Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches on Grilled Brioche

So, this sandwich:

comes really, really close to the dish I was trying to recreate. So close, in fact, that I'd call it a success! I accomplished exactly what I wanted, and it is really good.

While in Chicago I ate a fan-freaking-tastic meal at a small plates vegetarian restaurant called Green Zebra. My meal consisted of several small plates, including: fresh burrata cheese with satsuma tangerines, salted cucumbers, pickled red onions, and pumpernickel crumbs; udon noodles in a spicy-tart broth with squash dumplings and greens; an ice cream tasting; and my favorite dish of the night - soft-boiled egg salad with tarragon on grilled brioche. I've been day dreaming about it ever since.

I started looking for ways to recreate it as soon as I got home, and while I never found a recipe for a soft-boiled egg salad, I did find a hard-boiled salad that sounded similar and a recipe for brioche (I suppose, if you lived somewhere other than where I live, you could just go buy a brioche, but, like I said earlier this week, grocery stores around here kind of suck, so I was on my own). I soft-boiled the eggs and used the salad recipe, and it is perfection. Exactly what I wanted. And so, so good. It's quite time consuming, but if you're bored or in the mood to tackle a somewhat difficult cooking task (as I often am on weekends) do this. You won't regret it.

Tarragon Shallot Egg Salad Sandwiches on Grilled Brioche
Adapted from Epicurious

For egg salad
4 large eggs
1/4 c. light mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
3/4 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon, or to taste
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

For sandwiches
slices of brioche

Make egg salad:
Cover eggs with cold water by 1 inch in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Boil one minute and then cover and remove from heat. Let sit 4 minutes. Flood pan with running cold water and let eggs sit for a couple of minutes until cool enough to handle. Peel eggs and finely chop. (This will be very messy with soft boiled eggs.

Stir together eggs and remaining salad ingredients in a bowl with a fork. (I stirred quite vigorously in order to get the yolks to blend into the dressing.)

Spread slices of brioche with butter and grill in a hot skillet until browned. Serve egg salad between slices of grilled brioche. You'll probably need a knife and a fork.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Golden Brioche

I have been on a bread making kick lately; partially inspired by the goal I stated a while ago on my to cook/bake list, and partially because I'm trying to minimize the amount of processed foods that come into my house. My transformation to crunchy hippie is nearly complete!

Anyway, this delicious, buttery brioche was made for the purpose of trying to recreate a sandwich I had in Chicago that knocked my socks off. I started it on Saturday afternoon at around 3 and it finished baking about 24 hours later, and if that's not a lot of freaking effort for a sandwich that took me about 2 minutes to eat, I don't know how to make more of an effort.

It was also totally worth it.

I was a little nervous it wouldn't turn out. I mean, look at these:

They were supposed to rise to fill the pan within two hours. That didn't really happen, particularly not with the pan on the bottom. I'd say they probably doubled in size, but that still wasn't nearly large enough. Since I didn't need three loaves of brioche (I didn't really need two either, but this was the best looking recipe I could find) I made the other third of the dough into bubble-top brioche rolls. These, at least, looked a little more promising in the pan:

(A note about the pan: it's as old as I am (if not older) and I inherited it from my mom when I moved into my first apartment. It's so well seasoned you barely have to grease it, and I love the size.

Anyway, the rolls turned out wonderfully, so I had a little more hope for the bread after that.

The loafs were totally different sizes; the small one never really rose, while the larger one took off once in the oven. They both taste even better than the rolls, though, so I don't care that they didn't rise like I expected. I would declare this recipe completely worth the three sticks (!)  of butter it contains.

(And here's a sneak peek at the reason I made the bread in the first place.)

