Saturday, March 31, 2012

Maple Brined Pork Tenderloin

One cannot live on chutney alone.  Well, perhaps one can, but I made the roasted pear chutney a few days back to serve in tandem with this lovely pork roast.  I adore brining.  Everything I have bathed in a salty spice bath has emerged far more tender and flavorful than I could ever anticipate.  The thought of piney juniper berries and rosemary paired with deliciously sweet maple syrup sounded like a heavenly combination (and yet another blend I am bookmarking later for venison or elk roasts come fall...)  I already had juniper berries in my spice cabinet, thanks to the corned beef I made on Paddy's Day.  I highly recommend adding this spice to your repertoire...especially if you are a fan of German roasts, fragrant sausages, and rich stews.

The recipe halves beautifully for smaller roasts as well.  But who doesn't enjoy leftovers?
adapted from Thyme in Our Kitchen 
serves 6-8

The Ingredients
for the brine
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 Tbsp juniper berries
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
12 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
8 cups water

for the roast
1 3-4lb pork loin roast
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
pepper to taste
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp maple syrup

to serve
sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 recipe of roasted pear chutney

The Process:
for the brine:

In a large saucepan, combine all of the brine ingredients together.  Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir the brine until the salt, sugar, and maple syrup have completely dissolved. Let the brine cool. Pour the brine into a large stainless steel or glass container.  
Pierce the pork loin all over with a skewer and add it to the brine, weighing down if necessary to keep the roast submerged. I have found that oven roasting bags, very securely tied, work well for brining, should a non-reactive container large enough to accommodate the roast is not available. Cover and refrigerate for no longer than 12 hours, turning the roast at least once. 

for the roast:
Preheat the oven to 400

Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Do not rinse. Sprinkle generously with pepper. Heat the oil in a large pan over med-high heat. Sear the roast on all sides until browned. Place into a large roasting pan. In a small bowl whisk together brown sugar and maple syrup.  Brush over the top of the roast.
Place uncovered in the oven and roast until internal temperature reaches 145° to 150 and juices run clear, about one hour.  Remove from the oven. Loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. 

Slice thinly and serve with Roasted Pear Chutney.

The Review:
This is one of the most flavorful and juiciest pork roasts I've had to date.  I adore pork tenderloin, but on occasion, even in the slow cooker, I've managed to dry the meat out.  Not so with this recipe.  Even after being sliced and dressed on the plate...sitting patiently as photos were snapped, the meat remained wondrously moist.  The pork has a wonderful salty unami flavor about it, with a touch of sweetness from the maple syrup.  I would have liked the rosemary and juniper to sing forth a little more, and I am not sure the red pepper or ginger lent much to the end flavor.  Simplified a bit more perhaps a few more flavors could be coaxed out of the background.

But what really makes this meal sing is the addition of the roasted pear chutney.  The vinegary tang and warm spice of the chutney elevated the meat to a completely new level. 

The meal was everything I could hope for from a Friday night with my husband.  Perfect dinner date for two...with leftovers a plenty! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Roasted Pear Chutney

I've been getting home late all week...which usually means far less time in the kitchen.  To make up for all of the dinners on the go, I promised myself I would make something stellar come Friday.  After perusing cookbooks, bookmarked blogs and Pinterest boards, Maple-Brined Pork Loin and Roasted Pear Chutney came out the clear winner.  Now I need to settle on a side or two.  I am a girl who loves her veggies...

And to up the anticipation just a little bit more I made the Roasted Pear Chutney ahead of time. It made the kitchen smell absolutely divine AND gave me something a little more interesting to stir into my oatmeal in the morning.  Call it a trial run...

adapted from Thyme in Our Kitchen and Epicurious

yields 2-3cups

The Ingredients:
2 pears, peeled and halved
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 Tbsp currants
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.
Toss the pears with the lemon juice, brown sugar, the cinnamon, and cloves. Coat a roasting pan or baking dish with 1 Tbsp of the vegetable oil. Set the pears cut side down on the pan. Brush the pears with the remaining oil.And place in the center rack of the oven.  Roast until the pears are tender and the coating has caramelized to a deep golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Riper pears may need less time. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
While the pears are roasting, in a medium saucepan bring the remaining ingredients to a gentle boil. Reduce   heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow to cool.
When the pears are cool enough to handle, scoop out the cores and seeds with a small spoon or a melon baller. Cut the pears into slices or small chunks (I prefer chunks...about 1/2-inch cubed). In a 1 1/2 qt bowl toss together the pears and onion mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  

The chutney will keep for up to two weeks...if it lasts that long.

The Review:
It was really, incredibly, unbelievably difficult NOT to dig right in with a spoon the moment all of the ingredients finally came together.  From the minute I tossed the pears with the cloves and cinnamon I knew we'd be in for a wonderful treat.  Sincerely, right out of the oven, I wanted dearly to drizzle each pear with a little mulled wine reduction and indulge in dessert...

I showed restraint...

The onion, vinegar dried berries and thyme began simmering away on the stove, slowly replacing the pears spicy aroma with a clean tangy scent.  I knew that smell...but I couldn't quite place my finger upon it. Watching the red onion slowly weep it's color to lend the mixture its pink blush, the scent memory became clear.  My Grandmother's kitchen.  Vinegary red cabbage from scratch.  As a kid I hated red cabbage.  And sauerkraut. And now my own kitchen was wrapped in a cloud of old world aromas and I couldn't be happier.  I immediately made note to try this chutney again with rabbit, venison, boar...any rich gamey meats.  With a side of spaetzle and red cabbage...

