Another new toy

I like poached eggs, but not the mess of poaching them, and while I do them pretty well, there are many opportunities to mess up.

Well, what do you know? I was looking on for some recipe or something and saw an ad for a foolproof-five-fork-rated egg poacher reduced 25 percent for Epicurious readers.

Why debate? I just won many $$$ in the RectorFootball pool. A couple clicks and a few days later and that big boy was in my kitchen. There was even an empty spot in the pantry to store it.

First try…

My first beautiful poached eggs — served over leftover chili from the Sierra Canyon Great Balls of Fire Chili Cook-off — was not a disaster. Neither were the results perfect. This egg poacher has an inherent problem; it is not a poacher, it is a steamer. To poach something, one would immerse it in liquid. With this “poacher,” one places an egg in a cup, suspended over boiling or simmering water, so the egg cooks in steam. Big difference.

two eggs steaming

Thus, the whites don’t etherially wrap the yolks, but rather, wrap the yolks fairly firmly. Nevertheless, the result is a soft white with a runny yolk to seep into and flavor each bite of the chili. It’s simply a different eating experience.

On the other hand, this “poacher” does some things a simple pan of water cannot do. Here is a recipe from the instruction manual — printed in four languages — that comes with the poacher.

Fill the egg poacher pan one-third full of water.
Mix four eggs with some milk or cream. Season with pepper and salt. Pour the mixture into the cups.
Set the saucepan on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Put the cups in the tray and place the whole into the pan. Cover with the glass lid and leave to steam for about 4 minutes. The eggs might rise a bit during the steaming, but  do not worry, they will collapse as soon as you take the eggs out.
Take out the cups from the tray and turn them upside down on to a plate. Serve with toasted bread triangles.
Add chopped chives to the egg mixture.
Add small pieces of bacon or ham to the egg mixture.

I chose to chop a mushroom, saute it in butter and add those pieces to the cups. Pour the egg mixture over that and pop it into the “poacher.”

sauteed mushrooms in two poacher cups

add egg mixture to the cups

eggs plated alongside bacon strips

The eggs jiggled when I turned them out of the cups. I was surprised to find the outer layer soft like a scrambled egg and the center runny, as a poached egg would be. Now that’s a good egg. Yum.

There are other variations, which I have yet to try, so look back occasionally to see what’s up.




So many orange things are around in the summer. I’ve been eating some orange and yellow things for my breakfast and lunch. You’ll see:

Orange and Yellow Lunch
Canned pineapple chunks
A very fine cheese on crackers:

Fat Bottomed Girl, Bleeting Heart CA
Pasteurized Sheep’s Milk

Peter, at Wedge: A Cheese Shop got this cheese in for the first time recently when I was in the shop. He gave me a taste and I was hooked. Has a cool name, too.

Orange Breakfast
Hard cooked egg
I don’t know how you do your peaches, but I peel mine with a vegetable peeler, then cut it off the pit in wedge sections. Be sure and do all this peeling and cutting over your plate so you capture all the juices.

Another Orange Breakfast of melon and peach layered over thin sliced baked ham.
We get both our melons and peaches at the same farm stand at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on California Avenue near Keystone. I don’t remember the name of the stand, but I’ll look when I’m there tomorrow. Minton Family Farm, Yuba City CA

Here’s melon and a hard cooked egg accompanied by home made pimento cheese spread on crackers.

And finally, for now:
Ambrosia melon, “yellow” watermelon, and peach for breakfast…
More cut up peach soaking in rum for dessert tonight.
My peaches went beyond ripe, so I had to peel two at once. Turns out that’s not such a bad thing. Sadly, the “yellow” watermelon had almost no flavor (the rum-soaked peaches had lots of flavor).

LUNCH :: Double Header

In Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules: An Eaters Manual, “Eat until you’re 80% full,” is one rule that I must pay attention to, especially in Reno. Serving portions are most often outsized, to the point where they make a dinner, a take-home lunch and a half-lunch — the subject of the day.

