scrambled rice breakfast bowl

scrambled rice breakfast bowl

i’ve always thought there is a very good reason that a slice of cold pizza or a slab of leftover lasagna tastes so good for breakfast. i am a fan of fresh fruit and smoothies, or a good grain bowl, but i also love something savoury and comforting in the morning. let’s face it, after a sad breakup, or a night of heavy drinking, you know what you can do with your smoothie, know what i’m saying?

a lot of my recipes come about from the necessity of making something when there isn’t much in the fridge, or trying to use up what i have on hand and this scrambled egg/fried rice hybrid breakfast bowl made from leftover rice is no exception. my special brit friend is half japanese, and fills me in on all the sometimes weird (natto, anyone?) and wonderful things his family eats for breakfast. i was especially intrigued by the japanese rice and raw egg dish called tamago kake gohan, but…one thing i can’t seem to get past is the idea of eating raw eggs. so for this version of a rice breakfast bowl, the eggs are still stirred in at the end, but they go into very hot rice, resulting in a creamy, softly scrambled egg enveloping each grain of rice, almost like a sauce. sometimes i cook it a bit further to almost scramble the egg. either way you prepare it, it’s a protein-rich, slightly spicy and satisfying breakfast that everyone loves and takes only 15 minutes to make. for ease in the morning, chop up the vegetables the night before.

scrambled rice breakfast bowl

scrambled rice breakfast bowl

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small carrot, shredded
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tsp. chinese 5-spice powder
2 cups cold cooked white or brown rice, any variety
1 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sesame seeds plus a few more for sprinkling
4 eggs, cracked into a bowl and lightly beaten
1/2 avocado, sliced

in a large non stick pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. when the oil is shimmering, add the carrot, red pepper, and celery. cook for 4 minutes, then sprinkle on the 5-spice powder and cook for 15 seconds or so, just until the spices are lightly toasted. increase heat to high. add the rice, and cook, turning and stirring for 3-4 minutes, or until hot and starting to get a bit crispy. stir in the tamari, sriracha, sesame oil, green onions, and sesame seeds, and mix well to coat the rice. remove pan from heat, and immediately add the beaten eggs, stirring to evenly distribute the eggs into the rice, and cook until the eggs are cooked through but still soft.

load rice into bowls and top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and the sliced avocado. serve right away.

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peanut butter sandwich cookies

peanut butter sandwich cookies

there really is something old-fashioned and comforting about peanut butter. when we’re adults, we may snack on peanuts with a cocktail or smear some unsweetened, natural peanut butter on a piece of toast. but thoughts of peanut butter sandwiches and cookies seem to evoke walks home from school to find lunch waiting for us, washed down with cold milk before heading back on our way.

i was inspired to make these cookies because of the amazing peanut butter cookies from mabel’s bakery in toronto. they are chewy and filled with a divine peanut butter fudge. these are a treat, and one goes a long way. perfect with something cold to drink, and a few minutes to remember a time before sugar was bad and eating a cookie was always the right thing to do.

peanut butter sandwich cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 cup roughly chopped, roasted and salted peanuts

simple fudge filling:

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
pinch sea salt
2 cups sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. add the sugar and beat until light, about 4 minutes. add the honey and stir to combine. add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides and mixing well. stir together dry ingredients and peanuts. pulse to combine into a soft dough.

preheat oven to 350f. prepare two sheet pans by lining with silpats or parchment. use a 1 1/2″ scoop to portion out balls of cookie dough. roll each lightly into a ball and place 2 inches apart. bake for 15 minutes, switching tray position halfway through baking to ensure even browning. remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely.

meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, toss in peanut butter and butter, and pulse a few times to combine. add the sea salt and the icing sugar, all at once, and pulse to combine. add the vanilla and cream. scrape down sides and pulse one more time to fully combine. scrape into bowl.

when cookies are cool, measure out a tablespoon of filling into your hand. roll to form a ball. place on the underside of one cookie, then top with another cookie and press lightly to spread the filling. repeat with remaining cookies. store in airtight container.

