Monday, March 31, 2014

Cauliflower, Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

Cauliflower, Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

I've found inspiration for recipes from unexpected sources such as a novel, a television show and movies, but this is the first recipe inspired by a Twitter typo.

Most Wednesdays, I post a regular feature I call The Feed, a collection of food-related stories from the past week that I thought were particularly interesting. To generate interest in the post and the included stories, I usually send a few tweets highlighting some of the stories.

Last Wednesday, I included in The Feed Washington Post Food editor Joe Yonan's story on Chicken-Fried Cauliflower and NPR writer Dan Charles' story about asparagus. While I meant to tweet that Charles shared asparagus trivia, for whatever brain-dead reason I wrote, "@nprDanCharles shares asparagus cauliflower." Yes, "asparagus cauliflower." I was about to delete the tweet and correct it when New Morning Farm, my neighborhood farmers market, retweeted what I wrote, leading to an exchange between me, New Morning Farm and Joe Yonan about what to call this possibly amazing hybrid vegetable (we settled on "asparaflower") and Joe's great suggestion that it was "risotto time."

Thus was born this spring risotto. Last Saturday, I paid New Morning Farm a visit. While they didn't have asparagus or cauliflower that day, they did have a great selection of mushrooms, which I decided to use both as ingredients in the risotto and its broth to add earthiness. I selected cremini and shiitake mushrooms. I decided to roast the cauliflower, since I love it that way, but to keep the asparagus pretty green, adding it toward the end so it cooks gently. I also used the tougher asparagus ends that I normally discard for flavoring the broth. Although I could have used parmigiano-reggiano cheese for this, I instead went with pecorino romano, which I particularly like with brighter vegetable-based dishes.

Roasted Cauliflower, Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed, cored and cut into 1-inch florets
2 tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup diced yellow or sweet onion
6-8 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc)
6-7 cups mushroom-vegetable broth (see recipe below)
1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 lb.), rough ends removed (reserve the rough ends for the broth), stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup finely grated pecorino romano
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Add cauliflower to a large bowl, drizzle with olive and a pinch of kosher salt and toss to coat with oil. Spread florets on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Stir to turn florets and roast for another 20 to 25 minutes until browned and tender. Set aside.

2. Heat butter in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook another 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook another 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is lightly roasted. Add the sage and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper and cook just about another minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Add 2 cups of broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth has mostly been absorbed, then add another 1/2 cup of broth. Repeat adding broth by the 1/2 cup and cooking until mostly absorbed until the rice is cooked through but still a little chewy (i.e. al dente). Stir in the chopped asparagus with the last addition of broth and continue cooking another 5 minutes. This usually takes about 30 minutes and you may not use all of the broth (I used a little more than 6 cups). Turn off the heat. Stir in the cheese and half the parsley. Serve the risotto in bowls topped with an additional sprinkle of parsley.

Mushroom-Vegetable Broth

Yields about 7 cups of broth

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
6-8 cremimi mushrooms, coarsely chopped
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps chops
2 tsp. dried or fresh thyme
8 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Rough ends from 1 bunch (about 1 lb.) asparagus

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-lower and simmer for 30 minutes. Add asparagus ends and simmer another 30 minutes. Strain out the vegetable solids.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Basic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Pizza Salad

The salad dressings posted earlier this week are all great, but this is the one you really want to master. There are few salads that need more than a basic vinaigrette: a simple emulsion of oil and vinegar with seasonings. More than any other dressing, this is what I turn to for our salads on a weekly basis. It's simple, versatile, inexpensive and delicious. Let's take a closer look.

I said that vinaigrette as an "emulsion," a mixture of two liquids that don't easily blend. In fact, even after mixed, the two ingredients will not be fully integrated in the way that liquid ingredients mix together in cocktails. Rather, the whipping motion causes the droplets of the two liquids to be held in suspension. The drops are so small, that they appear to be mixed together. It's not a permanent state though. Especially with simple vinaigrettes, you'll see the ingredients separate out fairly quickly, which is why it's important to dress the salad immediately after mixing up the vinaigrette. The presence of other ingredients helps hold the mixture longer--mustard, for example, or if you want to get tricky a small pinch of soy lecithin could be used.

Here are the basic steps:

1) Combine the seasonings in mixing bowl (I use a 1- or 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, which makes the dressing easy to pour when you're done). Here, I'm just using salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

2) Add vinegar and any other ingredients except for the oil and combine with a fork. Because the non-oil ingredients will mix together well, it's a good idea to mix them first. Salt, for example, will dissolve in vinegar, but it won't dissolve in oil. Almost any type of flavored vinegar will work well, especially red or white wine vinegar, regular or white balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Alternatively, you can also use citrus juices, especially lemon or lime, or a mixture of vinegar and citrus. Here, I'm only using red wine vinegar. Other common ingredients that could go in at this step include Dijon or other types of mustard, finely minced garlic or shallots, fresh or dried herbs and sweeteners like honey, maple syrup or a pinch of sugar.

3) Add the oil. You'll see that it sits on top of the other ingredients rather than immediately mixing into them like other liquids. I almost always use extra-virgin olive oil in vinaigrettes.

4) Vigorously whisk the ingredients together until they form an emulsion. This is the most important step and it's pretty cool when it's done right. As you whisk, the ingredients will mix together, but at the moment they form the emulsion, the change in the mixture is obvious. It's becomes cloudy and thicker. It's even a different color. Red wine vinaigrette, which before looked dark red, suddenly becomes a dark golden color. Be sure to whisk until you reach this point. I generally find that 70 beatings with a fork is a good point to aim for.