Even cooking at home for two, things are not often easily divisible and savable; an ear of corn, a tomato, a potato, a quart of home made tomato sauce, a can of almost anything. The point is, we’ll probably cook more than we can — or want to — eat.

So I developed the half-lunch. I use glass storage containers and my favorites — from Crate and Barrel — are a 2-cup bowl and an almost-cup bowl. The former is probably a lunch, the latter a half-lunch.

the two-cup and almost-cup containers

Today, I dined on two half-lunches:



  1. A quart of Cherokee Purple Georgiana Brennan Roasted tomato sauce made and canned in September 2011. Used to make a dinner of spaghetti with sausage.
  2. Sort of hot Italian sausage. We skinned and mixed 3 links of hot sausage with 1 link of mild sausage. (Also the reverse for Carol’s taste.) This was used with the sauce for the spaghetti dinner.
  3. Some of each of the sauce and sausage constituted the leftover parts of the full lunch.
  4. A ball of dried Kamfen Hong Kong Style Egg Noodles. Cooked and added to the sauce and sausage.
  5. Since a ball of dried noodles is a finite thing, I added compatible portions of sauce and sausage.

Viola! I had a half-lunch left over.

the noodles



  1. One tomato. The first fresh tomato of the season from the California Ave. Farmers Market. Peeled and chunked.
  2. Some Prim Manteca beans cooked in the previous days to use in many ways. (I love beans.)
  3. Some celery sliced off an almost used up head… the lovely solid whitish part near the root end.
  4. A splash of chicken broth to keep everything wet.
  5. One Hebrew National knockwurst, cooked in the midst of that stuff.

That was my full lunch. By the time I was 80% full, I had a half-lunch left over. (I ate all the knockwurst.)

When I made my half lunch, I added some grilled green beans that accompanied grilled fish a day or so ago.

And there you have a lunch double-header. I’ll do it again sometime.

Oven Bacon

I hold a pack of bacon in my hand, but don’t feel like going through the rigor of frying it. “Carol, isn’t there a way to cook bacon in the oven?” She was at the breakfast table reading from the SF Chronicle on her iPad.

She made a few taps. “This guy on his blog says to line a pan with foil, put on the bacon and put it in a COLD oven. Bake at 400°F for 17 minutes, but WATCH. Bacon thickness, your oven behavior and so on and can vary the timing.”

I put the bacon in our Countertop Convection Oven, set it for 400, turned it on and set my timer for 8 minutes. It took 5 minutes for the oven to tell me its at 400. The bacon started to sizzle at that point. I took a peek and it was all wrinkley and sizzling. By the time my timer dinged, it looked nice and soft done, but not crispy. I turned off the oven and put the bacon on paper towels on a plate. Put those back in the warm oven, poured the bacon fat in my frying pan to cook four slices of apple and two slices of baked potato.


Bacon is cooked.

Apple and potato cook. (That’s a really swell OrGREENiC non-stick skillet we got at Bed Bath Beyond.)


Breakfast! Yum.

This is not news… just the first time for me.


egg mangled while peeling… the bluish bit to the right is irrevocably stuck to the white (the knife was not used in peeling, it is there to keep the egg from rolling over)

What a mess.

I am a lover of hard-boiled eggs. I make them 4 or 5 at a time to have on hand for breakfasts, or just to salt and pepper and eat out of hand. They are an excellent source of protein, they go with almost anything, and they taste good. What’s not to like?

What’s not to like is that this time of year, with really fresh pasture raised eggs, they’re almost impossible to peel. I get my eggs from Hadji Paul’s Chicken and Feed who come to the Farmers Market at Garden Shop Nursery on Sundays.