Twenty four hours later any lingering thoughts of red cabbage were wiped away with the first bite of the fully marinaded concoction.  The fragrant warmth of cinnamon and clove greeted my tongue, balanced with the slight acidic tang of the vinegar.  The bite of the onions followed, offering up a savory hint and a pleasant crunch.  In that moment I was glad I had nixed any notion of first caramelizing or sauteing the onions...their sharpness was actually mellowed a touch by the vinegar, and the crunch from the mere 5 minutes in the pot was an amazing layer of texture.  A touch of thyme nosed through.  And then the pear.  The sweet anchor of the chutney, dancing off all of the other players. A touch of tart from the dried fruit mingled with the sweetness.  And in the last moment the gentle heat of the red pepper lingered, just enough to remind me it was there.  Yet another twist and turn upon my tongue.  I couldn't decide which flavor or texture I enjoyed more, as I continues to sample from the blissfully fragrant bowl.  I had to remind myself that this was made for Friday's dinner.  Though I'm not certain that poor pork loin will be able to hold a candle to its accompaniment...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Clementines Confites

A while back I stumbled upon the most riveting story of young love, gluttonous gourmandise, deep longing and a touching hint of guilt. It was the story of one woman's first experience with clementines confites.  The story was a wonderfully bittersweet ode to the syrupy sweet recipe to follow. I have been day dreaming about these perfect orange globes ever since...with only my mind's eye to fuel the obsession, having never tasted them before.  The blog story was my first encounter with the candied fruit.  So finally, just over two weeks ago, the perfect little citrus spheres started their long and sweet journey in my kitchen.

To make my life easier, and because I largely use grams and liters when I'm dying fabric at work, I stuck with metric measures.  The recipe detailed below is for one pound, or approximately 454 grams, of fruit.  Scale the recipe up or down accordingly...keeping the ratios of fruit, sugar, and honey the same.  I found the exact amount of water didn't matter so much as long as there was enough liquid to keep the fruit fully submerged. 

Need a hand with the math?  Shoot me a message...I'll gladly help you out.

Adapted from Lucy's recipe at Lucy's Kitchen Notebook

yields 1 lb/454 grams of candied joy

The Ingredients:
Day One
454 grams clementines
500 grams sugar
200 grams honey

Every Other Day Through 2 weeks
an additional 100 grams of sugar*

The Process:
Day One:
Pick the firmest, ripest fruit.  Scrub thoroughly to remove any dirt, waxes or impurities, leaving the skin completely intact.  With a long thin needle or a fine skewer, pierce each fruit deeply all over.  Liberally.  When you believe the fruit as been stabbed enough, pierce it another several dozen times. 

Select a large saucepan that will comfortably fit the fruit in a single layer.  Add the fruit and fill the saucepan with enough water to cover the fruit by 1 inch.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat ans simmer for 15-20 minutes.  The fruit should still be firm to the touch.  Using a tongs or slotted spoon, remove the fruit to a large, deep non-reactive (i.e. stainless steel or glass) bowl or jar. 

Add the 500 grams of sugar and 200 grams of honey to the liquid in the saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring the syrup to a rolling boil.   Promptly remove from heat.  Pour the hot syrup over the clementines, weighing them down with a plate if necessary to keep them fully submerged.

Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit undistributed for two days.

Every Other Day:
Remove the clementines from the bowl and transfer the syrup to a saucepan.  Add 100 grams of sugar to the syrup.  Bring to a rolling boil, remove from heat, pour over the clementines loosely cover and let sit for another 2 days.  Repeat this process every 2 days,  adding 100 grams of sugar to the liquid each time for two weeks.  The liquid will thicken and reduce slightly with each addition.  After two weeks has passed, transfer the clementines to a jar cover with their syrup and store in a cool dry place.  They will keep for as long as a year, getting better with age.

*all in all approximately 1200 grams or 2.6 pounds of sugar will be needed per pound of fruit

The Review:
Anticipation can be a blessing and a curse.  Your mouth waters at the thought of biting into a concoction after lovingly tending to it over the course of several days.  Sometimes the anticipation is just enough to whet the appetite, and the final product is beyond the expectations...all of the time and energy spend making each bite all the more rewarding.

Sometimes the anticipation builds and build and builds until it reaches a crescendo that the end result just doesn't life up to.  No amount of justifying or reasoning can bring the dish up to level it failed to reach in your mind.  Each bite becomes bittersweet.  You want so badly to love it, after everything that went into it, but no...expectations had been built up too high...

So where did these sugared citrus fall?  Right in the middle.  The first bite yielded a surprising bit of tart from the peel...not quite the candied peel flavor I was expecting.  The flavor was excellent.  Subtle orange without being overly sweet, despite the vast amount of sugar.  The texture, oh the texture....

This is where the treat failed.  Perhaps is was the variety of clementines.  The market is sadly overrun every year with tiny orange beauties boasting seedless enjoyment, ease of peeling and even sweeter flavors.  As the fruits as thus "perfected" they become genetic shadows of what they had been.  The insides had pulled back from the peel and had almost a dry feel...the pulp and flesh having shriveled slightly allowing the membranes to dominate.  None of the bitterness usually found in the membranes and pith was present, but the texture was a surprising let down.

