Posts Tagged ‘breakfast’

Crispy Polenta Topped with Creamed Spinach and Over Easy Egg

February 23rd, 2010
Polenta, Creamed Spinach, Egg

Polenta, Creamed Spinach, Egg

It all started innocently enough with an email from a friend. Her husband asked her for creamed spinach, and, overwhelmed by the 147,000 (as Googled) creamed spinach recipes, she asked if I had a recipe. However, there was a twist, “Preferably a truffle oil and no nutmeg or no cheese variety.” It has been for-ev-er since I’ve made a basic creamed spinach. Not since I fell absolutely in love with Ina Garten’s recipe for spinach gratin, which of course has nutmeg and cheese, and which you should make immediately because it is delicious.

In any event, I set out to make creamed spinach that very evening so I could give her an actual recipe rather than instructions for winging it, or giving her something I hadn’t tried. The easiest possible recipe is to saute some spinach in butter until it is nicely wilted, and then add some warm cream, salt, and pepper. But I wanted to give her something richer, creamier, more of the steakhouse variety. I couldn’t leave out the nutmeg. I think it absolutely belongs in creamed spinach, as it brings out the flavors of the sauce, but whatever you do in your kitchen is up to you. You could also drizzle a little truffle oil over it once it’s finished as an added touch.

But then, once I had an entire pot of creamed spinach, what would I do with it? Sure, I could be a glutton and eat it out of the pot standing at the kitchen counter, but I thought there must be some dish I could make with it, rather than just having it as the side to a steak. So I went shopping in my refrigerator. Aha! some polenta I had put in a dish to set after having it soft with sausages earlier in the week, and an egg.

I made the creamed spinach and set it aside to cool. I sauteed a round of polenta until it was extra-crispy on the outside,  topped it with some creamed spinach, and finished it off with an over easy egg. It is a pretty magical, satisfying dish, appropriate for any time of the day. With the addition of truffle oil, this would make a wonderful special-occasion brunch dish.

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach and Over Easy Egg

This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings of creamed spinach, which may be prepared and reheated up to two days ahead. Although the description here is for one serving, obviously you may use as many rounds of polenta and eggs to make however many servings you require. You will have enough creamed spinach for at least six servings of polenta with spinach and egg.

For the creamed spinach:Ingredients for Creamed Spinach
– 1.5 lbs. baby spinach
– 8 oz. whole milk
– 4 oz. heavy cream
– 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
– 1 large clove garlic, minced
– 1/4 stick (2T) butter
– 2 Tablespoons flour
– 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1. Bring 1.5 inches of water to boil in a very large pot. Salt the water well, add the spinach. Cover the pot for a moment to begin wilting, remove the lid, and stir the spinach gently until well wilted – approx. 1/3 to 1/4 of the volume you started with.

2. Drain the spinach in a colander, immediately running cold water over it to cool. When drained and cool enough to handle, squeeze the water out of it in handfuls, putting the squeezed spinach in a medium bowl lined with a paper towel as you go. Once thoroughly drained, chop the spinach into large pieces. Don’t worry that the spinach is stuck together, as it will come apart when added to the sauce.

3. Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat (or in the microwave – I heated it for 2.5 minutes at 3% power). Do not boil or simmer, you just want it warm.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan, and cook the onion and garlic until very soft, approximately 5 minutes.

5. Add the flour to the pot with the onions and garlic, and cook this together, stirring often, for a few minutes on low to cook the roux – you don’t want this to brown (although it will be fine if it does). It will be a pretty solid mass, break it into bits as you stir it.

6. Slowly add the heated milk/cream, whisking like a fiend to make sure there are no lumps. Cook this for 3 to 5 minutes or so. It will be relatively thick, like a thin porridge. If it is too thick, add more milk.

7. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the spinach in batches, stirring to blend well. Cook this for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until warmed throughout.

Set this aside while you prepare the rest of the dish. Alternatively, this can be cooled and refrigerated, and reheated the next day. Of course, the creamed spinach may be served as a side dish to any entree, or eaten out of the pot standing over the kitchen counter.

For the Crispy Polenta Cake, and Assembling the Dish:

If you have not made polenta, it is incredibly easy. Mark Bittman has a great video on making polenta that can be found here. Once you have cooked, soft polenta, spread it in an approximately 1 inch thick layer in a pan and place in the refrigerator to cool until set. Alternatively, use prepared polenta, which you may find sold in the supermarket, packaged in a cylindrical tube.

Use a cookie cutter or rim of a large glass to cut a 3 inch round of set polenta. Alternatively, use a knife to cut any shape you wish, or slice a 1 inch thick slice of prepared polenta. Heat approximately two teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the polenta cake and saute until golden and crispy on the outside. (If sauteing several rounds, increase the amount of olive oil, using a larger pan). Set polenta cake on a serving dish and top with creamed spinach. Rinse the saute pan so you can use it to cook your egg.

