Tag Archives: fresh

Brie & Strawberry Jam Omelet with Strawberry Panzanella Salad

13 Apr

It’s been a little quieter than usual around here lately. We’ve been dealing with some career changes and general life shifts, not to mention unavoidable winter colds and flu bugs over the last few months. All of that has been keeping us more occupied in ‘real life’, which has meant less time for us to devote to our blogging life and cooking in general.

We’re slowly getting back into a groove, but the last few weeks we’ve been leaning towards cooking meals that are simple and fast while still being interesting.

Last week I reached into my ‘archives’ when we wanted to make a meatless dinner that was in line with the changing weather and freshness of spring.

I discovered the unexpected pleasure of the brie and strawberry jam omelet many years ago on a visit to Montreal. It stood out for me on the brunch menu at Orange Café in the NDG area of my hometown. I rarely use this adjective when describing food, but I have to say that this is one ‘sexy’ omelet. It’s the perfect combination of textures, flavors and even colors on the plate. I even made it for Neil when we first started dating in an attempt to impress his advanced palate.

Once I started making it at home for brunch and dinner, the very idea of it inspired other omelet combinations like cheddar and spicy mango chutney, or havarti and pear & ginger preserves.

But this one’s the ultimate. L’original.

This time around I used goat brie for a little more earthiness and Greaves Rhubarb Strawberry Jam, which I absolutely love. There’s not much to this simple omelet, but the key for me is using just the egg whites. With the egg whites providing a neutral base, the cheese and jam really shine and stand out. I also like the texture of an all-egg white omelet better than what you get when you include the yolks.

But we needed a side dish. Something that could stand up to the fabulousness of the omelet and complement it at the same time.

Somehow the idea of a fresh strawberry panzanella came to me. Panzanella is a rustic Italian bread salad that’s usually made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions and a simple vinaigrette. I always order it when I spot it on restaurant menus because it’s usually delicious, however simple.

Neil was the one who actually executed our take on the classic salad after we talked about some ideas, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. The sweetness of the fresh strawberries worked so well with the tartness of the balsamic and the shreds of basil. And we actually used fresh bread instead of day-old and found that it gave a really nice spongy consistency on the inside, and a toasty crunch on the outside. It was a great texture combination and the flavors of each ingredient came through. It really was a great complement to the omelet. We ooh’ed and ahh’ed with every fresh, tasty and flavorful bite.

What better way to welcome spring to our table?!

Brie & Strawberry Jam Omelet with Strawberry Panzanella Salad (serves 2)

For Strawberry Panzanella Salad:

Approx 8 fresh strawberries (3-4 per person)

Good quality balsamic vinegar

Pepper

Approx 3/4 to half a loaf of crusty bread (we used Brick Street Bakery‘s wheat bread)

Olive oil

Sea Salt

1 clove garlic, sliced into thin slices

1 handful of basil leaves, chopped

Cucumber, chopped

Arugula

For Omelet:

Approx 6-7 thick slices of brie (we used goat brie)

Good quality strawberry jam (we used rhubarb strawberry)

Approx 6-8 egg whites (I actually used egg whites from a carton – so much easier!)

Cooking spray

To Assemble Salad:

Slice the strawberries and add them to a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar and a grind of pepper. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Cut the bread into cubes and toss with a few drizzles of olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt.

Slice the garlic into thin slices that will be easy to remove later from the pan.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and cook garlic for a few minutes. Lower the heat to medium low, add bread cubes into pan and cook for a good 7-10 minutes until nice and brown on the outside.

Remove the bread cubes from the pan, leaving the garlic behind, and set aside to cool.

When ready to assemble, add the cooled bread cubes to a bowl. Add in a little bit of arugula. You don’t want to add as much as you would in a regular salad, the bread and strawberries are the main ingredients here. Add the chopped cucumber and basil. Drizzle in some good quality olive oil and toss into the salad with a little bit of sea salt.