HB egg for breakfast with green beans, beet, roasted cauliflower, bits of potato and cheese curds

egg tool, for slicing or sectioning a HB egg.

sliced egg breakfast with castelvetrano olives, red beets, yellow beets and cheese curds

“There are two peculiarities associated with hard-boiled eggs. One is the occasional difficulty encountered when peeling the egg. It turns out that peelability is affected by the pH of the egg white, and so by the egg’s freshness. If the pH is below 8.9 — in a fresh egg it is closer to 8.0 — then the inner membrane tends to adhere to the albumen, whereas, at the figure typical after three days of refrigeration, around 9.2, the problem no longer exists. Exactly what the chemistry involved is, no one knows, though some cooks claim that salt in the cooking water helps.”

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Chapter 2: Eggs

Joy, the egg lady says that to peel, the eggs must be 10 days old. The mangled egg above was one of three I kept for 10 days. Well there you go. But I hadn’t read Harold McGee and didn’t salt the water. Maybe that works. Continue reading

BKFSTS: grits oatmeal egg

Are grits groceries?
Then oatmeal must be groceries, too. And good for you, they say.
I’ve made grits or oatmeal for breakfast a few ways. They are almost always savory, and almost always involve a poached egg, on top. So, perhaps the subject of this piece is the poached egg.

Here are some savory grits topped by a poached egg.

I can assure you those grits were good, but I don’t remember what I put into them. For another gritty breakfast, I took the opportunity to lay out the ingredients, so there’s no doubt.

Here, I have a packet of instant grits, a bowl of leftover ham, and vegetables, to which I will add the grits and boiling water and stir. An egg to poach, and a saucepan to poach it in.

This is the result.

Thing is, I’m not fond of sweets… oatmeal is often served with sugar or syrup or something sweet like apples and cinnamon. I prefer savory with leftover (LO) bits of meat, fish or vegetables — or all of those. On the other hand, Carol made some baked apples — hollow out the core and stuff the apple with chopped nuts, butter, brown sugar and maybe cream and bake. I would chop up a LO stuffed apple — filling and all — and add to oats. That’s sweetness that I can get my mouth around.

But never mind that, here’s another breakfast with grits, not sweet. Continue reading

Anatomy of an Asian Fête

Chinese Fete

When I offered to make a birthday dinner of any dish and/or cuisine, the request was for a chinese dumpling dinner for a family gathering over Labor Day weekend. Not content to roll a bunch of dumplings, boil them up, and call it good, I used the occasion as an excuse to pull together many different asian recipes that I’ve been cooking recently, or wanting to cook, and introduce the family to my obsession with trying to grok all asian cuisines after visiting China in 2009.

The thunderbolt that hit me in China was exposure to several *different* cuisines within China — saying “Chinese cooking” is just like saying “American cooking” — it depends on who is cooking, where they are cooking, and what their cultural background is. Since then I’ve studied more about the many different Asian takes on food preparations and ingredients (from India to Japan) to try to understand the things they share, as well as what made them different.

The birthday dinner audience consisted of adults and children, many of whom had traveled and eaten around the world (including the children) but may NOT have focused their attention on Chinese or asian cuisine. Also, for family gatherings, they were accustomed to straight-forward dinner menus consisting of a big plate of meat, one or two side veggies and/or starch, and a big salad for dinner.

As I indicate in the title here with the French word “Fête” this was NOT intended to be an authentic meal by any stretch. Along with the odd mish-mash of cuisines and ignorance of proper banquet service I sought to use familiar and local ingredients where ever possible: smoked salmon, instead of ham; lobster instead of crab, etc. The intention was to create a tasty meal that exposed some of the diners to new flavors and/or textures but was not completely unfamiliar, as much as to just create a tasty meal that included dumplings. I hope that I succeeded.
Continue reading


Frittatas are a sometimes thing. I had in my mind that I made them often, but in looking back over the past two years, I found I’ve made them often only recently. See, when I think of a frittata I think of it as a big deal and a lot to eat.
Not true.
Not a big deal.
Not a lot to eat, especially if it is a two-egger.