Golden Brioche
Adapted from Epicurious

1/3 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/3 c. warm milk (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 envelopes dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp from a larger container)
3 3/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 4 pieces, room temperature (This last part is very important)

1 egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water (for glaze)

Place 1/3 c. warm water, warm milk, and yeast in a bowl of a standing heavy-duty mixer; stir until yeast dissolves (this took about 2 minutes). Fit mixer with dough hook. Add flour and salt to bowl; mix on low speed just until flour is moistened, about 10 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in 3 eggs on low speed, then add sugar. Increase speed to medium and beat until dough comes together, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding next (dough will be soft and batter-like). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 7 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Lift up dough around edges and allow dough to fall and deflate in bowl. Cover bowl with plastic and chill until dough stops rising, lifting up dough around edges and allowing dough to fall and deflate in bowl every 30 minutes, about 2 hours total. Cover bowl with plastic; chill dough overnight.

Butter and flour 3 normal-sized bread pans (my two were different sizes, and I only have two, so that's also why I made the rolls). Divide dough into 3 equal pieces. For each loaf, cut one of the pieces into four equal pieces. Roll each into a short log, about the width of your loaf pan. Arrange logs crosswise in bottom of each prepared loaf pan. Cover pans with waxed paper. Let loaves rise at room temperature until dough almost fills pans, about 2 hours. (I let mine rise 3 hours and it had not almost filled pans, but it was time to bake them so we could have dinner at a normal time.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Gently brush top of loaves with egg glaze. Bake until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn loaves out onto racks; cool at least 1 hour.

(For the rolls, cut the piece into 6 equal pieces and each of those pieces into 3 pieces, which you then roll into balls, placing 3 balls in each cup. Allow to rise for about an hour or two, until the dough has risen above the rim of the pan by about 1/2 to 1 inch. Glaze with egg mixture. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.)

If you'd like to freeze a loaf, cool completely then wrap each loaf in foil; place in resealable plastic bags and freeze up to one month. Rewarm thawed loaves wrapped in foil in 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, if desired.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Meal Planning 1.25.10

We've made it to the last week of the month without eating meat! It really hasn't been too hard, save for a couple random chicken wing or cheese burger cravings. Come February, we're still going to keep this up for the most part, maybe eating meat for a meal or two per week. At least that's the plan; we'll see how it works out in reality. We just really would prefer to eat sustainably grown local meats if possible, and in order to afford that we have to cut back on our meat consumption quite a bit.

Anyway, this is the last week of our vegetarian month, so it's the last all-vegetarian meal plan that I have planned. Could happen again; we'll see. I'm also trying to prep some things ahead, and I'll share the plans below where applicable.

Monday: Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Fruit Salad

Since the quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) salad is supposed to be served cold, I'll make it on Sunday night (I wrote this yesterday to be posted today) so it can sit and the flavors can meld. Then all I will have to do is throw together the fruit salad on Monday night and dinner will be ready in mere minutes. I love when dinner is fast, because we're usually all starving when we get home. This will also mean fewer dishes Monday night, and fewer dishes is never a bad thing!

Tuesday: Peanut Noodles with stir-fried tofu, egg rolls

We're planning to use whole-wheat spaghetti for this dish, since our local grocery store kind of sucks and doesn't have udon or soba, or anything more exotic than whole wheat pasta really. I'm adding the tofu for more protein, and because Gabbie will eat it. The eggrolls are just frozen veggie egg rolls from the grocer's.

I love this tomato pie, but it is a little time consuming to be made on a week night. Therefore I am mixing up, rolling, and freezing the prepped crust, and chopping up tomatoes, on Sunday night. Then I'll only have to chop the onions and shred and mix the cheese mixture, assemble, and bake on Wednesday. And again - fewer dishes!

Thursday: Macaroni and Cheese, Peas, and fruit

I'm going to try something new here, so if the recipe turns out, I'll share it. It comes from a failed - texturally but not taste-wise - crockpot experiment, and I'm eager to see if I can make it a success by cooking it on the stove top first, then baking it.

Friday: Black Bean Nachos/Quesadillas

Another experiment I'll share probably next week - I'm using the black bean mash from another recipe, and we'll see how that works in nacho form. Since Gabbie can't eat the chips without choking (don't ask me how we know this - it wasn't a pleasant experience) she gets hers in quesadilla form. That will also allow Aaron and I to douse our nachos with pickled jalapeno slices with wild abandon. We both absolutely love spicy food!

