nutella-bacon french toast

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Andy suggested the bacon and I suggested the Nutella. A marriage of true minds admits no impediment, especially when it comes to foodies.   A simple enough breakfast or brunch notion for two, with fruit.

Nutella-Bacon French Toast

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional
4 slices whole wheat bread
4 slices bacon
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 to 1 tablespoon Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread for each slice of bread
Sea salt flakes, optional
Powdered sugar, optional

Put bacon on a plate between two sheets of paper towels. Microwave on high heat for 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven to cool slightly. Crumble into large pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whip the eggs until frothy with the milk and vanilla, if using. Soak one slice of bread in the egg mixture for a few seconds, turning once. Set the slice on one end at the side of the bowl then repeat the step with the remaining slices.

Heat the oil on medium high heat in a large skillet and swirl it around. Add the bread slices and cook on one side for about 2 1/2 minutes or until golden brown. If the bread gets too brown too quickly, reduce the heat.  Flip and repeat. Voila! French toast in 5 minutes (or less).

Spread Nutella on two slices of French toast. Top one side with crumbled bacon. If desired, sprinkle a little sea salt on top. Cover with one slice of bread spread with Nutella. Slice sandwich in half diagonally. Repeat with the remaining two slices of bread. If desired, sprinkle each triangle with a little powdered sugar. Serve with sliced fruit. I recommend, kiwi or any berry–so enjoy summer’s bounty. Here in Bangkok, strawberries are a luxury but kiwi is available and quite reasonable.

 

candied almonds

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Actually, this works with your favorite nut–walnuts, pecans, macadamias, and almonds are highly recommended. They make a great garnish for ice cream or sweet grape salad. Or just to eat by the handful.

1 cup chopped almonds
4 teaspoons water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400˚F/200˚C.

In a medium bowl, toss the almonds with water and brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread the almond mixture in a thin layer on top. Bake 6-8 minutes or until the nuts just begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool 6-8 minutes in the tray to get crisp. Put up the nuts in an airtight container if not eating right away.

green skillet pizza

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I used the electric pan as a pizza maker and this is what I found out: the top griddle does not brown the top of the crust when it is closed, so I will have to flip the crust over to brown the top. Basically, the pan fries the bread, and in the absence of clear instructions of how to cook a pizza in the electric pan, I had to experiment. To those of you who have the Homemate brand Double Electric Pans/Pizza Maker, this is what you will have to do: roll out or pat the pizza as thin as possible–about 1/4 inch thickness. Put about 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet part to heat up (about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes) on maximum. Put the crust in and let it fry about 5 minutes. Flip it and let the top brown slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Then flip it back over, add the toppings and close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes on 180˚C. Pizza in ten!

Pizza Crust (from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Proofing: 30 minutes

2 1/2 cups (312g) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package instant yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (200ml) skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat the oven to 200˚F. Once it reaches the desired temperature, turn it off but do not open the door.

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, and yeast in the mixing bowl. In a measuring cup, add the milk, oil, and sugar. Combine the flour, salt, and yeast on low speed, while it is mixing, add the milk mixture. Continue beating until just incorporated. Turn the speed up to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and shiny and comes together in a ball.

Baker’s note: I used a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. It takes longer to make pizza dough with a handmixer because it’s not as powerful. So when the recipe says low speed, use medium low speed, and so medium low becomes medium high. My arm got tired holding the motor so I had to use both hands to hold it!

Lightly flour a board and knead the dough two times and form into a ball. Put dough ball in a large greased glass bowl, turning it several times to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the warm oven to proof for 30 minutes.

By now the dough should have doubled in bulk. Take it out of the oven and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half with a bench scraper.

Baker’s note: I wrapped both dough balls in plastic and refrigerated them to stop the rising process. This is because I didn’t want to make the pizza right away. If you refrigerate the dough, use it within 24 hours. If you want a thick crust you will have to make the pizza right away when the yeast is fresh. For a thin crust pizza, where very little rising is involved, cooking the crust later is no problem.

