backcountry roads

 

Forty years

Forty years they walked, they walked.

They had left, an impossible victory

an impossible freedom

but that was

nothing.

 

Nothing

that was, to them.

08.17.17 Never forget.

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Pita with Hummus, Shaved Cucumber, Harissa Fried Eggs, and Feta

Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained but save the liquid
  • 1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey, to taste
  • 1/2 c tahini
  1. In a food processor or powerful blender, add the garlic and lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add tahini, honey, cumin, salt, and drained chickpeas. Add in half of the reserved bean liquid.
  3. Blend on high speed until as smooth as possible, add more of the bean liquid as needed to achieve a light, whippy consistency.
  4. Transfer to a sealable container. Keeps in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Harissa Fried Egg

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 1/2 tsp dry harissa
  1. In a non-stick skillet, fry the egg as you normally would on medium-high heat.
  2. When the egg is nearly done, tilt the skillet so the oil pools together. Add the harissa to the oil and spoon the harissa oil over the edges of the egg until crisp.

Shaved Cucumber Pea Shoot Salad

  • 1 medium spiny cucumber (persian cucumbers have too much water)
  • 1 handful young pea shoots
  • squeeze of lemon
  1. Cut off the ends of the cucumber. Slice lengthwise into thin, wide ribbons on a mandoline.
  2. Toss with the pea shoots and dress with a squeeze of lemon. Use immediately.

Assembly

  • 1 pita, lightly toasted
  • 2/3 c hummus
  • 1 harissa fried egg
  • shaved cucumber pea shoot salad
  • 2 tbsp crumbled feta
  • 1 tsp za’atar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Spread the hummus evenly on the pita.
  2. Add the egg and drizzle the harissa oil all over the hummus
  3. Arrange the cucumber salad on the pita around the egg, top with feta, za’atar, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

Don’t put all your eggs in the same…pan?

I could be vegan, if I didn’t know how to make proper eggs.

The truth is, eggs are far more interesting than the most ripe-but-firm avocado, the most perfectly-round head of cauliflower, and a low-sodium can of chickpeas (including the aquafaba). No PETA, I don’t see anything wrong with eating eggs when they come from a farm where I can run around along with the chickens. Heck, they live an even more stress-free life than I do.

And then of course there eggsists the millions of ways eggs can be incorporated into a dish, or pun while I’m at it. But let’s just focus on the eggs for now.

Due to the unique properties of the yolk and the white, an egg can be manipulated to fall anywhere on a continuous and mind-blowingly wide spectrum of textures and even flavours. Take a look at the list below, which are the ways I constantly revisit as well as how I like to use them, though each is delicious already in their own right without any gussying-up.

  1. hard boiled – in dilly, potato salads that have lots of grainy mustard, or with poached salmon and aioli.
  2. medium boiled – on its own with the crunch of a nice dipping salt. Don’t mess with my fudgy yolk.
  3. soft boiled – with blanched asparagus and gribiche
  4. soft poached – to complete an “avo-and-poached” on sourdough with thyme and extra virgin.
  5. hard poached – this one’s odd, but delicious in hotpot. Crack the eggs straight into the broth once you’ve passed all the meat and vegetables through. The loose proteins in the egg will grab onto the flavourful floaty bits in the broth and become coated in the savoury layer of fat sitting near the top.
  6. creamy scrambled – with butter and creme fraiche to go with toasted brioche and garlicky sauteed mushrooms.
  7. fluffy scrambled – with a handful of very thinly sliced chives mixed in to go with congee or be stuffed in a flaky scallion pancake.
  8. french omelette – aux fines herbes et au chevre, with arugula salad dressed with lemon and evoo.
  9. souffle omelette – with brandied apple compote and mascarpone tucked inside.
  10. american omelette – loaded with mushrooms and white cheddar, bacon and home fries on the side. And ketchup – lots of ketchup.
  11. thai crepe – stuffed with peanut sesame slaw, topped with crushed peanuts and sriracha.
  12. broken-yolk fried – stuffed in a chinese mantou, with sticky soy glaze and pork floss and a few sweet and garlicky pickled radishes.
  13. well-done – in a sandwich, with fat kid white bread, grape jelly, and a slice of Kraft Singles, semi-melted from the warmth of the egg.
  14. over easy – on its own, but fried in a month’s worth of sesame oil with mandolinned ginger that turns into chips as you fry.
  15. sunnyside amber-n’-crispy – on toast that’s been graced with a thick slick of miso honey butter, and topped with togarashi shichimi.
  16. steamed – chawan mushi style with a few flaked lumps of blue crab sitting on top.
  17. onsen – or sous-vide these techy days. Alone, chilled, drizzled with tsuyu and garnished with fresh grated daikon and shredded nori. Mind you, once you cross into sous-vide territory, a whole new universe of tender eggy textures will bow down to you.
  18. cured – parmesan made of just egg yolks and salt. Make it snow – yellow snow – on that carbonara.
  19. century – sliced up, with chilled silken tofu, very thinly sliced scallions, bonito flakes, and sticky soy glaze.
  20. brined – shell on, in shaoxing and a ton of salt – the salted duck eggs yolks you find in moon cakes all the time? Well the eggs are totally delicious too, half an egg will get you through a bowl of pearly steamed no problem.
  21. cracked – straight into a bubbling shakshuka or blistering pizza, when you absolutely don’t want to cook your eggs in a pan and want to cook them in food instead.