I do attribute that largely to the fruit.  More time should have been spend on selecting the heaviest, firmest and most fragrant of the bunch.  The batch should have been started almost immediately...the four days on the counter may have allowed them to dry out too much before their sugar bath began.

But where else did this recipe succeed?  In the syrup, hands down.  After filling the jars with enough syrup to cover the fruit I still had nearly a quart of the golden liquid left.  It had a wondrous honey like consistency and a divine, yet subtle citrus flavor.  So far the syrup has paired well stirred into jasmine tea in lieu of honey, drizzled on top of star fruit and kiwi to compliment their tartness and added to oatmeal for a touch of sweetness.

The uses seem endless...the basis for glazes and marinades for meats, in place of simple syrup in cocktails, to top off ice cream, or to lightly sweeten frosting, filling or whipped creams...perhaps just by the spoonful...

I plan on letting the orange gems age a while longer before I exact the next one from the jar.  But in the meantime a little drizzle of the that syrup...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Apple Pie Waffles with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Pie Crust Crumb

Sunday morning waffles strike again!  I've been toying with the concept of an apple waffle for a while.  The waffle itself didn't seem too much of a challenge.  I knew I wanted a buttermilk or yeast base.  Finely chopped apples and a touch of cinnamon would provide the essential flavors.  Applesauce has long been used as a substitute for oil in baking...adding yet another layer to the waffles.  

But they needed something more.  Inspiration came in the form of Milk Bar Mondays.  Several fellow food bloggers have taken on the challenge of baking their way through Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.  As a result, one morning my news feed was filled with this:

It was divine.  It was decadent.  It had layers of apple pie filling and pie crust crumb.  I had my inspiration to take the apple pie waffles to the next level.  

Apple waffle.  Sauteed apple topping.  Cinnamon Whipped Cream.  And a sprinkling of pie crust crumb.  

I almost went as far as to add a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce as well...but let's not get too carried away!

A huge thank you to Audra, Cassie, Erin, Krissy Nicole and Jacqueline for baking up the lovely concoction that pushed this Sunday morning waffle just a little bit further.

Pie crust crumb and apple pie filling adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook
Waffle and whipped cream recipes are my own.

yields 8-10 eight inch waffles 

The Ingredients:
for the pie crust crumb:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher Salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp water
For the apple pie filling:
juice of 1 lemon
2 medium granny smith apples
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt

for the waffles:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 apple, peeled and diced

for the cinnamon whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

The Process:
for the pie crust crumb:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F

In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt until well mixed.  Cut in the butter with a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers. Add water and blend until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters.

Spread the clusters on a parchment lined baking sheet  Bake for 25 minutes, checking halfway through baking to stir and break up larger crumbs.  The crumbs will be golden brown and still slightly moist to the touch. Set aside to cool.

When completely cool, transfer the crumb to a small serving dish.

for the apple pie filling:
Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold water and add the lemon juice. Peel the apples and cut into bite size chunks (quarter, then cut each quarter into thirds). Add the apples to the lemon water as they are cut to retard browning and to keep the apples pert.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir until the butter is melted. Drain the apples and add them to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring to coat the apples. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the apples gently for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the sauce has thicken.  

Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.

for the cinnamon whipped cream:
In a chilled bowl combine whipping cream, sugar and cinnamon.  Beat with chilled beaters on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.

for the waffles:
Preheat the oven to 200.  Preheat and lightly oil the waffle iron according to the manufacturers directions.

In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, applesauce, butter and vanilla.  Add the wet to the dry, stirring until just incorporated.

Gently fold in the diced apple, stirring until the apple is just distributed.  Do not over mix.

Ladle the batter into the waffle iron (mine uses a little over 1/2 cup of batter per waffle) and cook according to the waffle iron manufacturers directions. Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm and crisp. Make more waffles in same manner.

to assemble:
Place a waffle on each plate, spoon about 1/4 cup of apple pie filling on top. Dollop a generous spoonful of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with crumb. Devour.

The Review:
Wow. With a post this long already, I'd hate to keep you from what ended up being an absolutely amazing breakfast. Go. Enjoy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Red Peppers Stuffed with Curried Quinoa

I believe quinoa and I have finally formed a lasting friendship.  The super-grain fascinated me.  I really wanted to like it, but something about its tiny and compact healthfulness intimidated me.  I felt it needed to be treated uniquely.

It took a while to overcome that.  I have since discovered that quinoa really wants to be treated like any number of other pantry staples.  As I think of it more like rice or couscous or even as oatmeal, the ideas begin to flow. 

Stuffed peppers are a wonderful step in the right direction.  If you are still hesitant to try quinoa, rice can be substituted.  Remember to adjust you water and cooking times accordingly.

adapted from Roni's recipe at Green Lite Bites

serves 4 as a side or 2 as an entree

The Ingredients:
2 medium red peppers (or color of you choice)
1 1/2 tsp olive or grapeseed oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup quinoa
3/4 cup water or vegetable stock
2-3 cups spinach, slightly torn

The Process:
preheat the oven to 375

Heat the oil in a 1-qt saucepan over medium-heat.  Add the garlic, onion and carrots and saute until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 7-10 minutes.  Add the spices and saute a minute or two more, stirring to completely coat the vegetables.  Add the water and quinoa.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until most of the moisture is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the peppers by slicing in half lengthwise through the stem.  Remove the seeds and membranes from the peppers, leaving the stems intact.  Place pepper halves cut side up in a lightly oiled 9 x 9 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle each half with a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Fluff up the quinoa and add the torn spinach to the saucepan.  Stir until the spinach begins to wilt and is well distributed through the quinoa mixture.

