how to cook an egg

Cook’s Note: My mother correctly pointed out that I forgot to say that the pan must be covered when cooking eggs!

Cooking eggs may be basic but it can be complicated–paradoxically because it is so simple–especially eggs cooked in the shell. Just an egg heated in water. Seems so simple. But cooking an egg to an exact specification is hard to gauge. I learned how to cook an egg in two phases. The first time I was living in Milwaukee, I read in the newspaper how to make perfect hard-cooked eggs. This is how you do it:

To make hard boiled eggs, the method is “boil and forget.” Almost.  Put the eggs in cold water in a pan, cover,  and bring to a boil, about 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the eggs steep in the hot water, covered,  for 10 more minutes. Drain the water. I swirl the eggs around in the  pan to crack the egg shells, then fill the pot with cool water. I let the eggs sit in their  bath  until they are cool enough to peel. I’ve done hard-boiled eggs this way for years, for breakfast, for egg salads, for potato salads.

However, the second time I learned how to cook an egg was last Thanksgiving, when my mother described how to cook a soft-cooked egg with a gelatinous but not watery egg-red. An egg-red is what country-people in Jamaica call the egg yolk.  To make this kind of egg, put two eggs in a pan of warm water, covered,  over a medium high flame. First tiny bubbles start to appear; this is called the pearl stage. When the water is at the fish-eye stage it will quickly come  to the rolling wave. Now turn the heat down to simmer. Do not uncover the pot. Let the eggs simmer 3 minutes. Then you turn off the heat. Drain the water from the pan and swirl the eggs around so the shells crack and splinter. Fill the pot with cool water until the eggs are cool enough to peel.

pantry pancakes

whole wheat strawberry pancake

For sometime now, I’ve been experimenting outside my comfort zone with my own variations on recipes–a fusion, so to speak, between the original and my own tastes and preferences. That’s how I came up with a fusion between Thai style basil chicken and shepherd’s pie a few summers ago.

Necessity, it is said, is the mother of pancakes. I didn’t have any all purpose flour. I had one large egg, whole wheat and cake flours, lots of strawberries, and a deep reluctance to use butter. Still, I can’t throw things in a bowl et voilà, it’s a meal. I guess you could say I’m not ready to give up exact measurements! So inspired by Foodie Pam’s strawberry pancake recipe, I made up this delicious breakfast pancake using what I had on hand in my pantry. The pancake turned out filling, fluffy, and oh-so fine with a little maple syrup drizzled all over it.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Pancakes

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1 large egg
1 cup nonfat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon almond oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
Cooking spray

Preparation
In a large bowl, beat the egg. Add the milk, vanilla, and oil. Blend well. Add wheat flour, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir until well combined. Fold in the strawberries.

Spray cooking spray in a 10 inch skillet. Heat over medium heat until the skillet sizzles when a drop of water touches the surface. Pour half cup of batter in the center of the skillet, spread it a little bit,  and cook until little bubbles appear in the surface. Flip. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the underside is browned, and the top of the pancake, when pressed, is firm to the touch, but not “squidgy” as Nigella would admonish.

What do you have in your pantry to make these pancakes? Here are my suggested ingredient swaps:

  • Canola, vegetable, or extra virgin olive oil
  • Almond extract to ramp up the almond flavor
  • Blueberries
  • Chopped banana
  • Whole milk for nonfat
  • Sprinkle cinnamon sugar or confectioner’s sugar on top
  • Serve with chopped fresh fruit sprinkled with a little stevia, if you like

curry-flavor shrimp with sesame rice

Curried Shrimp wth Sesame Rice

It’s been so cold that I decided to cook something hearty but quick and easy. I found this recipe for Sesame Rice Salad in the South Beach Diet cookbook, the blue cover. Since then, I’ve adapted it in some form or another depending on the vegetables I have on hand. One thing I won’t swap is the asparagus. It must have asparagus! Bright green, cooked asparagus is such a pretty contrast in this dish. Though the rice and shrimp are spicy, the crisp-tender asparagus cools the mouth.