To make the crust, roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Or use your fingers to stretch and tamp the dough into a roughly 10 inch round. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and add the pizza dough.  Prick the dough with a fork. Fry 5 minutes on one side, flip and fry 2-3 minutes on the other.

Green Skillet Pizza:
Prep time: 15 minutes (includes sauteeing the toppings)
Cook time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
6 cups spinach, chopped
5 ounces arugula,any tough stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup prepared pesto (I used basil pesto, recipe to follow)
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, lightly saute the mushrooms and garlic in oil. Add the spinach and arugula. Saute until wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. In the pan add the water and heat to boiling. Add the peas and cook until bright green. Drain the peas and discard the water. Add peas to the cooked vegetables.

Baker’s note: Prepare the pizza toppings ahead of time and refrigerate.

When the top of the pizza crust is browned, spread half the pesto. Add half the toppings and half the cheese. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second crust.

Andy complained that the pizza was slightly bitter. I think the arugula and the spinach were not a good combination. I should have used broccoli with either arugula or the spinach, not both. He said the crust was excellent–it was fresh, slightly crisp on the bottom but soft on the inside.

Basil Pesto (adapted from Skinnytaste)
Prep time: 10 minutes

1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The easiest thing to do is to process all ingredients in a food processor. Since I’m in Salaya and not in my kitchen at home, I had to make the pesto by hand. For this, I needed one sharp santoku knife.

tomato ratatouille

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This vegetable stew is hearty and filling, and it comes with the added feeling of virtuousness because it is made entirely of fresh vegetables.  There is nothing in it to feel guilty about. I used salsa to season it, but a tomato paste or puree with some wine would be wonderful.

Tomato Ratatouille (adapted from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used two tablespoons salsa for flavor and bite)
3 tablespoons water
2/3 cup sliced mushrooms (I used fresh shiitakes)
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
pepper
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil, to serve, optional
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, optional

1. Heat the oil in a Dutch pot. Add the onion, garlic, and eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
2. Add the bell peppers and zucchini.
3. Mix together the tomato paste and water in a small bowl and stir into the pan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes, with pepper to taste, and continue to simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
5. Garnish with shredded basil and serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

steamed chicken breast with herb butter and coconut basmati rice

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I forgot the pickled vegetables.

This dish is made in 2 steps; the rice is cooked in a rice cooker and the chicken is steamed by wrapping each breast in foil then baking the packets in the oven. The original recipe from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy directs steaming packets of chicken over the rice as it cooks. This is tricky, since both rice and chicken cook at different rates depending on the temperature. I thought it would be easier to do them separately. My solution worked, for the chicken and the rice came together wonderfully, with delicate undertones of coconut and herbs. The original recipe called for just a butter-cilantro stuffing. Though I love cilantro, by itself, the taste can be monotonous. The Chinese know this, and often combine it with other herbs such as Chinese celery (kunchai in Thai) and onion. The result is a more complex flavor, however, it lacks that extra bite and tang. The Thai solution is to put in chiles, and I agree with this approach. You want the flavor of chile without burning off your taste buds.

Coconut Rice
2 cups (8 oz each) Basmati rice
1 250ml coconut cream
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse the rice, if directed to do so. Then put all ingredients in a rice cooker pot, press the button and forget it!

Cook’s Note: If desired, dress up the rice with fried garlic and minced scallion.

Steamed Chicken Breasts with Herb Butter
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 fresh Thai chile, seeded and chopped (if more heat is desired, leave in the seeds)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped Chinese celery stems (reserve leaves to garnish a soup otherwise discard, they are bitter)
3 tablespoons onion, minced
8 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
8×12 inch square pieces of aluminum foil

Preheat the oven 350˚F/185˚C

To stuff the chicken breasts, slit each chicken breast from the thickest part almost to the end of the thinnest part. The pocket should be about 2 1/2 inches deep at the thickest part. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, chile, cilantro, Chinese celery, and onion. Stuff each chicken breast with a generous spoonful of the herb mixture. Sprinkle top and bottom of the breast all over with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the stuffed chicken breast in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, bring to edges together and fold to seal. Fold and seal each end. Place on a baking tray and repeat with the other chicken breasts.