Microwaving didn’t make the cut. There’s not a single respectable thing a microwave can do to an egg that a pan and some oil, butter, water, or cream can’t.

So there, with a few flopped attempts and some broken yolks, you could easily get through two dozen eggs no problem. Plus, an omelette for one usually annihilates three. Unless you’re a legit kitchen nerd (I’m not quite there yet…right?) I would steer away from 18, 19, and 20. Leave those to the pros.

But there are three you absolutely must know how to do if your mother no longer makes you breakfast (or lunch, or dinner): poached, fried, and omelette. Friends over for brunch? Soft poach half a dozen in a pan and throw an avotoast DIY. Alone for dinner? Fry up a sunnyside amber-n’-crispy to go with roasted brussels sprouts and pancetta. As for a french omelette, make it only if you love the person you’re feeding very, very much. Like your mom – she made you omelettes didn’t she? (But I bet you never when you neglected the sanitation of your room!).

My son,

hear the instruction of thy father,

and forsake not

the law of thy mother:

For they shall be an ornament of grace

unto thy head, and chains

about thy neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9

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Poached Egg with Arugula, Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Fennel

Poached Egg with Arugula, Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Fennel

  • 1 large farm fresh egg
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of a quarter of a lemon
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup baby arugula or half and half arugula and mint
  • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 pink grapefruit, pith removed, sliced
  • fennel fronds, for garnish
  1. Fill a non-stick pan with 1 inch of water and heat until the steam begins to creep from the surface and tiny bubbles are forming in the bottom.
  2. Crack the egg into a sieve and let the loose white drip away. Carefully slide the egg into the water and turn off the heat.
  3. Let the egg sit undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, or until the whites around the yolk are just set. Carefully lift the egg out and lower into an ice bath.
  4. For the arugula salad, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. Toss with the arugula and plate up. Garnishing with the avocado and grapefruit slices, then a few fennel fronds.
  5. I also topped mine with a bit of black truffle kelp caviar, but a bit of black pepper should do just fine.
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Poached Egg with Arugula, Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Fennel

Crispy Fried Egg on Toast with Bacon Marmalade and Gruyere

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp, or a good glug of vegetable oil, like avocado or olive
  • 1 slice white bread, toasted
  • 1 tbsp bacon marmalade
  • 1 tbsp finely shredded gruyere
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a seasoned cast iron skillet until starting to smoke.
  2. Crack the egg into a small bowl.
  3. Add the oil to the pan and swirl it around to fully coat the bottom.
  4. Gently pour in the egg from as close to the pan as possible – the egg should sizzle, puff, and bubble as soon as it hits the pan.
  5. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the egg cook in this state for about 3 minutes, or until the whites around the yolk are set and the edges are shatteringly crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, smear the marmalade over your toast. Slide the egg on, and finish with the gruyere, salt, and pepper.
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Poached Egg with Arugula, Avocado, Pink Grapefruit, and Fennel