Curry-Flavor Shrimp with Sesame Rice

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

20 medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, washed and patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons curry powder (I recommend Montego, the Jamaican curry powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
8 stalks asparagus, cut in thirds
1/2 cup frozen edamame
1/2 cup frozen sweet peas
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
cooking spray
2 scallions sliced thin on the diagonal
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced fine
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Red pepper flakes, to taste, optional
salt and pepper

Season the shrimp with curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside.

Boil a saucepan of water, lightly salted. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green. Remove from the heat at once, drain, and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet. Heat the skillet until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Add the shrimp and cook on one side until no longer pink, 1 minute. Turn and cook on the other side, 1 minute.

Add the frozen edamame and peas to the hot skillet and cook until they are heated through, scraping up the browned bits or fond on the bottom. Add the rice and the cooked asparagus. Toss to combine. In a small bowl, mix the canola oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Whisk until the mixture emulsifies. Pour over the rice and toss lightly. Add the scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds. Toss lightly. Add red pepper flakes, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ah! there’s the (spicy chicken) rub

New Yorkers who were in the direct path of Superstorm Sandy are now picking up what she left behind, counting their losses and their blessings. During the storm, I had wished for the support of family, but I never got to test the kindness of strangers. I’m indeed humbled and so thankful that we survived with very little loss. We lost a week of work but we have our lives and the warm little apartment that is beginning to feel like a home away from our home in Bangkok. Whether I am in Bangkok or New York, I like to fill my home with the smells of cooking (and baking) and here is a really spicy chicken rub that can be mixed up in a hurry, sprinkled on chicken, and grilled in my George Foreman indoors. I don’t need an outdoor barbecue to enjoy this, and neither will you.

Spicy Chicken Rub for Grilling (adapted from allrecipes.com)
3 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix all together. Sprinkle generously on one side of the chicken and grill 3-5 minutes per side.

grilled shrimp tacos with green apple salsa

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Green Apple Salsa (adapted from myrecipes.com)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 minced Thai chile pepper
8 (6-inch) whole wheat tortillas (recommend: Toufouyan Soft Wheat Tacos)
1 ounce crumbled queso blanco
Tomato Salsa, optional

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons lime juice, cumin, paprika, and red pepper in a small bowl. Combine shrimp and spice mixture in a zip-top plastic bag, and seal. Let stand 15 minutes.

2. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 2 teaspoons juice, onions, 1/8 teaspoon salt, rind, apple, and jalapeño; toss.

3. Remove shrimp from bag; discard marinade. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Arrange half of shrimp in pan; grill 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining shrimp. Toast the tortillas in grill pan, if desired.

4. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates, and divide shrimp evenly among tortillas. Divide salsa evenly among tacos, and top with queso blanco. Pop it under the broiler to slightly melt the cheese. Serve with Tomato Salsa, if desired.

 

apple dumplings with cider sauce

Apple Dumplings (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
America’s Test Kitchen says: Use a melon baller or a metal teaspoon measure to core the apples. We like to serve the dumplings warm with vanilla ice cream and Cider Sauce (see Cider Sauce recipe below). Other sweet, moderately firm apples, such as Braeburns or Galas, can be used in this recipe.

The Cake Baker says: Use frozen puff pastry to make this dessert quick, easy, and less fuss. I prefer cranberries to raisins so I made that substitution. I had left over cinnamon sugar and butter-cranberry mixture because I didn’t cut down the recipe. But I had another use for them as you’ll see in the cider sauce below.

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen puff pastry squares
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberry raisins, chopped (can use raisins)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preparation

  1. Prep Apples. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. In second bowl, combine butter, cranberry raisins, and 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar mixture. Peel apple and halve through equator. Remove core and pack butter mixture into each apple half.
  2. Assemble Dumplings. On lightly floured surface, roll each dough square approximately 4 inches by 4 inches. Working one at a time, lightly brush edges of dough square with egg white and place apple, cut-side up, in center of each square. Gather dough one corner at a time on top of apple, crimping edges to seal. Using paring knife, poke a small vent hole in top of each dumpling.
  3. Finish Apples. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange dumplings on prepared baking sheet, brush tops with egg white, and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon each of the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until dough is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve with Cider Sauce.

