Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Quintessential Breakfast

How many of you are eating breakfast? If so, what do you eat? I rarely eat breakfast when I was in elementary and high school or even in college. Even if I did, I never seemed to enjoy it. But when my family and I do eat out for breakfast, that's the time I savored the moment. I still remember during holidays, J would wake up early in the morning to pick me up so we could have a long, slow breakfast that would lasts for hours. I appreciate it when mornings are slow and you get to take pleasure in the conversation with your loved ones without any gadgets on hand.

My usual breakfast in school (if there's kitchen operation) is omelette or overeasy eggs, toast bread with butter or rice,  type of processed meat, usually bacon and some fruit. Sometimes, with waffles with blueberry preserved, whipped cream and pancake syrup. When I'm hungry, I eat everything and even if i'm not that hungry, most of the time I end up feeling sleepy and lethargic. But I would eat the same thing over again the following day.

My breakfast at home is not like the one in school. I don't have the luxury of time to prepare that kind of meal everyday. We did have eggs, bacon, corned beef, pancakes, bread and rice but on different days. Sometimes, I would serve leftover food from dinner for breakfast. J wakes up early in the morning so he would usually have his hot chocolate and if there's fruit in the chiller, he would eat that too. If there's leftover granola, he would also indulge with it. I also love those nutritious and nourishing granola but I want to eat something different.

My cravings every morning are eclectic. Sometimes I don't know what to eat because I used to feel nauseous. So, I eat crackers. But there were mornings that I would eat something unhealthy like luncheon meat or bacon and fried rice and I would feel bad afterwards. There were days that I only eat in small portions like boiled egg with salt, bananas or just chicken broth.

I'm taking advantage of my slow mornings while I'm on leave from work. I felt my body responds differently these days so I'm taking it easy. I will reward myself with a breakfast platter consists of medium boiled egg, asparagus, some feta cheese (I actually prefer goat's cheese), olives, white beans in tomato sauce and crusty bread. Some prosciutto and smoked salmon would be nice too when I'm allowed to eat them already. And if there's avocado, the breakfast platter would have been perfect.

My Breakfast Platter
The idea for this breakfast is to assemble them on a plate. There's no exact amount for this recipe. I can always change it depending on my cravings but the asparagus, the egg and (a different type of) bread will always be there. It's a refreshing change from my usual breakfast.

I wonder what my next breakfast would be. But for now this is my quintessential breakfast. What's yours?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Caramelized Onion Tart with Emmenthal Cheese and Bacon

The sweet aroma of caramelized onions fills the entire kitchen as it cools down. I can still smell it with a hint of fresh thyme as I pass by the stove to get a jar of flour from the cupboard to make the pastry dough. In addition to the onions, there's this thick, fat slab of bacon that I can't resist to add. Although a tart can live without cheese, how can you resist a good Swiss cheese such as Emmenthal. 

I cried a bit as I was slicing 6 onions just for this tart. I actually thought it's good for the sinus. But as I cook it on high heat and allow it to soften, the onions starts to release it's fragrant aroma. As a I lower the heat, the onions start to do it's job, to caramelize it's natural sugars. It takes time. Good food takes time go cook just like these onions. Once the onions are caramelized, I added the vinegar and a bit of water to deglaze the sucs from the bottom of the pan. The flavor is there and you want that flavor back into your onions. It smells good. From pungent and sharp to sweet and creamy caramelized onions. How amazing is that.  

Some people may not understand how food is done. That's okay too. But when they see that there are many steps involved in making a dish, somehow they do grasp the idea that handcrafted foods need good and real quality ingredients handled with tender, love and care. I love using kitchen equipment such as the food processor, the Kitchen Aid and blender. It makes your life easier. But if you do things the industrial way like using preservatives and artificial ingredients for most of your products, you lose the integrity and identity of the food. I believe the craft of the cook should be still highlighted and recognized. As a cook myself, I want to maintain that professional level. 

It may take time to make as the dough needs to be rested at a certain after it has been formed and after it has been shaped into the tart mold, then baking the tart shell and cooling it down before adding the filling. But I just need to make this tart. And the cool weather is perfect for it. The dough is forgiving. 

