Cheesy True Grits

Cheesy grits with fried eggs

These creamy, cheesy grits make an easy, perfect breakfast topped with fried eggs. The melting quality of Gouda or Gruyere cheese marries the flavor of sharp cheddar in a perfect match. You can also sub half a cup of Trader Joe’s melange of Gruyere and Cheddar cheese. Unlike many Southern recipes, this California girl adds no cream and just a smidgen of butter.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

grits box

cheese

2 cups water

A few shakes salt (I use sea salt)

1 tsp butter

1/2 cup quick cooking hominy grits

1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s Melange cheese (made of Gruyere and cheddar)

OR

1/4 cup (2 oz) grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup (2 oz) grated Gruyere or Gouda cheese  (2 small rounds of Gouda)

Directions

Bring salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in grits. Turn burner to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in butter and cheese until they melt. Cover pot while you fry the eggs.

Fried eggs:

Warm eggs in a large pot of hot water for 10 minutes. Or even better, leave them out overnight. Melt a teaspoon of butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Break eggs into pan and let them cook over medium heat until the whites begin to harden on the edges. Lift the edges in a few places and pour in a spoonful of warm water underneath them. This makes the whites more tender. Cook until the whites are opaque. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Poached Eggs: I used Alton Brown’s method: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/perfect-poached-eggs-recipe/how-to-make-poached-eggs-like-alton-brown

Heat about 1 inch water in a non stick frying pan. Add 2 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp Kosher (or regular) salt and stir well. Break cold eggs into separate ramekins or teacups. Gently pour each egg in separate parts of the pan. Turn off heat and cover pan. Set timer for 5 minutes for eggs with a liquid yolk, or 7 minutes for a soft yolk. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

Pour the cheesy grits in a cereal bowl and gently place the eggs on top. Stir and enjoy.

poached eggs on cheesy grits

 

Chili-Cheese-Bacon Cornbread

piece of cornbread

This rich, moist cornbread is flavorful with charred poblano chili, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon grease. The guilty pleasure of bacon grease is balanced by the healthy addition of olive oil! Sweetened with applesauce. Bake in the cast iron skillet used for frying the bacon.

baked pan of cornbread

Ingredients:

chili cheese
1 cup 1% milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 large poblano chili
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp paprika
1 cup cornmeal
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (I buy the little plastic containers.)
2 Tb bacon grease, melted but not hot, made from 3 slices bacon.
2 Tb olive oil
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425◦ and place rack in middle position.
Add vinegar to milk and let it curdle while you mix the other ingredients.

sweating poblano chili

Place poblano chili on comal or heavy frying pan over high heat, turning so that it burns in places. Place in a small covered pot to sweat.

While chili is sweating, grate 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and set aside.

bacon frying

Fry 3 pieces of bacon in a cast-iron skillet. Eat the bacon or add it to frijoles pintos, but save the grease. It should yield 2 Tb of bacon grease. Add the olive oil to the pan, and then scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Cool while preparing the other ingredients.

Sift white flour with baking powder, salt, paprika, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Stir in cornmeal until well combined.

miniced poblano chili

Remove poblano chili from pot and scrape off the blackened skin. (Don’t rinse it, since you’ll be rinsing away some of charred flavor.) Mince the chili. Include the seeds if you like more heat.

Whisk eggs with milk in a separate bowl, then whisk in applesauce and bacon-oil mixture, including the browned bits of bacon.
Stir in minced poblano chili and ¾ cup cheese.
Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Slowly mix and fold with a large spoon, only until batter is combined.

sprinkle cheese on top

Pour batter into the skillet that you fried the bacon in. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

cornbread and frijoles

Excellent served with frijoles pintos.

Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower and Broccoli

DSC02867

This grown-up version of the classic comfort food gets heat from cayenne, white pepper and dry mustard, and sharp flavor from extra sharp cheddar, Gouda and Parmesan, and a kick from the Chardonnay. I add cauliflower which is good on its own with the cheese sauce, and if you like, broccoli for extra color.
Preheat oven to 375◦

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IMG_1986

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients                                                                                                                                          ½ large onion (or 1 small onion)
1 large head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
2 Tb butter

1 cup elbow macaroni. I used whole wheat for extra nutrition.
1 tsp salt

Panko or regular breadcrumbs if desired

Sauce:

¼ cup butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
a few shakes cayenne to taste
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups milk (I use 1%)
¼ cup dry white wine such as chardonnay
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Gouda cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in heavy frying pan. Finely chop onion and stir into butter over medium-low heat until soft. While the onions are cooking, slice cauliflower and broccoli and cut into flowerets. Stir into onion mixture and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Alternatively, you can roast the cauliflower in the oven and add to the onions and broccoli.

