The first time you cook for someone can be a bit nerve wracking. You hope what you make is to their taste and that it turns out well. You don’t want to make anything too complicated as it presents more opportunities for error but you also don’t want to make anything too simple because you want to impress. The choices are endless and if you’re as indecisive as I am (if you ever dine with me, take away my menu the first time I declare I know what I want) it can be an endless cycle of choosing and doubting. Choosing what to cook for someone I have over is so hard for me! Sometimes I plan weeks in advance so that I can properly prepare and maybe even practice once or twice. I know to some people this seems ridiculous- if someone is over shouldn’t they just appreciate and at least pretend to enjoy what you make for them? Yes, maybe. But I want a guest to think on the meal later and I would like to create a memory with them- I know, so dramatic.
Baked eggs are really simple. The reason I chose this dish to cook recently for a first homemade meal together was because I think brunch at home is special for the average person. Maybe a scrambled egg in the morning before work or a boiled egg on a lunch time salad is mundane, but baked eggs are a bit novel and present themselves nicely. A handful of ingredients create a lot of flavor for just set whites and a runny yolk. Herbs and garlic add freshness and zip and a dry, crumbly cheese creates the perfect broiled crust on top of soft eggs. Served with some crusty bread that has been well toasted, it is the perfect start to a Saturday.
For a bit of heartiness I added some sautéed mushrooms. During my weekend in Tampa about a month ago my friend Katharine told me about how her British mum adds a splash of soy sauce to the butter in a pan before adding mushrooms to brown. Upon trying it I learned that the touch of soy enhances the already umami richness of mushrooms. What is the not-so-secret secret behind perfectly browned mushrooms? Don’t mess with them too much in the pan and don’t crowd them. Give them time to sit in the butter and sizzle away and make sure there is plenty of room in the pan so that they really sauté and don’t steam. The beautifully done mushrooms hidden beneath baked eggs make it an even more special treat- one that goes well with good company on the balcony during a sunny spring day.
You will need two ramekins or gratin dishes for this dish. I prefer gratin dishes because it allows the eggs to cook evenly and it lends a larger surface area for the broiler which translates to more crispy cheese crust.
Author: Sonja Bradfield
2 tablespoons of butter, separated
a splash of soy sauce (I used about half a teaspoon)
4 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (I used creminis)
2 teaspoons of cream or whole milk, separated
¼ cup of fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon, thyme, etc.
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup of dry, sharp cheese such as parmesan or romano, grated
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan or cast iron skillet that is very hot over medium high heat.
Add the splash of soy sauce to the melted butter and add the mushrooms.
Let the mushrooms sit for about five minutes in the pan undisturbed until nicely brown. Meanwhile mince the fresh herbs and garlic together until fine.
Flip the mushrooms and let them cook on the other side for another five minutes. Set aside.
Turn on the broiler to high and set two gratin dishes or ramekins on a cookie sheet. Add half the tablespoon of remaining butter to each pan and a teaspoon of cream or milk to each. Put the dishes in the oven for about 30 seconds until the butter and cream are bubbling.
Take out the dishes (on the sheet) and put half of the mushrooms into each of them. Crack three eggs into each ramekin and top evenly with the herb and garlic mixture. Sprinkle half the cheese onto each dish.
Put the cookie sheet under the broiler and let it cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cook until the egg is just setting and remove immediately (the egg will continue cooking when you take it out of the oven).
Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper on top and serve with toasted crusty bread.
Hello stranger! It’s been a while since you’ve seen anything on here… and I could list several excuses as to why I’ve neglected this blog but it all boils down to the fact that I’ve been very distracted and a little lazy. Since my last post (over two months ago!?) a lot has happened. I’ve moved into my own place! Yes, this 29 year old lives on her own again (they don’t call us the boomerang generation for nothing). I think 9 months at home was a sufficient amount of family bonding time after 5 years abroad. Moving has been a bit of a long, drawn out process though since the only thing I saved from my last apartment in the US was a few boxes of cookware. After going through my boxes of kitchen stuff I must say that early 20s Sonja had an impressive collection of gadgets. I found a blowtorch. Who has that in storage? Anyway, I have a few of the essentials, such as a bed and a sofa but with these depressing blank white walls, I still feel like a bit of a squatter.
My office life is not conducive to healthy eating. For the past month we’ve been preparing for the holidays which includes multiple tastings with potential caterers to provide food for our holiday party and gift basket after gift basket full of sugar loaded treats from other companies we work with. It might sound as though it could be delightful, but after the tenth gift basket of stale cookies and strangely colored cheese “food” with tasteless crackers, you get holiday food fatigue.