I made a very special frittata in April of 2010,  but then not again until last September, when I made this one:


The beauty of the beast is that you can put almost anything in it; in this case, potato salad, green beans and sausage. And there are only dribs and drabs of each.

f_cooking_1bHere it is cooking on the stove for about 9 minutes over really low heat until it is not shaky, but the top is still wet. Grate some cheese on top. We fix the wet top under the broiler for 3 or four minutes and at the same time, cheese melts and eggs puff and it gets all yummy looking.


My frittata is a 2 or 3 egg frittata, made only for me — C eats traditional breakfasts — and is generated Saturday or Sunday morning, inspired by bits of leftovers. I cook it in my Le Creuset 6 inch skillet, the perfect vessel to heat evenly, hold the heat and go into the broiler.

cherry tomato and potato frittata

cherry tomato and potato frittata

And so, just last week a carrot two-egger with a leftover fish fillet… first time I’ve tried something like that.

leftover carrots that were poached in orange juice, butter and white wine

leftover carrots that were poached in orange juice, butter and white wine

I plopped a hunk of leftover fish in the center and poured the eggs around it. Those white blobby things are bits of Spring Hill Farms fresh curd cheese.

I plopped a hunk of leftover fish in the center and poured the eggs around it. Those white blobby things are bits of Spring Hill Farms fresh curd cheese.


Good and Good.

Winging Breakfast

…in a world without eggs

Just back from four days in Reno to an “empty” refrigerator. Not empty, of course, but no “meal” food. We just drove for five hours and I took the car for a wash, so I’m not in the mood to expend energy making dinner. “Order a pizza,” is an obvious choice. But then I said to Carol, “I could get a jar of canned tomato sauce from the cellar, make some spaghetti.”
“There’s a beef patty left from last week’s sliders,” said Carol. Sounds like a plan.

The tomato sauce consisted of a pint of “Early Girl Raw” from last November. (Raw is when you have a few tomatoes, run ‘em through the food mill without cooking and can ‘em. I got that idea from the A16 Cookbook. They use “raw” San Marzano sauce for their pizza.) The raw sauce will take a little flavoring. Rough chop a shallot, two little carrots and a couple whacks of celery; put em in the mini-processor and chop fine. Saute that in some olive oil, until soft. Chop half the frozen patty, now almost soft, make a space in the center of your skillet, add the meat and brown. Mix that up with the vegetables, add a gurgle of red wine and cook until the wine is almost gone, add the sauce. Cook for a while, maybe 15 – 20 minutes to reduce and thicken. Meanwhile, get your spaghetti water going and cook the spaghetti. Get Carol to make a salad. Open a bottle of Cline California Zinfandel. Now that’s a damn fine and easy dinner. C said I should have added Italian seasoning. She’s probably right.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about Wednesday’s breakfast. Breakfast again? Yep… seems like that’s where I throw stuff together and invent. I’m not a milk and cereal guy – just put breakfast in the “search” box to check out previous breakfasts.

After my walk I opened the refrigerator. No eggs. I could mix up some Greek yogurt and Emerald Breakfast-on-the-go!, but that is not appetizing just now. In the fridge is the last of the grits, and beside them, some leftover grilled swordfish and green beans. Tomato sauce would be nice, but I used all of last night’s sauce. Wait! I have a can of Amy’s Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque in the drawer. That’ll work.

swordfish and beans, grits, tomato bisque

swordfish and beans, grits, tomato bisque

Just heat everything in my little skillet. On the plate, fish on top of grits, green beans beside, 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato “sauce” spooned over. Now that’s a damn fine and easy breakfast.

breakfast without the sauce

breakfast without the sauce

with the sauce... looked so good, I already ate half

with the sauce... looked so good, I already ate half

Later, I went to Whole Foods to get squid for dinner, but I forgot to get eggs. DUH! So I’m in the same boat for my Thursday breakfast. I took a similar route… Still scraps of leftover swordfish – cubed that. Still a few green beans – chopped those. I have the leftover Amy’s Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque in the fridge. A good start.

