Eggs and Grits California Style

Breakfast is definitely one of my favorite meals. When I was a kid I can remember all of us kids (there were 7) snuggly sitting around the kitchen table (an oilcloth covered wood picnic table with benches) and mom serving a platter of fried mush. Mush, as I remember it, was corn meal cooked and then poured into a loaf pan to cool overnight. In the morning she would cut the cold mush into slices, dip each one in flour then fry them until they were golden and heated through. We would top our mush with butter (really it was margarine) and hot syrup. She made syrup each time we had fried mush, pancakes or waffles, which she always made from scratch, never using a recipe except the one she kept in her head. To make the syrup she dissolved sugar in boiling water, then added some Mapeline, which came in a little bottle like vanilla does.  The Mapeline, I later learned was, imitation flavoring.  It gave the sugar water it’s flavor and color. The syrup was never thick, like store bought syrup, but it was sweet and tasted good on the crispy surfaced mush.

Polenta and eggs

This morning I felt inspired to get creative with the leftover polenta that I had made for my last post. Taking my mom’s idea of frying leftover mush as the basis for the dish, I lightly browned slices of cold polenta in olive oil and butter (I didn’t dip the slices in flour.), sautéed fresh Spring spinach in the same, then fried a large egg over-easy and layered it on top. It was good. In fact, it was so good I fixed the same thing for breakfast the next day. Sometimes you just can’t get enough of a good thing.

Will have to try mom’s fried mush next time I have leftover polenta. But I think I’ll skip the margarine and Mapeline flavored syrup. I’m more of a sweet butter and Maple syrup kinda girl now.

Morning Musings

Some of my morning time, especially when it’s still dark outside and wandering through the garden isn’t an option, I spend time catching up on some of the interesting and entertaining blogs I follow. This morning, while browsing, I opened up one from Smitten Kitchen that had an interesting sounding recipe for Buttery Herb Gruyere Toasts that were served with soft-boiled eggs. This sounded pretty tasty so I made a note to come back to it.

After reading for a while I decided to take another look at the Gruyere Toasts recipe and check to see if I had the ingredients on hand. I did, so I mixed together the ingredients and popped the Buttery Toasts into the oven. As the incredible smell of the toasts filled the kitchen I carefully cooked up a couple of perfect soft-boiled eggs. Now the moment of truth. Would the toasts taste as good as they smelled? Would the eggs be soft, silky and delicious?

I sat down with a cup of coffee and a smile on my face to enjoy my creation. Just as I had hoped the combination of the toasts and eggs lived up to my expectations.

As I enjoyed the perfect combination of eggs and toast  my mind wandered back my freshman year of high school at Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, CA. Not because I remembered fixing eggs and toast for breakfast then but because this is when I raised laying hens for my Ag class project.

I remember my hens fondly. They were Plymouth Rocks and would come running whenever they got a glimpse of me. I’d like to say it was because they liked me and where happy to see me but the truth be told, they thought I was bringing them something to eat and they were anxious to see what it was. Sometimes I was just bringing mash we bought at the feed store but other times it was scraps from the kitchen. They never discriminated they were just as excited with one as the other. Those girls just loved food.  I have never forgotten those silly hens and how much I enjoyed them even though some parts of their care wasn’t that much fun. Cleaning their coop comes to mind.  Sometimes I think about getting a few hens to keep but my yard is very small and I know the girls and I would not see eye to eye on what was OK to eat from my garden and what was not. Not to mention what was scratched from the earth in their search for tasty morsels.

Thinking on the hens reminded me of the Farmarettes (yes that was really the name), a club girls attending Ag classes could join during those days.  My yearbook  states we were; “a very active organization that held sno-cone sales early in the fall and took many field trips to various places where we viewed many different phases of agriculture and farming”. It also states that the highlight of the year, “something that the girls will long remember, was the Farmerettes initiation”. Really? I don’t remember anything about an initiation or selling sno-cones. Not saying I have a perfect memory but you’d think I’d remember something that was supposed to be so much fun.  I do, however, remember learning how to judge and show pigs, sheep and pigs. I used to remember the names of the breeds we studied but as the years have passed most of them have faded away. I only took the Ag class that year but I remember more from it than from many of the other electives I had during my high school years.

This picture (scanned from my yearbook) was taken of our Farmerette group learning about showing and judging beef cattle. Yes, we still wore dresses in those days, even when we were judging cattle. The girl with very short hair standing to the left of the instructor is me.

