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Posts tagged ‘eggs’

frittata with asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and chard

For one reason or another, I’ve always liked Thursday. You could say it’s my Friday—when I was in grade school I relished having the maximum number of weekend nights ahead of me, and in college Thursday was a weekend night since I managed to avoid ever having Friday class (that’s right, all eight semesters). It’s safe to say I’m primed to look forward to Thursdays now, but at Love Apple I can add another check to the pros column: Farm Dinner.

I’ve mentioned Farm Dinner before, but really it deserves its own paragraph. Every Thursday between 7 and 7:30 p.m. a rag-taggle group of farm dwellers, apprentices, and the odd visitor or ten assembles on the patio, everyone bearing food from the kitchen and glasses of wine. There’s a fire roaring in the pit and children dashing across the lawn adjacent, and the tables sport red-checkered cloths and settings for 30. Sometime around 8 p.m., just as people start eying the food and Cynthia begins to rise from her chair for the anticipated announcement, the Shivs are sighted walking down the driveway. Catherine and Shiv are our closest neighbors, and they are always preceded by a small child on a skateboard and bring the most delicious curry I have ever tasted (their British accents also lend a certain dignity to the conversational games that follow every meal).

What exactly are conversational games? you may be wondering, as I did on my first day when I heard circulating accounts of farm Thursdays. Once everyone is settled with their food the bios portion begins, with those who are new to the table giving a two-minute run-through of their life and/or relationship to the farm. Next come the questions, which go around the table campfire style and range from the cheapest thing you bought and loved (my Bond Girl prom dress) to whose voice you would choose to read your eulogy (I said Lincoln, but in retrospect Barack Obama) to what your roller derby name would be (“Little Bo Streak”). Every once in a while the odd serious question will pop up (“What is the greatest act of love you have ever experienced?”) and everyone will roll their eyes but answer it very admirably.

I think what I really love about Farm Dinner (other than the grown-up icebreakers) is that it’s about something I’ve never been particularly good at: sharing. You share your time and attention. You share your stories. You share food. When I cooked Thursday nights in college it was just for myself, but here it’s a sort of offering, not just from me but from the farm—in this week’s case, from the chickens, the overburdened zucchini plants, and the towering chard. Making food is something I’ve always loved, and here it’s something that’s loved in return. Well, if not loved, at least appreciated—if only for the fact that I used 60 eggs in one go.

Frittata with Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms and Chard

We have a LOT of eggs, so I aimed for a high egg count and didn’t add much else. Feel free to experiment, and the overall size of the dish can also easily be altered.

30 eggs (or thereabouts)

2 medium zucchinis

6 small potatoes

good handful of asparagus

several handfuls mushrooms

4-5 large chard leaves

salt and pepper

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Slice the zucchini into rounds and saute in olive oil until lightly browned; meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft and slice when cooked through. Arrange the potato slices on the bottom of a large baking dish and layer the sauteed zucchini on top. Chop the asparagus and mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and layer on the zucchini, then shred the chard for the final layer. Pour the beaten eggs over the veggies (they should be almost entirely covered) and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or until nicely browned.

the best pizza ever

It was 8pm on Thursday night, and Ross and I were hunched over the granite countertop in the classroom kitchen, surrounded by dough and toppings. “You’ve got to make love to it,” he said with husky reverence, rolling the dough so that it stretched into a thin layer that we lifted onto a metal sheet pan. Having been cooking for close to 12 hours I felt qualified to get intimate with a pizza—after our morning meeting Ross, Phillip and I had headed straight to the kitchen to marinade chicken, boil potatoes, and process three batches of dough in the KitchenAid. It was a cooking marathon comparable to Christmas, and for an equally worthy occasion—Zach’s 21st birthday party.

I’d never really had success with pizza. When the urge for a homemade pie struck I usually resorted to Trader Joe’s prepackaged dough, but unfortunately that route generally results in a lumpy crust and a soft, undercooked center. When we decided to do pizza for Zach’s party—Love Apple has a beautiful pizza oven in the center of their outdoor patio—I was tempted to go for premade dough again, but Costco had none to offer. So I put on a confident face for Cynthia and Zach, assured people I’d made pizza on several occasions, and grabbed my laptop to google “pizza dough.”

Fortunately the first thing that came up was a recipe from Heidi Swanson, creator of one of my favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks. I made the dough at 8am Thursday morning with fingers crossed, but I knew it had a lot to live up to—Ross’ toppings included his famous caramelized onions and mushrooms, and Phillip’s barbequed chicken and ribs are pretty incredible. Then there was the bounty from the garden to contend with—carrots that became shaved carrot salad with thyme, chard that paired with quinoa, apricots, and pine nuts, and eight kinds of greens that filled three salad bowls. To top it off we even made potato salad with blue cheese and egg salad with eggs from the chickens. (If you can imagine the fridge at this point you’ll understand why the Christmas comparison begged to be made).

