Avocado Toast

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  This is more a how-to-make-this-fantastic-avocado-toast than a true recipe.  So simple, it can hardly be called a recipe.  It is basically fork-mashed avocado with a splash of lime juice and a grind of pepper spread over thick cut whole grain toasted bread, topped with creamy feta, juicy tomato slices,  chopped fresh basil and finished with a perfectly cooked sunny side up egg fried in olive oil so it gets crispy edges. Sooooo good!  An exciting start to any day.

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Serves 4.

Provençal Mahi~Mahi En Papillote

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“Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?”  Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence

Cooking “En papillote”  is a fancy way to say a  dish is cooked in a packet, usually made out of parchment paper, which seals in all the flavorful juices as it bakes.  It is so easy, it can get a weeknight meal on the table in mere minutes. The whole packet is brought to the table at each guest’s place and with a fourish, cut open with scissors, to simultaneously release the sublime aromas  and reveal the beautiful dish.  It is fun and dramatic.  In this particular dish I chose Provençal flavors to accompany Mahi-Mahi fillets.

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The measurements are approximate. For each serving, on a piece of parchment paper about 12″ wide, off-center place a dab of butter and spread thinly sliced onions and minced garlic about the length of the fish fillet. Add the fish fillet and season simply with salt and pepper.  Scatter chopped fresh tomatoes, sliced Kalamata olives, more minced garlic, slivers of fresh basil and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or white wine.  Add capers if you like them.  The edges are then  folded from one end to the other, bottom to top and tucking the ends under to create a half moon pillow.  Brush a light coating of oil on the packet before baking so it browns and crisps up nicely as it bakes.

The packets are baked at 425F for 10-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish fillet, on a baking sheet.  Use a spatula to transfer the packets to each serving plate.  Voilà!  Provençal Mahi~Mahi En Papilotte!  Make sure to serve some crusty bread to sop up the flavorful cooking juices.

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Provence trip, 1994

Scene from a Provence trip, 1994

Taking my talented fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday on a trip to Provence today!

 

Spring Bouquet In a Radicchio Vase~DIY Flower Arranging Tutorial

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“A house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or not the sun be shining outside.”  A.A. Milne

All at once my garden has burst into bloom and there are so many gorgeous flowers to cut and arrange.  Overnight the daffodils, Ice Follies, have opened up and are in abundance for cutting.  I love using unusual containers for flower arranging.   I thought the purple of a head of radicchio would compliment these white and yellow beauties and suit their size.

imageFor this project you will need a head of radicchio, pruners, a bunch of flowers, oasis, a  paring knife and a serrated grapefruit  spoon.  Working on newspaper, cut a rectangular shape from the top of the radicchio, ensuring you don’t cut through the bottom.  Using the serrated spoon, remove the lettuce in the center until you have a cavity that can hold your bouquet.  Cut a piece of oasis to fit in this cavity.  Soak the oasis in water. Place in the cavity and arrange your flowers in the radicchio. The daffodils’ stems in my arrangment were just too soft to poke through the oasis, so I tied them with an elastic band and placed them in a small glass votive filled with water, which I concealed in the center of the lettuce in place of the oasis.  Once you have cut the top of the lettuce you will be able to gently peel back some of the leaves to give the “vase” a pretty ruffled edge.  Whimsical and so darling!  A trio of these would be just gorgeous in the center of a spring table.

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To see some other vegetable vases, please check out my asparagus-wrapped rose bouquet here or my snow pea-azalea arrangement here.

Daffodils by Berthe Morrisot, 1885, Private Collection  Image courtesy of wikiart.org

Daffodils by Berthe Morrisot, 1885, Private Collection Image courtesy of wikiart.org

Sharing this flower arrangement with Angie and the talented bloggers at Fiesta Friday!

Spring Pea and Edamame Salad with Shaved Pecorino

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This salad is one of my favorite spring dishes and always very popular.  It is a salad that holds up well, can easily be adapted for a crowd and really livens up a box lunch.  Its bright citrusy notes with fresh mint satisfy our spring cravings for fresh flavors.  It is great on its own or as a side.

