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People often ask me what my favorite dish is. I think it would be wiser and more efficient to name the few things I care nothing about, like shrimp and other crustacean. It’s not to say I won’t ever like those, but I am yet to have the shell fish served in a way that will blow my mind. Otherwise, please don’t even waste my time.

The things I can eat into infinity, on the other hand, are EGGS. Be those Sunny-side-ups with runny yolk oozing over my lunch toast or fingerling potatoes in my Salad Nicoise. Be those Poached Eggs served over Mashed Rutabaga & Celeriac. Simply hard-boiled eggs chopped and mixed with tuna and pickles that make perfectly creamy and scrumptious filling for sandwiches. An old fashioned Scramble with the volume turned up never gets old. I’ll take my eggs any time of the day, any day of the week. Alas, a lazy Sunday morning and an eggstra decadent meal are a match made in heaven.

This past weekend, I served FRITTATA with Baby Spinach, Green Apples, Goat Cheese and Pancetta. To call it a decadent meal would be offensive. It was magical…

With the first taste that reached my mouth the seat underneath my firm ass-cheeks mysteriously turned into a plush throne covered with red velvet. My hand dropped onto the massive oak table under the weight of a silver fork I never saw before in my life. Little bells rang above my head, stars dust sparkled in the air, and suddenly my left hand was lifting a heavy, silver chalice embellished with precious stones and golden rims. Then I looked down…

Here’s the thing. The last time I saw myself in the mirror before heading to the kitchen to make breakfast I was wearing a see-through tank top and skimpy boy shorts that I like to parade in on Sunday mornings. Now my negligee was replaced with a tight bustier and delicate chiffon gown with mother-of-pearl buttons running up from the waist up to my throat glands. I was astonished. It was the state of the art tailoring bearing trade marks of a royal craftsman. My jaw elegantly fainted and dropped like an autumn leaf to the plate.

The plate! The plate with my SPINACH-APPLE FRITTATA which in fact was the source of all the wicked abracadabra playing out in front of our eyes!

It would be rude and selfish of me not to share this dish with you for the experience is out of this world, I tell ya. The perks, beyond the above described ones, are:

1. It’s easy to make.

2. One batch can last for a few meals that can be stored in a refrigerator for 2 days, or even frozen to be enjoyed later.

3. It’s as versatile as scrambled eggs–you can put in it whatever your soul desires and make it anew every time.

4. You can serve it fresh and hot at home for Sunday breakfast, or pack it for lunch to go on Monday.

5. It’s made of EGGS!

6. It has magical powers…

There are several “proven” methods of making a frittata, and I’ve tried them all. You’ll need a cast-iron skillet (or any other oven proof one) and a 500° hot oven.

Depending on the size of your skillet, you’ll need 6, 10 or even 12 eggs. For my 12″ pan I usually go with 10 organic and free range eggs. Also, peel an apple of your choice (I like the tart ones), quarter, core it and thinly slice. Beat all of the eggs in a bowl, add 2-3 tbsp of heavy cream, and season with salt and pepper. If you like, add chopped chives, or a pinch of chili pepper, or a teaspoon of dry oregano. It’s your dish.

Heat the skillet on the stove top, add a touch of olive oil and butter together, and add diced pancetta. When some of the fat has rendered, tip the apples in and toss them about. Sprinkle a touch of sea salt all over to help the apples sweat and thus get softer. Next, pour the egg mixture in and reduce the heat to medium low. Crumble cold goat cheese all over your dish, add a big handful of fresh spinach, and help it incorporate evenly across the dish.

Using a soft spatula lift the edges of the frittata along the sides of the skillet allowing the still loose eggs from the top to drip underneath the set layer. Make sure nothing sticks. Grate a handful of Fontina cheese all over the surface, drizzle with olive oil and turn off the heat. Place your skillet inside the hot oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and eggs set.

Remove the pan from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, cut in wedges and serve with a side of green salad and toasted baguette. Watch the frock on your bod turn into a royal gown, and a pumpkin coach park outside your window 😉

Bon Appetite!

Did someone slip something into my coffee yesterday morning? Or even earlier, in my sleep, was I powdered with magic dust over my dreamy eyes? From the moment I pulled one leg out of bed, the other one just jumped. From then on I was just bouncing around the house like an energizer bunny on crack. And I will acknowledge that I really don’t know what I’m talking about here, as whenever I see any drugs (crack, marihuana, ibuprofen, aleve) heading in my direction, I spin around on the ball of my foot and… sayonara! Gone, I am. Still, I was clearly high on something when I entered the kitchen soon after noon that day. I didn’t leave until 6 PM, thus sacrificing the playtime with Cosmo and completely ignoring any of my own physiological needs. What happened in between the 1200 hour and 1800 hour is a mystery, which nonetheless resulted in the birth of the following:

–       Edamame Dip

–       Pita Chips with Gruyere and Paprika

–       Quinoa Salad

–       Tuna Salad

–       Zucchini Chips

–       And last but not least – Romesco Sauce.

