Oatstanding Breakfast

There’s no other way to put it: oatmeal is a legendary breakfast. Convenient, cheap, healthy, and delectable, it gets top marks in every category of breakfast satisfaction.

Oatmeal is the Tim Duncan of breakfasts: inauspicious, consistent, and an all time great.

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Bathed in morning light, this oatmeal is almost gorgeous enough to distract you from that filthy window.

I’ve recently had an oatmeal resurgence in my own life, and I’m planning on making it my standard breakfast. It’s warm and tasty on a winter morning, and packs a Cassius Clay  level punch of fiber. My personal recipe calls for a liberal does of fresh berries atop the oats, which adds much needed texture diversity and an enormous amount of antioxidants (I have no idea what antioxidants do to my body, but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome).

It’s a simple recipe — cook the oats as instructed on your oatmeal container. Then put in a bowl with toppings:

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An array of oatmeal additions.

Really there’s not a lot more to say. You just have no reason not to be eating oatmeal.

And because the lighting in my kitchen was amazing, another picture of everyone’s favorite hot breakfast cereal.

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Oatmeal ft Rustic Wood and Wholesome Feeling Of Joy

If You Give A Mom Some Beans

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If you give a mom some beans…

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…she’ll want some polenta to go with them.

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And when she sees the polenta, she’ll need to sauté some peppers and onions.

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And when she piles the peppers and onions onto her dish, she’ll look for some cheese.

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And when she’s added the cheese, she’ll want to sneak in a few scallions.

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And when her son eats her meal, which is absolutely scrumptious, and free of charge…

 

 

he’ll decide not to leave the house until age 34.

 

The Trials and Tribulations of Eggs Benedict

Monday morning I awoke with the joy and vigor of a much younger man. The reason for this excitement, of course, was culinary. I intended to make an Eggs Benedict.

However, our dreams don’t always come true in the way we hope. 90 minutes later I emerged from the kitchen a changed man, holding something sort of like an Eggs Benedict. Here’s how it went down:

Step 1: The English Muffin

Everyone knows a good english muffin is the beginning of any good eggs benny. And this is where things started to go wrong. I accidentally purchased gluten free english muffins. So instead of a delightful British crumpet, I was faced with a hellish brick that had been brown rice perhaps a century ago. It was clear I would need to look elsewhere for my Benedict foundation. I shed a few tears for what might have been and started making biscuits.

Sadly, the biscuits were no better. I used the recipe on the side of a box of sourdough pancake and waffle mix (which apparently can also be made into a biscuit) and proceeded to manhandle my biscuit dough. The resulting biscuits were depressing, dusty little hockey pucks.

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A plate of very underwhelming biscuits in strange forced perspective.

At this point I had two failed circular breads and little hope. I decided I would go with a low carb benny, and moved onto the eggs.

Step 2: The Eggs

Following this brilliant guide by Jacques Pépin to poaching eggs, I managed to make some very pleasing poached eggs. I added salt and vinegar to my boiling water and got an excellent vortex swirling in the middle of a large deep saucepan. The eggs dropped in the middle took on an excellent shape and cooked perfectly.

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An egg begins it’s journey toward poach-dom.

Just like the video, I placed my eggs in ice water after they were done cooking. This worked brilliantly and I was able to reheat them later without sacrificing the right poached egg consistency. For someone who cooks as slowly as I do, having my eggs preserved in cold water was especially helpful.

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Ice baths — not just for NFL stars.

With my eggs set aside. I was ready for the real battle.

Step #3: Hollandaise

Hollandaise, when done right, is a substance I treasure similarly to oxygen and water. Notice my emphasis on “done right”. Anyone who has had an Eggs Benedict has enjoyed the wonders of hollandaise sauce, but it is a truly difficult beast. It’s a mixture of egg yolk and lemon juice that must be slowly whipped in with melted butter over low heat. If anything is done incorrectly, the hollandaise will break. And if it breaks, instead of fluffy heavenly brunch sauce, you get soupy scrambled egg yolks in a pool of butter.

