It is not yet the height of blueberry season, but we’re getting closer. If you watch the labels on your blueberries closely, you’ll notice during our winter months they first come from South America, then Central America, followed by our southern U.S. states, and on northward until we get to Canada come early fall — when we must wait a bit to begin the cycle all over again. I’ll eat this gorgeous fruit anytime of the year, but am especially berry in love when it’s time for the berries from the northern spots like Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, or Canada. That’s because berries like cool nights and I think those cooler northern places grow top shelf fruit. When blueberries are especially plentiful and the tastiest, they’re also at their least expensive. That lets me know it’s time to buy a bunch and freeze enough to last until next summer. And while we’re not there yet, I had already bought more than my husband could eat at breakfast on his yogurt with my homemade granola. They were beginning to soften and were even thinking of getting those stinky little white rings of mold on their bottoms. Two cups of near-heaven superfood needed to be saved. So one cup is enough for a dozen muffins; two cups calls for a loaf of blueberry bread. In this case I had a little strawberry jam called my baking name out loud as well, so I thought I’d tuck that into the center of the loaf and call it Strawberry Jam Filled Blueberry Bread, which is (you’re right) a mouthful. But no other name seemed to fit and I’m stuck with it. Thank goodness, because the name says exactly what it is and if that’ll make you preheat the oven and stir this up, I’m good. I do think any jam would do — even blueberry — but I happened to have the tail end of a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, which served royally well. (TIP: I reuse their jars as storage containers for months or even years as they are glass, go through the dishwasher, and come with tight, long-lasting red and white picnic-checked lids.)
What is it about making brunchat home that feels extravagant and comfy all at the same time? We’re all over planning changeable, healthy dinner meals complete with menus, shopping lists, and Sunday prep, but morning fare is relegated to nearly the same dish over and over again. Folks literally eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day. Or peanut butter toast. Yogurt and granola. Whatever. But take us to a swank brunch buffet at a fancy hotel and we’re putting soft poached eggs on smoked salmon dill biscuits and snarfing down raspberries in Grand Marnier with dark chocolate waffles as if there were no tomorrow. And then there’s the bottomless mimosa, isn’t there? When we finally decide to put on an at-home morning spread–for Mother’s Day, say?– that takes more thoughtful preparation than slamming down bread in the toaster and manage some actual day-before cooking or baking, it’s amazing how pampered-rich, how homey and cosseted we feel. Kinda like, “Well, isn’t this nice?!” And it is.
Here in Colorado and perhaps even elsewhere in the U.S., there’s no diner breakfast more famous than the Denver Omelet — except maybe biscuits and gravy. You know how the Denver Omelet goes — lots of browned onions, green peppers, diced ham and some ooey-gooey orange cheese. It should be cooked firm and golden brown unlike the pale and buttery French omelets. And while I’m totally fond of a Denver omelet or a French omelet (mushrooms, please), for that matter, I have for quite a while enjoyed a different sort of southwestern egg breakfast here in my kitchen in Colorado Springs. My tender little elegant omelet is whisked with salsa rather than cream or water. It’s cooked slowly and gently in a covered skillet rather than at breakneck speed with constant whisking in an open pan à la française (like the French). Occasionally I turn the burner off toward the end, but leave the covered pan on it for another minute or two to slowly finish cooking my omelet. Good trick to have up your sleeve for any eggs (and some other things, too) you make to avoid an overcooked fry-up.
When Easter is on its hippity-hoppity way, I often research and make some scrumptious Easter bread if only because there are so very many and they’re all so individually addictive. Once or twice, I’ve looked for a Scots version (as some of my folk come from Scotland), only to be disappointed because there really isn’t a Scots Easter bread unless you include Hot Cross Buns, which I guess you could in a pinch. (I think Hot Cross Buns are more Good Friday-ish. By the way, I made Nigella’s scrumptious version this year with a few easy twists I’ll share next Lent.) Last Sunday morning, I woke feeling a little sorry for myself –for both me the baker and me the Scot. Until I realized just WHY the Scots have no Easter bread. Who needs Easter bread when you’ve got God’s perfect bread — scones — hither, thither, and yon? (FUN FACT: Most folks in Scotland pronounce the word scone to rhyme with our pronunciation of the word done, by the way. So that’s skuhn to you and me!)
This is a copy of a blog post (April, 2012) from my now finished blog, dinnerplace.blogspot.com. Such a fun little Easter or post-Easter breakfast made for many years in my kitchen, I thought it deserved its own spot here on More Time. I've updated only the recipe to make it printable.
One of my favorite spring breakfasts is so terribly simple, that it appears I’ve never blogged it. I see the photos on my Pinterest board and on fb, but when I checked the blogs–no eggs on muffins! So here it is: a meal perfect for Easter when you have lots of boiled eggs to use up, but also perfect any other time or for any meal, come to think of it. If you have a plethora of eggs, as does my friend Cathy (we’re trading my granola for her backyard eggs this week), this is a fine use for them. My own kids had this every Easter for years. Well, I served it anyway. Whether or not they ate it is beside the point!
For Hot Cross Buns and Easter brunch ideas, scroll down to bottom under LIFE GOES ON.