By 8pm the pizza oven—fired up at noon—was finally ready, and Ross and I carried out a pizza topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and gorgonzola. I’d selected a small egg from the flat in the kitchen, and right before sliding our creation into the oven Ross cracked it gently over the top. After three minutes in the oven and a few of Ross’ skillful maneuvers with the pizza peel, our pizza emerged—looking like real pizza. It was perfect.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so giddily proud of something I’ve helped to make, but mostly it was just a wonderful moment—the pizza, the food, the people, my first month on the farm. Six pizzas later I still felt just as good.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, Gorgonzola and Egg

I followed the recipe from 101 Cookbooks as closely as I could, with the main exception being that I made the dough early in the morning instead of the night before.

1 ball of pizza dough

butter

several medium onions, sliced

1 cup small brown mushrooms, sliced

1 medium wedge gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

egg

salt

fresh basil

In a large saucepan, melt a knob of butter and add the sliced onions. Caramelize over medium heat, stirring so the onions don’t stick and watching for them to turn a shade of dark golden brown. Saute the mushrooms separately, then mix in with the onions and set aside in a bowl. On a well-floured surface, roll your dough gently with a small rolling pin until it reaches about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to a floured pan, or a pizza stone (or flipped-over cast iron pan) if you make your pizza at the highest temperature setting in a traditional oven. Smooth a scoop of the caramelized onions and mushrooms on the dough, then crumble gorgonzola on top. Right before cooking your pizza crack a small egg over the center, then slide into the oven and watch carefully for doneness (the crust should brown and crisp, the cheese should bubble, and the center should not be soft). Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and torn pieces of fresh basil.

spaghetti carbonara

My tenure as chicken foreman started out well. I was doing my share of egg collecting, keeping an eye out for the crafty hens that mysteriously appear outside the 10-foot pasture fence, and remembering (for the most part) to remind my fellow apprentices to close the main coop at night. I had even taken to letting the girls out at 6 a.m. before my daily laps round the loop at the bottom of the farm driveway. (I run this early so my friends at Love Apple don’t think I’m one of those crazies who blabbers on about runner’s high, but I’ll come clean here and just admit that I am.)

All in all, things seemed to be working out nicely for me with my new assignment. I couldn’t help but admire the chickens in the small coop as I went to collect the eggs there several afternoons ago—though they’re older than the 60 young hens in the main coop, the 10 of them present a lovely picture of speckled, gold, and silvery lavender. As I opened the door and walked up to the laying boxes, I looked at them fondly: they were so peaceful clucking gently around my ankles. I’d forgotten a basket for the eggs, but I made a loose pouch with the front of my t-shirt and began collecting, gathering seven before confidently stretching towards the last box for the remaining two. Unfortunately, then my grip slipped.

It was bad enough that I dropped all seven eggs, which fell in a noisy splatter at my feet. But the chickens (did I call them peaceful?)—they were the real shock. With a din of cackling I was attacked on all sides, beady-eyed heads ravenously devouring the yolks and snapping at the shells. One got a particularly good bite and, with a glop of egg white hanging comically from its beak, took off for a victory lap with several contenders in tow. It was all over in about 15 seconds, but I stood immobilized for minute before grabbing the last two eggs and hurrying down to the garden tent, where my cottage mate Christine surveyed them suspiciously. “There were only two eggs today?” she asked. And then I did something that I’m ashamed to admit—I lied. “Just two. Those older chickens must be really slowing down, huh?”

My egg carnage incident aside, up at the cottage we sometimes struggle to make it through the 60 or so eggs the farm gets each day. Any dish that uses more than a handful is primed for repetition, which is why when Ross and I struck upon spaghetti carbonara the other night I knew we had a winner. We did, evidenced by the fact that I had four servings, then came back to scrape the bowl. And really, that’s why I run—the best part of the runner’s high I know is the wonderful eating that follows.

Ross’ Spaghetti Carbonara

As with all recipes that have few ingredients, quality is key—farms eggs (especially the double-yolkers) are naturally delicious, and we were lucky enough to have Niman Ranch bacon. We didn’t have any parmesan and the results were still amazing, but if you do I’d throw some in—you won’t regret it.

6 eggs

4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces

1 medium onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup milk

17 oz spaghetti (one package)

parmesan or pecorino romano (optional)

Separate the egg yolks from the whites, putting the whites aside, then beat the yolks until mixed and add the milk to thin. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon, rendering until brown but not crispy. Add the onions and caramelize (you can add a bit of water if the pan gets too dry), then add the garlic to sweat for a few minutes and turn off the heat. In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta until al dente and strain. Add pasta to bacon and onions (check that the saucepan is no longer hot), then pour in the egg yolks and toss until the pasta is creamy.

nice n’ spicy bobotie (among other feasts)

Life on the farm is full of variety. One afternoon I might be tie-dying Love Apple t-shirts listening to reggae covers of the Beatles, the next wielding a machete through head-high thistles to a soundtrack of grunts and yells (it’s good to let the weeds know what’s coming). Yesterday I sowed purple mizuna and arugula in the greenhouse, lovingly covering the seeds with a thin blanket of soil; then I went out into the garden and killed 23 cucumber beetles, squeezing them mercilessly between finger and thumb. To quote one of my favorite movies, it’s the circle of life. (Not that the Lion King included tie-dye and machetes, but you get the idea).