Times may have changed but my love of soft-boiled eggs with a crisp piece of toast to dunk in the warm runny yolks hasn’t. That brings me back to the post from Smitten Kitchen that I want to share with you all. These toasts are easy to put together, versatile and delicious. If you love savory, crispy bread, give them a try and while you’re over on Smitten Kitchen’s site browse some of her other posts. I’m sure you’ll agree there’s lots of delicious ideas there.

Other egg breakfast recipes from Annie:

Crab omelette

Martha’s Mom’s Crustless Quiche

Eggs Side by Side

The Perfect Washington Coast Vacation Breakfast

On the first day my sisters and I were in Washington we stopped at Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co. to pick up some fresh seafood for dinner. To keep preparation simple we decided to get two cooked crabs. Before we got to the cottage we stopped at Sid’s Market in Seaview and bought fresh sourdough bread and a bottle of wine. What could be simpler and more delicious than chilled cracked crab, bread and butter and a good glass of wine? We ate until we were full but there was still some crab left. What do you do with left over crab? You make omelets for breakfast.

At the Astoria Sunday Market we picked up some fresh chives, goat cheese with dill and fresh eggs. Later that day, at Jack\’s Country Store, I found an avocado for a mere $1.79 that I splurged on. Living in California I’m really not used to that price for avocados. Jack’s, just up the road from where we stayed, is a real honest to goodness general mercantile. The floors are wood, there are rolling track ladders to reach the top shelves of the oak showcases and there is a beautiful stained glass ceiling. They carry everything from paint and hardware to hunting clothes, kitchenware, toys and pet supplies. It’s very much like the general store we shopped in when I was in high school in rural California a mere forty-something years ago.  It has everything including a grocery store where you can get avocados. They have a great catalog too. Take a look and be amazed. The stage was set. Omelets for breakfast were firmly on the menu for the next day.

I learned to make omelets by watching Julia Child on TV. Really, that’s where I learned and that lesson has served me well. Omelets are wonderful things. They can be simple or exotic. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, you can use just about anything for a filling, even leftover cracked crab, and fresh goat cheese with dill, organic chives and avocado and if you serve it with toast made from leftover sourdough bread spread with Blueberry Lavender Pepper jam from the Painted Lady Lavender Farm,  you’ll  have the perfect Washington coast vacation breakfast.

Bon Appetite!

Astoria (Oregon) Sunday Market

Recently two of my sisters and I took advantage of low Southwest airfares and flew to Portland. When we left Sacramento it was raining and in the 50’s. We arrived in Portland to sunshine and 86 degrees. That was a rarity. It should have been the other way around. Eighty-six is pretty warm but we weren’t complaining.

First order of business was to head over to the car rental pick-up location and load up our rental with our luggage. Then it was off to one of my favorite farmers markets, the Portland market at Portland State University. Unfortunately, we arrived with less than an hour before closing and had just enough time to make a quick perusal of the possibilities for lunch. We sat under the beautiful big trees and ate our lunch as the vendors broke down their stalls and packed their trucks. Next time I’ll make sure I have a couple of hours of shopping time. Tummies full and anticipation high we headed back to the car for our leisurely drive from Portland to the coast, then north to Long Beach, WA and five days of a much needed vacation. If you’re ever in Portland on a Saturday between 8:30am and 2:00pm, check out the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University. It’s open 8:30am – 2:00pm March 19 – December 17  and  9:oo am – 2:00 pm November and December. If the PSU market won’t fit into your visit there are markets happening in Portland everyday but Friday. You can find out more about locations, days and times here.

Sunday morning we decided to drive over to Astoria, a nice two-hour drive away and check out their Sunday Market. The Astoria market is easily the largest farmers market in the Columbia-Pacific region — and one the largest statewide, with up to 200 vendor spaces. In addition to its size it’s one of the few Oregon markets open on Sundays.  After a wonderful breakfast at Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe (They also have a booth at the market which sells yummy bakery items) we walked a couple of blocks to the market which was already very busy. The market is a mix of food (ready -to-eat and fresh), art & photography, handmade clothing, things for kids and pets, body care products, crafts and jewelry and plants and garden items. There is also a prepared food section where you can sit and eat and listen to some local music.  This isn’t one of those flea markets where products come from everywhere all products sold at the Astoria market are made or grown by the vendor, so you’re supporting local folks.

