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Archive for May, 2010

I love brunch.

It’s the wonderful meal that’s partly breakfast, substantial enough to be lunch. Involves sleeping in, leisurely coffee, a newspaper and something eggy – for me, usually on the savoury side, rather than the sweet.

 There was a time in my life when I made everyone else’s brunch on a weekend but couldn’t enjoy it myself, what with all the 6 am wakeups. This honed both my love of coming up with new combinations of flavours to eat with eggs, and my desire to get out of the restaurant world, so I could sleep in and have my own damn lesisurely brunch.

My favourite brunches involve poached eggs with toast and a sauce of some kind. At most restaurants, Eggs Benedict is the only dish that meets this description – a dish I’m not that fond of, so I tend to eat poached eggs at home.  And although making some kind of tasty sauce is an extra step, the enjoyment I get out of it makes it totally worthwhile.  The sauce varies depending on what’s in the fridge: cheddar, roasted red peppers, or roasted tomatoes, mixed in with a little milk- or cream-based sauce.

Recently Andy’s sister and husband stayed a weekend at our house, and here’s what I made for brunch. The sauce is not overly rich, but fresh with the taste of spinach and dill, slightly tangy from the feta.

Poached eggs with spinach-feta sauce
Serves four

8 eggs
1/4 cup white vinegar (for the poaching liquid)
special equipment: you need a slotted spoon for lifting out the eggs.

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. white, all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I use 1%) – you might need extra to get the right consistency
1/4 to 1/3 cup crumbled goat’s milk feta
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped fine
fresh dill and chives, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

Bread for toast

1. First, start your poaching pot: Fill a large saucepan with water, add the vinegar and heat to just below the boiling point.

2. Then, start your sauce: In a medium saucepan or frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sprinkle in the flour.  Stir to combine, and let cook for a minute or two. Whisk in the milk and stir to make sure it’s free of lumps. Add the feta. Turn the heat to low and keep it warm until ready to serve.

3. Poach your eggs:  Your water is ready when it has small bubbles surfacing, but is not at any kind of boil. Keep the heat set to medium. Use your slotted spoon to give the water a  gentle spin before cracking the eggs and dropping them in. Keeping the water moving helps them keep their shape as they cook.

Once you’ve added all the eggs, let them cook approximately 5 minutes until the whites are completely set – lift one out and prod it gently with your finger to be sure.  For runnier yolks, the eggs will still be a bit soft. If you like your yolks more cooked, leave them in longer.

4. Drain your eggs. Either in a fine-mesh sieve, or on a clean kitchen towel.

5. Make your toast. On this particular day I used whole wheat baguette. I tend to favour a crusty bread, cut thick – ideal for sopping up sauce and yolks.

6. Finish your sauce. Add the spinach, dill and chives, season to taste.

7. Put it all together. Eggs on toast, sauce on eggs. Like this:

‘Kay, I need to go make this again. Right now.

*One of these days I promise to do an egg-poaching tutorial, once I get up the courage to take photos during a cooking process where timing is crucial.

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I don’t know about you, but I get tired of green salads. There are times when I just can’t get excited about greens. I want something more substantial. I want something I don’t have to load up with chicken or cheese or egg or tuna to make it exciting. I don’t feel like doing all that washing.

Enter, the complementary proteins. (Thanks, Frances Moore Lappe, who introduced me to the concept. In my world, there is nothing like a tasty grain salad, combined with other things, like beans and corn, to make complete proteins. Filling, delicious, and feels healthy.

Add to the equation quinoa, my favourite grain at the moment (though it’s technically not a grain, it’s a seed). Not only is it one of the more protein-rich grains, it has a lovely crunchy texture and also looks pretty.

This salad is a lunch favourite. The recipe makes a lot, and I eat it for a few days, which I don’t mind at all.

 

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad
Makes a ton. Serves 4-6 as a side.

 For the quinoa:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
pinch salt

 For the salad:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 red pepper, diced
½ cup frozen corn, thawed
1 avocado, diced
½ cup fresh cilantro, minced

 For the dressing: 
2  tbsp. orange marmalade
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
zest of one lime
juice of 2 or 3 limes, to taste
¼ cup olive or canola oil
pinch cayenne
salt to taste

In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low setting until quinoa is cooked, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. You can either combine all ingredients in a small bowl, or blend with a hand mixer, which gives the dressing a creamy texture.

Once the quinoa is cool, add in the beans, pepper, corn, avocado and cilantro. Mix in the dressing, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

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