Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Morning, Matzo Brei.

My friend Justine and I have this tradition. In high school, and every couple of weeks in college, we made matzo brei and caught up with each other. The weeks get busy, you know? And sometimes it's hard to keep up with even your closest friends. This is especially true when several states stand between the two of you. (I'm looking at you, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennesee...) When I'm back among the pools and palm trees, we always make it a point to cook up her dad's recipe. Boy did he know what he was doing. The stuff's tasty-good.

Matzo brei literally means "fried matzo." Do you like scrambled eggs? It's basically scrambled eggs plus the added texture, heft, and taste of matzo. It's usually eaten for breakfast during Passover---no leavened bread allowed---but Justine and I eat it whenever because we like it.

Where I come from in South Florida, there's a large Jewish community, and subsequently a year-round Manischewitz portion of the grocery store. This makes matzo easy to come by. Not so easy in Iowa. Luckily, my mom loves me enough to mail me the occasional box of matzo. I saw the box in my pantry this morning and thought, Hey there, delicious breakfast-to-be. (Last week, during Passover, I thought, Hey there, delicious dinner-to-be.)

So here's what I want you to do. Go track down some matzo. I'll wait.

Got it? Good.

Now, whip up some eggs.

Scramble it all in the pan.

Don't forget the coffee! Some good cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg goes a long way.

Consume. I like mine with a bit of ketchup. Salsa and Tapatio are also tasty toppings. But, hey. You might like yours Plain Jane and that's just dandy.

Happy belated Passover!

Matzo Brei

slight variation on a Singer family recipe

2 pieces of matzo
2 eggs
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Spike seasoned salt
1/2 tsp milk

1. Place the matzo on a plate and dampen it under cool running water. Hold the matzo to the plate and drain off the excess water. You don't want it to be mushy.
2. Crack two eggs into a bowl (or mug, in my case) and add the spices and milk. Whip 'em up.
3. Heat up a pan with a little bit of butter. Break the matzo into chunks and toss it in the pan. Pour the eggs over the matzo. Make sure each piece of matzo is covered with egg.
4. Scramble until light and fluffy, though this will be denser than traditional scrambled eggs.

It's-Grey-and-Dreary-and-I'm-Sleepy Coffee

4 tbsp coffee grounds
3/4 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1-10. Brew!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Avocados and Scuba-Diving Easter Bunnies

We're pretty awesome in Florida. I mean, sometimes it rains in the front yard and is sunny out back. Sometimes four-foot iguanas wander onto your porch at 6 a.m. so you go across the hall to tell your friend so he can see, and his brother catches it with a t-shirt and keeps it in their living room. True story. I was 12. Sometimes the Easter Bunny grabs his scuba gear and sets up an underwater Easter egg hunt to support a local children's charity. That's the spirit.

This Easter I am exactly 1,561 miles away from my family. So you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to share food with friends. If you're on your own for Easter, why not do the same? Call a few friends and have a potluck. I'll make it easy for you. I'll even show you what to bring.



Key Limes!

Need I say more?

Black Bean Avocado Salad

1 mango
1 red bell pepper
1 avocado
1 c. corn
1 can black beans
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tomatillo, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 3 key limes
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Adobo seasoning
1/4 tsp chili powder

1. Chop up the mango, bell pepper, avocado, tomatillo, garlic, and onion. Put them in a large bowl.
2. Cook the corn! Add it to the bowl. Do you see a trend here? There's a trend here.
3. Rinse the black beans and add them to the bowl.
4. Sprinkle on the seasonings, lime juice, and olive oil.
5. Toss. Serve. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

One of my favorite meals, growing up, was palomilla steak--steak pounded thin and cooked with garlic, onion, and lemon--which always came with plantains and black beans and rice. Whenever my family went to a restaurant with a Cuban menu, this is what I ordered. I loved the tang of the steak, the warm plantains. And the beans. Oh man, the beans. Onions and garlic and warm beans on some kind of seasoned white rice. Dee-licious.

My love of Cuban black beans has recently driven me to search for a recipe. Every recipe I found was slightly different from the others, and every recipe came with a story. Someone's grandmother's/mother's/neighbor's recipe. Some foods just need to be shared and talked about. This is a meal to eat with someone else. It's a conversation meal. These beans made me want to write a story.

But first, the recipe.

First order of business: I chopped up 3/4 of an onion. Because black beans love onions.

Then, a few cloves of garlic and some green pepper. You'll also need to get your hands on some tomato paste and pimentos (Weird, right? But I promise it's tasty.). Saute the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent, then throw in the green pepper.

You'll need some rice. You can cheat and make Minute Rice like I did.

