Ricotta Toast with Basil Egg for Breakfast

Food-Eggs-Ricotta Toast

A bit of a warm breakfast on a heat-soaked morning, but the cooking is minimal and the food is a fine change from summer yogurt and fresh fruit.  Make your coffee first because once you begin making this sweet little meal, it’ll need your undivided attention.  Use up some of those ever-ripening Minnesota –Indiana, Illinois, Aix-en-Provence, New Jersey– tomatoes. Just add a few ruby-red slices to your ricotta-slathered toast along with an egg and a little julienne basil, et voila, you’re at the table!  Here’s how:

ricotta toast with basil egg    1 serving (repeat for more)

                         Read through recipe before cooking. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta
  • kosher salt/fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 thin slices tomato
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons julienne basil
  1. Place oven rack 4 inches from broiler element.  Preheat broiler.
  2. Spread ricotta on bread, season with salt and pepper; place on baking sheet.
  3. Broil 2 minutes or until ricotta is warm. Remove from oven, top with tomatoes. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and broil again for one minute.
  4. While you’re broiling the bread, cheese, and tomatoes, heat oil or butter in a small skillet over medium high heat.  Add egg and cook until almost, but not totally done. Season egg with salt and pepper while it’s cooking. (Egg should be runny on top.)
  5. Add egg on top of the tomatoes and garnish with basil. Run under broiler briefly to finish cooking egg.
  6. Serve hot.

{printable recipe}

dog days of august in saint paul, minnesota

Just for fun for dog days, here’s Tucker the Pup in 2010.

The heat we missed in early August when we had two weeks of temps in the 70’s arrived last weekend.  With temperatures pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and heat indexes way over that, Saint Paul folk — typically able to withstand any onslaught of cold or hot weather–are wilting. (It’s State Fair time, too.) People who never complain about the weather are just about “under the weather” over this last blast of wet-breathing miasma.  Those without air conditioning are leaving home in search of relief in friends’ homes or malls.  When Dave and I gave up even grilling the other night and headed to Scusi, our favorite across-the-street wine bar, we found that the poor restaurant cooling systems can’t keep up with it either, though they gave it a valiant try. (It was bearable.)  Of course, you have to figure there are pizza ovens, huge gas stoves, grills, and salamanders adding to the fray.  The dripping server brought our happy hour half-price pizza and salad with a wan grin, but was clearly unhappy to be running around in the typical waiter garb: long-sleeved white shirt, black slacks, and apron.  The rest of us had our muumuus on — or the male version thereof.

A great big boomer thunderstorm rolled in overnight and I awoke with hopes of a cooler, less humid morning—-no joy.  79 degrees F and a dewpoint of 73 at 7am when we walked the mile with the slower and slower dogs.  No hope in sight for days.  This is why, America, Minnesotans have cabins up north.  Just in case you wondered.  Going to the lake is a time-honored past time in northern Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  I grew up going as often as my parents could get away and I’m sorely disappointed this morning that not one friend invited us up for this sweltering weekend.  We are considering holing up in a hotel with freezing central air, ordering room service, and watching sleazy movies Saturday and Sunday.  Or, as I told Dave, “Look and see how many miles we have.  Maybe we can fly somewhere cool.”
“And where would that be?” asked Dave.

I’m guessing we’re stuck in our basement with Netflix and a few cold beers or, if I’m lucky, lunch and an afternoon at Mall of America.  The only time we approach that place is when it’s 20 below zero and we can’t look at each other across the living room one more afternoon or when it’s 95 and I need a walk and red wine in the same afternoon.  I’m not sure we’ve ever bought anything there except maybe at Williams-Sonoma.  I do need some dishes, though.

In this heat I’m reading:  TRANSATLANTIC by Colum McCann ( new and lyrically written) and FAMILIES OF THE VINE: Seasons Among the Winemakers of Southwest France by Michael S. Sanders. Non-fiction that reads like fiction is Michael Sander’s forte-published in 2006, but I sadly missed it.  I adore Michael Sanders and this book is about one of my favorite grapes–Malbec or Cahors, as it’s known in France.  (French “Malbec” is usually a blend of grapes, however–Malbec, Merlot, and Tannat.)

And I’m listening to:  MUMFORD AND SONS–  2 albums:  Babel and Sigh No More.    As I prepare for choir to start, I’m listening, over and over again, to our first (one rehearsal) anthem–which is a ’96 rendition of the 23rd Psalm by Stuart Townend. No scooping, though!  Probably everyone’s sung it (we haven’t), but I adore anthems that congregations can participate in.   Too often, we only hear the 23rd at funerals.  Does anyone preach on it even when it’s in the lectionary?  Actually, I rarely hear anyone preach the psalms.  Pity.  I love the people’s song prayers. 