There are many ways to modify the recipe.  I have made it with all edamame, red onions instead of scallions and feta cheese instead of pecorino.  The possibilities are endless.  Make it totally your own!

The nutitional punch this salad packs is impressive.  Edamame is one of of those star legumes:  good source of protein, high in fiber, rich in vitamins A and C and a good source of iron and calcium.  Just 1/2 cup provides the fiber of 4 slices of whole wheat bread and the iron of a 4 oz  chicken breast!(WebMD)  Fava beans are a great source of folate and manganese as well as fiber and iron.(healthyeating.sfgate.com)   This salad is not only tasty, it totally rocks on the nutritional front!

imageSPRING EDAMAME AND PEA SALAD WITH SHAVED PECORINO Adapted from Sara Foster

2 c shelled edamame, fresh or frozen

2 c green peas, fresh or frozen

2 c fava beans, fresh or frozen

4 green onions, sliced thinly

4 T chopped fresh mint

2 oz of shaved pecorino cheese

Dressing:  juice and zest of 2 small lemons; 6 T white vinegar; 1/2 c olive oil; sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook edamame, fava beans and peas according to package directions in salted water.  You want to keep them al dente, not mushy.  Plunge them in ice water to stop the cooking. Place in a serving bowl and add the green onions and chopped mint.  Make the dressing by mixing the vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice together.  Whisk in the oil slowly, emulsifying the dresssing.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss with the edamame mixture.  Garnish with the cheese and serve.

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Girl Shelling Peas, 1881, Samuel Lukes Fildes Image courtesy of Tumblr

Girl Shelling Peas, 1881, Samuel Lukes Fildes
Image courtesy of http://www.tumblr.com

Sharing this salad with the fabulous bloggers at Fiesta Friday cohosted by Juliana@Foodie on Board and Hilda@Along the Grapevine.

Forcing Branches Indoor

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“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.  The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.”  Henry Van Dyke

Many cold-weary plant lovers can force branches for a taste of spring.  Forcing branches indoors is a rewarding gardening project when it is still too cold to be digging in the dirt.  Cut branches offer a sculptural simplicity in of themselves and provide stark arrangements with no need to embellish with other flowers or foliage.  Forcing blooms out of these branches can fulfil a craving for color and fragrance now if Mother Nature is not obliging.

Forcing is possible because most ornamental shrubs and trees set their flower buds during the previous season.  Once those buds have undergone a period of dormancy of at least 6 weeks of cold temperature, they can be ready to bloom.   If you are trying your hand at forcing for the first time, forsythia is the easiest and almost always foolproof branch to force.  Other good choices are quince, fothergilla, pussy willow, cherry, apple, lilac, red bud, red maple and magnolia.  The guiding principle for all successful forcing is whether the tree or shrub is showing swollen buds.  Every species will have its own timeline for breaking bud and this will vary by gardening zone.

When choosing branches to force, try something unexpected like red maple or beech. Up close, the foliage of the trees can be appreciated as the leaves unfurl in a way that is not possible from  afar on the tree itself.

To force, simply choose long slender branches with buds on them. Cut  on the diagonal near a junction and place in water out of direct sunlight.  Change the water every couple of days to prevent bacterial growth, the main reason for failures.  Some gardeners use a bit of bleach in their water, a tablespoon  per gallon of water.   If after 2 weeks the cut branches haven’t bloomed, then you either have a bacteria problem or cut the branches before the buds were set.  Either way, just start over and try again.

With a long frigid spring in my area, I walked around my yard cutting whatever branches I could try to force for this blog post.  I chose 7 trees/shrubs  to experiment with.

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Red bud

Fothergilla

Fothergilla

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Forsythia

Lilac in bud

Lilac showing swollen buds

My experimental forcing station:  all cut branches in water, out of direct sun.  A waiting game.

Back row, left to right: Front row, left to right: Red bud,

Back row, left to right: lilac, azalea, forsythia
Front row, left to right:  red maple, red bud, fothergilla, viburnum 

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The forsythia blooming after just 5 days of forcing, perhaps the easiest of branches to force.