Saturday: Soft-boiled egg salad on grilled brioche, veggies and dip

Yet another experiment, this one inspired by a delicious dish I had in Chicago last weekend. I'm baking the brioche today and freezing it. Then I'll reheat it on Saturday (we have plans for the day, otherwise I'd make it fresh then) for the sandwiches.

Sunday: Eggplant Parmesan, Salad, Garlic Bread

We have a new recipe for this I'll share later this week. It's messy and time consuming, but absolutely divine. You won't regret the effort, I promise.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

A couple of weeks ago I posted the picture you see above in my meal plan for the week. Then I dropped off the face of the earth. Sorry 'bout that.

Anyway, every month in Food Network Magazine they have an article called "Copy That!" where they remake some chain restaurant's famous dish. For the January/February 2010 issue, the dish was Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I'm a big fan of this soup, but it's surprisingly not vegetarian (they use chicken broth), so while soup from Panera is a common lunch for me, I didn't get to indulge in this soup this month. I didn't have to mourn for too long, though, because the issue came early in the month and the recipe is adaptable enough - just replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth and voila! A vegetarian version!

My only complaint, if I had to have one, was that the leftovers thickened up considerably, but I have no idea how to prevent that, and it thinned out a little when reheated. It was enough, though (seriously, you could scoop it out with an ice cream scoop and it would have held form), that Aaron was kind of grossed out by it and wouldn't partake in leftovers.

The deliciousness on the first night was enough to make up for the later on weirdness, so I would still totally recommend you make this.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. half-and-half
3 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper
4 c. broccoli florets
1 large carrot, diced
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish if desired

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes

Add the broccoli and carrot to the pot and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or in batches in a standing blender). Add the cheese by handfuls into the soup, whisking over medium heat until melted before adding in the next handful. Add up to 3/4 c. water if the soup is too thick. Serve with crusty bread and butter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Meal Planning Monday 1.11.10

Our month of being vegetarians is going quite well. None of us has fallen off the wagon and submitted to the cheeseburger craving. Yet. I have, however, had to promise Aaron whatever meat-filled dishes he wants for Superbowl viewing (thanks to Food Network Magazine for their meat-filled Superbowl food articles), and I have a feeling we'll be hitting up our favorite pub for their delicious burgers on, oh, February 1st. Overall, it has been pretty easy so far, save for the difficult experience of ordering a vegetable burrito the other day at the local fast food mexican place, instead of their delicious, wonderful, totally crave-worthy carnitas burrito. Oh, its' so, so good.

Anyway, enough day dreaming about meat. On with the week o' meals:

Monday: French Lentil Soup, French bread

That's right. I made French bread from scratch yesterday, and I have to admit, it was dead easy. That is, after I figured out how to correctly shape the loaf while I was incorrectly shaping the first loaf; the second one turned out pretty at least. And it tasted fabulous. Much better than the loaf I tried to make last weekend. It was light and airy with a nice crisp crust. The recipe makes two french loaves, which is perfect since I wanted bread with two meals.

Oh, and the soup is delicious too.

Tuesday: Eggplant Parmesan, Salad

Aaron wanted eggplant, so he's definitely getting eggplant. This is a favorite dish for both of us.

Wednesday: Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Bread, crudite

Can't wait to try this - it's a knock-off of the Panera recipe, which I love.

(ETA: Okay, I cheated and made this last night because I was seriously craving it, and it was delicious! Also pictured: a slice of the French bread and organic cultured butter (which OMG SO GOOD!).


Thursday: Mushroom Bourginon over egg noodles, steamed and buttered green beans.

Have I ever mentioned my love of mushrooms? I didn't eat them until I was about 22, but ever since then I just can't get enough. (Great, now I have that song stuck in my head.) This recipe has been on my too-cook list for a long, long time, and I'm finally dusting it off and giving it the attention it needs. To say that I'm drooling over this days before I get to eat it would be a correct assessment. I can't wait!