French Omelette of Lovage, Mint, Tarragon, and Thyme with Chevre

  • 2 or 3 large farm fresh eggs
  • 5 or 8 grinds of sea salt, depending on how many eggs you use
  • 2 or 3 tbsp butter, depending on number of eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 or 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh soft herbs – I used mint, lovagem tarragon, and baby thyme
  • 2 or 3 tbsp crumbled soft goat cheese, depending on number of eggs
  1. In a small non-stick skillet (6-8 inches), melt half the butter over low heat.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and salt until no lumps of white remain. Allow this mixture to sit as you mince the herbs and crumble the goat cheese.
  3. Once the butter is melted, tip in the eggs. You should not hear any sizzling – it should not even look like it’s cooking at all.
  4. Begin stirring the eggs non-stop, keeping the heat low. After 3 or 4 minutes, the mixture should start to curdle in places. Keep stirring until the mixture no longer spreads out easily. Tap the pan and use your spatula to get it to cover the entire base of the pan.
  5. Sprinkle the pepper, herbs, and goat cheese in a line down the center of the pan.
  6. Gently tease the edges away from the pan and fold one untopped third over the filling.
  7. Add the remainig butter to the vacant space you’ve just created and tilt the pan the other way to let the butter flow towards the omelette.
  8. Fold the other third over the omelette and press gently to seal it.
  9. Carefully slide the omelette onto a plate and brush with the remaining butter in the pan. Serve immediately, with a barely dressed arugula salad.

In the comments below, tell me: What’s your favourite way to eat eggs?

Eggs for the better

Deep into Friday night, when the Internet usually creeps the closest it can to something remotely akin to repose, sparks flew. The world was bellowing its plea in three words: pray for Paris. Those who understood the heaviness of those words and the price of prayer knelt on their knees to pay just that. Some who have only seen the Bible a on a handful of occasions when they visited their grandparents’ abode passed on the phrase for its propriety. Still there were others wholly unknowing of the term, yet still disseminated the message on their feeds. I thought this the most curious. Had the special attention given to posts hashtagged #prayforparis prompted this like some uplifting current? Or were consciences restless until a tragedy response post was made so that subsequent posts of novelty could be made with a peace of mind? Or maybe, and I am hopeful in this, this hashtag made it just a tad, ever so slightly clearer that as humans we are broken. The hands in which we pride ourselves and to which we owe the complexity of our civilization do little but destroy at a rate exponentially greater than we can ever dream to mend. Perhaps we are coming to terms with the fact that we, humanity, is desperately in need of a hand – a hand apart from our own. One of healing and love which we do not deserve, yet extended in grace so we might receive a fate we can ever fabricate on our own.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace –

only that it meets us where we are

but does not leave us

where it found us.

Anne Lamott

Turmeric Jewelled Rice with Spiced Ratatouille, Cumin Fried Egg, Yoghurt, and Pistachios
Turmeric Jewelled Rice with Spiced Ratatouille, Cumin Fried Egg, Yoghurt, and Pistachios

Turmeric Jewelled Rice (serves 4)

  • 1 2/3 c brown jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 1/4 c sultana raisins
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • generous 2 cups water
  1. If you have a rice cooker, perfect. Just put everything in the rice cooker and steam as you normally would until the rice is cooked through. If you don’t have a rice cooker, bring 2 1/2 cup water to a rolling boil in a small pot, add everything and lower the heat to a steady simmer. Cover with a lid, and cook for 35-45 minutes until the moisture is completely absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Keep warm.

Spiced Ratatouille (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large Chinese eggplan, quartered and sliced
  • 4 plums or apricots, pitted and sliced
  • 1 small red chili, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • black pepper
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 1 tbsp honey
  1. In a hot pan, sweat the onions and green peppers with a bit of salt until soft. Add the tomatoes, eggplant, plums, and chili. Cook on high heat until the liquids are reduced.
  2. Deglaze with cider vinegar and add 1 cup of water. Season with the remaining salt, cinnamon, and black pepper.
  3. Cook until almost dry, then stir in the lemon juice and honey until the mixture reaches a chutney-like consistency. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Cumin Fried Eggs (serves 4)

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 large free range eggs, cracked into a bowl
  1. Heat 1 tbsp butter and 1/4 tsp cumin seeds in a nonstick pan until fragrant.
  2. Tip in an egg and fry until sunny side up until the whites are set. Slide onto a plate and repeat with the remaining eggs.