Actually, this onion tart is not for me. Every Tuesday night, we have Bible studies. J and I have our own group while J's aunts have another group. We do our Bible studies on the same night but separately. Before we start, we have dinner first. Each member would voluntarily bring food for everyone. That's how we do it ever since. Now that we're married, J doesn't have to buy food anymore, I cook dinner instead. For J's aunts' Bible study group, I would only prepare snacks and I think this onion tart is a perfect choice. I can prepare it one day ahead, chill it and serve it the following day at room temperature or even slightly warm.

Caramelized Onion Tart with Emmenthal Cheese and Bacon

200 g all purpose flour
120 g unsalted butter, cold
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3-4 tbsp cold water

4  tbsp olive oil
700 grams white onion (around 6 onions)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and white pepper to taste

1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 T water
90 grams picnic bacon
85 grams Emmenthal cheese
3 whole eggs
250 ml sour cream (or 125 ml each of milk and cream)

To start the crust, make sure all the ingredients are cold before making the dough. Combine the salt and the flour and grate the butter using the large hole of a box grater. Toss the butter and flour, then rub the butter and the flour by pinching it in between your fingers until the dough looks like a size of a couscous. Add the water, a bit at a time to form the dough. Transfer the dough onto a work surface and bring the dough together by kneading it light. Wrap and flatten the dough and let it rest in the chiller for around 30-45 minutes.

To roll the dough, dust the work area and the dough with flour. Roll the dough out to 1/4" - inch thickness. Transfer to a greased 9"-inch tart plan. shape and place into the chiller for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat your oven to 425° degrees Fahrenheit (or 220 degrees Celsius)/

To start the filling, thinly slice the onions. Heat a large fry pan over high heat. Add the oil and onion and sweat the onions for about 5 to 10 minutes until they are wilted. Reduce the heat and cook for another 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Remove the thyme leaves from the stem and add to the onions. Once the moisture has evaporated, season with salt and stir the mixture every 20 seconds as the caramelization will occur quickly. This will ensure even cooking. Off the season, deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and water. Scrape to clean the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and white pepper and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, cut the bacon into lardons and cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes until golden brown.

Poke the holes into the dough with a fork. Line the dough with a parchment paper and add dried beans to add weight to the dough. This will prevent the dough from puffing up. Bake the dough for 20 minutes until the side crust is lightly brown. Remove the parchment paper and the dried beans and bake for another 15 minutes until the crust is cooked. Allow to cool down slightly before adding the filling.

While the crust is baking, grate the cheese, gather the eggs and the sour cream.

To finish the tart, turn the heat down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or (175 degrees Celsius). In a large bowl, combine the cheese, the eggs and the sour cream, add the caramelized onions and the bacon, season with salt and white pepper. Transfer the mixture on the cooled crust and spread it out evenly. Bake for appromimately 30-45 minutes or until the top is set and golden brown. Allow to cool down before removing the pan. Slice and serve.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Green Tomato on Ciabatta

I'm starting to eat bread lately. I used to hate the sweet aroma and taste of a fluffy white bread. Actually, until now I still don't like it. But if you give me an artisan bread, breads that are made traditionally on the same day without the use of chemicals and preservatives, and the outside is crusty and the inside is chewy, then I would it eat.

The closest one to our place is inside the Banilad Town Center where there's an Italian bread stall that sells a selection of breads and pastries. It may not be the best but my palette is already satisfied with their ciabatta and olive bread. Even J likes it. We have yet to try the breads in another bread shop but so far we haven't passed by.

I really miss L'Artizan Boulangerie when I was still in Manila. The bread has so much flavor in it. It may be expensive but it's well worth your money. When I visited Manila last year, there are more bread shops that has opened and it's hard to choose which one to try first. I would like to make breads again when good ingredients are available, but for now I'll leave that to the experts.

When you have a good tasting bread with a good texture, the least you can do is to keep it simple. The first time we bought it, the only thing I did is to toast the bread, slice it in half, smear it with butter, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. J asked for seconds.

Yesterday morning, I have tomatoes that are still green and green tomatoes with salt and pepper actually tastes good. I toasted the bread with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and placed the sliced tomatoes on top and season it with salt and pepper and it was wonderful. I think the baby is also happy.

Sometimes, the best things in life are just to keep things simple.