Place the baking tray in the oven. Do four at a time or at the most, six. Bake about 15-18 minutes. Pierce the thickest part of one chicken packet with an instant read thermometer. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165˚F. If not, bake an additional 3-5 minutes.

Spoon cooked coconut basmati rice on a plate and place one cooked chicken breast on top; pour reserved juices from the packet on top. Serve with Pickled Vegetables, which as I said,  I forgot.

Pickled Vegetables
1 medium carrot
1 medium cucumber
3 scallions
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons simple syrup

Shred all the vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and simple syrup. Pour vinegar mixture over the top of the vegetables and toss to combine.

 

arugula burger

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I put greens underneath this burger, inside it and beside it! When my children were little, I used to make a version of this with spinach called Popeye burgers. This is my low-calorie “healthy” burger made from lean ground pork and arugula or rocket salad as it’s known here, on top of grilled iceberg lettuce served with fresh guacamole on top of mixed salad. . In fact, any kind of greens can go inside the burger patty–spinach (called English spinach in Bangkok supermarkets), and pak khom or Thai spinach. I haven’t tried it but I bet chopped broccoli would be good too.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes or 5 minutes per side

1 lb lean ground meat (pork, chicken, or beef)
1 lb rocket salad or arugula, lightly sauteed and chopped coarsely
1 large egg well beaten
2 large cloves garlic, minced
fresh herbs such as thyme and basil
salt and pepper

iceberg lettuce
guacamole

In a medium bowl put the meat, rocket salad, egg, garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and shape into 6 patties. Grill 2-5 minutes on each side.

I served it on top of a slice of grilled iceberg lettuce, and, on the side, some home made guacamole made with crushed avocado, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, scallion; seasoned with lime juice, salt and pepper. It was a simple and easy meal to make.

 

asian style grilled chicken legs

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grilled vegetables, green banana with escovitch sauce, asian style grilled chicken leg

I found this recipe for grilled chicken legs on Skinnytaste and thought it was easy to adapt.  The basic ingredients are soy sauce and vinegar in equal proportions, but you can dress up this marinade any way you like. I’ve made it twice and each time I used what I had on hand. The first time I substituted mirin, a Japanese cooking wine, for the vinegar. The second time I made it I used ordinary white vinegar. I added chopped garlic instead of garlic powder and I found it ramped up the garlic flavor deliciously.

Asian Style Grilled Chicken Legs

prep time: 12-18 hours
cooking time: 20-25 minutes

8 skinless chicken legs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar or mirin
5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
ground ginger
black pepper
Seasoning salt

Glaze, optional
1/4 cup sweet chicken chili sauce, available at Asian groceries
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon honey

To de-skin the chicken legs, grasp both ends with paper towels and simply pull down the skin. It’s a bit like taking off skinny jeans! Put the skinless legs in a glass bowl fitted with a lid. You can use a zipper lock bag but it’s more environmentally friendly to use the glass bowl.

If you wish season the legs with ground ginger and black pepper. It occurs to me that instead of ginger and black pepper, you can also use a light sprinkling of seasoning salt, my mother’s favorite chicken seasoning. But the chicken will still be flavorful without any seasoning. The secret is in the simple marinade.

In a small bowl, combine equal parts soy sauce and vinegar or mirin. Add the garlic. Pour over the chicken legs and cover. Shake the bowl back and forth to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.

Grill the chicken legs. I used my electric skillet on 180˚C with a teaspoon of rice bran oil brushed on the bottom. Turn the chicken legs every five minutes for a total of 20 minutes. At the end of grilling, if desired, brush with the glaze. Done!