Saturday, April 25, 2009

Enlightened Eggs Benny

For some of you egg benny lovers out there, this post will be somewhat sacrilegious -no real hollandaise sauce? Does this even constitute eggs benedict? I'm all for ordering the real deal when I'm out for breakfast - Soft poached eggs please, and load on the sauce.

However, when I'm in my own kitchen, reading a recipe that calls for one cup of melted butter, I just can't do it. This recipe is a compromise. I'm not going to pretend that my fake hollandaise is as good as the thing, but for the ease of preparation, not to mention the cup of butter issue, this is the way to go. I have taken this recipe from Crazy Plates and doctored it a bit.

Enlightened Eggs Benny

1) Fry your bacon, or for a veggie option (see pic), slice some tomatoes

2)Make your Mock Hollandaise- Combine the following and heat in the microwave until warm (don't press start until your eggs are almost done, you want the sauce to be warm on your eggs). This is enough for three bennies, or 6 eggs.
  • 1/4 cup light mayo (I insist that you use Hellmans 1/2 fat, no other light mayonnaise measures up).
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream (Please buy light, not no fat. No fat equals no taste).
  • 1 T lemon juice - the bottled worked fine but fresh would be the best
  • dash cayenne
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • fresh dill - if you have it, but I can't do without anymore. Go down to your nearest garden centre and get some herbs for a pot on your deck or window sill.
  • squirt of mustard - regular, dijon, or honey according to your taste
  • 1 or 2 T water
2) Poach your eggs - I like mine soft, maybe a scant 3 minutes or so in the pot

3) Assemble your bennies on toasted english muffin halves. Two per good appetite. Layer as follows - Muffin, bacon (or tomato), egg, and smother with sauce. Garnish with extra dill and Voila!

All you need to round out your brekky is a nice cup of fair trade, heavy on the cream, coffee.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Mexico Mission

I’m back on the blog. Haley has been picking up my slack for the past few weeks. Under a heavy load of report cards, a missions trip to Mexico, and a frantic semi-prepared return to term three at PCS, my food entries were muscled to the wayside. Nonetheless, I feel called to share my Mexico culinary experience.

A few weeks ago I traveled down to the top of the Baja in a convey of over-sized vans with thirty grade twelve students. Along with five adult leaders, the team’s goal was to build three houses for three Mexican families in need. Our goal (Joan and I), was to prepare food throughout the week to feed the unstoppable teenage metabolisms.

Homey, yet wanting in many obvious conventions, the kitchen at the Saint Vincent Guerro base became the center of our universe. Our base was located in a ‘residential’ neighbourhood, characterized by rutted dirt roads and stray dogs. A thick gate—never locked—shielded a square courtyard bordered by our sleeping quarters and kitchen. I enjoyed waking at five (really!) to smell the pink droop of flowers climbing the overhang outside the female chaperone quarters. The sky was also pink, less vibrantly so, and the roosters which began cawing at three a.m. continued to call across rows of Mexican houses. The lights in the kitchen were on. Joan, up since four, had trays of muffins ready to bake. Breakfast preparation began.

Days were busy as we skipped from breakfast to lunch, with a quick breather before dinner, when cooking began in earnest. I took to kneading dough or mixing cookies on the warm stone counter in the courtyard. Preparing pizza dough, sauce and toppings for forty people was an exciting challenge, particularly as the kitchen lacked an adequate supply of cookie sheets. We rummaged through the hodge podge shelves of equipment to unearth each and every bent and brittle pan. A lining of tin foil rendered the most useless pan pizza worthy (cookies, potatoes, and whatever else needed to be baked also found a home on this depressing army of aluminum). Another challenge proved to be the single oven. Sadly, the door refused to seal. If we found ourselves idle for a scrap of a second we leaned a hip against it. Eventually, one of the girls dreamed up a solution, a stack of deck chairs pressed against the handle. Checking the chicken became a bit of a battle. In addition, only one of the two fridges generated passably cold air. There was a sink that dripped, sudden loss temporary losses of propane…yet we rather enjoyed these little trials. They became a mark of the Mexico experience: make it work—tie it with twine, wet it with your spit, close it with chairs.

We also enjoyed shopping with our Spanish dictionaries in hand. It was an adventure to find sugar, produce, chorizo sausage, and all the rest. In the shops we communicated with locals, met two mice in the hands of ten-year-old shelf stockers, found giant pails of ice cream, and, of course, bought gallons of vanilla to bring back to Canada. Joan (my mother) and I drove one of the school vans along the highway running through these teensy Mexican towns. It was on one of these afternoon shopping trips that we spotted the store lined with massive piƱatas. We bought one, stuffed it with candy, and let the kids bash it open on the final night.