Spoon the quinoa into the pepper halves, mounding slightly.  Bake, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes, or until the pepper is tender.  Serve hot.

The Review:
The golden piles of fluffy, spicy quinoa served up in their own edible bowl create and elegant meal even vegans and vegetarians can fully appreciate!  I am not the biggest fan of turmeric's slightly metallic taste, so I had opted swap out some of Roni's suggested spice for garam masala, ginger and garlic.  The resulting flavor is much more layered and complex.  But if curry powder is the most exotic spice in you cabinet, go nuts!  There in lies the true beauty of this dish.  It'd needed be an  Indian(-ish) entree.  Add some tomato paste and Italian seasonings.  Or maybe cumin and chili powder for a little something Tex-Mex.  These are the recipes that quickly become staples in out household!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mini Caramelized Onion Quiches with Sriracha Glazed Bacon

Have you noticed how many recipes for mini quiches are out there?  And yet so few of them utilize a crust.  I completely sympathize.  The pastry is fussy and time consuming when you're trying to work small.  One of my least favorite tasks in the kitchen is rolling out uniformly thin layers of pastry crust or cookie dough.  But in this instance, the butter crust adds a lot to the texture and flavor of the quiche.  And the crimped and pleated edges of pastry practically blossom out of the muffin tins.  They are quite stunning.

Many tarts, galettes, pastries and quiches have been featuring caramelized onions as of late.  So I have decided to  jump on the bandwagon.  Added quiches means I'll breakfast ready to heat on eat for the next few days.

the recipe is my own

yields 12 mini quiches

The Ingredients:
for the bacon
3 slices thick cut bacon
1 Tbsp honey
1-2 tsp Sriracha

for the onions
2-3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt

for the quiche
pie crust or pate brisse  for a dbl crust
4 eggs
1/2 cup +2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp thyme
pinch cinnamon
3/4 cup cheese of your choice, shredded

The Process:
for the bacon:
Preheat the oven to 450.  On an aluminum lined baking sheet, lay the bacon out in a single layer.  In a small cup or bowl, stir together the honey and sriracha.  Brush the glaze evenly over each slice of bacon.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the bacon reaches the desired level of crispness.  Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain and cool.

for the onions:
In a large skillet over high heat, melt the butter and heat the oil.  Add the onions in a single layer over the entire bottom of the skillet.  Reduce the heat to medium, medium-low.  Saute the onions over low heat, stirring every 2-3 minutes.  After 5-7 minutes sprinkle with salt to extract more of the liquid from the onions.  Continue to saute over medium-low heat, stirring only every 2-3 minutes.  The onions should slowly begin to brown and caramelize. 

After the desired caramelization is achieved, about 20-30 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

for the quiche:
Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly oil a 12 cup, standard-sized muffin tin.

Roll out the pastry crust or pate brisse.  Cut out twelve 5- inch circles and gently press one circle into each cup of the tin, gently pleating and folding the edges as needed.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, milk and seasonings.  Set the egg mixture aside.

Divide the caramelized onions between the 12 pastry cups, using roughly 1 tsp per quiche.  Top each with 1/4 strip of bacon, snipped into small pieces.  Sprinkle with 2-3 tsp of shredded cheese. Pour about 3 Tbsp of the egg mixture into each cup, filling within 1/4 inch of the crust's lip.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the quiche puffs up and begins to brown.  A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean.  Allow the mini quiches to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, enabling the egg mixture to set up.  Gently remove the mini quiches from the muffin tin to a cooling rack.  Let rest until the egg settles and levels out and the quiches are cool enough to handle.
Serve warm.

The Review:
Fresh out of the oven, domed golden treasures peeked out from their pastry petals.  They quickly settled, but with that first glimpse I knew I was in for a treat.
I had a hard time waiting for the mini quiche to cool enough to take a bite.  But that first bite...heavenly.  The crust broke away in a flaky, buttery burst to reveal the smooth, velvety egg within.  A salty, smokey pop of bacon followed, and close behind that...the slight sweetness and almost creamy layer of caramelized onion.  A subtle warmth danced across my tongue as the Sriracha came forward to finish off the bite.  One small many flavors and textures. 

While still warm, the egg and bacon flavors dominated these lovely little breakfast bites.  As with many things, the flavor improved with time.  The next day the Sriracha created the most wonderful subtle warmth without a trace of vinegar or bite.  The onions held their own more strongly against the smokey burst of bacon.  And all in all the flavors mellowed and mingled a little more harmoniously.

Of course, saving them for next morning's breakfast sacrifices that gloriously flaky crust, unless you have time to reheat them in the oven.  Convenience always has its price.

Ross didn't care much for the Sriracha.  But the fillings for these quiche are limitless.  Even a change as simple as a maple-peppercorn or honey-whiskey glaze on the bacon would be enough to launch these breakfast gems into completely different flavor-filled waters.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Corned Beef from Scratch Part 2: Cooking

The time has come!  The beef brisket has been taking up an awful amount of real estate in our fridge for the last ten days.  Every time we opened the refrigerator door we were struck with the reminder of how incredibly amazing our St Patrick's Day dinner was going to be...or filled with the foreboding of a possible failure.  
Because we were expecting a slightly larger turn out of guests, and because our own curiosity nudged us to compare, we did purchase a small 3lb pre-brined brisket from the store...

just in case...