A sample of each and every delicacy landed on the dinner plate I assembled for Jason last night. He devoured the meal with such passion, the temperature in our freezing house (the furnace is kaput, to be fixed any day now) rose by 17 degrees. Celsius!

Ladies and Gentlemen, today I present to you…

ROMESCO SAUCE

Starring:

–       2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded

–       3 red fresno peppers, dipped in boiling water for a few minutes, then peeled      and seeded

–       12 garlic cloves

–       1/2 cup toasted almonds

–       3/4 cup halved heirloom grape tomatoes (red)

–       1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

–       1 lrg slice of rusting bread, crust off, diced

–       1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar

–       olive oil

–       fresh dill, handful, roughly chopped

–       kosher salt, paprika and black pepper to taste.

I discovered ROMESCO SAUCE recently when I was watching one of the Bobby Flay shows on Food Network. I was so intrigued I poked around on the Internet and pulled out one of his recipes for a yellow version of the treat. But Agi being Agi, I had to do things MY WAY, because that’s how I roll.

Romesco is a Spanish sauce traditionally served with fish. However, you can use it as a dip or spread as well. I would go even as far as accenting a pork chop with a teaspoon of the delight. You see it tastes like a sweet pepper jam, if you can imagine that. Have you ever had a sweet pepper jam in your life? Exactly! You’ve got to try this one. It’s divine! Probably due to all the love it requires to make it. Some of you may think it’s a lot of work. I just call it INTENSE LOVE THERAPY.

Are you ready? Then hit that PLAY button on your screen for instructions.

Get all your ingredients ready in separate bowls. Only this one trick will make your life SO MUCH EASIER you’ll send me thank you notes and a pair of Cirque du Soleil tickets! Pour a few splashes of olive oil into a deep saucepan and heat it until it smokes. Now, one by one, sauté each ingredient for a few minutes over medium heat, ensuring that all elements of your sauce are cooked. Leave the almonds aside for toasting sans the oil. Let them get their own natural oils out when in a toaster oven or on a small dry and heated skillet. And for crying out loud, do NOT burn the garlic. Those little suckers of cloves really don’t like high heat for prolonged periods of time, so be sure to toss them around in the pan until lightly golden, and get them out of there asap.

Each ingredient, after it’s been sautéed, may be dumped directly into your prearranged food processor. When everybody’s in, pour the balsamic vinegar into the saucepan, deglaze the pan, reduce it for a minute or two, and also pour the mixture into the machine on the counter. Add fresh dill, close the lid, and press ON button. Leave it be for a couple of minutes until the sauce is of smooth and unified consistency. Turn of the food processor and taste your creation… What did I say? Isn’t it heavenly?! You may want to season it now with salt, pepper and paprika to your liking. You may spread it thinly on your toast and top with a slice of turkey, cheese and cucumber. You may want to serve it with grilled salmon or tuna, or next to the pork chops we talked about earlier. You could also bake various veggie chips and use the sauce as a dip. The possibilities are as many as you can come up with. It’s your game. You set the rules.

All I know is that by making this sauce I raised my very personal bar of culinary standards set in my house. I have so much more respect for myself now that I made my own Romesco Sauce. Are you kidding me? This rocks! Now it’s your turn. Go and make me proud. I promise that your every effort will be rewarded tenfold.

All right. That’s all she wrote.

A splitting headache brought Jason back home today around lunchtime. He caught me by surprise as I was reclining on the floor in the living room with a coffee table tucked between my extended legs, and laptop… well, resting where it’s meant to be… on my belly.

Our coffee table is chunky and heavy as stone. It has also lived through and seen things that I refuse to talk about when children are present.

Jason walked in with the most tragic expression painted all over his face and announced: “I have a headache that makes my teeth hurt”. He plunged and sank into a couch like a 140-odd pound sack of potatoes. Cosmo reacted by hopping on top of the sack of potatoes, licking its complexion clean, all the while wiggling his tail like a cow in a meadow shooing flies from around its ass.

The view was so pathetic my heart cringed. I handed Jason a bottle of aspirin, content of which was emptied into his throat at once (all two pills that were left). Like a good hen, I marched to the kitchen, whipped out a Tuna Salad Sandwich, fed the kid, put him to bed, and kissed his chilly forehead and pink nipples goodnight. Cosmo curled up between Jason’s legs (it runs in the family) and minutes later exhaled a loud, man-like snore.

That was my cue. With both boys out and about horsing around in their dreamlands, I was finally able to sit down and shake out the dinner idea mentioned last time.