And you're done. The Pizza Salad recipe below uses the basic red wine vinaigrette made above. The Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Salad's dressing is identical except that I used white balsamic vinegar.  At the bottom, there are link to other salads that use a basic vinaigrette.

Basic vinaigrette made with white balsamic vinegar

Basic Vinaigrette

1 tbsp. flavored vinegar, such as red wine, white wine, balsamic, apple cider, etc.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Combine vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add olive oil and whisk briskly until emulsified. Serve immediately with salad.

Pizza Salad
Pizza Salad

3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 oz. sliced pepperoni, cut in half
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tbsp. diced sundried tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
4 cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
2 tbsp. grated parmigiano-reggiano
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
3 tbsp. basic vinaigrette with red wine vinegar (see recipe above)

Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl. Pour vinaigrette over ingredients and toss to coat.

Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Salad
Chicken and Roasted Asparagus Salad

1 lb. asparagus, woody ends broken off
Extra-virgin olive oil spray
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 lb. chicken breast cutlets
3 cups salad leaves (I used an arugula blend with radicchio)
1/4 cup white cheddar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. basic vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar (see recipe above)

1. Preheat oven broiler. Line asparagus up in an even layer on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until lightly browned, about 7 to 8 minutes, turning over at the halfway point. Remove from oven, cool, and cut into 1-inch pieces.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium frying pan. Pat chicken cutlets dry and add to hot oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned, turn and cook another 5 minutes until lightly browned on the other side and cooked through. Allow to cool then chop into 1-inch pieces.

3. Combine salad leaves, cheese, walnuts, asparagus and chicken in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.

Other Salad Recipes with Basic Vinaigrette
There are a lot of salad recipes on my site dressed in this manner. Here are a few highlights that illustrate the versatility of vinaigrette dressing:

Cobb Salad with red wine vinegar (i.e. the basic dressing above).
Reconstructed Hummus Salad with lemon juice and garlic.
Crispy Kale and Roasted Chickpea Salad with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey.
Smoky Waldorf Salad with apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, walnut oil and smoked olive oil.
Wilted Spinach and Bacon Salad with red wine vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.
Broiled Peach Salad with Watercress, Sugar Snap Peas and Toasted Hazelnuts with white wine vinegar and honey.
Roasted Beet and Cottage Cheese Salad with white wine vinegar, lemon juice and honey.
Agave-Mezcal Chicken and Curry Roasted Cauliflower Salad with lemon juice and fresh basil.
Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with balsamic vinegar and honey.
Smoky Winter Salad with white balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and smoked paprika.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Chickpea Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

If you're not familiar with tahini, it's is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. It's rather runny, like a thin natural creamy peanut butter. It's an essential ingredient in hummus and keeps forever in the fridge.

Tahini is also good in salad dressings. When mixed with lemon juice, it transforms from a thin, oily mixture to a thick, creamy one. I'm not sure exactly how that works chemically, but it's a pretty cool transformation.

Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Adapted from Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Tahini Dressing by Vegangela

1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup water
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Pinch of salt

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Chickpea Salad

Serves 2

3 cups baby arugula leaves
15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon-tahini dressing (see recipe above)

Combine arugula, chickpeas, cucumber, belle pepper, tomato, olives, feta and parsley in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Feed: March 26, 2014

Roman-style pizza at Posto Thin Crust Pizza, New York City
The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

Eater New York: “A Complete Guide to New York City Pizza Styles,” by Nick Solares.
I’ve long wanted to read an article like this, a thoughtful pieces comparing the various common styles of pizza. Although written as a guide to pizza in New York, these styles are available elsewhere too. Solares also covers types of pizza outlets: chains, food trucks, etc. I learned that the pizza served at my favorite New York pizza restaurants, Posto and Vezzo, is Roman.

Eater New York: “As Expected, Eataly Wine Store to Close for Six Months,” by Greg Morabito.
It was reported last week that New York restaurant partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich were faced with possible 6-month suspensions of the liquor licenses in their New York restaurants, including the four-star Del Posto and Lupa, my favorite place to get good pasta. Thankfully a settlement was reached that will result in Eataly’s wine shop closing for 6 months, while the restaurants retain their liquor licenses (a bummer, but not nearly as bad a blow as a set of major Italian restaurants not being able to serve wine).

New York Times: “The Casserole Catches Up,” by Melissa Clark.
It’s true that “casserole” doesn’t exactly conjure images of haute cuisine, the dish tainted by too many bland versions dominated by salty (but yet tasteless) canned soups and crumbled junk food toppings. Like Clark, I think the casserole doesn’t have to be a joke (see my attempt at a better version of Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole). I’d really like to try the Beet Crumble, which she describes as “a béchamel-bound dish with clothbound Cheddar and a nubby, peppery oatmeal topping — each bite is different from the last, with sweet beet, soft beet greens and crunchy hazelnuts vying for dominance on your fork. It’s both familiar (picture mac and cheese with vegetables instead of pasta) and utterly unexpected.” Mmm….

Slate: “The Woman Who Invented the Chocolate Chip Cookie,” by Carolyn Wyman.
Ruth Wakefield. That’s who invented America’s favorite cookie. No, not the Oreo, the chocolate chip cookie! Wyman chronicles how Wyman, owner of the Toll House restaurant (ring a bell? Nestle’s chocolate chips carry the “Toll House” moniker), jazzed up a batch of butterscotch cookies by adding chopped chocolate.

