Tag experiment

Spinach and Fresh Herb Frittata

Last night I cooked Martha Rose Shulman’s spinach and fresh herb frittata with walnuts and yogurt from her book, Recipes for Health. Shulman describes it quite wonderfully as “a little garden” and she’s right. It is just packed with flavorful greens.

I thought it was delicious. But The Professor … well, not so much.

“It’s definitely different,” he offered as a first comment, and I knew where we were headed. “But I don’t love it.”

He took another bite and added, “If it were on the menu at a restaurant I wouldn’t order it.”

I decided not to ask him for a grade.

But he did explain what he liked and didn’t like about the dish. The big problem was the flavor — it turns out that The Professor doesn’t like mint and I had added a generous handful, along with some tarragon and almost a full bunch of parsley. “Mint should be used sparingly,” he said.

Mint should be used sparingly! Did he think he was some kind of Kitchen Oracle? Offering cooking koans? I was starting to get angry.

‘What about mint tea and mint chocolate chip ice cream?” I thought to myself. Peppermint Patties and Candy Canes! Explain that, Mr. Kitchen Oracle!

But before I said anything, The Professor started talking about what he liked, and he did like the basic idea, which he described as something between a frittata and a quiche.

He liked that the spinach and herbs had been chopped fine and mixed well with the eggs so that every bite had lots of flavor. He liked the crunchiness of the walnuts. He said it was worth trying again.

And I will. In the meantime, here is Shulman’s recipe. I used five eggs and one cup of egg whites rather than eight whole eggs. If you try it, let me know what you think.

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Fried Tofu … A Tale of Woe

Last night I made soy-ginger udon noodles with mushrooms … and tofu. I have often served the Asian noodles topped with roasted salmon, and that’s been a hit.

Udon Noodles topped with Salmon

But because my ultimate goal here is to find or develop great vegetarian (rather than pescatarian) dishes, I’ve been trying to create a version with fried tofu.

Sigh.

For my first attempt I bought cubes of fried tofu from my local Whole Foods. They were tasty and not too fried, so they didn’t sit like lead in your stomach. But they were also big — so big you couldn’t comfortably get some noodles and a whole cube of tofu into your mouth at the same time.

For my second attempt, I thought I’d just fry up the tofu at home. I diligently pressed the tofu to squeeze out the water, sliced it, heated up a few tablespoons of peanut oil, and tossed the little cubes into the pan. “It will take a few minutes for the tofu to turn golden,” Deborah Madison had advised. So I cleaned some mushrooms while they began to fry. When I turned back to the stove to flip the cubes, I found they were sticking to the pan. Hot oil was spattering, the baby was crying, and eventually I ditched my tongs for a metal spatula and began scraping the little cubes off of the pan’s surface.

My first attempt to fry tofu

Was the pan too hot — or not hot enough? Had I not dried the tofu off enough? Or should I have just used a non-stick pan? I don’t yet know.

On the positive side, the slight crunch of the somewhat overcooked tofu added a nice texture to the dish. That said, next time I think I’ll try baking it.

Jody Adams’ Mushroom Fricassee

Jody Adams is the award-winning chef/owner of Rialto in Cambridge, MA, author of In the Hands of a Chef, a former contestant on BRAVO’s Top Chef Masters, and a truly lovely person. (She’s also a seemingly lapsed blogger.)

Adams focuses on regional Italian cooking. Her menus explore the culinary traditions of Sicily, Sardinia or Emilia-Romagna, and while a handful of regular dishes are available year-round, most of her offerings change with the seasons.  In the autumn months, she sometimes offers, as a side dish, a delicious fricassee of wild mushrooms (shiitakes, chanterelles and more) served in a rich, slightly soupy sauce. It is delicious.

Could it be the basis of a vegetarian entree, I wondered. So last night I experimented: I made Adams’ mushroom fricassee (I used shiitakes, portobellos, chanterelles, oysters and blue foot mushrooms, and used olive oil instead of the butter the recipe called for), and I served it on a bed of soft polenta, topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of parmesan.

The Professor, an initial skeptic, deemed it “good,” though he declined to grade the first effort, preferring to evaluate it after a few attempts. But this much was clear: The combination of flavors worked well, and the addition of dry Marsala (a wine I’d never cooked with before) helped create a hearty broth. But overall, the fricassee was very, very rich — in part because Adams calls for cooking each type of mushroom separately and adding butter/oil each time. There’s a reason that Adams serves it as a side dish, rather than a larger dinner portion.

I am going to try a version of the dish again, but I’ll cut the amount of olive oil next time. And I’m going to study the recipe for Mushroom Hash (topped with a poached egg!) that, by coincidence, Martha Rose Shulman published this week in her New York Times’ Recipes for Health column.