Thursday’s cubed fish and chopped beans

Thursday’s cubed fish and chopped beans

I cubed my last Purple Viking potato and boiled it, added a couple whacks of celery halfway through the boiling.

fish and vegetables in the pan

fish and vegetables in the pan

I added about half of that to my fish and green beans and into the frying pan and spooned Amy’s tomato soup over that. Now is that a soup, or fish and vegetables with a sauce? Clue: I ate it with a fork.

That was good, but I’m definitely going to get some eggs today at the Thursday CUESA Market while I get something for dinner today and tomorrow.


For Friday’s breakfast, I took the leftovers from Thursday dinner and put a flipped egg over it. It’s amazing how much richness and wonderfulness an egg can add. And I only use one.

Thursday dinner: summer squash saute, Burgers’ Smokehouse Pork Rope Sausage, beans with tomatoes. For Friday, I used 3 slices of sausage, about a quarter-cup each of squash and beans… and that egg.


Sometimes, just before waking up, before the alarm goes off, my mind starts going: where will I walk today? What will I make for breakfast? What day is this? Is anything going on? If its sunny, the Marina would be good, but it hasn’t been sunny in the morning in weeks. Have leftover grits… I could open the bacon… what will I put over grits? Tradition calls for shrimp and gravy, but I don’t have any of that. Don’t have any tomato sauce open either… I could chop a tomato and make sauce… what if I sliced a tomato and just heated it… put that over the grits? Hmmm… worth a try.

I got up and made coffee. Out the window, it’s not sunny on Union Street, but it’s too early for the sun to be over Russian Hill. When I went out the door and looked down the street, “Its sunny in the Marina!” I said to anybody around. A woman was about to cross Polk Street, but I doubt she heard me.

I had a good walk — in the sun on some streets and the Palace of Fine Arts. Lovely day to make some grits and tomatoes.

Palace of Fine Arts designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Palace of Fine Arts designed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Last night, I actually made the grits. I had the idea I would poach my cod in a ginger-soy poaching mixture so I have this cod on my plate in a pool; around the pool is a wall of grits. Off to the side — or better, in the corner of the plate — I could array my haricot vert tossed with blue cheese and pecans. It didn’t exactly work out that way, as you shall see, the grits were a bit too loose, so they made kind of a pillow for the cod. Things don’t always work out visually the first time, but everything tasted real good.

cod poached in ginger soy liquid with scallion and cilantro

cod poached in ginger soy liquid with scallion and cilantro

So, this morning I got out the bacon, grits and a tomato. I fried the bacon and drained on a paper towel, poured off a little bacon fat and put the grits in the skillet. All I need is to warm them, they’re not going to make a nice crust no matter what. Bacon onto the plate and the grits over that and the plate in the oven to keep warm while I cook the tomatoes.
At this point, I could put a flipped egg on the grits and that would be breakfast; the comforting taste of the egg and grits becoming one. Today, I put the sliced tomatoes in the skillet to warm in a little olive oil.

Once warm, just slide the hot tomatoes onto the plate over the grits and bacon.


Salt and pepper makes breakfast. And a darned good one. Yum

Quick Cheese Grits
Adapted from the back of Albers Quick Grits box/mr
For four    yield 3 cups

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grits
my additions –
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 ounces sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Bring 3 cups water to a boil in orange le Creuset pot (two-quart heavy pot), slowly stir in grits.
Cover pot, reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in buttermilk.
Off heat, stir in cheese and butter.

Cod With Ginger and Soy
Mark Bittman NYT White Fish Recipes 7/11

Put a large, deep skillet over medium heat; add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon minced ginger; cook until sizzling. Add 1 1/2 pounds fish, ½ cup soy sauce, 1½ cups water, ½ cup chopped scallions, ½ cup chopped cilantro and a teaspoon rice vinegar. Boil, cover and turn off heat. Fish will be done in about 10 minutes. Garnish: Chopped scallions.
Cook’s NOTE: Don’t be fooled by the brevity of this recipe, prep takes a long time, a lot of chop chop.