No matter what kind of fish or seafood you’re cooking, there are two basic secrets to its success. #1 Don’t overcook it. #2 You need a great sauce. I mean, think about it. Even everyday sorts of fish or seafood like fried shrimp or fish and chips come with a sauce you just have to have: cocktail sauce for the shrimp and tartar sauce for the fish. Right? This is also true of fish cooked by chefs in upscale restaurants, though the sauces may (or may not) be a tish more sophisticated. Sometimes butter and/or lemon are all that’s called for, as in Sole Meunière, which is not much more than thin and floured sole fillets cooked in–yes– butter and lemon, then sprinkled with, what else? Parsley. Simple is as simple does. And the dish has been top drawer famous forever! No matter the fish, it is often the sauce that counts.
That’s especially true in my quick Friday Fish for this week, Pan-Seared Halibut with Tomato-Sweet Pepper Salsa. Everyone knows pico de gallo and other sorts of Mexican salsas often made with cilantro and jalapeños, but a fresh tomato salsa (salsa only means “sauce”) without those two ingredients and with sweet peppers, tiny ripe tomatoes, parsley, green onions, and lemon, orange, or lime is something different. That difference is smile-worthy because instead of being overwhelmed by large-scale flavors, this mild fillet is enhanced and freshly seasoned by what is almost a baby salad garnish — which takes the dish over the top to my tastebuds.
If someone asked me, “What is a romantic meal?” I’m sure I would be expected to have an answer. After all, I’m a food blogger; I’m a cooking teacher. I’m married to the man of my dreams. I don’t think I do, though. (Today’s Pork Chop Parmesan with Lemon Mushroom Risotto might qualify!) Do I even know how to define “romantic”? To begin with, the word “romantic” is both an adjective and a noun. Leave it to the English major to think of that. If you just drop the word “romantic” into a conversation, I’m likely to think of Brahms, Chopin, Verdi, or Beethoven because I’m also a musician. While several definitions pop up when you search, here is one likely to make sense to most folks:
...conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.
"A romantic candlelit dinner."
Away from home and in an airbnb for two weeks at holiday time could be a recipe for disaster for many cooks. Dull knives, warped and nicked non-stick pans, dollar store utensils, and no pantry but for the ubiquitous old oil, salt, pepper, and weak coffee are the earmarks of many rental home kitchens. There are the rare gems stocked to the nth degree with nearly everything of which you could hope to find in your dream kitchen including All-Clad waffle irons, Breville food processors, Henckel knives, Italian coffee, and, of course, the most spacious of air fryers and instant pots. I’ll give you that, but such happy deals are few and far between and are usually in upscale houses for big groups. Having rested our poor weary heads in a large variety of these smaller houses over the years — often with friends — we come prepared. A small bag of our favorite spices makes the journey with us along with a whisk, a pastry blender, one great knife, a stovetop grill pan, a pie plate, and even a big soup pot if we’re going by car. While the store sometimes (but not always) sells nearly everything you’d want, it’s best to bring a few things along to avoid what might otherwise look like the largest grocery bill of your life. Even then, be prepared for the sticker shock that moves many vacation folks to skip cooking and head to restaurants. While we’d do a bit of that in good times, we’re currently avoiding restaurants like the plague. To coin a phrase. On the road, we do a drive-through at lunchtime in the winter, but are tossing meals into a cooler along with a nice bottle of wine for in-hotel-room dinners. No searching for take-out in the cold and dark and the dogs are happy to stretch out on the floor hoping for dropped crumbs from something way more interesting than grilled chicken sandwiches. Sorry, Wendy’s.
I know without question I cannot bake and cook at the same time. Disaster awaits. Or at the very least, serious unhappiness. There must be either a baking morning and a cooking afternoon or some variation thereof. This doesn’t mean I won’t stir up a pan of cornbread while my beans finish cooking at 5:30 or that I’d refuse to bake cookies if the slow cooker was on. No, no, no–not at all. But it does mean I shouldn’t be chopping and adding ingredients to a soup and think I can also whip up a loaf or two of quick bread in the the short minutes between soup chores. Because if I do, the bread will be missing its cinnamon, for instance, or in this case, its very necessary salt. And I might serve the soup without making sure all of its ingredients were just as tender as they should be. Which I did — and sent it to ill neighbors like that. (I hope the carrots weren’t crunchy. God, Alyce.)
When people talk seriously to me about why they don’t cook or why they dislike cooking, there are a few oft-repeated reasons. One is the time it takes. (So does getting to a drive-through.) Another is “too many ingredients.” (Buy Jamie Oliver’s 5-Ingredients Cookbook.) Third is not knowing what to cook. (Food and Wine: Meal Planning 101.) A fourth favorite is, “I hate the mess.” (That’s why God made dishwashers.) The other day on Twitter, there was a thread that began with a comment that went something like this, “If I had known that as an adult I’d have to come up with something for dinner every night the rest of my life, I’d never have grown up.” A multitude of responses intoned the same lament. While those feelings indicate any number of problems (“That’ll be 5 cents, please.), cooking truly needn’t be one. Devoting a little time to planning, shopping, and learning how to cook your favorite meals solves a lot of it. One can’t just show up in the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. or p.m. and hope for divine inspiration. Unless, that is, you’re counting on breakfast for dinner (or breakfast!) and know you have eggs in the fridge — or, if you’re elsewhere in the world — on your counter. In that case, you have a million options. And my Salsa-Cheddar Omelet with Pickled Onion is just one. You can come up with the other 999,999.