Serves 8 to 10
The Ingredients:
1 12-ounce bottle Guinness or other stout or porter
4-8 cups water
4 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns 
2-3 whole allspice
1 dried chile de árbol, broken in half

3 medium turnips or rutabagas, peeled
8 unpeeled medium red-skinned potatoes
6 medium carrots, peeled
4 medium onions, peeled
2 medium parsnips, peeled
1 2-pound head of cabbage

The Process: 

Remove the corned beef from the brine.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water and pat dry.  Place corned beef in very large wide pot. I had to use Ross' 5 gallon stainless-steel brewing pot to accommodate our cut of meat.  Add the stout and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bundle the bay leaves, coriander, peppercorns, mustard seeds, allspice, and chile in a 6" x 6" square of cheesecloth, enclosing completely.  Tie the spice bundle with kitchen string to secure and toss it in the pot with the beef.   Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 1/4 hours. 

While the brisket simmers prepare the vegetables: Quarter the turnips and cabbage.  Half the potatoes and onions.  Cut the carrots and parsnips into 2 to 3 inch lengths.

After the 2 1/4 hours, transfer beef to large baking sheet or roasting pan.  Cover a keep warm in oven, preheated to 200.

Add the vegetables to the liquid in the pot and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes, longer if mushy vegetables are desired. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a serving dish. Return beef to pot and rewarm and re-hydrate, about 5 minutes. Discard spice bag.

Remove the beef to a butcher block or cutting board and slice against grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange beef with the vegetables on the serving platter.

The Review:
The decision was unanimous...the store bought brisket didn't stand a chance against the one we brined ourselves.  
As I rinsed our attentively cared for cut of meat, I was treated to the wonderful aroma of pickling spices.  The smell of corned beef permeated our kitchen (quite the feat considering how the stale gym sock stench of matter how tasty...can quickly overpower any other smells).  The meat was a beautiful pink going into the pot.  And when sliced, that traditional glorious red color greeted us.

The meat was so much more flavorful than any other corned beef brisket I'd every tried...though very, very salty.  Even compared to the store bought brisket.  I would be hesitant to reduce the amount of salt or curing powder to the brining process least until I poked around a little more into sausage maker, curing, brining and other meat preservation techniques.  No additional salt had been added beyond what originally went into the brine 10 days ago.

Our brisket was also a slightly less fatty cut than you typically find at the grocery store.  While it was incredibly moist when first cut, the slices that were not devoured immediately dried out pretty quickly.  Unless you know your brisket is a particularly fatty cut, I would highly recommend slicing of portions only as needed to retain as much moisture in the meat as possible.
The veggies were a supporting role in this endeavor.  Tasty and greatly enhanced by the amazing cooking liquid the brisket created...but by themselves they weren't much to write home about.  The parsnips and turnips did add a nice bit of variety to the standard carrots and cabbage.  That being said...there wasn't much left of this batch of food...

I will never go back to store bought briskets again.  This dinner was more than worth the ten day wait.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish Cream Sandwich Cookies

Happy St Patrick's Day!  With all of the heavy corned beef and root vegetables dished up today, alongside dark stouts, and generous pours of whiskey, I was in need of something with a touch of sweet to cut through all of the richness. The now ubiquitous Guinness cupcakes would be far, far too heavy...and given their currently popularity these last years, the chance of someone bringing over a dozen or so was very, very high.

When Meghan posted these Bailey's sugar cookie sandwiches, I was pretty sure I had found the perfect dessert option.  Lightly, slightly sweet, gone in a few bites and still kissed with booze.

Adapted from Meghan's  recipe at Buttercream Blondie 

yields three dozen 2-1/2 inch sandwich cookies and three dozen mini shamrock cutouts.

The Ingredients:
for the cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream

for the filling:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp Irish Cream
1-2 tsp instant espresso powder

gel frosting
green sprinkles

The Process:
for the cookies:
In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until smooth. Mix in vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a second bowl.  Add the flour to the butter, alternating with the Irish cream.  Mix until just combined. 

Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Roll out the dough and cut out 72 two and a half-inch circles.  Gather and re-roll dough as necessary.  Set aside half of the cookies.  In the remaining half, cut a small shamrock out to of the center, using an 1 1/2" shamrock cutter.  Reserve the shamrocks.

Arrange the cookies on several baking sheets, spacing them at least one inch apart.  Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking to help the cookies keep their shape.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the solid circle for 12-13 minutes, rotating the baking sheets 180 degrees about halfway through baking.  Start checking them after 10 minutes.  Bake the cut-outs and shamrocks for 7-10 minutes, turning 180 degrees halfway through baking.  The cookies are done once they have puffed slightly and the edges turn a light gold.

Remove cookies to a cooling rack.

Allow to cool completely before assembling.

for the filling:
Cream together the butter and sugar, adding the a little sugar at a time to avoid a powdered sugar cloud. Dissolve the instant coffee into the Bailey's and whisk into the filling along with the vanilla extract.

Assemble the cookies:
Once the cookies are completely cool, pipe the gel icing around the shamrock cut-out and sprinkle with green sanding sugar.  Match up each circle to a shamrock cut-out as close in size as possible.  Spread about 1 tsp of filling onto the circle and gently press the cut-out on top.  For the shamrocks, spread with a scant amount of filling and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Chill until ready to serve.

