Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Friday, April 8, 2016

Brunch for My Ladies ; Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce, Bruleed Grapefruit With Honey-Yogurt, Spinach Strata

Although it has taken me months to sit down and write about the following recipes, the day I cooked them for a small group of my dearest friends was one of my favorite days of summer. There was no special occasion other than to spoil some of my favorite ladies with food that was good for their souls. We sat on the deck, overlooking the water and mountains, and soaked up the sun as we ate. I remember looking around the table and being extremely thankful for such a meaningful time with my friends.

From a culinary standpoint, the food turned out beautifully! Especially the Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce and Spinach Strata. They were both rich, savory, and just plain delicious. All ingredients were simple but when combined, created amazing dishes. Please enjoy!

Skillet Eggs in Tomato Sauce:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 pounds large tomatoes, chopped (about 10 cups)
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
8 fresh basil leaves
6 large eggs
1 oz Parmesan cheese, shaved for garnish

Heat oil in large skillet over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, just until it starts to brown around edges, 30 seconds to one minute. Add tomatoes, 2 tsp salt, and basil. Simmer until tomatoes have broken down into a loose sauce, about 20 minutes. This part of preparation smells heavenly!

Make a well in tomato sauce with back of spoon and crack one egg into hole. Repeat with remaining five eggs.

Season with salt and pepper and cook until whites are set and yolks are cooked as desired, about 25 to 30 minutes. Top with cheese and serve immediately with sauce from the skillet. Serve with toasted slices of baguette for dipping if desired.

All I can say about this recipe is, oh my goodness! I will start out by saying that this dish is in the top ten dishes that I have ever prepared for this blog. I loved it that much; as did my friends. I cooked the sauce down for almost 30 minutes and by the time it was done, it was luscious, velvety, and full of fresh flavors. I was concerned about overcooking the eggs but they were perfectly finished, with the qualities of over easy eggs. I used an aged pre-grated Parmesan from Metropolitan Market (instead of shaved parmesan) which was just enough to add a nice, nutty quality to the dish. The basil was picked from my garden and the eggs were organic eggs that were also purchased at Metropolitan Market. We then used the remainder of the Grand Central baguette (that I used to make the Spinach Strata) to soak up the sauce. This dish was honestly as close to perfection as possible. I can't wait to make it again!


Spinach Strata

1/2 baguette (to yield about 6 cups of torn bread)
1 Tbsp softened butter, plus 3 Tbsp melted butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
2 Tbsp fresh sage, torn
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)
1 1/2 oz baby spinach (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 oz Gruyere, grated
1 oz Parmesan, grated

Cut bread into slices about 3/4-inch thick. Set on counter for several hours to dry out, or toast the bread in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Tear each slice into several pieces. This should yield about 6 cups.

Coat 8" X 8" casserole dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter. In large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in milk, sage, salt, pepper, melted butter, and minced garlic until homogeneous.

Add torn bread to custard, mixing to make sure every piece absorbs some liquid. Stir in spinach and Gruyere. Pour bread-custard-spinach mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan and top with more freshly ground pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for one hour on counter, or several hours in fridge (I chose to have it sit in the fridge overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees about 20 minutes before you are ready to bake the strata. Bake until top is browned and slightly puffed and strata is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving warm.

This strata was out of this world! I used Grand Central Bakery baguette and Gruyere from PCC Natural Market. All other ingredients were organic and/or locally sourced; including the sage, which I harvested from my garden that morning. It is high on my list of recipes to prepare again but next time, I would like to make it for my family.

Bruleed Grapefruit with Honey-Yogurt

4 large grapefruit, ruby red or gold
2 to 3 tsp sugar
1 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla (if using plain yogurt, use 1 tsp; if vanilla, use 1/2 tsp
2 tsp milk or half and half

Start by prepping fruit; wash grapefruit and use knife to slice down the sides of the fruit to get the majority of rind off.

Then, using a smaller knife, trim extra rind. Slice into sections of fruit on each side of the separating membranes, taking out only fruit sections, one piece at a time, working your way around the fruit. Lay slices close together on serving platter in rows of concentric circle. If you don't have a brûlée torch, arrange slices on an ovenproof baking dish or baking sheet.

Next, wash the pomegranate and score around the middle. Break into two halves with your hands, then slightly crack open the sections of each half to loosen the seeds. With your hand over the bowl, place half pomegranate open-side-down on your palm. Hit back of fruit with wooden spoon until all seeds fall out. Repeat with other half.

Gently and evenly sprinkle sugar over the fruit platter. Using a brûlée torch or a few minutes under the broiler, evenly melt sugar until it slightly caramelizes.

In small bowl, mix together yogurt, honey, vanilla, and milk or half-and-half to make smooth sauce.

Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over bruleed grapefruit and drizzle generously with honey-yogurt. Serve immediately.

There are a few things I would change about this recipe to make it work better for me. The first is to leave out the pomegranate seeds. My guests and I agreed that they seemed extraneous and that we would prefer keeping a smooth texture without added crunch for this dish. The second change I would make is to either A) purchase a brûlée torch instead of trying to create a brûlée affect under the broiler or B) allow the grapefruit to cool more after broiling. While under the broiler, the grapefruit ended up warming all the way through which then made the yogurt sauce a bit runny. If I had broiled the grapefruit and then let it sit for several minutes or placed it in the fridge to cool before drizzling the yogurt sauce, the end result would have been more favorable. The sweetness of the honey and vanilla against the tartness of the grapefruit however, was quite lovely. Please keep in mind that this recipe is a bit labor intensive.


Finally, I served these dishes with a fresh frisee salad with a homemade vinaigrette to add a fresh note to the meal. The vinaigrette was prepared with olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, shallot from my garden, and salt and pepper to taste.