Quartz: “The Slow Death of the Microwave,” by Roberto A. Ferdman.
Is the microwave the elephant in the room? We all have one, well, at least 90 percent of us, according to Ferdman’s article, which chronicles the historical rise and recent decline of the device many consider the most mysterious of common kitchen appliances (it cooks with radiation! News flash: so does your oven!).

Washington Post: “Bakery Apprentices Learn the Ins and Outs of Opening a Food Business the Hard Way,” by David Hagedorn.

This story about the forthcoming Bread Furst bakery has ben really excited for personal reasons: the bakery is just a few blocks from where I live. And I’ve never lived near an honest-to-goodness bakery. Something that isn’t a convenience chain or a grocery store window.  Hagedorn writes about baker Mark Furstenberg, his forthcoming Bread Furst bakery and his bakery apprenticeship program.

Food & Wine: “Spring Produce
In the mood for some spring cooking? Food & Wine has put together this delicious slideshow with links to the recipes for making the best of seasonal fare such as haricots verts, mushrooms, asparagus, peas and mint.

The Guardian: “Crisis in Korea as Younger Generation Abandons Kimchi,” by Justin McCurry.
Just as Americans seem to be really getting into kimchi (and apparently the Brits as well), enthusiasm for the spicy cabbage dish in its mother country appears to be waning thanks to lesser-quality imports. Given that Kimchi is South Korea’s national dish, McCurry examines the cultural crisis.

Bon Appetit: “20% Is the New 15%: Tipping in the Age of Digital Payment,” by Michael Y. Park.
When it comes to tipping, it’s pretty established that 20 percent is the new 15 percent, but the advent of digital payment options are making larger tips even more the norm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blue Cheese Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Blue Cheese Apple Cider Vinaigrette

I've liked blue cheese dressing since I was pretty young, which is unusual, since a lot of kids don't like blue cheese. And I was a really picky eater--it's actually rather shocking that blue cheese was my favorite salad dressing when I was about 9 or 10.

Blue cheese

For a long time I only ever had the creamy variety. Then one day we happened upon the Blue Heron French Cheese Company in Tillamook, Oregon. Blue Heron is a wonderful place to visit. The store is filled with free samples, a deli counter with amazing sandwiches and a nice variety of Oregon microbrews. Filling up on samples one day I discovered Riverhouse Blue Cheese dressing, which is a vinaigrette blue cheese rather than the typical creamy type. I loved the tangy flavor of the dressing and became an instant devotee.

These days, I don't ever buy dressing (although I would buy Riverhouse if given the chance). However, I've sought to replicate the dressing with this recipe. You could use any blue cheese you like, although I suggest not using one that's too soft, since it's hard to crumble.

I served the dressing over a salad of bibb lettuce, carrots, celery and toasted almond slices with a few additional large chunks of blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Makes enough for one large or two small salads

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Whisk with a fork until combined. Add olive oil and whisk vigorously until the mixture is emulsified. Add the blue cheese and stir to combine.

French Dressing

French Dressing

French dressing was the first salad dressing I ate as a child. And I only ate it on alfalfa sprouts (I know, pretty weird). Lately, I feel like I never see French dressing anymore. But I just had to make a batch when I found a recipe for it handwritten by my mom and taped inside an old cookbook that used to belong to my grandmother.

My mom's recipe makes a good-size batch that you could refrigerate and use for several salads. I've scaled the recipe down for a single bowl of salad for two or three people and made a few substitutions. French dressing is great because it has a real zip to it. I love it with crunchy vegetables like radishes. I served it over a salad of mesclun, spinach, carrots, radishes, chicken and blue cheese chunks.

French Dressing

Enough for one bowl of salad for two or three people

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1/2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. ketchup
Small pinch of garlic powder
2 tsp. finely chopped onion or shallot

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk vigorously until emulsified.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Salad Week 2014: Salad Dressings

It's coming. This year's unrelenting chill will soon be over, and with its departure comes the arrival of spring produce. I'm really ready for some warmer weather and the fresher taste of seasonally available vegetables like really good asparagus, fresh peas, spring onions, etc.

I'm celebrating the arrival of spring with a week focused on salads. While I've done this before, this year's unique twist is that I'm putting the focus on the dressings (don't worry, there are salad recipes and ideas this week too). You wouldn't leave home without your outfit and neither should a salad leave the kitchen without its dressing. A good dressing pulls together and highlights the flavor of salad; it shouldn't smother or overwhelm it. Without dressing, a salad is just a bowl of naked vegetables.

Today's featured dressing is a low-calorie version of America's favorite salad dressing, Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing. I've substituted zippy nonfat Greek yogurt for sour cream and mayonnaise, creating a dressing with just as much tangy flavor but with fewer calories in a whole batch than in a typical single serving of traditional ranch dressing. Later in the week, I'll share recipes for Blue Cheese Apple Cider Vinaigrette, French Dressing, Lemon-Tahini Dressing and, the mother of all salad dressings, Basic Vinaigrette. Along with those dressings, I'll also be sharing plenty of salad recipes featuring both seasonal and year-round ingredients.

To get this conversation started, here are a few tips I've picked up through the years for dressing salads. Please share yours in the comments. I'm always looking for new ideas.

1) Dress the salad in the kitchen. Serving dressing at the table allows you to provide options, but it doesn't dress the salad as well. We're likely to squirt as much dressing on an individual helping of salad as is needed to dress the entire bowl. Plus, then you end up with bites drenched in dressing and some without. Dressing the salad before it hits the table better integrates the dressing with the ingredients and better ensures you don't use too much dressing. On that note...