Help the hungry in Syria?

Like everyone else, I’m praying for peace in our world and food for the hungry–especially in Syria.  If you’d like to contribute–something very positive to do when we think we can do nothing–contact the World Food Programme.  They’re getting food to Syrians in-country as well as in the refugee areas.

Stay cool as you sing a new song,

Big Zuke (and other) Caprese + New Book Cover!

Huge zucchini–sliced very thinly and sauteed–then fanned into the caprese.

I’d like to say this little meal came up during my salad days.
But I can’t put that down without a little head tilt and one-sided smile.

From Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606:
CLEOPATRA: My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.

Come the dog days of summer–ah, geez– I have times when the grill isn’t quite as appealing as it was in, say May when the heat began.  I’m more interested in what I can do with the vegetables from my neighbor’s garden or from the farmer’s market, or even from our own tiny patch–which is just tomatoes and herbs.  I just want to sit under the tree with a quick, cold meal, a bottle of wine, and my husband.  Making hay while the sun shines. Watching the grass grow.

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Swiss Chard-Sweet Corn Scramble with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan

In Saint Paul, we have a plethora of farmer’s markets.  Naturally the best–or largest– is on Saturday mornings downtown.  And, if you’re hungry, you can have a great breakfast sandwich and a big coffee from Golden’s Deli. But if you don’t have the time or the inclination (it’s crowded), you can go to one of the other markets.

On Thursdays, you can go to the Capitol.  It’s a small market, but is full of the best of the best.  Like tomatoes.

Or Swiss chard, which, if you haven’t had it, is a lot like spinach, but tastier–

Chard has a slightly bitter taste and is used in a variety of cultures around the world, including Arab cuisine.

Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked (like in pizzoccheri) or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach. Nutritional chart at bottom.

Last Thursday, my friend Kim drove me down to the Capitol for a quick market shop.  As always, I bought way more than I needed, but out of that great bounty came this sweet side… The tomatoes are from my own garden.

 Leftovers?  Heat up a small skillet, add about a half-cup of the chard mixture and let warm through.  Stir in two well-beaten, seasoned eggs and let cook until eggs are done to your liking. Breakfast is served.

Leftovers with eggs for breakfast.

swiss chard-sweet corn scramble with cherry tomatoes+parm

2 large or 4 smaller servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped (Vidalia or Walla Walla)
  • Corn kernels cut from one cooked ear of corn (boiled, grilled,  or microwaved), about 1/2 cup
  • 2-3 cups Swiss chard, chopped finely (greens and stems)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated, plus a little extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped–plus a few extra for garnish
In a large, deep skillet, heat oil with red pepper over medium-high heat for thirty seconds.  Add onion and corn, stir, and cook 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are just softening.  Stir in chard and season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until chard is tender, and has wilted.  Add garlic, Parmesan, and tomatoes. Let cook 1-2 minutes.  Serve hot with a few ounces of rare beef filet, medium-rare pork tenderloin, or with sauteed wild mushrooms stirred into Minnesota wild rice. Garnish with a bit of Parmesan and the rest of the tomatoes. 

Swiss Chard, cooked, no salt*
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 84 kJ (20 kcal)
Carbohydrates 4.13 g
– Sugars 1.1 g
– Dietary fiber 2.1 g
Fat 0.08 g
Protein 1.88 g
Water 92.65 g
Vitamin A equiv. 306 μg (38%)
Vitamin A 6124 IU
– beta-carotene 3652 μg (34%)
– lutein and zeaxanthin 11015 μg
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.034 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.086 mg (7%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 0.36 mg (2%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.163 mg (3%)
Vitamin B6 0.085 mg (7%)
Folate (vit. B9) 9 μg (2%)
Choline 28.7 mg (6%)
Vitamin C 18 mg (22%)
Vitamin E 1.89 mg (13%)
Vitamin K 327.3 μg (312%)
Calcium 58 mg (6%)
Iron 2.26 mg (17%)
Magnesium 86 mg (24%)
Manganese 0.334 mg (16%)
Phosphorus 33 mg (5%)
Potassium 549 mg (12%)
Sodium 179 mg (12%)
Zinc 0.33 mg (3%)
Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are roughly approximated
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Nutritional content[edit source | editbeta]

All parts of the chard plant contain oxalic acid.
Swiss chard is high in vitamins AK and C, with a 175 g serving containing 214%, 716%, and 53%, respectively, of the recommended daily value.[11] It is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein.[12]                

* courtesy Wikipedia
Sing a new song; cook some fresh chard,

Grilled Tuna Salad with Late Summer Vegetables and Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette

I’m not sure there’s anything like a summer salad that appears to be a Niçoise-Caprese mix.  It’s the best of summer flavors combined and makes you feel as if you’re in Italy and France at the same time.  Especially if you’ve added grilled eggplant and zucchini along with a lemon-basil vinaigrette.

