Time to Break Some Eggs


When I was six, my family ate breakfast together on weekend mornings, and the highlight, for me, was a soft-boiled egg, served in an egg cup with the shell still on it. I learned to slice off the top with a knife, scoop out the runny yolk, then scrape out the white. Now I sometimes think that, as long as I have eggs (OK, and chocolate), I’ll be happy.

Eggs are also great in a hurry. Recently, friends from Texas, in town to run the Boston Marathon, came for lunch. Though we knew a day ahead that they’d be over, I really only had about an hour to pull off a meal. So, eggs to the rescue: in this case a frittata with asparagus and potatoes, along with a plate of smoked salmon and some matzah (it was Passover, otherwise we’d have served bagels) and a fruit salad.

I had been making Tortilla Española for years before I realized it’s a potato frittata and started adding (or substituting) other ingredients. Asparagus this time because it’s spring, and we all like it. Plus a little smoked Gouda cheese. The exact quantities of fillings and eggs are not crucial. You want a sufficient ratio of fillings to eggs so that the fillings sort of float in the eggs with some space between the pieces and the egg binds it all together. The mixture should fill the pan, too.

Asparagus and Potato Frittata for Eight

1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used russet)
Half a bunch of asparagus, woody stem ends broken off and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces (about 10-12 spears)
1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used smoked Gouda)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F. On the stove, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch, ovenproof skillet on medium heat Add potatoes and asparagus, and cook until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork and asparagus is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent potatoes from sticking to the pan (you may need to add a bit more oil). While potatoes and asparagus are cooking, break eggs into a bowl and whisk together.

When the potatoes and asparagus are cooked, scrape any browned bits from the pan and add oil enough to coat the bottom (2 Tbl ought to do it, but use your judgement. You want enough oil so the eggs won’t stick to the bottom of the pan.). Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetables, sprinkle the cheese on top and stir very gently so the fillings are spread evenly in the pan. When the edges start to set, stick a silicone spatula between the eggs and the side of the pan and lift carefully, tipping the pan so some of the uncooked egg runs underneath. Repeat in another one or two spots around the edges of the pan, as you would do when making a plain omlette. Now place the pan in the oven and cook until the top is set (it may get a little bit brown).

Remove the pan from the oven. Let it cool for a few minutes, then slice into serving pieces. I find squares are easiest to lift out without breaking.


What to Eat in a Blizzard


A meaty stew, because it’s cold outside. And hot dogs. Because you wish it wasn’t. And in between, French toast, because you want to indulge before you grab the shovel.

For Friday night, the stew: lamb, carrots, prunes and pearl onions seasoned with ginger, cinnamon, garlic and cumin (see the photo). A Moroccan tagine of sorts, served with a loaf of whole-grain sourdough, which filled us as we watched the Blizzard of 2013 fill up the driveway.

On Saturday, French toast for breakfast. And hot dogs for dinner: A brainstorm, inspired by cold fingers and sore shoulders. A meal that reminds us of summer and being outdoors. Our first idea was to roast the hot dogs in our wood-burning fireplace, but the fireplace is small and we didn’t want to risk a grease fire. Instead, we broiled the hot dogs and ate them with steamed green beans, baked beans from a can and tater tots. Afterwards, we roasted marshmallows in the fireplace and made s’mores while we streamed episodes of Fawlty Towers.

I’d planned the lamb stew, sort of, earlier in the week, roughly following the method, and some of the suggested ingredients, in a master stew recipe by Molly Stevens in the February/March 2013 issue of Fine Cooking. I already had the leg of lamb, as well as the carrots, prunes, spices, chickpeas, wine and chicken stock. We did not have hot dogs, buns, green beans, or, for that matter, marshmallows. But the small grocery store/farmstand about a mile and a half from us was open, and they did.

Lamb Stew with Carrots, Pearl Onions and Prunes

I made this stew for the first time on Friday, and so some of the measurements may need a little adjusting. But it’s stew, so if you use a little more of this or a little less of that, it will probably be just as good. I might pick up the seasonings a bit next time, and try a dry wine to counteract the sweetness of the prunes. It takes about an hour to prepare before putting it in the oven, then about 2 hours to braise while you go do something else. Originally, I was going to try this in the slow cooker but since I knew I would be home all day, and I had a lot of work to do in the morning, I opted to wait until late afternoon to start it and cooked it in the oven. Serves 4-5

1 leg of lamb, about 2.5 lbs, boned and cut into 1.5-inch chunks and trimmed of fat (or approximately 2 lbs lamb stew meat).
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3  slices of ginger root, about 1/8-inch thick, peeled (I had a wide knob of it, at least 2 inches in diameter. If yours is narrower, you might want to try 4-6 slices)
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 c white wine (I had an open bottle of Gewürztraminer, which is somewhat sweet. But dry would be better.)
2 c chicken stock
1 c water
2 c pearl onions, peeled
2 c carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 c whole prunes
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas
Juice from one lemon
Some chopped parsley (about 1/3 c) to sprinkle on top
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Use a dutch oven, or another heavy bottomed, ovenproof pan with high sides and a lid (I used a 2-quart size). Put a rack in the bottom 1/3 of your oven and preheat the oven to 325 F.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Dry the lamb pieces, season with salt and brown them in batches, a third at a time, adding up to 1 tbsp of oil and adjusting the heat if necessary so the meat and drippings don’t burn. Transfer the browned meat to a plate.