2) Don't use too much dressing. For most salads, the dressing should lightly coat the ingredients. Salad ingredients can have delicate flavors, and too much dressing will overwhelm them. For a large dinner salad that Chris and I will split, I usually use 3 to 4 tablespoons of dressing for the bowl.

3) Toss the ingredients carefully. For most salads, you want to be careful to not bruise the ingredients while you're tossing them with the dressing. If you're using salad tongs, which I normally do, just be careful you're not crushing everything. Some people like to toss salads with their hands, which also gives you a good feel for whether you've used enough dressing.

4) Don't dress the salad too far ahead of time. Salad dressings usually have acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice that will react with the more delicate ingredients in the salad and make them wilt. If you dress your salad too far in advance and stick it in the fridge, it will be rather droopy by the time it hits the table.

5) Be creative. Salads are such an easy way to get creative in the kitchen. You don't really need a "recipe" for many salads. In fact, for several of this week's dressing recipes, I've stated what salad ingredients I tossed together, but didn't include a proper "recipe," since all you have to do is chop and combine the ingredients. Salads offer a vehicle for variety, experimentation and expression. Do you want a minimalist salad highlighting one or two key ingredients? Or a "chop" salad that uses up a bunch of stuff in the fridge? Similarly, dressings offer creative options--which vinegar to use, which seasonings, spicy or not, etc.

You'll see that for several of these tips I caveated my statements with "most" or "usually," since there are exceptions. Potato salad, for example, is fine to dress well in advance--in fact, I think it's preferable. And a kale salad can be manhandled just fine. In all things, consider what you want your end result to be and act accordingly.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Salad with Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

We often turn to salad if we want or need to eat healthy, but unfortunately dressing is where the best intentions can get left in the dust. One time at a salad bar, I saw a guy who was fairly overweight and probably trying to eat healthier by having a salad douse said salad in six ladles of dressing. He might as well have ordered a steak.

Ranch dressing is America's most popular salad dressing, but it's not exactly low calorie, especially if you love to load up a salad with it.

Lacking a mortar and pestle, I turn to a Pyrex measuring cup and the rounded end of a wooden cocktail muddler when I need to grind something like garlic into a paste.

The most popular brand of  ranch dressing has 140 calories for a 2-tbsp. serving, including 14 grams of fat. In contrast, the entire recipe for the dressing below, which makes over 3/4 cup (approximately 12-14 tbsp.) has about 105 calories and 1 gram of fat (according to the recipe calorie calculator). This is a salad dressing so guilt-free that you can put more than a couple tablespoons on your salad if you want to. And it's full of flavor too.

How did I achieve this miracle? I used nonfat greek yogurt, a pretty amazing substitute for a lot of higher-calorie dairy products. It's a great substitute for the traditional mayonnaise and sour cream in ranch dressing, adding a similar texture and tangy flavor.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

Ranch is a pretty versatile dressing that can also be used as a dip for crudite or chips. I tossed together a basic salad of romaine lettuce, sliced radishes, julienned carrots and buttery herb croutons (recipe for that at the bottom of the post).

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

1 garlic clove
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1 tbsp. chopped chives
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
1/4 cup (or more) buttermilk
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Mince garlic clove and add to a small bowl or, if you have one, a mortar and pestle. Using the back of a spoon, the rounded end of a wooden cocktail muddler or the pestle, grind the garlic into a paste (if using a mortar, transfer garlic to a small bowl).

2. Add yogurt, chives, parsley, dill, buttermilk, vinegar and black pepper and stir until well combined. Add additional buttermilk if the mixture is too thick. Serve over salad or as a dip with vegetables or chips.

Buttery Herb Croutons

Buttery Herb Croutons

4 slices good white bread, such as sourdough, crusts removed and cut into cubes
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until dried out and lightly toasted, about 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, add the bread cubes, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and toss to coat.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Baked Salmon with Honey, Mustard, Ginger and Garlic

Baked Salmon with Honey-Mustard, Ginger and Garlic

This is another variation on easy weeknight salmon, this time featuring a heady dose of fresh ginger. This is the sort of versatile recipe you could change up in many ways. Agave nectar or maple syrup could be used in place of honey. You could use a different mustard or a different oil, including adding a small hit of sesame oil. You could add soy sauce or a pinch of red chili pepper flakes. I'd recommend keeping each ingredient in the 1 to 3 tsp. range.

Fresh ginger can be a bit daunting. I've tried using my microplane to grate it, but I find that doesn't work well. As an alternative, you can use a fork to scrape fresh ginger root into gratings, a technique learned from Food & Wine's "mad genius" Justin Chapple (and in included in The Feed recently). I also sometimes just chop it. This way you end up with minced ginger rather than grated, but that usually works fine. As a last alternative, you can cheat and buy the jar of grated ginger (don't feel bad, I actually did that this time).

Baked Salmon with Honey-Mustard, Ginger and Garlic 
Adapted from an AllRecipes recipe by SVPORTER

3/4 lb. salmon fillet, skin removed
2 tsp. olive oil, plus olive oil spray
2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. grated ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Black sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Spray a small (9 x 9) baking dish with olive oil and set the salmon fillet in the dish. Combine olive oil, honey, mustard, ginger, salt and pepper in a small bowl and spread over the salmon. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the salmon flakes easily and is cooked through to desired doneness. Serve over a vegetable (I used wine-braised mustard greens) and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

James Beard Awards 2014: Outstanding Restaurant Nominees

Dan Barber, co-owner and chef of Blue Hill, the 2013 winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant, pictured with Martha Stewart (Photo by Kent Miller, James Beard Foundation)

Last year, I had the very good fortune of dining in the restaurant that had just won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant. I'm talking about Blue Hill, Chef Dan Barber's farm-to-table establishment in Greenwich Village. I remember enjoying the atmosphere and the service. About the food, I said "it's the sort of thing you enjoy at the time but appreciate more as you reflect upon it later." This has proven to be true, as months later I still think about the various ways Chef Barber coaxed amazing flavors from simple sugar snap peas.