To serve:

  • chopped pistachios
  • plain yoghurt
  • mint leaves (optional)

Divide the rice and ratatouille among four dinner plates (or bowls). Add a dollop of yoghurt, top with an egg, and finish with chopped pistachios and mint leaves.

Enjoy!

add avocados – $2

I despised cilantro for the longest time. Blame the Taiwanese street vendors – they put it on everything. Taiwanese beef noodle? Cilantro it. Oyster vermicelli? Cilantro it. Sticky rice cakes? Why not, let’s cilantro the heck out of it! Thank God for Typhoons Saola and Tembin, which saved me my misery when I was there in 2012.

Yeah, no. When there’s something good, you don’t just put it on everything, bacon being the rare exception.

Growing up, honey avocado milkshakes were a weekend brunch treat that Ma would blitz up as my brother and I covered our ears and dashed to plop down on our own respective chairs at the table. That must have been around the year 2000, when they were still as alien to most kitchens as Shuvuuia eggs.

If I were born today, I’m pretty sure I would despise avocados as well. Now a cliché symbol of upscale minimalism much like the chair-stand iPhone shots of artisan latte art, it’s become more and more of a thoughtless commodity procured simply to serve as a vessel of vaunting for the consumer.

Restaurants are surfing this wave as well. Everywhere I go I see plain, untreated avocados – void of any culinary innovation – sold as legitimate menu items priced at upwards of $3. Avocado smeared on piece of multi-grain toast, $8. I don’t know about you, but I go to Costco for my avos.

Don’t get me wrong, I love avocados, which is exactly why the mindless consumption of these green eggs makes me cringe. Here’s something original to try. And no, avocados here are not an afterthought.

“Vanity of vanities,”

says the Preacher,

“Vanity of vanities!

All is vanity.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2

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Black sesame oil is different from the more commonly found and used toasted sesame oil. It has a distinct bitterness laced with molasses and black tea, making it particularly compatible with ginger, poultry, and rice-derived alcohols. It plays triple-duty here, first to crisp up the ginger chips, then to fry the duck eggs, and finally, it becomes the sauce for the rice. The avocado lends a creamy texture which complements the nutty flavour from the black sesame oil and mellows the punch of the ginger. And the savouriness of the duck egg combined with the mirin soy reduction practically creates an oozing volcano of umami. For under 10 ingredients, it really doesn’t get more epic than this bowl.

Ingredients for the Duck Egg Donburi with Avocado, Soy Caramel, and Ginger Chips:

serves 2

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp honey

splash of water, about 2 tbsp

1/3 c black sesame oil

1 small knob of ginger, sliced as thinly as possible along the grain

2 local duck eggs, or free range chicken eggs

1 small ripe avocado, thinly sliced

3 cups steamed sushi-grade white rice

toasted white sesame seeds, optional

To make the sweet soy reduction, bring the soy sauce, mirin, honey, and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Let it reduce by a third and becomes a thin glaze consistency. Remove from the heat and reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a wok until a piece of ginger dropped in bubbles vigourously. Fry the ginger slices, in batches so the oil temperature stays relatively constant until crisp. You’ll know when they quiet down because that means they’re fully dehydrated. Drain the ginger on a plate lined with paper towel.

Tip out most of the oil into 2 large bowls (which will be used directly to serve). Use the remaining oil to fry the eggs, sunny side up. Watch the whites around the yolk – the eggs are done as soon as the whites become opaque because the yolk will become part of the sauce to coat the rice.

Divide the hot rice among the bowls. Arrange the avocado and egg to cover the rice, drizzle with the sweet soy reduction, and finish with the ginger chips and sesame seeds, if using.

To eat, take two spoons and hack the heck out of those bowls to mix together everything. Then spoon in. You’re welcome.