Pour off all but 1 tbsp of oil from the pan and add the chopped onion and celery. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the onions and celery soften. Add the sliced ginger, cumin, cinnamon, garlic and a few grinds of pepper, and stir for a minute or two until you can smell the spices.

Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, until it is reduced by half. Add the stock and water, and bring to a boil, then add the meat and any juices back into the pan. At this point, you’re going to put it in the oven for a while. Molly Stevens suggests covering the surface of the stew with a large piece of parchment that you crumple up and then flatten out again (it should be big enough to come up the sides of the pan. I did this, and it does keep the stew moist. Cover the pan and cook for an hour.

Add the carrots, peeled onions and prunes. If too much liquid has evaporated, despite the parchment, add a little more stock or water (I forgot the water initially and added it when I added it during this step. You want enough liquid in the pan to almost cover the meat and vegetables). Cover the surface again with parchment and cook for another hour.

At this point, the meat should be easy to cut with a fork. Add the chickpeas and return the pan to the oven to heat through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle parsley on top.

French Toast

Almost everyone has a recipe for this. But here’s mine. Challah, a traditional Jewish bread made with eggs, is my favorite.

A few 1-inch thick slices of challah bread (2-3 per person)
Some eggs (2 large for every 4-5 slices)
1/4 cup milk per 2 eggs
a dash of vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
unsalted butter

Beat the eggs, milk, vanilla an optional orange zest in a medium bowl. Melt the butter over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold a couple of slices of bread at a time. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture so it soaks through, and put it in the pan. Adjust the heat so that the surface of the bread toasts slowly and doesn’t burn. When the first side is golden brown, turn it over and toast the other side. The egg mixture should cook enough so that the inside of the bread isn’t soggy.

Serve with maple syrup, or topped with confectioners sugar, with some fruit on the side.

My Yogurt Mania


I love breakfast, but I don’t want to have to think about it. Plain yogurt, mixed with granola, some fresh fruit and  a handful of walnuts, pecans or almonds,  generally does the trick (the yogurt in the photo is topped with apple, walnuts and pomegranate seeds). If I want it sweeter than the fruit makes it, I’ll add a little honey, maple syrup or jam. It’s filling, with enough protein to wake me up, though coffee helps, too.

This is similar to the breakfast my father has been eating for about 50 years—or longer, maybe. I made it a regular habit myself when I was pregnant with my son and needed to eat something more nutritious than a bagel with cream cheese. I started making my own yogurt about 4 years ago, after I attended a demonstration by Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply. She made mozzarella and ricotta, but had yogurt samples, too. I haven’t got into making cheese (the first time I made mozzarella, my kitchen looked like it had exploded), but I’m pretty obsessed with homemade yogurt now. Supermarket yogurt is way too sweet for me. My husband eats the homemade stuff, too, so I make anywhere from  a 1/2 gallon to a gallon a week, for about a quarter of the price I’d pay for factory yogurt. We still buy the store brands for the kids, but I figure they’ll come around eventually. At least they eat yogurt.

A batch of yogurt involves a few minutes of active time, about an hour of intermittent attention and 6-10 hours  of waiting while you go about your business. I make it on weekend mornings, or start a batch late in the afternoon so it’s done before I go to bed at night. There’s some incubating right now on my kitchen counter. The recipe below is adapted from several different sources, though the basic method is from the label on the powdered Y5 yogurt culture I buy from New England Cheesemaking.

Your Own Yogurt

1/2 gallon milk. (I use 2 percent. When I’ve used milk with lower fat content, the yogurt doesn’t set properly.)
1 packet yogurt culture, or 4 tablespoons of yogurt from your previous batch

Special equipment:
Yogotherm insulated container

Pour the milk into a 3 quart saucepan. Heat on medium low until the milk reaches 185 degrees F (a skin will form on top; you’ll remove it later). Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. The temperature of the milk should remain at 185 degrees.

When the 15 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and remove the skin from the top of the milk with a wooden spoon. Cool the milk to 112-115 degrees F. To hasten the cooling process, I put the saucepan inside a larger pot filled partway with cold water, slip  a reusable ice pack into the water between the sides of the two pots and stir the milk periodically. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, this process takes about 15 minutes.

Pour in the 112-115 degree milk into the plastic Yogotherm container. If you’re using powdered yogurt culture, sprinkle it over the surface of the milk and let it rehydrate for a couple of minutes, then stir it in.  If you’re using yogurt from your previous batch, mix it first with a few spoonfuls of the milk before adding it to the warm milk.

Cover the plastic container with its lid, making sure you remove extra air from the container. Put it inside the insulated container and cover it with the insulated lid.  Set it in on the counter where it won’t be disturbed for 8-10 hours. When the yogurt is done incubating, putting it in the fridge for a few hours will thicken it a bit (it won’t be as thick as store-bought ’cause you’re not using emulsifiers or stabilizers. The yellowish liquid that has risen to the top of the container is whey. I stir it back in, but others pour it off and use it in other recipes.

Before you eat any, stir it well and spoon 4 tablespoons into a small container to save  for the next batch. I usually won’t reuse the culture for more than five or six batches—the yogurt gets more tart with every batch and eventually it’s too acidic for me. The yogurt, and the starter, will last more than week in the fridge, though as I said, we usually go through a half-gallon in a few days.

There’s a bit of art to this process, though: you may need to experiment a bit within the temperature range and the incubation window before you get the consistency you like. For me, it’s 115 degree milk, incubated for 8 hours.