What makes a restaurant "outstanding" in the eyes of the James Beard Foundation? According to the award's criteria it's: "A restaurant in the United States that serves as a national standard bearer of consistent quality and excellence in food, atmosphere and service. Eligible restaurants must have been in operation 10 or more consecutive years. The owner of the restaurant receives the award." Most restaurants don't even qualify for the 10-year requirement, which is probably the easiest criterion. It's an impressive award for sure, and even being nominated is a tremendous honor.

This year's nominees are an amazing assortment of restaurants, each presenting a different experience. I love how the styles of food among these five restaurants range from the more traditional fare of Spiaggia (Italian fine dining) to the modernism of wd~50. There's also several restaurants that blend the "old world" with the new one, like the French-inspired Southern cuisine of Highlands Bar and Grill and Hearth's modern American cuisine with Italian influences. Even the dress codes range from casual wd~50 to "jackets are preferred" for men at Highlands.

I don't know if I'll get a chance to visit this year's winner or any of the other nominees, but that doesn't mean I'm not curious about them. Thinking you might be too, I created these profiles of this this year's five nominees. After reading all their menus, I'm also very hungry. Dig in!

Location: New York, N.Y. (East Village)
Description: Modern American with Italian influences
Opened: 2003
Chef: Marco Canora, whose prior experience includes working as a line cook at Gramercy Tavern in the mid '90s under Tom Colicchio and as Colicchio's executive chef at Craft.
Prior James Beard Award Nominations: Best New Restaurant (2004), Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional (Paul Greico, 2010 and 2011).
What I'd Order: Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Labneh, Apples, Granola, and Sunflower Sprouts; Smoked Chicken Breast - Braised Thigh, Chestnuts, Cabbage, Cranberry Beans, and Butternut Squash; Apple Cider Donuts with Apple Compote and Maple Cream.
What the Critics Say: "One night in June, when restaurants in the East Village had their doors thrown open and the neighborhood took on a relaxed, unhurried mood, I ate a salad that put me in the same kind of mood: sweet, firm, bright-green favas and bits of soft young pecorino, dressed with vinaigrette and chopped parsley," Pete Wells, New York Times (Oct. 10, 2013).

Highlands Baked Grits (photo by Christopher Hirsheimer, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, Artisan Books 2004)

Highlands Bar and Grill
Location: Birmingham, Ala.
Description: French-inspired Southern
Opened: 1982
Chef: Frank Stitt, who was inducted into the James Beard "Who's Who of Food and Beverage" in 2011 and once worked at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse.
Prior James Beard Award Nominations: Outstanding Restaurant (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013); Outstanding Chef (Frank Stitt, 2008), WINNER - Best Chef - Southeast (Frank Stitt, 2001).
What I'd Order: Stone Ground Baked Grits with Country Ham, Mushrooms, Fresh Thyme and Parmesan; Jamison Farm Braised Lamb with Ragoût of Rancho Gordo Beans, Artichokes and Red Wine Jus; Banana Chocolate Mousse Cake with peanut butter crunch, chocolate chai mousse, and salted caramel sauce.
What the Critics Say: "Bringing back childhood memories of fresh veggie plates at my grandparents’ farm are the golden, fried rounds of fresh okra
 atop a bed of pink-eye peas, butter beans, fresh basil, crisp bacon and corn vinaigrette," Jan Walsh, B-Metro (Nov. 1, 2012)

Photo by Aya Brackett for The Slanted Door

The Slanted Door
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Description: Modern Vietnamese
Opened: 1995 (current location since 2004)
Chef: Charles Phan, who was also inducted into the James Beard "Who's Who of Food and Beverage" in 2011.
Prior James Beard Award Nominations: Outstanding Restaurant (2008 and 2013), Outstanding Chef (Charles Phan, 2010 and 2011), WINNER - Best Chef Pacific (2004).
What I'd Order: Jasmine Tea-Smoked Prather Ranch Pork Belly with Roasted Red Grapes, Balsamic Vinegar; Oven Roasted Boneless Niman Ranch Short Ribs, Madras Curry, Baby Carrots, Butternut Squash, Celery Root; Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Candied Ginger Ice Cream.
What the Critics Say: "I had a Chez Panisse moment with the asparagus. The stalks are sliced on the bias and tossed in the hot wok with morels; the smoky juices tame the vegetable aspects and bring out sweetness, making the morels even more intense. 'Wow, this is the way these ingredients are supposed to taste,' I thought," Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle (June 20, 2004).