I never pass the fish and seafood in the store without seeing if something’s on the fire sale.  $9 OFF a pound is a fire sale for fresh tuna.  It means they have to get rid of it that day, preferably immediately. I’m willing to eat that tuna. I’m happy to run home and cook it straight away.  Here’s what I did with it,which was all dependent on what I had in the fridge and on the counter after a visit to the market at the Capitol in Saint Paul:

grilled tuna salad with late summer vegetables &
spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
serves 4

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled, and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds or lengthwise into1/4″ thick slices
  • 2  (3/4-inch) slices of a very large yellow onion
  • 2 (6-8 ounce) thick tuna steaks
  • 1/2 cup each cherry tomatoes and bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)–about 12 each
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Nicoise or kalamata olives
  • Juice of half-lemon
  • Spicy Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Preheat indoor or outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Brush eggplant, zucchini, and onion with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Grill about 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  After a few minutes, slice into one-inch pieces.
  1. Brush tuna with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill 2 minutes on one side until there are dark grill marks; turn and grill other side about 2 minutes for medium rare – rare, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Cook another minute or two for medium-well.   Remove and let rest 1-2 minutes.  Cut into one-inch chunks.
  2. To a large bowl, add tomatoes and bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), spinach, olives, and sliced eggplant, zucchini, and onions. Stir gently and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice; add tuna and stir again.  Drizzle with remainder of lemon juice and then generously with vinaigrette.  Divide between four pasta or shallow bowls, placing cherry tomatoes in one section, cheese in another, and so on. Garnish with olives and reserved basil julienne. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Cook’s Note 1.:  If you’ve a large enough grill, grill the vegetables and add the tuna during the last few minutes.  I made this on a big cast iron indoor grill that covers two burners (Lodge), but it still wasn’t big enough for everything. Add to that, I’m only an indoor griller and like things in manageable batches. I leave the big gas or charcoal grill to Dave or whomever I can lasso into firing it up.  2. If you’d like a bit heartier salad, stir in a 15-ounce can of drained cannellini beans (season first pepper and with a bit of the vinaigrette) along with the grilled vegetables.
spicy lemon-basil vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shallot, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil julienne, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, spices,  mustard, shallot, and two tablespoons basil.  Slowly add the olive oil, whisking all the while, until vinaigrette is well mixed and emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings. (Rest of basil is for garnish)
Wine:  Go American and drink a great big California Chardonnay.
Sing a new song; make a new salad,

Creamy Zucchini Soup with Parmesan and Cherry Tomatoes or Back Porch Gifts are Best

Fresh sliced cherry tomatoes are hidden at the bottom of the bowl for a surprise.

There may be more recipes for zucchini than anything else at this time of the year.  Long gone are the tiny, tender and sweet pencil-slim squashes of early summer.  Here now are baseball-bat sized –could I say clubs?–appearing on back porches, in countless loaves of bread, stuffed and broiled, or any of the above.

My basil died while I was gone.  Market had plants 3 for $10 this week. I’m starting over.

Since zucchini is my favorite vegetable, perhaps after asparagus… or maybe green beans…I just don’t care.  I’ll buy or take all I can get and never be tired of it.  Shredded, mixed with egg, onion, and a bit of flour, it’s a supper pancake served with grated cheese.  Slit open, scooped out — the moist innards sauteed with onions, garlic, and pepper–and refilled, I’m thrilled to stick it under the broiler under nearly burned and definitely crispy.  But what I really love to do is make soup.  Any kind. Especially with lots of fresh herbs  Which you knew.   (And the new soup book, Soups & Sides for Every Season truly is done! Available through amazon.com. (edited September 18, 2014)

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Ina Fridays — Appetizers — Roasted Eggplant Spread

Ina Garten’s appetizers are, like all of her recipes, lovely and luscious, but while making this I kept remembering how often Ina speaks about simple, store-bought appetizers like

  • olives
  • nuts
  • chips
  • cheese

and so on. The show sometimes drives along with Ina into town to pick up the ready-to-go food and I have to admit I’m always jealous of the shops she has available.   Her point is often that if you have too many nibbles with your apertif or sparkler, you’re full.  Not only that, who wants to spend not only the whole day getting ready for company, but making yet another recipe?  I not only agree with her, I follow those rules for entertaining and make things easy on myself.  I’ll also admit I adore potato chips and champagne. Continue reading