One of the most interesting things I found at the market was a young entrepreneur selling goat milk soaps. This bright young lady named  Mary told me her title was, Milkologist and Monster Master of Mary\’s Milk Monsters.  With a title like that and a smile like hers who wouldn’t take a few minutes to listen to what she had to say.  She told me she got into making soaps because her goats (her 4H project) give a lot of milk and she was looking for a new way “to make use of their hard work.” By adding her own hard work she has come up with a wonderful little business. You can find out more about how she makes her soaps and  meet some of her goats on her website. If you won’t be in Astoria anytime soon, you can buy her soap through her website. A very nice way to support a very engaging and energetic young entrepreneur.

After talking with Mary, and browsing, and shopping for non-food items for a couple of hours we finally got down to the business of buying food and bought chives, goat cheese, eggs, apples and some amazing goodies at the Blue Scorcher Bakery booth to take back to our little cabin in Long Beach.

If you are going to be up in the Northwest this summer take time to visit one of their Farmers Markets. You’ll meet some really nice folks, you’ll find fresh local foods and crafts and sometimes you’ll even meet someone you’ll never forget.

A Guide to North Coast Farmers Markets

Astoria – open 10am – 3pm, Sundays, from Mother’s Day through the second weekend in October
Commercial and 12th Street, Astoria, OR
astoriasundaymarket.com
 
Newport-open 9am – 1pm, Saturdays, May 7-Oct 29
US Highway 101 and Angle Street, Newport, OR
newportfarmersmarket.org
 
Lincon City – open 9am – 3pm, Sundays, May 1 – Oct 16
540 NE US Hwy 100, Lincoln City, OR
lincolncityfarmersmarket.org
 
Tillamook – open 9am – 2pm, Saturdays, June 11 – Sept 24
Laurel and 2nd Streets
tillamookfarmersmarket.com
 
Manzanita – open 5 – 8pm, Fridays, June 10 – Sept 23
Fifth and Laneda Avenue
manzanitafarmersmarket.com
 
Cannon Beach – open 2 – 5 pm, Tuesdays, June 14 – Sept 27
Midtown public parking lot
cannonbeachmarket.org
 
Seaside – open 1pm – 4pm, Saturdays, July 2 – Sept 24, except Aug 27
2315 N. Roosevelt Drive
no web address
 
Columbia-Pacific – open 3 – 7pm Fridays, May – September
Downtown, Long Beach, WA
longbeachwa.gov/farmersmarket
 
Scappoose – open 9am – 2pm, Saturdays, mid May – September
E 2nd Street entrance to City Hall parking lot on E Columbia Avenue
scappoosefarmermarket.com
 
Two Island’s Farm Market – open 3 – 6:30pm, Fridays, May – October
59 W Birnie Slough Road, Puget Island, WA
stockhousesfarm.com/farm.html
 
 
 
 

Slow Post For A Quick Stir-Fry

There is much talk these days about “slow food”, but this is about “slow posts”. I have been trying for over a week to get this posted. I didn’t have trouble getting to the Farmers’ Market to shop, that’s part of my Sunday routine. I bought the shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, scallions, and more green garlic so I could try a recipe I had found for Ginger Fried Rice. I made the recipe. It was delicious. I even got photos taken but what didn’t happen was finding the time to write and put the words and photos together. I’m sometimes amazed how long it takes.  Do you have weeks where it seems like you go from Monday to Friday in just one day instead of five?

Shiitake mushrooms are, in my opinion, simply the best. I love the flavor and the texture finding them even meatier than a Portabella. I guess the edge the Portabella has is its size. I’ve never seen a Shiitake that comes even close to the Portabella in size and I’ve never tasted a Portabella that comes close in flavor to the Shiitake.

Also known, as Chinese black mushroom and black forest mushroom, shiitake are the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. They also have an ancient history being recorded in Japan back to AD 199 and in China there are written records of them during the Sung Dynasty (AD 960-1127). During the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), they were prized not only as a food but also as a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness, and to boost life energy and prevent premature aging. Today they are still touted for their curative properties and extracts from the mushroom and sometimes the whole dried mushroom, are used in herbal remedies.

Prior to 1972 it was thought by the USDA that the species was invasive so cultivation was not allowed in the United States. In 1982, Gary F. Leatham published an academic paper based on his research on the budding and growth of the Japan Islands variety; the work helped make commercial cultivation possible in United States.

Today,  mushrooms have become popular in many other countries as well. Russia produces and also consumes large amounts of them, mostly sold pickled, something I have never tried. There is a global industry in  production, with local farms in most western countries in addition to large-scale importation from China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere.  A lot of the imported mushrooms come to us dried. They have a very rich flavor but I prefer the texture of the fresh ones.