Spiaggia Pumpernickel crusted Yakutat king salmon with fennel kraut puree, pickled cucumber, caraway seed and grad pista (photo by Galdones Photography)
Location: Chicago, Ill.
Description: Italian fine dining
Opened: 1984
Chef: Tony Mantuano, who appeared in season 2 of Top Chef Masters.
Prior James Beard Award Nominations: Outstanding Restaurant (2006, 2007, 2010 and 2013), Outstanding Service (2008, 2009 and 2012), WINNER - Best Chef Midwest (Tony Mantuano, 2005).
What I'd Order: (note: I found these selections from Spiaggia's private events menu, as the restaurant itself is currently closed for renovation) Burrata Pugliese con Sardine (Pugliese Burrata with House-Cured Sardine, Puntarelle and Heirloom Radishes); Agnolotti del Plin con Polline di Finocchio (Veal-Filled Pasta with Fennel Pollen and Crispy Veal Breast); Trota al Forno con Lumache e Funghi (Wood-Roasted Quinault River Steelhead Trout with Abalone Mushrooms, Basil-Fed Snails, Creamy White Polenta, Fresh Herbs and Bottarga); Torta di Limone con Olio di Oliva e Piselli (Lemon and Olive Oil Cake with Lavender Blossoms, Lemon Curd Sweet Peas and Spiaggia Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato)
What the Critics Say: "A wondrous truffle-tinged raw lamb loin sandwiched with deep-fried focaccia and slices of grappa-poached pears is a miracle that stays crunchy in spite of wet Castelmagno fonduta and light despite the truffle decadence," Jeff Ruby, Chicago Magazine (May 22, 2013).

Location: New York, N.Y. (Lower East Side)
Description: American, molecular gastronomy
Opened: 2003
Chef: Wylie Dufrense, who was once a sous chef at Jean Georges and is considered a leading American voice in molecular gastronomy.
Prior James Beard Award Nominations: Best New Restaurant (2004), Outstanding Pastry Chef (Sam Mason, 2006), Best Chef New York City (Wylie Durfrense, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and WINNER - 2013)
What I'd Order: (you don't really "order" at wd~50, since it's tasting menus unless you're in the bar) Squash-Roasted Peanut Soup, Cockscomb, Fig Tobacco; Mediterranean Bass, Celery, Macadamia, Grapefruit; Milk Braised Pork Collar, Sunchoke, Black Sesame, Kaffir; Apple Tart, Pomegranate, Swiss Chard, Pistachio.
What the Critics Say: "My favorite among the appetizers was a small tile of foie gras terrine...It was covered with a row of silver cocoa-dusted anchovies, and when the sweet foie gras evaporated in your mouth, you were left with a chewy, faintly crackly taste of the sea," Adam Platt, New York Magazine

Cocktail: Moscow Moose

It's officially spring. Following a (hopefully) last surprise burst of winter weather Sunday and Monday, temperatures are finally starting to creep back up. It was a long, cold winter on the East Coast, and a lot of rest of the country as well. I'm definitely ready for spring and all the seasonal shifts in food and drink that come with it.

Here then is a final toast to winter and a welcome to spring, a cocktail that melds the darker flavors of the cold months with the fresh flavors of warmer ones. Wall Street Journal writer Kate Christensen fashioned this drink with a Moscow Mule--a classic mix of vodka, ginger beer and lime--and Rye-and-Ginger in mind. It's a great drink, spicy and refreshing.

The Moscow Moose
Recipe by Kate Christensen for the Wall Street Journal

2 oz. rye whiskey
1 tsp. amaretto
1/2 tbsp. (1/4 oz.) lemon juice
3-4 oz. ginger beer
Lemon twist

Add whiskey, amaretto and lemon juice to a rocks glass with ice. Top with ginger beer and stir to combine. Garnish with lemon twist.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Feed: March 19, 2014

Fresh asparagus

The Feed is my weekly round up of interesting food-related stories from newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites.

James Beard Foundation: “The Complete 2014 JBF Nominees.”
The Oscars of the food world are upon us: the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards nominees were announced yesterday. What caught my eye:
  • The Washington Post. My hometown paper snagged three nominations. I was especially gratified to see Tamar Haspel honored for her Unearthed column in the Food section, one of the most consistently interesting writers who points out that when it comes to food, not all is cut and dry, the truth is often a bit messy. Also nominated were Eli Saslow for a story on food stamps and Monica Hesse for a humorous piece on Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook.
  • Washingtonian. The D.C.-area magazine snagged a nomination for Todd Kliman and Ann Limpert’s coverage in the publication’s food section, “Taste,” in the Food Coverage in a General-Interest Publication category. It also includes the Wall Street Journal’s coverage in its “Off Duty” section—which I’ve really been appreciating lately—and the Food & Wine section of The San Francisco Chronicle, which ceased to be a standalone section recently.
  • Individual Food Blogs. Elissa Altman is this year’s veteran, having won the award in 2012 for her site, Poor Man’s Feast, as well as snagging a nomination in 2011. Michael Procopio’s Food for the Thoughtless snags a nomination. Check out his piece on the Brown Russian cocktail. Lisa Fein rounds out the trio with Homesick Texan.
  • Blue Hill NYC. The restaurant that won last year’s award for Best Restaurant is a return nominee this year for Best Service. We were certainly treated well when we ate there last summer. 
  • Salt Sugar Fat. Michael Moss’s book, which I enjoyed reading last year, is a nominee in the Writing and Literature category, along with A Fork in the Road: Tales of Food, Pleasure and Discovery on the Road, edited by James Oseland, and Provence, 1970: M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, by Luke Barr.
  • Lucky Peach. The offbeat David Chang and Peter Meehan food journal, which I always enjoy reading, snagged an amazing seven nominations across multiple media categories. 
  • Christina Tosi. Sure, Dominique Ansel, inventor of the cronut, is also nominated for Pastry Chef this year, but I’m putting my support behind Momofuku's head confectioner Tosi, who’s been a big inspiration for me in recent years.
  • Clyde Common. Snagged an Outstanding Bar Program nomination. Kudos to Jeffrey Morgenthaler
  • Best Chef – Mid Atlantic. Vikram Sunderam of Rasika is the sole Washington, D.C. nominee in this category this year, which also includes Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve (Alexandria, Va.), Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, Md.), Brad Spence of  Amis (Philadelphia) and Cindy Wolf of Charleston (Baltimore).
Washington Post: “Rammy Awards change judging process, but is this the right recipe for legitimacy?,” by Tim Carman.
While the James Beard Awards nominations drew lots of buzz this week, closer to home, Carman writes about how the Rammy Awards, D.C.’s local version of the Beard Awards put on by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, has made some changes to improve its respectability. My vote for how they could improve their respectability? Maintain their website. The nominees were announced Tuesday, but as of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, the nominees section of the Rammys website is “TBA” while the Post has the list. [Update: I think the event may have been going on last night and the Post got an advance list; nonetheless, I still think the Rammy website could be more user friendly.]