Let’s take the PESTO DRESSED SALAD from my previous post and introduce it to small PITA POCKETS WITH GRILLED SALMON. It’s as easy as it sounds, but first write down all the stuff you need to get from the grocery store to make the dish, assuming you have already made the salad (otherwise you’ll forget something):

–       1 bag of mini pitas

–       fresh salmon (I say 1-2 lbs package)

–       1 bag of mini pitas. Oh, wait, it’s on the list already!

Yes, you just need those 2 elements (salmon and mini pitas, in case you forgot), plus the salad you prepped earlier.

Roll up your sleeves, darling, and let’s get cooking. I myself have a habit of first washing all fish and meat that comes from a store, no matter how sterile the package. Somebody must have touched it at some point, and I don’t even want to open that door in my head. Otherwise, my imagination takes me places and shows me various nasty scenarios of where my food came from. The more time you spend in my head, the better you understand my love affair with organic foods, fresh produce, and also why Jason ties my toe to the bed frame at night. That’s a story for another time.

The clean fish then goes on a plate or a cutting board and gets patted dry with paper towels. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper and modestly sprinkled with olive oil to help establish the grilling marks everyone is after. Next, a pair of muscular tongs hoists the fillets onto a heated grilling pan, which reacts with violent sizzling, hissing and pissing. You’ve been warned. Be cool, and don’t let the drama queen change your mind. Let the fish sit on the hot surface and get some blush on its cheeks, and then some. Then flip it.

The cooking time on each side will depend on the thickness of your fillets. As the heat penetrates the flesh, you’ll notice a color change along the cut from pink to white-ish. It may take 3 minutes per side, if the guys are skinny. You may also need to step back for 5-6 minutes per turn, if you got yourself chubby chunks of salmon. Keep the heat on medium, don’t walk away, don’t leave your fish unattended (it’s rude), be alert. If you keep them on the pan too long they’ll get dry. Ideally, you want to turn off the heat a few minutes before your meat is done, and let it R.I.P. for 10 minutes or so. It will continue to cook inside becoming that perfect GRILLED SALMON from your misty dreams.

It took me a few packages of fish and a couple of bottles of wine to really nail the technique. Don’t beat yourself up. Be gentle.

Here comes the best part – building your PITA POCKETS. Yay! Onto a large plate scoop some of your salad, set your GRILLED SALMON nearby, and grab a MINI PITA. With a small knife cut it open along the rim, about half way through, creating a POCKET. Using a fork, pack the inside with a little bit of salad, then pieces of crushed salmon, maybe more salad on top if there’s room. Open your mouth wide – you may want to spread your legs for extra support as well – and BITE! Then take just ONE MORE BITE and kill it! Move on to the next one. Continue building and biting until you’re full and salad leaves burst out of your ears.

Pita Pocket 1

Salmon

It’s not only THAT good, but it’s also FUN to build your own food on a plate and enjoy it instantly. Ask Jason. He’s like a kid in a sand box with a plastic bucket and a rake when given a chance to assemble a meal straight from his plate. And I get to watch the spectacle. That’s what I call ENTERTAINMENT.

Good luck with your fishies…

Not always does a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast help you get your shit together and get on with your day.

OK, ok! Easy. I’ll just speak for myself then.

In my defense, it doesn’t help that my TASK BOARD still says it’s Saturday, while at the same time, I’ve  been convinced since last night that today is Friday (the day I’m taking Jason on a date to a secret location). Meanwhile, a strange man with a nice, deep voice says to me on the radio that today is Wednesday, September 30, 2009. Hmmm.

My reality today is convoluted to such an extent that I bounce from one place to another with a heavy chip on my shoulder. I know I should be writing now, but the very thought of it makes me spin 180 degrees on my bare heels and go sweep the neighbor’s stoop. Next, I focus on my hands as they scream for attention, and suddenly I find myself performing a home manicure – a task I normally dread like the chicken pox. Once the bright red polish is splashed all over my nails, it’s the silence in the room that gets me at last.

I fan my  froggy fingers out over the keyboard of my computer, open iTunes and break out the jams. It’s not until The Last Shadow Puppets begin to play that I decide it’s time to turn the volume UP,  prepare my stage,  move the chair out of the range of my high-kick, place Cosmo on the balcony of our bed and GET MY GROOVE ON. While the music blasts from the speakers, I jump and throw my hands in the air, stretch in all directions, bounce my shoulders, bend to the sides, thrash my hips back and forth, and give the “dance” MY ESSENCE. Gasping for air, I look at Cosmo, and a bright smile wraps it’s way around my glossy face like a red bow on a Christmas gift. He just yawns at me with mere disapproval: “Mother, REALLY??!”