Guess which one I got?

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Sadness

Alas my hollandaise was a disaster. I made a second attempt at a recipe that used a blender, and got marginally better results, but that sauce also broke after being left out at room temperature for ten minutes.

Clearly today was not my day, but I vowed to return and conquer hollandaise sauce in the future.  In the meantime, I still needed to make myself some sort of breakfast.

Step 4: The Pragmatic Solution 

I had a large quantity of vegetables I had previously roasted (roasted vegetables are a brilliant and easy snack) in my fridge. I saw the opportunity to make a quick vegetable hash like dish that would be the perfect base for my poached egg, so into the pan they went.

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Caution: veggies at play.

I sautéed some spinach to layer under the vegetables and piled them up on the plate. I warmed up my poached eggs in hot water for one minute to get them ready for prime time and they went on top of my vegetable pile. Finally I added just a dash of the less broken hollandaise — an echo from a more innocent time.

It wasn’t a Benedict. But it was breakfast.

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It was pretty tasty, and I’m quite pleased with how my poached eggs are coming along. However, the rest of the meal was anything but a success. Fortunately, we learn from our mistakes. A few more cracks at hollandaise and I hope I can construct a breakfast classic.

Beans: My Mission To Cook The Magical Fruit

When I left our first class tasked with cooking beans from scratch, I knew exactly which beans I would turn to. Black beans. If pinto beans are the golden maned lion of the bean family — flashy, iconic, populist — then black beans are the bengal tiger — lean, stealthy, and powerful. Questionable metaphors aside, I was thrilled to cook one of my favorite foods, and stop relying on those pesky canned beans.

As I collected my dried beans from the bulk aisle, the woman next to me was kind enough to recommend a recipe. She implored me to use a slow cooker, or Crock Pot, to cook my beans, rather than fuss with them on the stove. This would allow me to conveniently cook them over a long period of time. She also reminded me not to salt them. It turns out that black beans can’t be salted before they are cooked, or they won’t cook at all.

Inspired by the words of this prophetic lady in the bulk aisle. I hurried home to my beloved Crock Pot. But before I could start slow cooking away, I had to let the beans soak overnight in cold water. The next morning I was amazed to find that the beans had just about doubled in size after drinking up all that water. I added them, with onions, garlic, cumin, and coriander, to the slow cooker. I set the cooker to high to get them up to temperature and then switched it down to low for the long haul.

Six and a half hours later, I opened my crockpot to find cooked beans. It was indeed a beautiful moment. I added a few tablespoons of brown sugar, a little lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, a dash of cayenne, and finally, salt, to my creation. At this point my beans were highly aromatic and flavorful. My family ate them for dinner.

Was it another triumph by man over the legume? Or was it man and vegetable working in beautiful harmony? It’s really hard to say. All we know for sure is, I made some pretty good black beans.

Apricot Chicken and Orzo Salad

Sunday night I decided to seize a chance to bankrupt my mother and cook dinner for my family and some friends. It was a three part affair — a light spinach salad, orzo salad, and apricot mustard glazed chicken.

The chicken was very simple. I bought chicken breasts, legs, and thighs and laid them out on a baking sheet with a little salt. I then made a sauce from mustard and apricot jam and spooned it on halfway through the baking process. The chicken wasn’t cooked perfectly and it wasn’t overwhelmingly flavorful, but it was on the whole satisfactory.

The orzo salad was also a simple recipe. I cooked and drained the orzo and dressed it with lemon and olive oil. I then added feta cheese, sautéed red onions, currants, kalamata olives, toasted almonds, and mint. It turned out to be the tastiest part of the meal.

The spinach salad was the simplest of all. It consisted of two boxes of pre washed spinach, a box of raspberries, and a splash of Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette (though it would be easy to make your own). I tossed it thoroughly — I find that I prefer salads well tossed but with less dressing. It was a great fresh counterpart to the chicken (and I simply adore fresh spinach).

My kitchen was a disaster. But the meal was a success.

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