Boil a large pot full of water. Stir in salt and macaroni and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until soft. Drain. Pour back into the pot. Stir the cauliflower and broccoli into the macaroni.

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Sauce directions
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Sift in flour, cayenne, mustard, salt and white pepper, and whisk until it makes a smooth paste. Cook the roux for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Add bay leaf. Cook this béchamel sauce for 15 minutes, whisking often.

Turn off heat. Remove bay leaf. Whisk in grated cheese until fully incorporated in sauce. Whisk in ¼ cup wine. Adjust salt and cayenne if desired.
Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and vegetables and stir until it is well combined. Spray a large casserole with non-stick spray. Pour mixture into casserole. Top with breadcrumbs or panko if desired.

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Bake at 375◦ for 20 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Rosemary-Parmesan Popovers

DSC03254These Rosemary-scented cheesy popovers are an easy way to start a weekend morning.  I make the batter the night before and just pop them in the oven when I first get up. By the time I shower and make the coffee, they are hot and ready. They also make a tasty accompaniment to soup.

The recipe was inspired by Chronicle writer Marlene Sorosky Gray’s article on popovers on http://www.sfgate.com/recipes/article/Baker-s-quest-What-makes-perfect-popovers-4601293.phpThis is a take-off on her pepper-jack and chive popovers.  I used only Parmesan cheese and added fresh rosemary from my garden.

The lightest popovers use only white flour, but I really like whole wheat flour. I’ve tried varying combinations of whole-wheat pastry flour and white all-purpose flour. Using all whole-wheat yields a bread-like version, so the happy medium is to use 1/3 whole-wheat pastry flour.

Makes 12 popovers

1 ½ cups hot milk. I use 1%, but you can use non fat or whole milk. (But don’t use lactose-free or other milk substitutes; they won’t work.)

3 large eggs

1 cup white all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour or finely ground whole-wheat flour

1 ½ tsp kosher salt

1 ½ Tb melted butter

¼ cup plus 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp finely minced fresh rosemary

2 Tb minced fresh chives

non-stick pan spray

Heat the milk for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a saucepan until hot but not boiling.

DSC03252adding minced fresh rosemary to batter

Using a mixer, whisk, blender or food processor, beat eggs well. Pour in milk while beating until foamy. Add the flours and salt, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add butter, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and herbs, and mix again. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, and preferably overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375’. Place a non-stick muffin pan into the oven for 3 minutes. Remove the pan and spray with non-stick pan spray.

DSC03253Pour in the batter until holders are ¾ full. Sprinkle 1 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of batter.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until tops are puffed up and browned. If popovers are baking unevenly, rotate the pan the last 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Eggplant Parmesan – Aubergine Parmigiana

???????????????????????????????Our Roman airbnb houseguest, Cinzia, kindly demonstrated her traditional Italian version of Eggplant Parmesan, called Aubergine Parmigiana in Italian. I enjoyed making it with her and it was delicious, but a bit heavy due to the fact that she deep-fried the eggplant. I lightened her recipe by baking the eggplant slices with olive oil spray instead.

I use Cinzia’s recipe for Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce, which she made for this Aubergine Parmigiana. It makes about a cup of sauce.

DSC03129                                                                                     Cinzia

Serves 4:

???????????????????????????????Ingredients: (We bought the meat from Genova Deli in Oakland)

1 large globe eggplant

kosher salt

olive oil spray

1 tsp olive oil

2 slices of Mortadella salami. (it looks like bologna, but is much better)

5 slices of Salami Milano

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large ball (4 oz) of fresh mozzarella cheese

???????????????????????????????Cut ends off eggplant and peel it.

???????????????????????????????Use a large knife to slice eggplant thinly: about 1/2 inch thick.

???????????????????????????????Place slices in a colander or salad spinner basket and sprinkle with kosher salt. Layer more slices on top, sprinkling with more salt. Let sit while you make the sauce and grate the cheese, etc, for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw the bitterness from the eggplant and drops of moisture will appear on the surface.