Cider Sauce (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
America’s Test Kitchen says: To make this sauce up to 2 days in advance, reduce the cider mixture until it measures 1½ cups, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, return mixture to simmer and whisk in butter and lemon juice after the heat is turned off.

The Cake Baker says: I left out the cup of sugar in the apple cider reduction. It was tart and slightly sweet because of the cranberries.

Servings: about 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
  • about 1/2 cup butter-cranberry mixture in cinnamon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Preparation
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil cider and water  plus what’s left of the cinnamon sugar.  Simmer in saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and reduced to 1½ cups, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, whisk in the remaining butter-cranberry mixture from the apple dumplings then add the lemon or lime juice. Drizzle warm over dumplings to serve. A scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt is recommended!

sriracha-cheddar biscuits with black bean veggie burgers and mango tomato salsa

Sriracha-Cheddar Biscuits (adapted from Savory Simple)
Sriracha is the name of a town in Thailand that is famous for its reddish-orange hot sauce. This recipe takes me back to the days I lived in Thailand, and the spicy flavors of the food. I served it with homemade black bean veggie burgers and a mango tomato salsa on a bed of arugula. Aroy.Delicious!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 10 biscuits

Ingredients
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup butter, cut into cubes, chill in fridge until ready to use
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (can substitute other cheeses)

for brushing the biscuits:
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon Sriracha

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat liner or parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix the milk and Sriracha sauce until well blended. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Add the cold butter and cut with a pastry blender until the butter resembles small peas. Pour in the milk-Sriracha mixture all at once and stir until the milk is absorbed. Mix in the cheese, this time using your hands and being careful not to over mix. You’ll know the dough is ready to roll out when your hands and the sides of the bowl are clean.

Turn out half the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out the biscuits using a 3 inch round biscuit cutter. Place each round on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Brush the tops of each biscuit with the reserved milk-Sriracha mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven 14-15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers (adapted from allrecipes.com)
While the biscuits are in the oven, make these black bean veggie burgers. These “burgers” are quick and easy to make, and have a mild flavor despite the Sriracha sauce, chili powder, and cumin.

Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 35 Minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Preparation
1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties. I scoop up 1/2 cupful, turn it out onto the prepared pan, and flatten and shape it with a spatula.
6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on greased baking sheet and bake about 5 minutes on each side.

Mango-Tomato Salsa (adapted from allrecipes.com)
This is a mild salsa; to spice it up add a Thai chile pepper or tone it down with a jalapeño pepper instead!

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: none

Ingredients
1 large mango diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sweet onion
1 chile pepper, optional
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

Preparation
Combine chopped mangoes, tomatoes, onion, chile pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Squeeze two halves of a small lime over the bowl. Toss and allow to stand until ready to serve.

pappardelle with spicy sausage, green beans, and mushrooms

Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage, Green Beans, and Mushrooms (adapted from Savory Simple)

This is a deliciously simple weeknight meal and it only takes less than half an hour. This is truly “quick and easy” in my book! The mushrooms have a nice smoky flavor that contrasts nicely with the spiciness of the sausage. I added the green beans–we all could use more fiber anyway–and their bright green color was a lovely contrast with the golden noodles.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 -8.8 ounces pappardelle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-6 links hot Italian sausage, casing removed (can use sweet Italian sausage)
  • 7 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (can use shiitake)
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and sliced into 2 inch lengths
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime (lemon in the original recipe)
  • 6 ounces homemade chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
  • salt to taste
  • fresh grated Parmesan for garnish, optional