I really love hand drawn illustrations of food so when I first came across this beautiful calendar on the internet I knew I had to have it. I promptly ordered it a few months ago and it’s been sitting in my room waiting to be hung on my wall. If you flip through the calendar, you see colorful and detailed drawings of fruits and vegetables and each month has its own unique illustration. The artist who draws these calendars, Maria Schoettler, has created a new calendar every year for the past few years. She also has other food related illustrations on her site, so be sure to check out her shop. She is based in California so her calendar reflects the seasonality of produce there, but despite the fact that I live in the Mid-Atlantic region on the opposite side of the country I think her calendar serves as an important reminder to eat as seasonally and locally as possible, not only for the personal health benefit of eating fresh produce at its prime, but also supporting local businesses and the environmental benefit of eating food that hasn’t traveled halfway across the world.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to a local farmers market with my dad. I had lured him into going there with me by buying our family some delicious buffalo sausages from a local Virginia farm on my previous visit for dinner. He’s a huge fan of buffalo meat and he wanted to check out all that they had to offer. This lead to a bit of a buffalo meat shopping spree, which involved the purchase of various cuts to use in soups, stews and braises. We will even attempt to smoke a buffalo brisket for Christmas this year. Besides the delicious meat we procured, we browsed the various produce vendors and stumbled across an almost freakishly large squash. It was labeled as a type of heirloom pumpkin but it looked just like a butternut squash. It’s neck was at least four times longer than an average butternut squash, and it curved into a hook-like loop. When we had it weighed at the time of purchase, it was nearly 9 pounds! Before I cut it up for the gratin dish, my brother wore it around his neck like a yoke and walked about the kitchen. I regret that I didn’t take a photograph of it, because it was truly a marvel.
Before I became interested in cooking, I had no idea how weightless a cranberry would seem in the palm of my hand, or how smooth and glossy the surface of it would be. I didn’t know that once you cut into it with a knife that it was white inside, with the tiniest of seeds inside its four chambers (the hollow pockets hidden inside that allow these berries to float in a flooded bog at harvest time). Having had cranberries only in odd and canned-shaped sauce forms, or as a “juice” that was often used in my college era cocktails, I didn’t know that biting into a fresh cranberry would make my mouth pucker and my whole face react to the extreme tartness.
I have a cheese abuse problem. The other day I opened the refrigerator to find six or seven wrapped blocks of cheese. I also found two rounds of fresh goat cheese that I had no recollection of buying. I thought I was going nuts until I asked my brother where they came from and it turned out his friend had brought it over. Okay good, I’m not losing it. My brother really missed an opportunity to start gaslighting me. You can get me next time I buy an unreasonable amount of some food item, bro. But for now, what will I do with all this cheese?
…eat it, of course, but the real question is: how?
This month was a bit slow on the blog front. I only posted two recipes and I attribute a lot of that to a) traveling or keeping busy every weekend and b) not having enough light to shoot with when I get home at night. I know these are unacceptable excuses and for the month of November I have resolved to post at least once a week, if not twice. Despite the lack of posts, a lot of fun and interesting things went on in October. Here are my tasty snaps:
1. First, I got to finally try oysters from the Rappahannock Oyster Co! I’ve been hearing about these oysters for a while now and luckily they have an oyster bar located within DC’s Union Market, a great place to go if you are a foodie and want to try several delicious (and often local) things. Rappahannock Oyster Co cultivates their oysters in a sustainable way on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. I ordered a dozen oysters (four each of the three they carry) for me and my friend Katharine, who was celebrating her birthday and had been furloughed (stupid shut down!).
It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything and in my last post I complained about the unseasonably hot weather. After that we had a week of dreary, rainy weather and ever since it’s been very, very cold. I love colder weather so I’m fully embracing the change in seasons by eating… salad! I know it seems a bit odd to crave salad in this kind of weather, but you need to understand that when you live for an extended amount of time overseas, there are certain things that you develop insatiable cravings for. And for me, it was arugula and goat cheese. I saw arugula in restaurants and maybe once in a while in a grocery store, but it wasn’t easy to find. I remember coming back to the States and being completely overwhelmed by all the salad green choices in the grocery store. It’s something you really take for granted until you can’t have it anymore. As for goat cheese, I would get it gifted to me whenever anyone visited me from the US (along with an assortment of all sorts of delicious cheese that is hard to find in Korea or very expensive there).
I was really excited about it becoming cooler last weekend but the weather suddenly became incredibly hot for October, peaking in the upper 80s. Today as I prepared this casserole, between the sautéing and the broiler on high I was sweating profusely and wiping my brow between photo set ups. Although fall hasn’t really arrived yet it doesn’t mean that one can’t enjoy some fall produce. Perhaps I can will autumn to start by eating a lot of squash…
This dish has been on regular rotation at dinner time because it’s simple to make and delicious. The creamy ricotta and sour cream combined together make it seem rich but it’s balanced out by the healthy strands of spaghetti squash and the sautéd kale. A crust of salty pecorino romano lends nice flavor and texture to finish the dish.