???????????????????????????????Rinse the salt off of the eggplant and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray a couple of baking sheets with olive oil spray. Cut the larger eggplant slices in half. Place the eggplant slices on the sheet. Spray them with olive oil spray , then turn and spray the other side.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until soft, but not dried out.

Assembly:

???????????????????????????????Spray sides and bottom of a flat casserole pan with olive oil spray, then pour about 1 tsp of oil  on the bottom, add a bit of the tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom.

DSC03205Place about 1/2 the eggplant slices in the pan and cover them with half the tomato sauce. Cut up the fresh mozzarella and place the pieces evenly on top of the eggplant.

DSC03206Cut the sliced meat into wedges and place on top of the mozzarella. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of the meat.

???????????????????????????????Cover the meat and cheese with the rest of the eggplant slices. Spread the rest of the sauce over them. Sprinkle evenly with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.

DSC03208Bake at 350′ for 30-40 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Mangia!

Calabacitas (Spicy Squash Casserole)

I make this every summer when squash and corn ripen. My sister Leanna grows beautiful squash in her sun soaked Southern California garden. We made calabacitas (call-ah-ba-SEE-tas) with it when she visited me.

I discovered the recipe in the children’s book Carlos and the Squash Plant / Carlos y la planta de calabaza by Jan Romero Stevens. It’s a tale of a boy who won’t wash his ears until a squash plant grows out of his ears. His mom serves him calabacitas when he finally washes the plant out.

I put my own touch on her recipe, by substituting olive oil for margarine, adding oregano, red bell pepper and tomato for color. Our friends Victor and Mary Lau Valle, who are master chefs,  brought us homegrown squash and oregano and taught me Victor’s mother’s version, using the Mexican cheeses asadero and cotija. (Victor and Mary are the authors of Recipe of Memory:Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine)

asadero cheese

 

Asadero is a Mexican mozzarella and melts wonderfully. Although it is a low-fat cheese, it has a wonderful buttery taste not usually associated with mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca cheese I’ve also used Oaxaca cheese with good results. The cotija we used was a powdery cheese in a bag, (not the kind that comes in a brick.) It made a nice crunchy crust on the casserole when we broiled it. I found my cheeses and chilies in the local Mexican market.

Ingredients:

IMG_3139

2 Poblano  peppers

2 jalapeños (add more jalapeños for extra heat)

2 cobs of corn

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1 onion, diced

sea salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano

5 small to medium summer squash  (I used sunburst and zucchini)

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 Roma tomatoes, seeds scooped out and chopped

1 1/4 cups coarsely grated or chopped Asadero or Oaxaca cheese. If you can’t find these, substitute Monterey Jack.

1/2 cup powdered cotija cheese

1/4 cup cilantro leaves to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350′

Place chilies directly on a gas flame until they char, then turn until all sides char. If you don’t have a gas stove, use the barbecue. And if you don’t have a barbecue, then char them on a heavy comal or frying pan placed over a burner on high. Place charred chilies in a small pot and cover until they are cool enough to handle. ???????????????????????????????The chilies will sweat and the skin will soften.

Cook the corn on the cob in the microwave.  Leave the husks on and run water over them, then place them on a large plate and cook for 7 minutes. Let them cook while you cook the other vegetables.

tomatoes scooped out

Cut tomatoes in quarters, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tomatoes and let them sit while you are cooking the other vegetables.

Chop the onion first, then chop the squash and red bell pepper while the onion cooks.

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Pour 2 Tb olive oil in large frying pan or wok and heat on medium until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and turn heat to low.  Cook onions about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.

Raise the heat to medium and add squash and garlic with oregano and a pinch of salt. Saute squash until it is beginning to brown on all sides and onions begin to crisp. Put them in a large bowl.

Saute red bell pepper in another Tb of oil until it begins to char. Add it to the onion and squash in the bowl.

cooking tomatoes

Squeeze out remaining juice from tomatoes and chop them. Saute the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt in another Tb of olive oil. Be sure to spread the tomatoes out so that they can caramelize. Add 1 tsp fresh oregano, and cook tomatoes over medium heat until they are mostly dry, Caramelizing the tomatoes concentrates their flavor – they are so delicious!