Washington Post: “Cauliflower gets chicken-fried for a vegetarian take on a Texas classic,” by Joe Yonan.
“Chicken-Fried Cauliflower?! Yonan’s taking this vegetarian thing too far.” Five bucks somebody says that in the Post’s Free Range chat tomorrow. My take? The recipe sounds awesome, especially the part about making it smoky. Yum.

NPR: “Top 5 Ways Asparagus, A Rite Of Spring, Can Still Surprise,” by Dan Charles.
I’m so ready for spring, and just because I want it to warm up. I’m ready for spring cooking and asparagus typifies spring produce for me more than any other vegetable. Charles offers a fun list of trivia about the curious green stalk.

New York Times: “An Inspired Lunch Puts Brunch to Shame, by David Tanis.
Tanis, a Beard Award nominee this week for his cookbook, One Good Dish, makes a good case for skipping brunch and going straight to lunch.

Fast Company, “How Chipotle Changed American Fast Food Forever,” by Denise Lee Yohn.
Begun in 1993, there are now over 1,400 Chipotle restaurants in the U.S. Yohn chronicles how founder and CEO Steve Ells got his start and grew the restaurant into the leader of “fast casual.”

University of Maryland Spoon Unversity: “Top 5 Most Underrated Ingredients,” by Shawn Eliav.
I came across Spoon University this week, because an article in it used one of my photos. It’s an online food journal produced by University of Maryland students. How cool! And who doesn’t enjoy a good food listicle, like Eliav’s ingredient list. It’s hard to imagine any thinking these are underrated ingredients though—I consider most of them essential.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Restaurant: Lunch at Silo (Washington, D.C.)

Silo Burger with Coleslaw and Fries
April 2014 Update: Silo has made a few changes. There is a new chef, and the menu is more American bistro without the French and Swiss influences. Silo's hours have also changed, with the restaurant serving weekday lunch only on Friday.

D.C.'s Penn Quarter and Chinatown are bustling neighborhoods full of an expanding lineup of interesting lunch options catering to both the office workers and tourists that fill sidewalks at midday. It can be fun, but for a quieter lunchtime outing I find myself headed instead to Mount Vernon Triangle, the up-and-coming neighborhood of expanding restaurant options just north of Chinatown.

Silo is a great addition to the area. It's a beautiful, open space of exposed brick, patches of plaster, concrete floor and exposed air ducts with dark wooden furniture. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the street side and skylights in the back keep natural light filtering throughout the whole restaurant, preventing it from feeling cavern-like. If you like restaurant design that's simple and minimal, this is a nice example.
Silo's cool minimal-industrial interior; photo courtesy of BadWolf DC, a blog about D.C. news, restaurants, events and more.

The minimalism extends to the lunch menu. It's a short selection of starters, salads and sandwiches, but one that shows some good thought as well. Finding something I'm in the mood for has never been a problem at Silo, and I've enjoyed everything I've sampled, although, as I'll point out there are little tweaks I think would make some of the dishes even stronger.

Vegan Carrot-Butternut Squash Curry Soup
Kohlrabi Soup with Bacon
Soup has been a definite strength. The Kohlrabi soup, which is a menu staple, is a wonderful blend of sweet and earthy flavors given richness with fennel oil and gruyère cheese. Kohlrabi is one of those vegetables that gets more ink than grocery store space, so it was nice to finally try it. The component of this soup that doesn't quite work is the bacon strip, included whole, which makes it impossible to eat with a soup spoon (cut up into lardons, it would be perfect). I also enjoyed a daily special vegan soup of carrot, butternut squash and curry, so thick it almost crossed the line from soup to puree. This soup was also a nice blend of sweet and spicy, topped with fresh oregano and croutons.

Mâche Salad with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts and Quail Egg
Salads show interesting combinations and a welcome restraint with the dressing. To accompany the kohlrabi soup, I enjoyed a mâche garden salad. Its combination of mushrooms, hazelnuts and goat cheese really hit the spot. I find mâche a little hard to deal with at home (it grows in clumps, so it requires a little more prep than your average salad green), so I appreciate getting it at restaurants. The salad comes with a side of quail egg, which is a nice touch, although I don't think the "cheese nest" they sit in is needed. Another salad of spinach, arugula and sprouts with shaved apple, roasted beets and grapefruits was another winning combination of fresh flavors.

