Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce and Poached Egg

Egg Pasta with Creamy Cheese SauceThe first time I tried to make a cheese sauce from scratch, it turned out to be a clumpy mess. Based on my experiences with making Kraft Dinner, I added grated cheese to hot milk and stirred, hoping that the sauce would thicken up. Guess what happened? The cheese and the milk stayed completely separate. In fact, the grated cheese melted slightly and coagulated into little cheese clusters in the hot milk. It was a good learning experience– now I know not to add cheese to hot milk to make cheese sauce, lest I want to end up with cheese ball soup.

The proper way of making a cheese sauce (where, you know, the cheese melts into the sauce) is to first make a béchamel sauce with flour, fat, and milk, then add in grated cheese. For this recipe, I included a bit of shallot and prepared mustard to give the dish some extra bite.

Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce and Poached Egg

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • Water
  • 2 tsp light-coloured vinegar (apple cider, white, or rice would work)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp fat (butter tastes better, I used oil and it turned out fine)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp all purpose white flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated cheese of your choice, something that melts nicely is good (cheddar, mozzarella, harvarti, oka, oxana, or a blend!)
  • 1.5 tsp prepared mustard
  • white pepper to taste
  • Salt
  • ~200 g egg noodles
  • Basil leaves, for garnish

Method

  1. Fill a small sauce pan with 2 inches of water, heat until you see small bubbles rising occasionally to the top. Add vinegar to the water.
  2. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl (or a ladle), bring it very close to the water’s surface, and slide it into the water. Repeat with other 2 eggs.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for ~2 minutes, or until egg whites are coagulated but yolk is still runny. Submerge the poached eggs in a bowl of room-temperature water while you prepare the sauce and pasta.
  4. Microwave the milk until warm.
  5. In a large pot, sauté the shallot in fat over medium heat until translucent. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. The mixture, called a roux, should look like wet sand. If it doesn’t, adjust the amount of oil/flour.
  6. Add the warmed milk slowly, whisk to break up lumps of roux. You may not need all the milk, or may need more, adjust accordingly.
  7. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes, scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.
  8. Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta.
  9. Add cheese, cook and stir the sauce to melt cheese. Once the cheese is melted, cook noodles in the pot of boiling water until soft but not mushy, drain and add to the cheese sauce.
  10. Mix thoroughly, portion into 3 bowls, top with poached egg and basil leaves.
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Fava Bean and Dill Khoresh

Khoresh is a Persian word meaning stew. Much like making stews, there are many ways of making khoresh. The main ingredients are meat (chicken, lamb, beef, duck), beans (chickpeas, white broad beans, fava beans), and vegetables (onions, carrots). Additional flavour comes from spices (saffron, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, pepper), sweet / acidic seasonings (quince, rosewater, orange blossom water, dried fruit, pomegranate seeds/ molasses, citrus, sour grape juice), and,/ or nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachio).

I love blending ingredients to create a harmonious chorus of savory, sweet, and acidic flavours, which I think is what khoresh strives to achieve.

IMG_5385

I found the necessary ingredients at Persia Foods in Vancouver. I tried to follow the original recipe since I’m very new to cooking Persian food.

My end product was a decent 3/5. This dish had a good balance between the earthiness from the turmeric and the acidity from the verjuice (unripe grape juice). Flavours of dill stood out prominently against a background of sweet caramelized onions and fragrant rosewater. One thing that I would change is the fava beans–maybe fresh or frozen (which were called for by the original recipe) would’ve had a milder aftertaste. I also found the skin of the beans to be a bit tough. I wonder if this was due to the acidity from the verjuice: cooking beans in acid can prevent the skin from softening. But that doesn’t really make sense because the beans were already cooked when they were purchased in a can… Overall, this dish was a welcome change in my routine, but it needs a few modifications before I would consider adding it to my repertoire.
IMG_5389

