Eggs in a Vegetable Nest

Skillet with vegetable hash, 2 eggs, salsa, and feta.This quick dinner is neither a true hash nor a true succotash, but combines elements of both depending on the ingredients available to you in the moment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied on this simple equation on nights when I’ve been out all day long and don’t even have the energy to be extroverted enough to call for delivery. The execution is simple: take 2-3 cups of finely diced vegetables, some herbs or other seasoning to give it a flavour foundation, 1 or 2 eggs, and a few of your favourite toppings. Sauté the vegetables in a little bit of olive oil or butter until they begin to soften and are heated through. Crack the egg(s) over the vegetable mixture and put a tight fitting lid over the pan, allowing the eggs to cook until they’re done to your liking. Take off the heat and slide the mixture onto a plate, generously top with anything that looks like it would make your dinner taste wonderful.  As you can see, this recipe is open to wide interpretation which is what makes it so perfectly flexible when your fridge feels empty.

Here are some of my favourite combinations for Eggs in a Vegetable Nest:

Roasted corn, sweet peppers, banana peppers, scallions, cumin, lime juice, salsa, and Macedonian feta (as seen above)

Cubed sweet potatoes or yams, shallots, zucchini, red peppers, dried basil, Greek yogurt, Monterey Jack, and cilantro

Ripe tomatoes, cubed eggplant, shallots, garlic, dried oregano, chili flakes, fresh basil, and crumbled chèvre

Mango Salsa

fruit salsa

Ian is having oral surgery tomorrow so I thought I would celebrate his last night eating solid food for the next couple of days by cooking a steak dinner complete with caramelized onions, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and roasted asparagus. Unfortunately, I went for a run and then showered before deciding around 6 o’clock that I should start on the aforementioned caramelized onions and an hour later, faced with a pan of half-browned onions and little else I decided that an emergency light snack was needed immediately. Serendipitously enough, I had a fruit bowl containing an avocado, a mango, and a packet of cherry tomatoes. I diced everything together, added cilantro, a tiny amount of minced garlic, dried chilies (works in a pinch!), and generous amounts of kosher salt and lime juice. I’ve been eating cucumbers lately at a somewhat alarming rate and with the advent of an oncoming steak dinner I thought they sounded like the perfect dipper for my impromptu fruit salsa break. Salsas in general sound fussy to make  from scratch but are actually very simple, combine the crunchy fruit and vegetables of your choice in somewhat equal amounts and add something to give heat, something sour, and salt – that’s all it takes! Let sit for 15 minutes to let the flavours get to know each other and serve with cucumbers, corn chips, chicken, fish, grains, etc., etc.

Bright Cherry Salsa

cherry salsa

Whenever I buy cherries I have a very difficult time taking home just what I need for the next day or two; that is to say I always arrive back to my kitchen with at least a kilo and a half of these burnished ruby stone fruits. Ian doesn’t eat them like I do, still damp and chilled from the fridge out of a huge glass bowl (with a smaller bowl for the pits, of course) so I find ways to incorporate them into recipes. In addition to salsa I love them pitted and laid out flat to freeze on a baking tray, in smoothies and mixed in with maple granola and plain Greek yogurt. Once I made this salsa for the first time I couldn’t believe that I had overlooked this now obvious salsa component, the tart-sweet cherries marry perfectly with the slow burning heat of the jalapeño peppers. When pitting the cherries it is helpful to first crush them under the side of your knife as you would to a garlic clove, this allows to pit to be picked out quite easily. The beautiful dense redness of this brightly flavoured cherry salsa is a natural pair to tortilla chips, fish tacos, flank steak, baked tofu dusted with chili powder and a diced avocado salad with big bunches of cilantro.

bright cherry salsa:

1 1/2 cups of cherries, washed and pitted

5 Campario tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded (or not, if you like it spicy) and finely diced

1 bunch of scallions, both white and green chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup cilantro, stems removed

2 limes, juiced

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt or to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times until the salsa  becomes a deep cherry red flecked with green cilantro and jalapeño peppers.