The Review:
This is a cookie that is greater than the sum of it's parts.  The sugar cookie is, well a sugar cookie.  Sort of sweet, but not really that exciting by itself.  Even with the Bailey's.  For one reason or another, this cookie dough was more of a challenge than other's that I've tried.  But I also abhor rolling out sugar cookies and pie crusts.  It's a wonder I keep making them sometimes...

The filling on the other hand...I could have eaten that up with a spoon.  The filling softened the cookies ever so slightly as the evening progressed...these are a cookie that better with age.  And they were quite a hit with everyone who came over.

The perfect end to a salty Irish-American dinner...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

One of my goals for this, the second year of my blog, was to attempt more yeast leavened baked goods.  More specifically, breads.  I have a love/hate relationship with yeast.  I love the tang it gives to beers and breads.  I marvel at how this simple organism can create such complex flavors as it breaks down sugars and carbs.  To date, our beer brewing adventures have yielded one successful batch after another.  But on the bread front...

Cinnamon rolls, monkey breads, sticky buns...all of those seemingly complicated (at least as far as assembly is concerned) yeast-based baked goods turned out well.  For my first true attempt at bread last year I opted for what seemed like a much simpler, more straightforward bread...the baguette.  It failed miserable.  The dough did not want to rise a second time.  It finally doubled up enough to justify baking it.  Into the oven three loaves went.

What came out I would hesitate to call bread.  The sticks of dough were ghastly pale, not the scrumptious golden brown I anticipated.  It was very toothsome...almost to the point of tooth shattering.  Never had I encountered a crust that rock solid.  Once I managed to chisel my way through the yeasty armor, no tender crumb but lifeless dry mass greeted me.

The bread was not even fit for bread crumbs or stuffing.  Not even the birds would touch it.

Needless to say, I've put off trying my hand at a loaf of bread for a long time because of those anemic baguettes.

But I made a resolution, and I can't put off attempts at bread too much longer.  I had originally planned to start simple again...a white or wheat.  But I opted to make a bread I would want eat, and I'm not really a white bread kind of girl.

After thumbing through Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, I found a loaf a step up from basic white and wheat sandwich breads: Multigrain Extraordinaire.  The part of the recipe that called to me was the multigrain soak...three grains with many available substitutes.  The recipe below details the combination of grains I used; but millet, amaranth, buckwheat, triticale flakes, wheat bran, and rolled wheat are options as well.

adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice

yields one 2-pound loaf

The Ingredients:
for the soaker (prepared the night before)
3 Tbsp quinoa
3 Tbsp rolled oats
1 Tbsp wheat germ
1 Tbsp coarse cornmeal
1/4 cup water, room temperature

for the dough
2 cups high-gluten or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp instant yeast
3 Tbsp cooked brown rice
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup water, room temperature

optional topping
1 Tbsp sesame or poppy seeds

The Process:
for the soaker
The day before making the bread, combine the quinoa, wheat germ, rolled oats, coarse cornmeal and water in a small bowl.  The water will just moisten the grains.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest overnight at room temperature.

for the bread:
In a 4-qt bowl sift together the flours, brown sugar, salt and yeast.  Add the brown rice, soaker, honey, buttermilk and water.  Stir until all of the ingredients form a ball...adding water a few drops at a time if any flour remains on the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle the work surface with flour and turn out the dough.  Knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes, sprinkling with extra flour as needed.  The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled a bowl.  Mist lightly with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap.

Allow the dough to ferment a room temperature for 90 minutes or until roughly double in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl.  On a lightly floured work surface shape the dough into a 6 by 10 inch square.  Starting with the short side, gently fold the dough onto itself, squaring the edges to form the loaf. Place in a lightly oiled metal loaf pan with the seam down.  Mist the loaf with water and sprinkle the  sesame or poppy seeds on top.  Lightly mist with oil.  Loosely cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Proof the loaf for approximately 90 minutes or until roughly double in size.  The dough should crest fully above the top of the pan by almost an inch at the center.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the loaf on the middle rack in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 20-40 minutes, or until the bread registers between 185 and 190 on a thermometer and sounds hollow when lightly thumped.

Once finished baking, immediately remove loaf from pan and allow to cool and a wire rack for at least one hour prior to slicing, preferable two.  This allows additional moisture to evaporate, the starches to settle and prevents the loaf from appearing under-baked or soggy.

The Review:
Success! Not a raving, stop the press sort of success, but a huge step towards no longer fearing yeast. 

The starter was an interesting technique.  Most of the grains were very much intact when the time came to start the dough.  The scent of the quinoa was by far the most prominent.  Even overpowering the yeast as the bread fermented and proofed.  At least until the bread stating baking.  Then the kitchen was filled with that welcoming warm scent of nostalgia and a hundred visits to the bakery with Mom or Grandma.

What was surprising was that all of the grain, short of the quinoa, broke down and dispersed thoughout the dough.  I was expected a grain flecked loaf of health and was instead treated with a fluffy and tender treat.  The little kernels of quinoa were the only discernible texture.

The crust was a little thicker and crisper than I would have liked...making it a bit hard to saw through the first slice.  But the crust succumbed to the bread knife and yeilded the soft interior...still warm after two hours of cooling. 