The fried rice recipe I made was a variation on one I found on epicurious.com.

Ginger Fried Rice with Shiittake Mushrooms and Asparagus

Makes 6 side-dish servings

2 tablespoons plus 1-teaspoon vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten with 2-tablespoons water

1 ½ tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (I recently read that you can freeze ginger root and just grate it into a recipe and that’s what I did this time and it works great. You don’t even need to fool around with peeling it)

3 scallions, white and green parts chopped separately

3 green garlic, white part and tender light green parts sliced thinly  (optional)

½ lb asparagus cut on the diagonal into 1” pieces

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

½ lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced (you could substitute dried shiitake that have been soaked and drained, or you could try crimini but the flavor and texture of either of these will be very different than the shiitake. I definitely wouldn’t recommend using the white mushrooms.)

3 cups cold cooked white rice (I use a short grain white which tends to stick together more than the long grain but it worked just fine.)

½ teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Toasted sesame seeds (not sure how many I added probably a tablespoon or two)

Heat a wok or a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot. Then add ½ teaspoon vegetable oil and swirl around wok/pan. Add half of egg mixture and swirl pan to coat bottom with a thin layer about 5 inches in diameter. When egg crêpe is set, about 45 seconds, transfer with a wide metal spatula to a plate to cool. Make another egg crêpe with remaining egg mixture. Roll each crêpe into a cylinder, and cut crosswise into ¼ inch-wide strips, then unroll. (This was so simple to do and I loved the way it looked and tasted. If you don’t want to make the crêpes, scramble the egg and water mixture)

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add ginger, white part of scallions, garlic and salt and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shiitakes and s and stir-fry until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble rice into wok add asparagus pieces and stir –fry until rice is lightly browned and asparagus is still crisp tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add scallion greens, egg strips, and sesame oil, tossing to combine.

I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute broccoli for the asparagus. Just keep the pieces cut into sizes that will cook uniformly, or steam the broccoli separately then add at the end with the scallion greens and egg strips. I think I would also like to try this with bok choy as the vegetable. This is an easy meal to prepare, as with most stir-fries the longest time will be spent in preparation.

If you give this one a try let me know how you liked it and what substitutions you made.

Shopping Placerville Farmers’ Market, Backroad Exploring and Baking Pudding Cake

After some late in the week conversations I decided to spend the weekend with my sister in Nevada. I left for her place early Saturday morning, stopping in Placerville to shop the Farmers\’ Market. I love this little market and often stop when I’m headed up Highway 50 on a Saturday morning. It has a delightful assortment of offerings; of course there’s a good selection of fruit and vegetables, this weekend there was also a nice selection of vegetable plants in various stages of development, several craft, jewelery and import vendors and some producers of very yummy foods. One of my favorites is Spicegrills, specializing in East Indian foods. They have great salesman and he’s very generous with his tasty samples. He’s very patient and explains everything with such beautiful adjectives it’s hard to resist trying everything, of course I never do. After a generous variety of tastings I promised I’d be back to buy a couple of items. A meander through the rest of the market filled my basket with one-half dozen duck eggs (which I haven’t had since I was a kid), 1 dozen free range chicken eggs, ½ lb sugar snap peas (which were oh, so sweet), 1 basket small, very fragrant strawberries and 1 lb rhubarb (which I needed for the recipe that is ultimately the subject of this post), then back to Spicegrills for a couple of samosas for my eat-and-go breakfast, a jar of Mango Ginger Chutney, Garlic Naan and 8 ozs of Pickle Chilli Chicken, which later became lunch.

After lunch we loaded up Miss El (Judy’s black lab) and took off for a backroads drive in an area around Monitor Pass. The views of the snow-capped peaks were spectacular and the high desert wildflowers added a rainbow of colors to the grey-green palette of the chaparral-studded hills. We stopped often to wander and photograph the wildflowers. Some were large and showy and others were very small and discrete, trying their best to hide from discovery. As we wandered  we came across a large patch of very fragrant wild onion in full bloom and after much concentrated effort, without the aid of a shovel or proper digging tool, we extracted a handful of the little beauties. Little they are, with the whole plant only standing about six inches or so, with a bulb the size of a walnut. I brought them home and will give them a try this week.