???????????????????????????????While tomatoes are cooking, remove the chilies from the pot. Put on some thin latex gloves to protect your hands. Slice the chilies open lengthwise and remove the stem and seed pod. Scrape the charred parts from the skin, then scrape the seeds and ribs from the inside. Keep some seeds if you want spicier calabacitas. Julienne the chilies into thin strips.

 

Add the chilies and cooked tomatoes to the vegetables in the bowl.

Remove the husks and ends of the corn cobs from the cooked corn. Hold the cob on a large plate and use a large knife to cut the kernels from the cob. Stir the corn in with the other vegetables.

vegetables in bowl

Stir in 1 cup of the grated Asadero, Oaxaca or Jack cheese. Spray a flat casserole or 11′ x 8″ cake pan with non-stick spray, and pour the vegetables and cheese into it.

Sprinkle the rest of the Asadero cheese on top of the calabacitas. Then sprinkle with cotija powdered cheese.

Bake at 350′ for 20 minutes.

Move a rack to the upper third of the oven and turn on the broiler.

baked calabacitas

 

Place under the broiler for 3 -5 minutes, until the cheese turns a golden brown.

serving with cilantro

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Delicious served with corn tortillas to soak up the cheesy sauce. You can mix it in with Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

Got leftovers? Add them to chilaquilas

Tortilla Soup, bién rica

This classic Mexican soup is fragrant with lime, comino and oregano, with just enough heat from chile powder. This is one of the first recipes that I posted on my blog. I’ve updated it to the way it has evolved in the last 10 years.

You could make a vegan version of this recipe by using vegetable broth.

I make my own Tortillas de maíz hechas a mano – Homemade corn tortillas from fresh masa from the local Mexican market or with dry masa. They will literally melt into the soup. When I’m not up to that I buy preservative-free tortillas made in East Oakland: (from La Finca or La Mexicana)  in Mexican markets in the East Bay,  or at La Palma in San Francisco.

You can roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make tinga de pollo or season the chicken ahead of time.

Serves 3 for dinner with a warm tortilla in the soup.

1 ½ quarts (6 cups) homemade chicken bone broth.  See   (ok, buy it boxed or canned  it you don’t have homemade.)

1 corn tortilla (homemade is best) for the soup, plus 3 tortillas to serve in the soup.

14 oz can roasted tomatoes or 5 fresh Roma tomatoes and olive oil spray

2 Tb olive oil, divided

1/2 onion plus 2 Tb onion for chicken and 2 Tb for garnish

3 cloves garlic

2 large stalks celery, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. cumin (comino in Spanish) divided between chicken and soup

2 tsp dried oregano, divided between chicken and soup

1/2 to 1 tsp ancho chile powder (to taste) Remember a little goes a long way!

1/2 teaspoon salt to taste

½ roasted chicken breast shredded (tinga de pollo is an excellent addition and will add extra flavor)

2-3 teaspoons salsa

1 lime, juiced

Garnish with any of the above:

Several sprigs of fresh cilantro for each bowl if desired

2 – 3 tsp dried oregano

A tablespoon of minced raw onion for each bowl

1-2 Tb Monterey Jack cheese for each bowl

1 small to medium avocado sliced

If roasting your own tomatoes: Preheat oven to 300′ Halve tomatoes and place cut side up on a foil-lined pan. Spray with olive oil spray and bake for 1 hour. Remove the stems and skins from tomatoes and onion, then pulse them in a food processor. You can do this step ahead of time.

Heat 1 Tb olive oil in a large pot. add onions, celery and carrots and saute until onions soften. Add broth and bring to boil, then stir in tomatoes, cumin, chili powder and salt to taste.

Shred chicken breast. If not using tinga de pollo, prepare the chicken as follows: In a separate pan, heat 1 Tb olive oil and add onions and saute until soft. Add chicken and mix in 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon comino and 2 Tb salsa. (You can do this part ahead of time.)

Heat tortilla on a comal or heavy frying pan until soft. You can alternatively microwave it for 30 seconds.

Ladle 2 cups of broth into a blender (try not to include the vegetables). Tear up the tortilla and add it to the blender. Blend on high until tortilla has crumbled into the broth. Pour back into the soup pot and mix thoroughly.

Stir in the cooked breast. Heat soup to hot. Juice the lime into the soup.

Pour soup into bowls. Roll a freshly warmed tortilla and put it in the bowl. Add avocado slices, sprinkle dried oregano, raw chopped onions, and cilantro as desired. Crumble cheese on top. ¡Disfrùtela!

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