Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

The eggs I love – Spanish tortilla with potatoes, ricotta and sausage

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Until my early twenties I was a dedicated egg-phobe. Then I was suddenly converted, and though I still won’t touch an underdone egg, I love ingredient-loaded omelets. When I discovered Spanish tortilla (not to be confused with the flour and corn tortillas of Central America), I fell in love from the first bite. This is the universal crowd-pleaser and my brunch or weekend dinner staple.

Thicker than the Italian frittata and usually containing my other favorites – potatoes – this Spanish omelet has as striking a flavor as its looks. It’s easier to make too, as you don’t have to fight to flip it over, but simply bake it in the oven. It can stoically take on whatever you throw at it, and no fridge push-around need be wasted again. The classic one with potatoes is great, but I’ve done it with zucchini, parsnip, feta cheese, Parmesan, bacon, various types of dried and fresh herbs, and combinations of the above. It’s a successes every time, and the only person who refuses to eat it is my daughter – the new egg-phobe in the family.

I finally have a cast-iron paella pan, perfect for tortillas too, which I put to heavy use. The recipe is enough for four as a weekday supper, or for eight as part of a weekend brunch with friends. If there are leftovers, they are very good the next day and make a great lunchbox item. I often wrap them in whole-wheat tortillas with Tabasco’s Chipotle sauce and fresh cilantro (coriander). I love to answer the what’s-for-lunch question – tortilla in tortilla.

For a vegetarian version skip the sausage.

Spanish tortilla with potatoes, sausage, ricotta and fresh herbs

serves 4

  • 6 – 8 large eggs – free range or organic
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta (or thick sour cream)
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed or sliced into thin rounds
  • ½ pound good quality sausage (I use Polish sausage with thyme and garlic and no preservatives added) – cubed the same size as the potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed chopped dill, mint and parsley (or cilantro)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper, Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C) – with racks positioned in the middle. In a heavy-bottomed oven-proofed frying pan (cast iron is best), melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the potatoes until slightly brown and tender – about 10 minutes. In the meantime beat eggs in a bowl to break the egg yolks. Add the ricotta and beat well – though some cheese lumps are OK. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, add the herbs and green onions and mix.

When the potatoes are ready, take them out of the pan with slotted spoon and stir into the egg-cheese mixture. Add sausage to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, until sightly brown. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Pour over the egg-cheese-and-potatoes mixture, stir well, and let cook on medium low for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and transfer the pan to the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top of the tortilla is set and slightly brown.

Serve warm with the pan (makes a great impression) with rustic bread and simple green salad. My son loves it with a few drops of Tabasco Chipotle sauce. I have it with extra Bulgarian cheese, feta style.

Goes great with a light, bubbly Portuguese Vinho Verde or Italian Prosseco for a more elegant experience.

A sandwich’s best friends

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Condiments are as essential for a good sandwich as good bread is, at least for me. I can’t stand a boring assembly and would rather spend half an hour sauteing and marinating ingredients than getting a quick fix of ham and cheese. To avoid dropping from hunger in the meantime, I always have a few essential condiments in the fridge to add zing to the experience. I make most of them myself, as I’m too picky and besides, it’s more fun and cheaper than buying ready made.

The two that for me are must-haves are sun dried tomatoes and caramelized red onions. I have serious competition for the first one – my daughter, who devours them straight from the jar. She also helps me make them and keeps track of the supplies, pushing the alarm button when we are left with only half a jar.

I use $3,99 500-gram packages of Turkish dry tomatoes without oil from a Lebanese store on Kedzie and Lawrence, which I marinate and keep in the pantry. It’s enough for three 12oz jars packed tight to the top. It’s much cheaper than buying them ready made and I can control the ingredients. I use them for pasta, salads, antipasti, grilled meats, dumpling stuffing – the possibilities are endless. Never throw the marinade away – it makes a great base for vinaigrettes or adding extra flavor to simple tomato soup or roasted potatoes.

The onions are my guilty pleasure – I can go though a jar in a single day, eating them with absolutely anything – including pancakes. I takes all my willpower to screw the top back on and put the jar aside. The recipe is very basic and anyone can make them.

Both condiments will make a delicious and sophisticated dish out of any boring sandwich, burger or cheese plate, if you care about impressing your guests or family. I simply like to indulge myself and anybody else brave enough to follow suit.

Marinated sun-dried tomatoes

  • 1 pound (500 gr) dry tomatoes (not in oil)
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups olive oil – doesn’t have to be virgin or very expensive
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • leaves from a few sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3X12 oz jars, washed and dry

Fill a soup pot a third full with water and bring to boil. If the tomatoes are salty (like the Turkish ones I use) don’t add salt to the water, if not – add I tbsp salt. When boiling, add the tomatoes and bring back to boil for 2-3 minuets. This will soften the tomatoes. Meanwhile in a big mixing bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and whisk well. With a slotted spoon take out the tomatoes and place them into the bowl. Stir them around in the marinade to coat well. Leave for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Spoon the tomatoes into the jars, dividing the remaining marinade among them. Add extra olive oil to cover the top and close tight. Keep in a cool place, and after opening in the fridge. Best after 2-3 days if you can restrain yourself.

Caramelized red onions

makes about 1 ½ cups or one 12 oz jar

  • 2 big or 4 medium red onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced – not too thin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Sherry vinegar (or balsamic red wine vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over low heat. Saute the onions for 15-20 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until caramelized. Spoon still warm into the jar and close tight. Keep in a cool place, and in the fridge after opening.

The ultimate weekend breakfast – homemade pakcakes

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

I love pancakes, crepes, thick buttery Bulgarian katmi, but making them always turns into a nervous nightmare. I can’t even be around in the kitchen when somebody else is flipping the batter. I have fought this curious malady, but so far with no success, and so I was happy to surrender to my husband’s willingness to take over this part of our diet. Over the years we spent in Poland with no commercial pancake mixes he developed a recipe that makes great fluffy cakes, which we devour at least twice a month. Some of our American friends were shocked to find out that pancakes could be made without any help from Aunt Jemima. Even now in the States he uses this simple recipe much to my delight.

The greatness of pancakes is that they are the base for so many yummy condiments. I usually eat them savory with feta or goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, baby green salad, but the rest of my family is more orthodox and goes for good quality jam or maple syrup. Even if you are a pancake mix devotee, try this courtesy of my other half and you’ll see how easy it’s to make them by yourself. Our kids love to help during the process, something we are happy to oblige.

Here’s his recipe:

Buttermilk pancakes (serves four)


  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and sugar, then the eggs and buttermilk. Mix lightly until large lumps disappear, but don’t overmix if you’re not a fan of flat, rubbery cakes. The batter should be of a thick but flowing consistency – add a bit of water if it becomes too thick. Fry over a medium flame until golden on both sides. Serve with maple syrup, or whatever you have at hand – I’ve seen good use made of all kinds of jams and preserves, but also of goat cheese and pickled onions, not to mention a variety of cured meats.

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