When we got back to the house we decided to make the Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Pudding cake that I had recently seen on a post by Sassy Radish. Working as a team we chopped, measured and mixed and in no time the cake was ready for the oven. There was some discussion about the temperature, 400° F seemed pretty hot for baking with a glass pan, but we decided to give it a try and just keep a close watch while it was in the oven. The other thing that didn’t seem quite right was that the strawberry-rhubarb mixture contained, what seemed to us was, too much liquid. I always give a recipe the benefit of the doubt the first time, so into the oven it went, concerns and all. The results were spot on. It was beautiful and tasted wonderful. That night we had our pudding cake warm topped with vanilla bean ice cream (definitely good). The second night we had it warm again but this time with whipped cream topped with lemon zest. I really liked the last version and next time I think I’ll add lemon zest to the cake batter. I’d also like to try a blueberry-peach version when peaches come into season.

Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake

Adapted from Gourmet Today by Sassy Radish
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb stalks (about 3-4 stalks)
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup AP flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (don’t discard the butter wrapper, use it to butter the baking dish!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F. Butter an 8 inch square glass or ceramic baking dish, using the butter wrapper from your stick of butter – it’ll have enough butter for adequately buttering the dish.

In a small saucepan, stir together water, cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar, then stir in rhubarb to coat evenly. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Once simmering, stir occasionally and let cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in strawberries. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture until just combined – careful do not over mix.

Add 1/2 cup of the fruit mixture to the baking dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the dish. Pour batter over fruit, spreading it evenly. Don’t just pour the batter in one spot, pour it over fruit throughout the dish and then use a spatula to make sure it’s spread out evenly. If you just dump the batter into one spot and then try to distribute the batter throughout, you’ll run into mixing the fruit with the batter. Spoon the rest of the fruit mixture over the batter, making sure to distribute that evenly as well.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a wooden toothpick or a cake tester inserted into center of cake (not fruit!) comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes before serving.

Here’s the info on the Placerville Farmers’ Market: Since they’re a seasonal market they opened May 8 and will close October 30. They are located at the Corner of Cedar Ravine and Main Street (Google map) every Saturday from 8 AM – Noon.

Mother’s Day at the Windsor Farmers’ Market

Like many seasonal markets the Windsor Farmers\’ Market, in Sonoma County, opened it’s season on Mothers Day. They promised  flowers, chocolate and hugs to help celebrate the day, but skies looked dark and ominous as two of my sisters and I drove north towards the market. Would it be a sunny celebration or a wash out? We arrived at the Town Green in Old Downtown Windsor and found parking plentiful and easy. The market set up around two sides of the Town Green, was under sunny skies and bustling with all kinds of folks. We made the rounds, as we like to do,  checking prices and seeing what was available. On the return rounds I decided I really wanted to try a small custard tart and a pumpkin tart from Flour Creations Bakery & Catering. They had many tempting goodies but these simple little beauties were what talked to me. We also tried some incredibly creamy, sweet samples of European Style Organic butter from McClelland\’s Diary. So fresh it reminded me of homemade butter I had tasted in my younger days. Another great marketer was Cackleberries & Hen Fruit Headquarters, AKA:Eggs. No samples here, but the eggs were just plucked from the nest box that morning.

We took a little break midway through our shopping to listen to some great music and enjoy a Mimosa,  which were being sold as part of the celebration festivities. They used Korbel Champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice, so even the Mimosa’s were made from local ingredients and of course, they were very good. After a few toasts to each other and to Mothers everywhere, we went to finish our shopping. The skies at this point were getting very dark, the wind came up and the rain started; first a gentle sprinkle, then a downpour. Having no umbrella, my cover became the Peters\’ Chocolates booth where I huddled and visited with the marketer and another couple and sampled luscious samples. My  sisters were  ahead  of me and took cover in a booth that sold fruits and vegetables. My guess is that their samples weren’t as tempting or as yummy as mine. The downpour didn’t seem to dampen any spirits, in fact I’ll bet quite a few folks met some new friends that day.

I bought some beautiful spring red onions and more Meyer lemons for my current Panna Cotta obsession. I’m zesting them, squeezing them and freezing the zest and juice in 1 cup batches for later use.

The market lived up to it’s promises. We each received a red rose, a tasty little bit of chocolate and a great morning at the market!

If you’re headed up to the Russian River wine area just out of  Healdsburg area on a Sunday, leave a little earlier and and stop by the Windsor Farmers’ Market to check it out and pick up some picnic goodies. You’ll find a beautiful selection of breads, cheese, fresh fruits and veggies. You can also get a nice cup of coffee and enjoy a breakfast burrito or a muffin while you listen to some really great music.

Windsor Farmers’ Market

Old Downtown Windsor – Town Green

Sundays – May – Nov      10 AM – 1PM