The grains offered a light nutty flavor.  I'd love to experiment with the other grains to see what additional flavors can be coaxed out.  Nuttiness was accented by the wonderful sweetness of the honey and brown sugar.  The bread was divine sliced and slathered with sweet cream butter.  It was just as wonderful for dinner, serving as the base for a hearty BLT of thick cut bacon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sesame Garlic Green Beans

I was in need of a quick and easy side to accompany the rosemary Sriracha chicken I made a few days back.  Green beans have always been a reliable vegetable in situations like this.  After a quick blanch and a scalding hot saute, these treats went from counter to plate in less than ten minutes.

the recipe is my own

serves 2

The Ingredients:
1/2 lb fresh green beans
1 Tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

The Process:
 In a medium saucepan bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the green beans and blanch for 3-4 minutes, or until the beans are a uniform bright green color.  Immediately strain and rinse with cold water.

In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil until near smoking.  Add the garlic, green beans and soy sauce.  Saute over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until the garlic is browned and the green beans begin to blister.  Remove from heat.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to serve.

The Review:
Quick, simple, and full of flavor.  You can't get much better than that. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rosemary Sriracha Chicken

Have you discovered Pinterest yet?  I have so many recipes lined up to try due to that site; some days I have no idea where to begin.  This entree stood out for its short ingredient list, all of which I already had on hand.  The yogurt-based marinade was also a plus for me...many an Indian dish I've made has been prepared this way.  The method is a wonderful way to tenderize the meat and add a lot of flavor.  And I was curious to see how the Sriracha and yogurt played against each other...

adapted from A Sweet Life

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
1-2 Tbsp Sriracha
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 to 5 large bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs

The Process
In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, juice, rosemary, Sriracha, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Place chicken pieces in a large resealable food bag and pour marinade over. Massage the bag to thoroughly coat the chicken. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375

Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a baking dish or broiler pan. Brush the chicken with any remaining marinade. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Switch the oven to broil and broil on high for 4 to 5 minutes, or until skin is crispy and golden brown.

The Review:
The first thing that struck me as I whisked together the marinade was how much this combination smelled like buffalo sauce.  How curious!  Although it makes sense...sriracha in lieu of hot sauce...lemon juice instead of vinegar.  How would the rosemary meld?

Indeed, the crispy browned skin did taste slightly of that classic buffalo wing sauce, with a lovely kick of rosemary.  Both flavors were very distinct, instead of blended to form a unique new surprise.  The heat and flavor did not penetrate much beyond the crispy skin, however.  For a more flavorful chicken I may be inclined to pierce the chicken pieces next time.  Or let the meat marinate longer.  But with that in mind, don't skimp on the heat.  It lends a wonderful burn to the skin without making the meat itself too hot to handle.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blood Orange Cake with Honey Whipped Cream

Or "how Samantha makes things much more difficult than they need to be."

About a month ago Audra at the Baker Chick posted a wonderful blood orange yogurt cake.  It sounded simply amazing and ridiculously easy to whip together.  The simplicity of the recipe was built around the 6 oz container of yogurt.  All of the other ingredients were measured using this container.  Easy peasy.   No need for measuring utensils.  Just a 3:2:1 ratio. Oh...and self rising flour.


I use yogurt a lot.  I have long ago given into purchasing the large tubs of plain yogurt instead of individual serving sizes.  So no 6 oz container to conveniently measure out my other ingredients.   To make matters more complicated, yogurt isn't sold by's sold by weight.  How to figure the volume of the other ingredients?

Ugh.  This is where the obsessive compulsive fabric dyer in me took over.  On a daily basis I convert units of measure and compare ratios to ensure the fabric I dye is consistent from one batch to the next.  Math.  Math everywhere.  This ratio of weight to volume was right up my alley...frustrating as it was.

After poking around I found that a cup of yogurt weighs roughly 8.6 6 oz by weight of yogurt would be about 0.69 cups by volume.  (WHY do we use oz for weight and volume...things needn't be this complicated).  Multiplied by the units conveniently listed in Audra's recipe and voila...the measures listed below...within a few teaspoons...

Okay...I'll stop with the math. a 6oz container of will make the process so much easier!

Second problem...I don't have self rising flour.  Thankfully that's an easy enough fix.  Self rising flour is just boring old flour with salt and baking powder already mixed in..roughly 1 1/4- 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of salt per cup of flour. 

Now...I finally had a recipe.  And a bit of a headache from making things harder than they need to be.  This cake is certainly worth it.  And please do visit Audra's site to see the much less migraine-inducing method of measuring.

adapted from Sylvia Bors recipe via Audra at TheBakerChick

yields one 9-inch singe layer cake

The Ingredients:
for the cake
6 oz yogurt (or 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp)
2 blood oranges, both juiced, one zested
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp safflower oil or vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

for the frosting:
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt,  orange juice, and oil.  Beat the eggs in one at a time until incorporated.  In a separate bowl sift together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the yogurt mixture, one third at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Lightly oil a 9" cake pan and line with parchment paper.  Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake an additional 10-20 minutes, depending on the oven.

Remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.

While the cake cools, in a chilled bowl whisk the honey into the whipped cream.  Beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Spread onto the cooled cake.

The Review:
After the headache of math and measuring I was almost immediately rewarded with the most amazing smells...lightly citrus and wonderfully cakey...

But my oven is finicky.  The center of the cake did not seem to want to set.  At the end of the full 20 minutes after dropping the temperature to 325 the toothpick finally came out clean...and the edges a little browner than I'd like.  I may have to bake the cake at 325 for the duration next time...or split the batter between two pans...