Chicken dinner, chocolate cake with cane sugar (it’s what they use!), breakfast tacos, tomato sauces, focaccia bread…our list of success grew with the week. We loved the hectic dinner times, with the hoard of kids, the frantic output of food onto the serving table, the last minute fear—did we make enough? Those boys are huge! It was such a pleasure to share, feed, and enjoy,

We also had a chance to try the local cuisine, and ate a few Mexican meals, including a barbacola, which is cooked in the earth. These inspired me and encouraged me to experiment. In Mexico, avocados and mangoes were inexpensive and readily available. One of my most favourite and simplest lunches combined the two. What follows are two recipes using the avocados and mangoes together. The first, the quesadillas, I made in Saint Vincent, the second, the halibut, I prepared in Victoria, using freshly caught fish. Both are simple, not even recipes really. I had the pleasure of cooking a mountain of these quesadillas on our propane griddle under a leafy tree in the courtyard in St Vincent.

Mango and Avocado Quesadillas

1 mango

1 avocado

I cup grated cheddar cheese

6 whole wheat flour tortillas

(Vary amounts to suite your tastes)

Peel the mango and cut it into slim one inch long slices. Cut the avocado in half. Remove the pit using the tip of a knife. Use a spoon to gently scoop out each half, keeping the fruit intact. Slice length-wise into narrow pieces.

Spay a grill or pan with cooking oil. If you have a grill, you can cook more than one quesadilla at once. Put a tortilla (or as many as will fit) on to the hot surface. Leave for five seconds, then flip. Then, place three pieces of avocado and three pieces of mango on half the tortilla. Don’t fill it too full. If your pieces are big, use only two of each.

Sprinkle with cheese. Fold in half like a card and cook for a couple minutes then flip and leave a couple minutes before removing from heat.

You can eat your tortillas as you make them, or store them in a just-warm over, or on a tray under the cover of tin foil.

Halibut with Mango and Avocado Salsa

For the Fish:

2 thick halibut fillets (you can substitute any white fish)

1 lemon

1 tsp olive or avocado oil (hard to come by but I bought it in Mexico)

Rub the fish with oil and place in a shallow dish. Squeeze lemon onto the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 350. Leave the fish to marinate while you prepare the salsa. (Let it rest for at least ten minutes.)

When you are ready, bake the fish for ten minutes-twenty minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. It should flake open when you press it with the side of a fork but still moist. Don’t let it dry out.

For the Salsa:

1 mango, peeled and diced

1 avocado, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp oil

1 tsp curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Use a spoon or your hands to gently toss.

When the fish is ready, transfer it to a plate or platter and top with the salsa. If you have too much salsa, save some to use later in a wrap. Although the fish should be covered in the topping.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jumpstart on Easter

A lot is going on at the Reems-Campbell household.. a new baby in September, a trip to Mexico last week, and a move next weekend. I am now in post-holiday grieving/procrastinating from packing, cooking and baking mode. Yesterday I made two lasagnas. Today I made hot cross buns. Yes, I know I'm a week early, but with our impending move the day after Good Friday I got cracking today.

I can't take the credit for this recipe -that goes to Joan. These are the time honoured buns, made on Good Friday, year after year at the Reems homestead. I have taken the liberty of swapping the customary fruit "peel" (you know, those chopped-up, unaturally-coloured pseudo-fruit bits that come out at Christmas), with cranberries. Not because I don't like peel, but because I typically make hot cross buns on a last-minute, nostalgic childhood Easter whim, and not wanting to rush to the store to find said peel, I always have my giant Costco bag of Craisins on hand.

Mom's Hot Cross Buns

1) Combine 2 cups warm water, 2 tsp sugar, and 4 tsp yeast

2) Add:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
2 T oil
2 cups raisins
1 cup fruit "peel" or dried cranberry or..
5 cups flour

3) Mix until smooth. Dough will be a bit sticky.

4) Let rise for 1 hour

5) Divide into 24 muffin tins

6) Let rise until double, about 45 minutes

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes

8) Drizzle on topping (Combine 3/4 c icing sugar with 1T cream or milk). Make crosses if you have a steady hand - you should let them cool a bit before you drizzle, but I'm a greedy pig and like to eat them when they're hot.