Spinach-Arugula Salad with Apples, Beets and Grapefruit
Last but not least is the burger. It caught my eye on the menu the first time I visited, but owner Reza Akhavan told me it wasn't available yet, as they were still looking for just the right ground beef to perfect the sandwich. During my second visit to Silo, the burger was finally ready, so of course I had to have it. And I wasn't disappointed. This is a pretty serious burger. If you get it with all the options, which I did, it's a delicious tower of excess, featuring gruyére and cheddar cheeses, roasted tomato, caramelized onion, bacon and pickles. The meat itself was also quite good, although my order of "medium-rare" came out cooked a bit past that. The hand-cut fries and cole slaw that accompany the burger were good too.

Silo is closed on Monday but open for lunch the rest of the week and does a brunch on weekends, as well as dinner nightly from Tuesday through Sunday. I haven't been to Silo for dinner,  and Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema's First Bite wasn't particularly positive. But expectations for lunch can be different than for dinner, and I wouldn't hesitate to return to Silo, especially if they change the menu soon for spring. Chef George Vetsch, formerly of C.F. Folks, had been working the kitchen when Silo opened but departed recently, leaving sous chef Calvin Di Giovanni at the helm. With the Swiss Vetsch out, it will be interesting to see if Silo retains its "modern American cuisine with a Swiss/French twist" or changes course a bit.

Silo, 919 5th Street NW (between I and K Streets), Washington, D.C. (Mount Vernon Triangle). (202) 290-2233. Reservations: City Eats

Silo on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Penne with Garlic, Chicken and Sage

Penne with Garlic, Chicken and Sage

Here's the setting for this dish: I was 19 and it was one of my first dates. I was very nervous, as I'm sure many people have experienced. I'd lied to my parents about where I was going that night (I wasn't "out" to them yet). The guy I was with was cute and had seemed nice. Although we had a fun time, he didn't want to have anything to do with me afterwards (unfortunately, something else I'm sure many of us have experienced). Nonetheless, I consider my first date a success not because of the guy, but because it introduced me to this dish.

I was dining at Bastas, an Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon, that was just 4 years old at the time, but is still around today. The dish I enjoyed was "Pasta Pollo con Salvia." Although it is no longer on the menu, a Facebook post suggests they offer it as a special sometimes. It's a simple dish of penne, chicken breast, garlic, white wine and sage. At the time, I thought it was novel for not including tomatoes, and I loved how garlicky it was (in retrospect, I suppose not a good choice for a date, but remember, I was a dating novice).

For years, I tried to recreate it. I contacted the restaurant to ask for the recipe, but they declined my request (or rather, never responded). This just gave me all the more incentive to figure out what made the dish special on my own. Through the years, I've made many different versions of this dish. The sauce has been a particular challenge. I've tried making it with butter, cream, chicken stock, various dry white wines and combinations of those three things. I've tried thickening it with flour and arrowroot powder. I've made it in a great volume as well as a light coating.

Recently, I finally hit on what I think works best: a simple combination of butter, dry vermouth and pasta cooking water. The cream made the dish too rich. The chicken stock muted the garlic and made it too "chickeny." The butter and pasta water allowed the garlic to really shine, while the starches in the water added a touch of thickening. Perfect.

Penne with Garlic, Chicken and Sage
Inspired by Pasta Pollo con Salvia, Basta Trattoria

1 lb. penne lisce pasta (penne lisce is the style of penne without ridges; the style with ridges, rigate, may also be used)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
3/4 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup dry vermouth
3/4 cup reserved pasta water (see below)
1/3 grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for serving

1. Cook pasta according to package directions 2 minutes short of al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water. Drain pasta and set aside in the cooking pot.

2. Melt butter in a medium (2 1/2 quart) saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and chili pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant. Increase heat to medium and add chicken. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the sage and vermouth and increase heat to medium-high. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the reserved pasta water. Bring mixture to a boil and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour sauce over the cooked pasta in the pasta cooking pot and stir to combine. Return to medium heat and stir in the parmesan. Cook for another 2 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Serve in shallow bowls topped with additional grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spicy Beans And Pepperoni On Toast With Fried Eggs

Spicy Beans And Pepperoni On Toast With Fried Eggs

I came across this dish as part of Food Republic's recent series on recipes for making good use of leftovers. Since I'd just made pizza, it was perfect for using up the rest of a package of sliced pepperoni. 

The recipe comes from Sophia Wright's cookbook Cook on Shoestring: Easy, Inspiring Recipes on a Budget. Wright's recipe is meant to be flexible: while written for toast with fried eggs, it could easily be served over baked potato or, I think, rice would be a good partner. Don't have pepperoni? Use another sausage, pancetta or bacon. She also suggests that with more tomatoes and broth, the spicy bean topping could make a great soup. 

Spicy Beans and Pepperoni on Toast with Fried Eggs
Adapted from a Food Republic recipe from Cook on Shoestring by Sophie Wright

Serves 2

2 3/4 oz. sliced pepperoni, cut in half
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
15-oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
15-oz. can diced tomatoes
Seasoned salt (or plain salt) and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs
Pinch of ground cumin
2 slices of bread
Butter, to spread on the toast
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Heat a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the pepperoni and cook for a few minutes until it starts to render fat. Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes and cook for about a minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the beans, season with seasoned salt and pepper and stir to combine, then add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, break the eggs one-at-a-time into the pan. Break the yolks if desired or leave them whole. Season with salt, pepper and cumin. After a couple minutes, flip the eggs over and cook another minute or so to desired doneness.

3. Toast the bread (nice easy step).

4. To serve: Butter the toast and put on a plate, top with half the pepperoni-bean mixture and place a fried egg on top. Sprinkle with cilantro.