But not sideways rice like this rice. Tut tut, uploader.

Some water and beans and seasonings later, you'll have yourself some tasty black beans. Top it with avocado and Tapatio if you like. I like.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

adapted from a recipe I can no longer find

16 oz. black beans
3/4 onion
1 green bell pepper
4 oz. chopped pimentos
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 oz. tomato paste
olive oil (for sautéing)
3-5 c. water
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1. tsp Adobo seasoning
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 c. uncooked rice

1. Saute chopped onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Then, saute the green pepper until slightly soft.
2. Add in tomato paste. Cook for a minute or so, until the paste is dispersed.
3. Add in water, beans, pimentos, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. When the mixture thickens, it's done. Stir occasionally to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Cook rice at appropriate time (depending on whether you're using Minute Rice or not). Serve beans over rice.

These beans have a slightly sweet flavor that I haven't tasted in other beans. Good stuff. Enjoy!

Floridian Salad in Iowa (with homemade citrus vinaigrette)

Hello. Hi there.

How are you?


Me, too.

Let's make salad. Salad with citrus and homemade vinaigrette. Because it's March and it's grey outside and citrus can help us at least pretend that it's summer and the weather's nice. 70-something degrees. Sunny. Only a bit of a breeze off the ocean. You know. The good stuff.

But first, let's introduce ourselves. I'm Brenna. I bake things. And cook things. Often they are Floridian things, which is sometimes difficult now that I'm in Iowa and have a hard time finding green plantains. But we'll talk about plantains another day. This blog is about figuring out how to make the food I love from home--South Florida--as a vegetarian in Iowa. Since Floridians love seafood, substitutions happen. We can deal with it. I promise.

Anyway. Salad.
Good citrus isn't easy to find in Iowa, especially at the tail end of winter.

But I managed to find some pretty tasty Texas grapefruit at Fareway. I admit it. Texas actually has better grapefruit than Florida. It's pink, juicy, and hovers in that delicious space between sweet and tart. The oranges are straight from Florida ala the interstate's Indian River fruit stand. While Texas may beat us in the realm of grapefruit, I maintain that there is no orange out there that can compete with a Florida orange. Sweet and juicy. What more could you want?

Fun fact: An orange with some green in its skin is still a ripe orange. Companies sometimes add a dye to their oranges to enhance the color, which is why most grocery store oranges are particularly neon.

So, salad. I like to start with a spring mix or a bunch of baby spinach.

Chop up an orange. Then chop up half a grapefruit and a mango. Rule of thumb: The redder the mango, the riper the mango. Then, how about a handful of kumquats? Let's live a little, right? Salad's can be exciting. Kumquats make things exciting. These little orange guys are extremely sour, though, so if you want, dip the cut sides in a little bit of white sugar. Go ahead. I won't judge.

These are kumquats:

They grow on trees. Know what else grows on trees? Avocados. Toss some of that on the salad, too.

Look at all that goodness! Know what would make it even better? Vinaigrette.

Here's how to make some:

Remember that grapefruit you chopped up? And that orange? Zest some of the skin into a cup or container. You can use a cheese grater for this purpose. A couple of teaspoons of each will do. Add some extra virgin olive oil, pear balsamic vinegar, and white balsamic vinegar. Grind some pepper all up in there. Mix it up (shaking works best) and pour it over the salad.

Consume. Feed some to other people if you want. It's nice to share.

Florida Salad

1 batch spring mix salad (or greens of your choosing)
1/2 pink grapefruit
1 Florida orange
1 mango
1/2 avocado
5 kumquats, halved

1. Set aside 2 teaspoons of grapefruit zest and orange zest before peeling. To zest the fruit, rub it against the smallest side of a cheese grater.

2. After peeling, cut the orange and grapefruit into chunks.

3. I'm still working out the perfect way to cut up a mango, but here's what's worked for me so far: Cut the sides of the mango as close to the core as possible. Then, slide the knife between the skin and the fruit, much like filleting a fish. Once they're separated, chop the fruit into chunks. Do the best you can to remove the flesh from the core. Or, if you're like me, you'll just eat it like corn-on-the-cob. Dessert corn-on-the-cob. Yeah.

4. Start at the top of the avocado with your knife and follow it around the fruit length-wise. You should feel the pit the whole way around. Scoop the pit out with a spoon, then scoop out the flesh and chop it up.

5. Cut the kumquats length-wise, as well. Sugar them if you feel like it.

In short: Chop and plop.

Citrus Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
2 teaspoons orange zest
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pear balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

These measurements are estimates. Play around with the ratios to taste. Mix it all up and pour it over the salad.