Preparation

  1. Cook pappardelle according to the instructions on the box.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up the oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. When the pasta has cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water. Drain the noodles and set aside.
  3. Remove the sausage casings and discard.  Crumble the sausage stuffing into the hot oil.  Reduce heat to medium and brown the sausage.
  4. If the sausage sticks to the pan, add a tablespoon of water and scrape up the brown bits called fond, tossing them with the sausage. Fond adds flavor.
  5. Once the sausage is cooked and (mostly) browned, add the sliced mushrooms and chopped green beans.  Sauté for two minutes, then lower the heat and add the garlic.
  6. After the garlic has cooked, about 60 seconds, sprinkle sausage mixture with the red pepper flakes and squeeze on half the lime or lemon juice. Remove the sausage mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Add the chicken stock to the skillet to deglaze it, scraping up any  fond from the bottom of the pan. Allow the stock to reduce slightly, a minute or two.
  8. Stir in the cream, if using. Add a 1/4 cup of reserved cooking water to the pasta. Toss to separate the noodles. Add more water, 1/4 cup at a time, if needed.
  9. Return the sausage and mushroom to the pot with the pappardelle. Toss. Taste, and add salt if needed.
  10. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan, if desired.

plum-berry galette

Plum-Berry Galette

I hate to waste food! Don’t you? So I made these mini-galettes because I had some  fruit that nobody wanted to eat and I couldn’t throw it away. This recipe is a combination of two recipes, one from Swerve magazine and the other from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  I liked the Swerve because the crust is made from frozen puff pastry and was therefore easy to make. The Martha Stewart recipe I liked for the sweetness. 

6 frozen puff pastry squares, thawed
all purpose flour for dusting
1 plum, seeded and chopped into large chunks
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
dash of salt
1 large  egg white
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven 375˚F. Prepare a large baking tray and line it with a silicone mat or a sheet of parchment paper.

Put fruit in a medium bowl.  In a measuring cup, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add to the fruit and toss gently. Set aside.

On a well floured board, roll out each dough square until it is about 4″ square. Mound the fruit in the middle of the pastry. There should be a border of about 2 inches. Fold up the edges and make pleats. It doesn’t have to be neat; it should look rustic. Pick up the “packet” and place it on the prepared baking tray. If it is too hard to pick up with your fingers, use a large spatula.

Brush the pastry edges with a mixture of egg white and milk.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and flaky. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Slide the galettes off the mat/parchment onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

toasted orzo risotto with corn, thyme, tarragon, and chives

The secret to this deliciously simple dish is the orzo. For best results, this tiny pasta must be al dente. And I recommend making it with a vegetable stock because it tastes so much better! As the orzo absorbed the stock, it turned brown. If you use water, the orzo will be white. I insist that all the ingredients must be fresh: fresh corn, thyme, tarragon, chives, garlic, lemon, and shallot. It’s surprisingly sweet but tangy, with a faint peppery flavor from the tarragon. To get the corn off the cob, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels off the cob, then lightly chopped them to separate them. Be careful when you do this;  I put the cob lengthwise on the cutting board and sliced downward.  I added tarragon and chives because the thyme was already in the recipe, but I think experimenting with a combination of fresh herbs would be delicious. Savory Simple recommends Penzey’s Sunny Paris Spice for seasoning, but I think it is only available by mail order. I just used salt and pepper, which is simple and easy. Like this recipe. The whole thing took 25 minutes to prep and cook.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Corn, Thyme, Tarragon, and Chives (adapted from Savory Simple)
Makes  2 entrees or 4 side dishes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup orzo
1 ear of sweet corn, approximately 3/4 cup kernels (see note)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced fine
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced fine
1 3/4 water or homemade stock
salt & pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Preparation

  1. In a 10 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or darker with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice, thyme, tarragon, and chives. Add 1/4 cup of water or stock. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/4 cup liquid. Repeat until a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid is added  to the pan and is absorbed by the orzo. Reserve the last 1/4 cup.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the last of the water or stock, pine nuts (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.