Cosmo w/ Headphones

After being scolded by my very own dog, I curl my tail under my own bottom, shut down the music box, and shuffle my feet to the kitchen hoping to get some LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING from an oozing, chocolate mini-cupcake. One thing leads to another, and within minutes, I’m prepping lunch. On the menu today… an Avocado Turkey Sandwich with a side of a Quinoa Salad. I’m confident after this meal I’ll have a work out that would make Michael Phelps crawl out of his pool humiliated and in tears.

Turkey Sammy

Speaking of Sammies, they play an important role in our household, especially since Jason returned to work and I took on the temporary role of “little wifey”, which nota bene suits me shockingly well. The part I play entails my rising at dawn along with my beau and tending to his feeding needs. While Jason assures me he’s perfectly capable of getting a bowl of cereal in the morning, I won’t have such nonsense and proceed to fill his bowl with a cherry picked mix of breakfast grains topped with a rainbow of sliced fruit, all soaked in an ocean of almond milk.

While the boy crunches away, I move on to the next task at hand which consists of assembling his lunch and dexterously fitting the mountain of food into the 2 compartments of his teeny-weeny lunchbox.

If there are no leftovers from the previous night’s dinner (which is the case 3 out of 4 times), I grab from the refrigerator whatever I can hold in my arms and build a Mothership of all Sandwiches. I start with two slices of HEALTHY bread, which unfortunately in many cases tend to taste like old tennis shoes. Particularly the low sodium Ezekiel Bread which is as exciting as a chess match!

porkzo1

Let me pause here for a second. If it wasn’t for a pile of SPARKLING NEW jeans that are an entire two (2) sizes smaller than the last pants I bought, I would be slathering both sides of ciabatta bread with mayonnaise and topping it with 1-inch thick chunks of chicken, beefy slices of mozzarella, tomato and a basil leaf. I have wet dreams about  Italian breads, rustic French baguettes and country rolls. In fact, I’m drooling a little bit right now with nothing more than the mere image of them!

How do I turn that ugly ducking of Ezekiel Bread into Cinderella? I have a trick (or two) that (lucky for you) I’ve decided to no longer keep to myself.

Raspberries on side

My secret is to make the sandwich relatively MOIST, but not soggy. Second, you want to keep it versatile and exciting. The sky is the limit when it comes to building a sandwich! Think outside the box. Instead of always going for the good ‘ol mayo, use a low-fat version mixed into a coherent cream with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Or forget about mayo altogether and spread a little hummus on your bread topped with slices of heirloom tomato and pickles under an umbrella of a few spinach leaves. You can buy a flavored one, or just make your own Hummus. The EDAMAME DIP you just tried this week for the first time will go swimmingly with a few thin slices of low sodium turkey, maybe a little of Monterey Jack and a slice of Tomato, all sprinkled with finely chopped chives and packed between the slices of bread.

Cottage Cheese Sammies

Being Polish, I bring my Polish twist to the table, and when the sandwich is for here and not to go I like to keep it open. It’s an ideal surface for a tablespoon of cottage cheese, green onions and crunchy Persian cucumbers. That’s today. Tomorrow, get yourself a ripe avocado, slice the meat and spread it generously over your bread. Cover with turkey/chicken/ham, and top with thick slices of hard-boiled egg – don’t forget to sprinkle it with a dust of salt and pepper. The next day, make a Tuna Salad and use it as filling in your sammy. And if you grew up convinced radishes taste like dirt, here’s your chance to bring back the magic and believe in Santa  all over again slice one radish and hide it between the layers of your tuna sandwich. Not only will you have that extra crunch, but also vitamins and minerals you’ve deprived yourself all your life.

Tuna Sammy Tuna Closed Sammy

Have you ever tried Mascarpone cheese? It’s good not only in a Tomato Sauce for your pasta, or in cakes, but can also serve as a foundation for your – exactly! – next day sandwich. You can cover it with slices of meat, cheese, roasted peppers, onion, cucumber, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, and fresh herbs (basil, dill, mint, tarragon, etc.) Same thing goes for Pesto. You can have an exciting, delicious sandwich every day at work, and it will never taste the same. Bring a smile back to your SAMMY.

One last thing to keep in mind – do NOT overcrowd the guy. Don’t pile up everything under the sun onto your slice of bread.   After all, you want to be able to wrap your mouth around that bad boy, don’t you?

Three Open Sammies

I could go on, and I’m positive there will be more opportunities to talk sandwiches. Hell, I’ll make sure of it. Today’s article will at least get you started. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box of Sandwiches. From now on the ideas will never stop coming. They will flood your mind, your lunchbox, and your kitchen. You’ll feel overwhelmed with the creative powers that will suddenly take over and you’ll start feeding your coworkers, your neighbors, and even your dog. Each Sammy will be a Gourmet Concert of Wild and Exotic Flavors clasped within the crunchy arms of two slices of toasted bread waiting to be domesticated in your mouth.

Now go and unleash your inner Sandwich Snob. Then tame the beast with your creations. Have fun with it!

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