The gorgeous Red Bud in bloom after 10 days

The gorgeous Red Bud in bloom after 10 days

A very fragrant lilac bloom emerges after 2 1/2 weeks!  Be still my beating heart.

A very fragrant lilac bloom emerges after 2 1/2 weeks! Be still my beating heart.

The azalea showing off some lovely blooms after 2 1/2 weeks

The azalea showing off some lovely blooms after 2 1/2 weeks

 

The  red maple, fothergilla and viburnum had barely come out of dormancy after 2 weeks, with just a few leaves emerging.   I hope to have inspired you to try forcing ornamental shrubs and trees where you live. Happy Spring, indoor and out!

Source:  University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

Peeps Show: Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate S’Mores

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This is the first year the Easter bunny has not left baskets for the ummm….”kids”.  Their American grandparents had started the tradition of including Peeps in their Easter baskets more than 20 years ago.  That is a lot of Peeps over the years!   Now I can’t quite imagine Easter without this marshmallow confection.  So when I found Jessica Merchant’s hilarious post about this recipe, I knew it would be a fun way to still have Peeps at Easter.  It takes all of 5 minutes to assemble and 5 minutes to bake.  Essentially you dump 3 cups of chocolate chips( I used a mix of milk and dark chocolate) in an oven proof round shallow dish.  Dot the chocolate with about 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter. (My kids said they would have liked more peanut butter so I would increase it to 3/4 cup next time.) Place as many Peeps bunnies and chicks as you can squeeze on top.  Stick under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, carefully watching so you don’t burn the marshmallows.  Reduce the oven to 350F and leave the dish for a couple more minutes until the chocolate is melted.  Grab your Graham crackers and dig in.  Trashy, you bet.  But totally awesome, even if I never want to admit I actually made this.  Now you know what to do with those leftover Peeps!

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Thyme~Shallot~Gruyère Scalloped Potatoes

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For many, it is impossible to imagine an Easter celebration without scalloped potatoes.  For me, they always evoke fond memories of my beloved mother-in-law Louise, who always made them at Easter.  Traditional recipes call for milk, cheddar, dots of butter throughout and  flour for thickening.  I brought a French twist and updated the classic with some shallots and thyme, cream instead of milk,  flour and butter, and nutty gruyère cheese for its great flavor and meltability.   Fair warning:  this dish Is just so good, it  just might upstage the ham!

THYME~SHALLOT~SCALLOPED POTATOES

2 shallots, diced

1 T butter

1 T fresh thyme leaves

2 t sea or kosher salt

1/2 t finely ground pepper

3 1/2 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds, using a mandoline

3 c grated gruyère cheese

3 c heavy cream

chopped chives for serving

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Generously butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. In a frying pan, melt 1 T butter and sauté the shallots until translucent.  Remove from heat and reserve for assembly.  Mix the salt and pepper together.

ASSEMBLY:

For ease of layering, you will visually divide the ingredients as follows:  the potatoes in 3, the cheese in 3, the salt and pepper in 3 and the shallots and thyme in  2.  On the bottom of the baking dish, place one layer of potatoes.  Top with shallots, thyme, salt and pepper.  Repeat.  Finish with a top layer of potatoes, salt and pepper and the final portion of gruyère cheese.  Heat the cream in a medium saucepan until warmed through.  Pour the cream evenly over the whole thing.  Cover tightly with foil and bake on a sheet pan for 1 hour, on a middle rack.  Remove the foil and bake another half hour until bubbly and golden.  Sprinkle with chopped chives and rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Use a mandoline to get thin potato slices.

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The first layer of seasoned potatoes

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The final layer of gruyère, ready to go into the oven.

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The ooey~gooey golden dish ready to wow with a sprinkling of chives

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Happy Easter!

Looking for other Easter recipes?  Check out Glorious Pizza Gaina:
here

and Sublime Rolled and Herb-Stuffed Lamb Roast:
here

Bringing this side dish to Fiesta Friday at its great new site, hosted by Angie@Fiesta Friday.net and co hosted by Jess@Cooking is my Sport and Prudy@Butter Basil and Breadcrumbs.  You will want to party with us when you see all the talent and creativity in these kitchens!