My cake mounded a lot in the center.  I suspect this may have to do with using fresher baking powder and all purpose flour in lieu of self rising flour whose leavening has been sitting for god knows how long.  The height didn't bother me in the slightest.  I may have obsessed a bit about the math, but not having a level cake.  Meh.

The flavors are so simple and clean.  And not overly sweet.  The whipped frosting was the perfect topping, creamy and ever so slightly sweet, without weighing down the cake or overpowering the citrus with cloying sweetness.   I'd love to try the cake again.  Perhaps with lemon.  And almond extract.  Or if I get really ambitious...layers...

I confess...I had some for breakfast.  Judging from the bit of frosting missing this morning I take it the cat did too...

It is that good.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Corned Beef from Scratch Part 1: Brining

St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner.  The last few years we have provided a little sanctuary for our friends ho wish to make merry and drink in peace without dealing with the chaos that is amateur night.  Every year we serve the traditional (though not necessarily truly Irish) corned beef brisket with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc, etc.  How better to up the ante than by brining your own?

The task is far simpler than I imagined.  Hands-on, I spent maybe ten minutes assembling the brine and submerging the meat....once I actually had everything, that is (note to self, ensure I have enough salt PRIOR to starting the process...).  For the next 8-10 days let the brine do the work for you.

Included in this brine is an ingredient known as Instra-cure.  Some brines call for saltpeter.  These are sodium nitrite compounds.  Yes, nitrite as in that big scary preservative most of our deli meats are chalked full of.  The beef can be corned without the nitrites, for those trying to keep their food as preservative-free as possible.  From what I've gleaned, omitting the Instra-cure or saltpeter will not alter the taste, but the corned beef will not be the traditional rosy color many come to expect from the brisket.

For the pickling spices I opted to use Penzeys Spices Corned Beef Spice Blend, but many pickling blends will do in a pinch.  Alton Brown has a lovely blend including mustard seeds, juniper berries, bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and ginger.  I'm taking this one step at a time.  Maybe next year I'll try making my own spice blend...

adapted from Bon Apetit March 2008

yields enough brine for one 6-8 pound brisket

The Ingredients:

6 cups water
2 cups lager beer
1 1/2 cups coarse kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp Insta Cure no. 1 or saltpeter (optional)
1/4 cup pickling spices
1 6- to 8-pound flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed, with some fat remaining
The Process: 

In a large bowl combine 6 cups water and beer. Add the salt and sugar; stir until completely dissolved. If desired, stir in Insta Cure No. 1.  Mix in pickling spices. 
Pierce brisket all over with tip of small sharp knife. Place the brisket in a non-reactive roasting pan or large oven bag.  Pour the brine over the brisket, covering completely.  If using an oven bag, squeeze out as much air as possible and tie securely.  Top with heavy platter to weigh down. Cover and refrigerate 4 days.

After four days, remove brisket from brine. Stir liquid to blend and redistribute spices. Return brisket to brine; submerging completely.  Top with heavy platter to keep submerged. Cover and refrigerate an additional four days. Remove brisket from brine. Rinse with cold running water.
 If not using immediately, wrap corned beef in plastic, cover with foil, and refrigerate. for up to 2 days.

The Review:
Pending til Paddy's Day.  Happy Brining!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ham and Cheese Quinoa Cups

I am horrible when it comes to eating breakfast.  I know I should.  But most mornings that extra few minutes of sleep usually out ranks the need to properly fuel up for the day ahead.  Often I pour a cup of coffee and bolt out of the door. 

One trick that seems to work well for me is to make a large batch of something ahead that can be quickly reheated in the microwave, stove top or toaster oven.  Quiche cups, frittata, and turkey/fennel sausage patties were key players when I planned ahead.  But it is possible to overload on quiche, believe it or not.  Quinoa thrown into the mix adds excitement (and a fun texture) back to my breakfast routine.

In a bit of poor planning I discovered I did not have enough quinoa to make Kristin's full recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.  But it halved easily enough.  I omitted the additional egg whites and stuck with whole eggs.  And I used a standard muffin tin instead of the Kristin's mini tins.  As a result, I needed to extend the baking time a bit.

But I was set for a few days of breakfast, with surprising little hands-on time.

adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

yields 6 Quinoa Cups

The Ingredients:
1 cups cooked quinoa (about 3/4 cup uncooked)
2 eggs
1 small zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz diced ham
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 green onions,thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients and whisk together until well combined.   Lightly butter or oil a standard-size muffin tin.  Spoon mixture into the tin, bringing the mixture level to the tin's lip.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges of the cups are golden brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the tin.

The Review:
These truly were heaven sent for a non-morning person such as myself,  The day after making them, I had something to look forward to that I knew would fill me up without needing much time.  Granted, the quinoa cups were much, much better fresh out of the oven.  After a night in the fridge they lost that beautiful crispness to their browned edges.  But I'll take a warm, albeit slightly soggy breakfast over toast or cold cereal any day.

The filling combination here is classic.  Ham and Cheddar.  But the recipe is in no way limiting.  Spinach, mushroom and Gruyere may be my next batch.  Turkey sausage and Swiss?   Tomato, olive and feta?  So many wonderful flavor combinations.  The quinoa and eggs provide a near perfect canvas for these flavors, with the quinoa added a welcome pop of texture.