Stir in pureed watermelon. Stir in ice and mint (alternately add ice and mint directly to individual cups and pour lemonade over). Store in refrigerator.

*If you don’t have time to chill the ingredients then just use more ice in place of some of the water.

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As a bonus, here’s my puppy Beta, who enjoyed her first taste of watermelon while I made the lemonade.

book review, recipe

The Nightingale + Summer Vegetable Galette

Even though Kristin Hannah’s historical novel The Nightingale was one of last year’s bestsellers, I just now got around to reading it. I actually checked it out of the library a few times before but always put it down in favor of a shorter (and generally happier) selection. Thankfully, one of my book clubs – the sporadically-meeting one at work – chose it for our next meeting, so I finally had no choice but to pick it up, and I’m glad I did.

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Set primarily in France during WWII, The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Though they take different paths, both sisters do what they must to make a difference in others’ lives, even while struggling to survive their own.

As with any novel set during a war, you shouldn’t head into this expecting an “enjoyable” read because it isn’t. In fact, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for the sisters, they inevitably did. The Nazis’ brutality came alive on the page.

Hannah certainly didn’t spare her characters any heartache or physical pain, but she wrote with such poignancy that tender moments became that much more tender and triumphs that much more victorious. Her writing painted a vivid picture of life in German-occupied France. Her descriptions of food, in particular, helped to contrast times of bounty against times of hardship.  

“Two years ago this pantry had been full to overflowing with hams smoked in ash and jars full of duck fat set beside coils of sausage. Bottles of aged champagne vinegar, tins of sardines, jars of jam. Now, they were nearly to the end of the chicory coffee. The last of the sugar was a sparkly white residue in the glass container, and the flour was more precious than gold. Thank God the garden had produced a good crop of vegetables in spite of the war refugees’ rampage.”

Throughout much of the novel, food was scarce but Le Jardin, Vianne’s residence, continued to provide. In a nod to her garden, I opted to make a French galette, or sort of rustic tart, filled with local summer vegetables. I found a recipe from Foodie Crush and made it my own.

I caramelized the onions for about an hour, but if you have the time, I’d recommend going longer. Mine weren’t quite as caramelized as I like them, but I was hungry and impatient. While they cooked down on the stove, I prepped the Michigan-grown tomatoes and zucchini, which were gorgeous.

I assembled the galettes with some pre-made trimmed pie crusts (time saver!) by brushing the edges with egg white and then coating the center with Dijon mustard. I topped each pastry with the caramelized onions, some neat rows of zucchini coins (sprinkled with thyme) and thinnish slices of tomato. A generous coating of crumbled goat cheese and some salt and pepper finished them off.

One more brush of egg white along the folded edges to add some color while baking and into the oven they went. After 25 minutes, they came out like this:

Summer Vegetable Galette with Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4
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Adapted from: Foodie Crush

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts (1 box)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat and melt the butter and olive oil together. Add the sliced onions, season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly cook the onions for about 1 hour (longer if desired), stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and caramelized. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Cut one of the refrigerated pie crusts into a square (removing the rounded edges, discarding or saving for later use), roughly 7” x 9”. Place the pie crust onto a large baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Lightly brush the pie crust with the beaten egg white, inward about 1” from the edges.
  4. Spread 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard on the interior of each pie crust. Scatter the caramelized onions onto the mustard. Layer the zucchini slices over the onions (approximately 3-4 rows). Sprinkle dried thyme onto the zucchini. Top with the tomato slices.
  5. Sprinkle the entire tart with goat cheese, as desired. I used about 3/4 cup of Provençal Herb goat cheese, which included basil among other seasonings. (You can use whatever goat cheese you prefer.) Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Fold the long edges of the pie crust over and then the short edges on each galette. Brush the edges of the crust with egg white.
  7. Bake the galettes for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the vegetables are softened. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Original recipe from Foodie Crush can be found here.