This song by The Avalanches is suitably bright and positive, making it easier to ignore the relentless May rain and to let optimism prevail over your Monday afternoon.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

Easy Bean and Rice Bowl with Sweet Peppers

Salsa rice

In many ways this is the perfect recipe for last minute meals. Made with odds and ends you may have floating around in your fridge it comes together quickly and is endlessly adaptable. For the rice you can sub in brown rice, purple rice, quinoa, orzo or bulghur, it just needs to result in about 3 cups cooked. Other things that are good include steamed broccoli, spinach, corn, crumbled feta, sundried tomatoes, dry fried tofu, chipotle peppers, etc., etc.

easy bean and rice bowl with sweet peppers:

1 cup of dry basmati rice, cooked

1 Tbsp. canola or grapeseed oil

2 sweet peppers, finely diced

1 small bunch of scallions, white and green parts roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. pickled jalapeno peppers, minced

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups of salsa

1 cup of grated cheese, something neutral will melt easily; such as mozzarella, monterey jack or havarti

Salt to taste

Guacamole, diced tomatoes and sour cream for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large skillet saute the peppers, garlic and scallions until soft. Add the beans, cooked rice and salsa and stir to combine.

3. Put the rice and bean mixture into a casserole dish and cover with the grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese on top has browned.

It’s been an Echo & the Bunnymen sort of week; I’ve been listening to them at work, at friend’s houses and while making lunch on a holiday Monday. Nothing says “Happy Birthday Queen Victoria!” like some heartfelt gloomy pop on a grey afternoon in May.

Echo & the Bunnymen – The Killing Moon

Tofu and Egg Scramble

I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to make a really impressive tofu scramble despite several efforts and recipes that (I feel) should have produced something delicious and flavourful. I’ve been to restaurants and had lovely tofu scrambles for brunch, the best ones almost always own the tofu scramble as its own separate identity without even attempting to taste like traditional scrambled eggs. This tofu and scrambled eggs dish is my favourite breakfast for dinner meal and was born by virtue of necessity; one night I didn’t have enough eggs for both Ian and I but I did have some medium-firm tofu lurking in the back of my fridge. Never being an avid scrambled eggs fan I now prefer this happy marriage of proteins to either form on its own (at least for this particular recipe.) I almost always make this with salsa and cilantro in mind, but try it with dill, capers, cream cheese and smoked salmon or garam masala, red chillies, grated lime zest and chutney. In other words, think of the tofu and eggs as a soft and custardy canvas on which to place your favourite vegetables, condiments, cheeses, etc. I like to serve this tofu and egg scramble with wholegrain toast slathered in salted butter from Prince Edward Island and a tart Granny Smith apple cut into segments, packed in its own little bowl, alongside a hot cup of tea (rosehip is my favourite to sip alongside this meal) or an ice cold glass of orange juice.

tofu and egg scramble:

(for two servings)

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/3  cup thinly sliced zucchini

1/3 cup finely diced sweet pepper

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

6 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of crumbled medium-firm tofu that has been first been drained of any excess water*

1/2 tsp. turmeric (this is mainly to mimic the colour of vibrant sunny egg yolks, the recipe will in no way fail if you haven’t any turmeric lying around your spice cupboard)

1 tsp. chili powder

Kosher salt to taste

Diced cucumber to garnish

Cilantro, haphazardly torn, for garnish

As much salsa as you like to top the scramble, I used a bean and corn salsa for this particular entry

*from the extremely useful WikiHow page on tofu preparation: “The best way to make the texture of tofu more appetizing is to press it for 1-2 hours before cooking or marinating it. Cut the block of tofu into 4 slices longways, and spread these out onto a plate covered with two layers of paper towels. Cover the tofu with two more layers of paper towels and another plate. Apply pressure with something heavy, like a few books or a toaster. When you’re done, the paper towels will have absorbed a lot of the tofu’s moisture, and it will have a better texture and absorb marinades better.”

1. In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat; add the bell peppers, zucchini, red onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes while stirring periodically to prevent excess browning or sticking.

2. Combine the egg and tofu together in a bowl and lightly whisk them up with a fork, all you want to do here is make sure that both of these ingredients are mixed together. Add the turmeric and chili powder to the vegetables and stir until everything is coated in the spice mixture before adding the egg and tofu mixture into the hot pan.

3. Using a rubber spatula push the tofu and egg concoction around the skillet until the eggs have set; like plain scrambled eggs you want your tofu and eggs to be velvety and  custard-like. Serve with the diced cucumbers, cilantro and a generous spoonful of your favourite salsa.

The merrier the meal, the merrier the music. Here is Cassius 1999, one of the catchiest and danciest songs that I have in my iTunes library. This song, along with others by Cassius and Daft Punk, keep me awake and full of energetic bounce either in the morning or evening. Anecdotally, this song is living proof of music’s ability to transform a mood or state of awakeness, as is the tofu and egg scramble; by combining both elements you’re creating an environment of elevation and a sure start to a happy mood.

Cassius – Cassius 1999