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scotch egg arancini

arancini scotch egg

weirdly, i have never eaten a scotch egg. a proper, classic scotch egg, covered in sausage meat and deep-fried. i had been a vegetarian on and off for years before ceasing all meat consumption several years ago, so any opportunities i had to make them or eat them just never happened.

arancini on the other hand, i eat whenever i get the chance. they are those adorable little balls of leftover risotto, filled with cheese or tomato, covered in crumbs and fried to golden perfection. in france, deep-fried balls of leftover anything are called croquettes, and other cultures have different versions using lentils or potatoes. arancini are a great way to use up leftover risotto.

so in my usual fashion i’ve come up with a vegetarian alternative, and also mashed-up two classics: arancini, and scotch eggs. instead of cloaking a boiled egg in sausage meat, (or worse, fake sausage meat!) i’ve done these up with risotto, and voila, scotch egg arancini.

i get my eggs from a local farm gate, and before that, i raised my own. the yolk colour in the picture says it all, don’t you think? the chickens roam free and happily dine on grass and bugs.

i love to serve these as a first course for a casual dinner party, with some homemade roasted tomato ketchup, or my great-grandmother’s chili sauce. for cocktails, i’ll use teeny quail eggs, also from a local farm. the scotch egg arancini can be fried ahead and reheated just before serving.

here i’ve used a mushroom and white truffle risotto, but any kind will do. if you prefer a softer egg, do not bring the water back to the boil after adding the eggs, but i like them just like this, slightly soft but completely cooked through.

arancini scotch eggs

scotch egg arancini

8 small eggs, at room temperature (from free-ranging chicken, if you can)
4 cups leftover risotto, cooled
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp. water
1 1/2 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
vegetable oil for frying

bring a medium pot of water to the boil. slowly lower the eggs into the water. using rom-temperature eggs helps with cracking, but what i do is use a slotted spoon and raise and lower the eggs a few times into the hot water to warm them before plunging them in completely. when all eggs are in the water, bring back up to the boil for just an instant. remove from heat and allow eggs to stand in the water until cool enough to handle. peel eggs and place on a paper towel. place a sheet of parchment on a small baking sheet.

place the flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs into three separate dishes. in the biz we call this creating a breading station! add the parsley to the flour and mix to combine. roll an egg into the flour and shake of excess. using a 1/2 cup measure, scoop out the risotto and put in your hand. made an indentation in the middle, and place the egg into it. press the rice around the egg to coat completely with the risotto, pressing to cover all of the egg. place on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining eggs. chill 10 minutes. roll each egg in flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. return to the baking sheet and chill until very cold, 1 hour. replace the parchment on your baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

fill a deep pot with 3″ of oil, or use a deep-fryer. heat oil to 350f. if you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, use a cube of bread to test the oil. toss it in and see if it sizzles and browns right away. if not, heat a little more.

fry the arancini a few at a time, until the outside is golden brown and crispy, about 3 1/2 minutes. remove with a slotted spoon to your paper towel lined tray. allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot with a tomato-ey accoutrement, such as marinara sauce, roasted tomato ketchup or chili sauce.

can be made ahead and reheated by baking at 400F for 7-10 minutes.

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good stuff #6: finds from the road to key west

Avocado Toast at the Collins Quarter

happy sunday friends!

returned from vacation and happy to back at ebta. guelph –> nyc –> key west –> savannah was such a wonderful break. we met some lovely people and for some reason, a disproportionate number of lovely dogs!

the combination of 33 degree celsius weather and a bunch of margueritas got me all philosophical. when i travel i do so as frugally as possible, driving, bringing food for the road, and staying with friends. but i’m really grateful for these little getaways, and for my lot in life in general.

working with food you realize that, like moments in a southern getaway, by its very nature its pleasure is fleeting. once it’s made and consumed, it’s gone, and never to be seen again. documenting it on a blog doesn’t count! remembering all the food i’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, i wonder if i have the right to things that are so good, so good for me, filled with warm colours and spice and soul. my wish for today is that everyone, everywhere, gets to taste even a fraction of the bounty i enjoy daily.

a few discoveries from the road

  1. the wednesday market a the pier in st. augustine, florida. i’ve been to the saturday market at the ampitheatre but this one was a surprise we found after a cat-nap on the beach. after driving all night we used the outdoor shower at the beach and wandered down to find fresh strawberries, bluegrass musicians, and the best shrimp and grits for breakfast. i’m a bad blogger for not getting the name of the chef at this booth but i will!