Prepare the egg(s). (If you would like instruction on preparing an over easy egg, I like this video from Top the creamed spinach and polenta cake with the egg. Season the dish with a grind or two of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Crispy Polenta Cake

Crispy Polenta Cake

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach

Crispy Polenta Cake Topped with Creamed Spinach

The Assembled Dish


Blue Corn Muffins with Chile and Cheese

February 16th, 2010

In the first week of January, there was a tweet in my Twitter feed from Amy I., writer of the Playing House blog, that read, “Seriously you guys, run, don’t walk to make these chile cheese corn muffins from The Freckled Citizen.” OK, so I walked; but when I finally got there it was worth it.

These are savory muffins, with a crisp, sweet crust. The green chiles lend just a bit of heat and peppery flavor, while the corn kernels add an exciting texture and a cooling component to the spiciness of the chiles. Blue cornmeal has an earthy, less-sweet flavor than its yellow cousin, and gives the muffins a unique southwestern color. They are wonderful served as an accompaniment to chili con carne or black-bean soup, or simply on their own, warmed with a bit of cold butter for breakfast.

The original recipe is from the “Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook,” a book I do not own but is now high on my wish list.

Blue Corn Muffins
with Chile and Cheese

by Susan D. Curtis
From The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook, Gibbs Smith, 1998
© Gibbs Smith, 1998

Yields 6 extra-large muffins, 12 large muffins, or 18 small muffins.

– 1/2 cup softened butter
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 5 large eggs
– 1/2 cup buttermilk (milk may be substituted)
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup blue cornmeal
– 2 teaspoons baking power
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
– 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
– 3/4 cup roasted, peeled, diced green chile*

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins well or insert paper liners.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
5. Stir in the corn, cheese, chiles and mix well. Spoon the batter into muffin tins. Bake about 25 minutes, until just firm.

* Chiles should be prepared prior to assembling the batter. For this recipe, I used two poblano chiles. You could ramp up the heat by adding a roasted jalapeño or two. There are several ways of roasting chiles, but in this instance I pre-heated the broiler with the oven’s rack in the topmost position, then placed the peppers directly under the heating element. I turned the peppers with tongs occasionally, and carefully, until they were blistered and black on all sides, then removed them from the oven. When they were cool enough to handle, I removed the blackened skin, stem, and seeds, and diced the flesh. -taetopia

Portuguese Orange-Olive Oil Cake

November 10th, 2009

Orange-Olive Oil CakeA couple of weeks ago I began hearing whispers about a certain cake that was so very moist and flavorful, and once you’ve heard from more than three people on three completely separate occasions that there is something you MUST try, well then, you must try it.

David Leite
is one of my favorite essayists on food. He has a new book out, “The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast,” which is receiving a lot of very good press. I also think he’s a natural on TV. I am not as familiar with his recipes, nor am I with Portuguese cuisine, but after trying this cake, I’m sold on both and am looking forward to trying more.

This is the perfect tea cake. Or dinner cake. Or breakfast cake. Or alone-in-the-closet-with-a-fork-cake. It is wonderfully moist, sweet but not too sweet, with a mouth-watering aroma of orange from both the juice and zest. David says on his site that it took 13 variations to get it right. Oh, did he get it right!

Pay attention to a few important notes: The first is to use a light-colored bundt pan. Mine is not exactly dark, but not light colored, and the outside of the cake was definitely a darker brown than I would have liked if I were to present it whole. This did not ruin the flavor, and could have been masked by a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but just a word of caution. Second, the batter will have a much MUCH thinner consistency than one is used to for cake. Third, David says to let the cake rest a day or two. We had some the day after it was made, and then the day after that. I can report that the cake on day 2 was even more delicious than day 1. I urge you to visit David’s website to watch a video of how it is made (you can get a sense how thin the consistency of the batter is), and get the recipe from the source.

Portuguese Orange-Olive Oil Cake
by David Leite
from The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast

Make sure to use a light-colored Bundt pan. A dark one will turn out a cake that sticks and is unpleasantly brown. Since this cake only gets better with age, don’t even think about taking a bite until the day after you make it, or even the day after that.

– Nonstick baking spray with flour
– 4 to 5 large naval oranges
– 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
– 5 large eggs
– 3 cups granulated sugar
– 1 1/2 cups mild extra-virgin olive oil
– Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling


1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above, and crank up the heat to 350°F (175°C). Coat a 12-cup Bundt or tube pan with baking spray and set aside.

2. Finely grate the zest of 3 of the oranges, then squeeze 4 of them. You should have 1 1/2 cups of juice; if not, squeeze the 5th orange. Set aside.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until well-combined, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar and continue beating until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. On low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and oil, starting and ending with the flour, and beat until just a few wisps of flour remain. Pour in the orange juice and zest and whirl for a few seconds to bring the batter together.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 1 1/4 hours. If the top is browning too much as the cake bakes, cover lightly with foil. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes.

6. Turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely, then place it in a covered cake stand and let it sit overnight. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.