My best friend and I are celebrating the fact that we both recently turned 30 by taking a weekend trip to Chi-town. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm dragging her to Pizza Due, where just this past July I had one of the most terrific pizzas I have ever had. It may have been aided by the amount of whisky I had imbibed, but I don't remind repeating that part either.

Saturday will be in Chicago as well. I'm guessing Aaron and Gabbie will be eating macaroni and cheese on one night and pizza on the other.

Sunday: Pizza Potatoes, salad

Yes, I realize that's a pizza heavy weekend, but it is National Pizza Week afterall. See? Totally justified.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Argentinean Pumpkin Soup

We are now six days into our month of eating vegetarian, and I have to admit it's going really well. My cravings for cheeseburgers and pot roast and bacon (mmm...bacon...*drool*) have lessened, and I've been enjoying everything we've cooked so far.

Earlier this week we made Argentinean Pumpkin Soup, and I have to admit we were both feeling a little dubious about the soup as it came together. When it was done, I tasted it, made a few additions from the spice cabinet, and declared it ready. I had also baked a loaf of bread, which was decidedly less successful since you couldn't chew through the crust. The middle was good, but only when fresh out of the oven. I guess bread is on my list of things to work on and perfect.

We each sat down with a bowl of soup, and while Gabbie refused to touch hers (stinker!), Aaron and I dug in and quickly realized how satisfying this soup really is, especially on freezing cold days like we've had lately. Aaron declared it a delicious, "rustic" meal, and said he'd happily eat it again any time. Good thing, since it made lots of leftovers!

Argentinean Pumpkin Soup
adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

4 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 lb. sugar pumpkin and/or butternut squash (we used both), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I measured the weight after chopping, so you'll want to account for that in the size of the squashes)
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. onion salt
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 c. dried apricots, quartered

Put the butter in a soup pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the pumpkin, onion, red bell pepper, potatoes, and salt, pepper, cinnamon, and onion salt,and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock, water, tomatoes, and apricots, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Partially cover and cook, stirring occiasionally until the pumpkin starts to fall apart, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve piping hot with nice fresh bread.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Meal Planning 1.4.10

Here's our first full week of vegetarian meals! It's been four days so far, and we're doing okay. Of course, I would love a cheeseburger, but I think I'll survive.

Monday: Argentinian Pumpkin Soup, bread

We made this last night, and I'll post the recipe later today. We were both a little suspicious of the soup, but had a couple of pumpkins that needed to be used so we thought we'd give it a try. It was surprisingly delicious, and we're both excited about the lunch leftovers today.

Tuesday: Quick Curried Chick Peas, Basmati Rice, Naan, steamed green peas

We didn't get to this late last week (we had pizza instead), so it's making the meal list again this week. I have been reading good things about it online, so I can't wait to try it.

Wednesday: Cheese Quiche, steamed broccoli, grape tomato salad

I love a good quiche. I usually put the broccoli in the quiche, but I don't think Gabbie will eat it that way. She eats cheesy eggs, and she eats steamed broccoli, but she won't eat things mixed together. The tomato salad is one of our favorites, and goes great on the side with quiche.

Thursday: Tortellini with sauteed mushrooms and zuchini and tomato sauce, salad, garlic bread

A quick, easy, mid-week meal. We sautee the veggies, boil the tortellini, and heat up a jar of spaghetti sauce. Simple and delicious, it's a complete comfort food.

Friday: Cheesy vegetable pancakes, rice with peas

I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants on this one, combining a few recipes to try to get what I imagine to happen in my pan. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday: Braised lentils, Spanish style, Olive Bread

Another meal I can't wait to try. Gabbie and I love lentils, and this recipe sounds fantastic. I don't particularly like olives, but I like them on pizza and I think if I halve the amount of olives in the recipe I will love it.

Sunday: Leftovers or veggie quesadillas

I'm sure we'll have plenty of leftovers and I'll be tired of cooking by Sunday, so leftovers will probably happen. One night off of cooking per week is usually needed.


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