  2. kitchens on the square in savannah, georgia. the cutest little kitchen boutique ever. hard-to-find and vintage kitchen stuff, all in beautiful colours and quirky patterns. picked up some great props and the prettiest tablecloth ever.

  3. speaking of savannah, we had breakfast outside at the collins quarter and it was perfect. breaking news: avocado toast is not dead. again with the shrimp and grits for my special brit friend, but when you’re in the south it’s what you do. awesome food and service all around.

  4. fishs eddy in NYC. i’ve browsed this shop online but for all my time in NYC i’d never been until now. purveyors of every fantastic dish, glass, and platter you can imagine. stocked to the gills with new and old, including old hotel and food service dishes. cutlery from an old prison, anyone?

  5. key west. if you’ve never done the one-lane drive over the ocean from the top of the keys to the bottom, do it! i was driving, so no photos, but at the end of the year we’re heading back and sailing to cuba and the camera is coming. this is where the car’s thermostat hit 33c in march. oh yes.

  6. the paris market in savannah. there’s a cafe, but then attached to it is a collection of new and old, french-inspired bric-a-brac, jewelry, soaps, french market bags, silk shawls, and treasures from the sea. one section sells loops of silk velvet ribbons for $2.75 a yard and bags of vintage costume jewelry for $7.00. my brit friend scored a sweet pair of mis-matched enamel-inlay cufflinks for a few bucks. so much more online too.

  7. and finally, the housing works in NYC. this organization champions for those affected by hiv/aids and homelessness through its many programs and services, including the operation of 13 upscale thrift shops across the city. i love to get behind social justice champions, and they truly have really great stuff. a woman i was chatting with picked up two french country chairs upholstered in pink for $20, and  a few pieces of mismatched rose-patterned noritake china are going to be making some appearances under some of my food very soon.

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fennel caponata

Fennel Caponata

what a lovely dish caponata is…

this sicilian treat is a mixture of vegetables, each cooked to perfection, and married together in flavourful sweet/sour/spicy tomato-based sauce.

i took some creative licence, added fennel and zucchini, and left out the raisins (i’m not a fan) and the anchovies, so it’s vegan.

it’s a bit time-consuming, but the recipe is voluminous enough to make a good batch, the added bonus? caponata only gets better as it sits. having this on hand with other antipasto ingredients and some crusty bread is the most effortless way of enjoying a saturday with friends, or a lazy day at home with family.

fennel caponata

fennel caponata

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2″ dice (about a pound)
sea salt
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 red onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup pretty good good olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 cup brine-cured olives, pitted and slivered
one small jar capers (about 1/2 cup)
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seeds
1 28-oz can good plum tomatoes, drained, and juices reserved (i use san marzanos)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

place eggplant cubes in a colander placed over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt (I used about 2 tbsp). allow to drain for 1 hour, giving it a stir here and there. after an hour, give it a quick rinse to remove the excess salt, drain, and dry well with paper towels. Set aside

in a food processor or blender, puree whole tomatoes and set aside.

In a very large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. add the fennel and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. add the onions and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes, until everything is soft and lightly golden. transfer to a bowl. heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and over high heat, saute the eggplant cubes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. return the fennel/celery/onion/zucchini mixture to the pan and add the vinegar, sugar, olives, capers, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and tomato puree. taste for salt, and add more if needed, as well as a few grindings of fresh black pepper. bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and stir often for the next 15 minutes. stir in pine nuts. cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to use. take it out to warm up before you eat it, as caponata tastes best at room temperature. sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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