Fava Bean and Dill Khoresh

Recipe modified from: http://www.najmiehskitchen.com/pdf/fol_favabeankoresh.pdf

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 7 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1.5-2 cups water
  • 1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped dill (I used the fronds from one large bunch)
  • 1/4 cup verjuice (unripe grape juice)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron strands
  • 2 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2-4 eggs

Method

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute onions in oil until caramelized.
  2. Add garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, saute for 2 minutes more. Add water and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put rosewater in a microwaveable bowl and microwave for 20 seconds until hot. Add saffron to the rosewater and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add fava beans, chopped dill, verjuice, saffron and rosewater to the onion mixture, simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil over medium and fry the eggs until desired doneness.
  6. Taste the stew, adjust salt and seasonings as needed. Serve with fried eggs on top.

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Butternut Squash Tart

The recipe came from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte, and it is absolutely delicious.

It’s essentially a vegetable quiche pumped full of butternut squash, greens, and cheese. It took my friend and I around two hours to make the recipe from start to finish, so be prepared for the amount of labour and time required. In the end, both of us agreed that the work was well worth it. The sweet squash, savory cheese, and tangy onion (flavoured with vinegar) is a winning combination. The tart looks impressive, tastes delightful, and can be made using readily available local BC ingredients (squash, kale, onion, eggs,…).

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Here’s the original recipe. I made a few minor adjustments with the ingredients I had on hand, but I would suggest sticking with the original. The changes I made were:

  • 4 medium eggs instead of 3 large ones
  • ~4 cups chopped kale instead of Swiss chard
  • cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes (I think I used less too)
  • red onion instead of yellow
  • apple cider instead of balsamic vinegar (I used less than 2 tbsp, but would use the full amount in the future)
  • Havarti cheese instead of Gruyere
  • ~ 1 tsp dried thyme in the crust instead of fresh
  •  used salted butter and omitted the salt in the crust (bad baking technique, I know, but salted butter is so much cheaper!)
  • pressed the dough into the pan instead of rolling it out (looks messier, but easier)
  • whole wheat flour instead of white flour

Buckwheat Harvest Tart

Bon appetite!

Late Summer’s Salad

End of August, the last few days of summer cling onto shorts, ice cream cones, and the outdoor swimming pool. Amidst the goodbye to warm weather and sunny days in Vancouver, we’re lucky enough to say hello to the season’s bounty: farm-fresh vegetables and fruits from local growers.

I’ve made a few variations of this salad already, using yellow bell peppers, chickpeas, eggs, figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, bulgur, dried tofu, and yellow wax beans in various combinations with one another. The dressing was kept simple: olive oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper. Once I used soy sauce, canola oil (sesame, chili, or Sichuan peppercorn oil would be perfect here as well), white pepper, and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-inspired taste.

A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.
A hearty salad, perfect for lunch or dinner in the summer heat.

The trick to making this salad quickly is to pre-cook as many of the ingredients as you can ahead of time. For example, I soaked and boiled about 1 cup of dry chickpeas, cooked 3 eggs, and reconstituted 1 cup of dried bulgur all at once when I made this salad the first time a few days ago. Today, I simply pulled the chickpeas, egg, and bulgur out of the fridge, and they were ready to use. This salad came together in no time at all.

Late Summer’s Salad 

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 1 roma tomato, seeds removed, diced
  • 1 mini cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup bulgur, cooked
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas, cooked
  • 3 figs, 3/8 inch cubes
  • 1 egg, boiled to your liking, cut into 8 wedges

Dressing

  • 1-1.5 tbsp acid (balsamic vinegar, or rice, red or white wine vinegar, or lemon juice)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Put all ingredients except the egg into a medium-sized bowl, mix well to combine.
  2. When ready to serve, gently lay the egg pieces on top of the salad.

 

To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).
To compliment the sweetness of the figs, I used a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the Vancouver Olive Oil Company (http://vooc.ca).