Spoon the balsamic strawberries into the salad, reserving some of the liquid. Mix the salad and taste. Add more of the balsamic to taste. Toss everything together well and serve.

To Assemble Omelet:

Spray an omelet pan with a little bit of cooking spray and heat the pan over medium low heat.

Add in the egg whites and leave them for a few minutes to firm up. Slide a thin spatula around the edges to lift and separate from the pan.

Layer the slices of brie down the middle of the omelet or just off to one side, depending on how you like to fold your omelet. I decided to fold the two sides in so I layered my ingredients into the middle but you can also attempt to flip one side onto the other. Spoon a generous amount of jam onto the brie.

Fold in the sides and slide the spatula underneath to loosen the omelet from the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes to let the cheese melt and jam warm through. If you’re feeling daring, you can flip the omelet over and let it cook on the other side for a few seconds so the brie melts on both ends and the jam gets sticky and cooks as it oozes out of the edges.

Cut the omelet in half to serve two and plate with some Strawberry Panzanella salad.

Baked Zucchini Blossoms

27 Jul

Baked Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini blossoms (a.k.a. zucchini flowers) are things of beauty – small, fragile, and in Toronto only available for a brief window of time around July/August. While I’ve enjoyed them in many restaurants over the years, I’ve never attempted to buy and prepare them at home. But our recent trip to Italy – where the growing season is longer, the blossoms are sold in markets everywhere you turn, and they’re as prevalent on most restaurant menus as pasta – allowed us to go zucchini blossom crazy. So when we had the chance to buy a bunch last week, we didn’t hesitate to do so.

The most common preparation for zucchini blossoms is to cover in a light batter and fry them. This is also my favorite way to eat them. But for my first foray into cooking zucchini blossoms, I decided I didn’t want to get into the mess and extra calories associated with frying them. Instead, inspired by Jenny’s sister’s recent success with preparing baked kale chips, I decided a quick trip to the oven was in store for these babies.

After preheating the oven to 400 C, I tossed my cleaned zucchini blossoms in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Then I laid them out on a non-stick baking sheet and popped them in the oven for 15 minutes or so. They came out lightly crisped and lightly salted (though I did end up adding another grind of salt to the finished product). Easy and delicious.

While I’ll probably attempt to make battered and fried zucchini blossoms before the season is over – perhaps stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy, as we had them in Rome – it’s nice to know that I can bake them in a pinch and they still taste great.

Scallops and ramps

22 Apr

It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything here. I could blame writer’s block for zapping the ability to communicate. Instead, I’ll blame the wife… with an explanation, of course (so I don’t have to sleep on the couch tonight!) She’s a TV producer and has been on a shoot the past couple of weeks that has kept her working for up to 18 hours a day, leaving me alone for dinners. Since I tend to order in more and cook less when I’m forced into the bachelor lifestyle, opportunities to post our culinary adventures will naturally drop.

Fortunately, the crazy shoot is now done and we’re back to a normal-ish schedule. To celebrate this and, more importantly, mark our six-month wedding anniversary, I decided a good meal was finally in order. Inspiration hit after a trip to St. Lawrence Market. We needed something fresh. Something rejuvenating. Something spring. Seared fennel-dusted scallops on roasted carrot puree with sautéed ramps and baby bok choy.

I’ve seared scallops several times and am finally getting the hang of it, and pureeing veggies is child’s play (Note: don’t let your child play with the blender). But this was my first experience with cooking ramps, also known as wild leeks for their similar flavour to regular leeks (those ramps are a little more reminiscent of garlic and onions). They’re revered by chefs and foodies not only for their taste, but also for their relative scarcity – ramps are one of the first edibles to emerge from the ground in the spring, but have a growing season that can last mere weeks.

Ramps are also, I discovered, a pain in the ass to clean. You have to pull off the roots, soak them in water, remove the papery “skin” that covers each stalk. But once they’re clean, the whole thing – bulb and leaf – is edible and full of amazing flavour. While the whole meal turned out great, we both became devout ramp fans.

Read on for the recipe (serves two).

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