Eating on the farm has been full of variety as well, and the last three nights have been a perfect example of that. Wednesday night we apprentices sat in the kitchen as we often do—hungry and surveying the pantry. What emerged was the kind of feast that happens when everyone around you likes to cook: fried eggplant slices from our master-fryer Phillip, sautéed purple carrots from Christine, a kale salad with basil and my honey mustard dressing, and a leek, chard, pepper and tomato vegetable bake topped with homemade goat cheese from our newest apprentice Ross. Everything came from the farm—excepting our mason jars of two-buck-chuck.

Thursday nights at Love Apple are Farm Dinner, a gathering of apprentices, farm staff, neighbors, and friends. Since Ross came to us from the New York Culinary Institute and several years of restaurant experience he was put on cooking duty, and the meal he came up with was memorable indeed: grilled tri-tip, roasted potatoes, Caesar salad and a collection of fixings for tacos. The entertainment of the evening is always a series of conversational games, and this week as we ate we mulled over what hat we would wear for the rest of our lives and, in the case of death by animal, which animal we would choose. (I went with “mauled by pit bull,” mostly for effect).

Friday night rolled around and I pulled out one of my favorite cooking tools: a “Nice n’ Spicy” packet of spices for the South African dish Bobotie. Coming from a family of South Africans it’s been a favorite of mine for years: ground meat spiced with curry, browned with onions, garlic, and ginger, and baked in the oven after being mixed with milk-soaked bread and eggs. As I carried it outside in the cast iron skillet with the turkeys gobbling in the distance and seven forks raised expectantly around the table, I remembered what I love most about cooking—it’s not just food we get to share, but meals.

Nice N’ Spicy Bobotie

Whenever any friends of my family visit South Africa there’s one request that tops the list: Nice N’ Spicy spice packets. Fortunately for us, with some good curry powder and nice bay leaves the bobotie packet is easy to replicate. For the non-red meat eaters in our group I used ground turkey and it turned out well, but ground beef or lamb is also delicious.

2 lbs ground turkey

2 slices soft bread

1 1/2 cups milk

2 Tbs curry powder

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1-inch piece ginger, grated

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 eggs

bay leaves

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Soak the bread in the milk until soft, then strain and reserve leftover milk. Gently mix the bread with the ground meat and curry powder.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet or pot, saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in olive oil or butter until translucent. Add the meat mixture and stir until the meat is nicely browned, then add in the raisins, almonds, half of the reserved milk and one egg. Season with salt and pepper.

Even out the meat in the skillet until you have a flat surface, then beat the remaining 2 eggs with the other half of the reserved milk and pour over the top of the bobotie. Arrange several bay leaves over the top and bake in the oven until the egg mixture on top is well browned, about 30-40 minutes.

irish oats with fried egg and salt

I’ve been on the farm for a week now, and there have been many exciting developments. I sowed my first seeds. I learned how to make vanilla apricot jam. I woke up to see a mouse clinging to the wall above my bed. And then, perhaps most exciting of all, at our weekly farm apprentices’ meeting I was designated chicken foreman.

Before you get too congratulatory, let me be clear: this wasn’t really a job anyone wanted. There are 62 chickens on the farm, and since we take turns collecting the eggs every afternoon the responsibilities of chicken foreman are generally limited to coercing someone into closing the coop after dark. Clambering blindly up the pasture at night where 62 chickens romp (and poop, prolifically) by day is not particularly fun, and when you reach the coop there is only a downhill slide (through the poop) to look forward to. Being a proponent of conflict avoidance by nature, I anticipate many dark nights of coop closing.

On the bright side, 62 chickens means 55 eggs a day, and if there’s one thing I never tire of eating it’s eggs. More specifically, fried eggs. Over the years I’ve come up with various ways to enjoy them–on toast spread with avocado, with pasta, alongside sautéed chard—but my absolute favorite invention is a fried egg on Irish oats. (As of now I’m still fairly certain it’s my invention, if only because everyone I tell about it recoils with what I interpret as skepticism). As simple as it is there’s something wonderfully satisfying about stirring the whole mess together, a perfect mix of hearty oats, creamy yolk, and crispy fried edges. I could eat it every day, and as chicken foreman I just might.

Irish Oats with Fried Egg and Salt

As with many things I enjoy, the key to making this delicious is salt. I like to sprinkle it over the egg while it’s frying, and I usually add a little extra when it’s all mixed together.

1/2 cup Irish oats

1 egg

olive oil

salt

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil and stir in the oats. Return to boiling before lowering the heat and simmering uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. While the oats are cooking add a generous amount of olive oil to a small pan and fry your egg, turning off the heat when the yolk is still runny but the edges have crisped nicely. When the oatmeal is thick and done pour it into a bowl. Top with your egg, sprinkle with salt, and mash everything together. You should end up with a bowl of creamy-looking oats flecked with bits of crispy egg.

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