Grits, Eggs, Warm Bacon-Tomato Relish

I am your brunch, and I am Divine.

Hey you.

Are you an intuitive cook? Me too. Do you think measuring spoons are cute but often find them superfluous? Do your discerning eyes and tongue guide you smartly through your kitchen? Ok, this recipe is for you. This dish is in your future. Make it to taste. But surely, make it, because the combination is such a winner.

–See my previous post for a great grits recipe here.–

1. Start the plate with baked grits. (Hey, maybe you want to use my recipe for Cracked Pepper Cheddar Grits!
2. Top with an egg (poached, fried, heck-maybe even scrambled)
3. Finish with a generous spoonful or two of this Warm Bacon-Tomato Relish.

Warm Bacon-Tomato Relish
a recipe sans measurements
inspired by a dish I adored at the Redbud Café

chopped fresh tomato
chopped red onion
bit of olive oil
chopped cooked bacon or a bit of bacon grease
balsamic vinegar (to taste, a teaspoon or two)
minced garlic
bit of dried thyme

Put everything in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. The tomatoes should still have a bit of bite to them. Serve warm. The tang and acidity make this a great complement to cheesy, creamy grits.

Me and Mom, quite alike but differently adapted.


Cracked Pepper Cheddar Grits

In the past two weeks I’ve received not one but TWO bags of local fresh coarsely-ground corn grits (from different sources). How lucky! More on that later. But first, a simple recipe for cheesy grits to use as a side dish or a base.

These grits have sharp cheddar cheese and a bit of salty Parmesan for perk. I prefer to use a colorful peppercorn mix, but black pepper is fine too. And don’t leave out the bacon grease!

Cracked Pepper Cheddar Grits

serves 4-6

4 cups water
1 cup coarse ground grits (not quick grits)
1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp bacon grease
1 tsp salt
freshly ground peppercorns to taste (black/white/green/red mix is best)

Bring water to a rolling boil, then stir in grits. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium-low), cover with a lid and let grits simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid lumps. After the first 25 minutes, stir in cheeses and all other ingredients until everything is incorporated smoothly. Let simmer for a couple more minutes. At this point the grits are ready to eat (in the porridge-like form).

For baked grits, pour grits into an oven-safe dish and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

For more solid grits (like polenta), chill cooked grits until firm (overnight, to prepare a day ahead), then bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Think of what you could put on top!

Visit my next post to see what I put on top of those grits!

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Sesame Brittle

Happy Easter, Happy Spring! It’s sunny out, and I’m barefoot and loving life today!

As a gift this Christmas past, Mom got me a 2-year subscription to Bon Appétit. It’s such a treat to pull a magazine out of the mailbox every month–especially one with gorgeous food inspiration! This Easter day I made these Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes inspired by a recipe from the March 2012 issue. I’ve been thinking about that recipe ever since I laid eyes on the photo and realized those sweet orange potatoes were topped with, basically, bacon candy. That’s just too fun.

Mine looked like this.

So while the potatoes were roasting I cooked up the bacon and set about making the “brittle,” which consists of bacon, drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds. Perhaps I didn’t cook the mixture quite long enough, or the BA writers didn’t explain the process in enough detail–I ended up with sugary candied bacon rather than shiny glossy brittle. But I don’t mean to say at all that the recipe was a flop-oh, no-it was still a grand success! While the texture of the topping is slightly off from what the recipe intended, it’s still an ingenious sugary bacon topping–with added toastiness from the sesame seeds–that makes an exquisite accent flavor for sweet potatoes.

It’s a hit! (that’s a song)

The flavors are great, the textures are fun, and the presentation is just so nice. Go ahead, fancy up your sweet potatoes. And if your brittle turns into candied sesame bacon, fear not, for you have not failed. Just take a bite.

Easter in food, 2012. There in the middle is the only Easter egg I saw today.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Sesame Brittle

serves 6 (6 potato halves)
adapted from Bon Appétit

for the brittle:
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black or white)

(These are the Bon Appétit directions.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook chopped bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to crisp. Drain bacon and reserve drippings. Return bacon, 1 tablespoon of the drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds to the same skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns the color of milk chocolate, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared parchment-lined baking sheet and use a spatula to spread out evenly. Let cool, then break into small shards. (As aforementioned, mine wouldn’t spread out into a glossy single layer, but I spread it as best I could. When it cooled I chipped it into smaller pieces.)

for the potatoes:
3 medium sweet potatoes, washed
1 egg
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
dash cinnamon

garnish: 1 green onion (green parts only)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sweet potatoes (whole) on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 45-55 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle. When cool, slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop most of the flesh from each half into a bowl, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of flesh inside skins. Mash potato flesh in the bowl with the egg, butter, ginger, salt, and cinnamon–stir until smooth. Spoon or pipe filling back into reserved skins on the baking sheet. Bake potatoes until the tops are lightly puffed and golden brown, 30-35 minutes. To serve, top with bacon-sesame brittle and super thinly-sliced green onion ribbons.

Carrot Curl Salad with Black Sesame Seeds

They sort of look like bugs.

It’s an über-good Friday.

Dad bought himself a new truck, and I realized my family often celebrates with grilled hamburgers. Usually, there are homemade french fries. Tonight we passed on the fries (I think out of laziness).

In a last-minute refusal not to have a fresh vegetable on our meaty plates, I began to make carrot curls. Once you peel away and discard the rough parts of the carrot, keep shaving the clean carrot flesh into little carrot ribbons. It makes for a very pleasing salad when you add a tangy vinaigrette. Crisp. Summery. Delightful.

Black Sesame Seeds have a stronger toasty flavor than white ones, and they add a nice nuttiness to this salad. Some fresh parsley or cilantro would be a nice addition, but alas, it is not summer quite yet and the porch pots are empty.

Throw this together some night, it’s tasty!

Carrot Curl Salad
serves 4 as a side dish

4 large carrots, shaved into ribbons with a carrot peeler
1 heaping teaspoon black sesame seeds
fresh parsley or cilantro, if you have it 🙂

the vinaigrette:
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tsp lime juice
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp sugar

Books for Foodies: The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food

Judith Jones. Boy, does she seem lovely.

Julia Child‘s a huge name in American culinary history, but perhaps you are unaware that Judith Jones was the steering force guiding Julia onto the food scene with the release of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. An editor, publisher, francophile, and voracious foodie, Judith cooked with and published several pioneering chefs who crafted their first cookbooks while working alongside her.

In this memoir by Jones, she tells of her experiences with giants like Julia, Madhur Jaffrey, Lidia Bastianich, and Edna Lewis, among others.

While regaling the reader with fun tidbits from her own well-seasoned life, Judith gives an account of a transformation of the American food scene. She was a driving force behind cooks who brought Indian, Middle Eastern, and even Southern American cuisine into mainstream consciousness. In the kitchen with these chefs she helped them learn to put into words their unique stories; it’s a delicious added perk that she got to watch them in action, test and taste their creations, and absorb their authentic culinary know-how.

Throughout the book you’ll be transported to Judith’s own kitchen, alive with flavors, where she shares her simple tricks and reveals her discerning palate. Most enjoyable is her easy delight in all things good and tasty. Her words reveal her down-to-earth demeanor, while her food affirms her joie de vivre.

Much like the feeling I get while reading about Julia Child, I was giddy with daydream while reading Judith’s stories. Envy might be dangerous, but I can safely say I yearn to live her culinary experiences.

Dearest foodies, read this book! Be delighted.

Lovely Little Quiche

Remember Quiche?! Quiche is quick. Quiche is quaint. Quiche wants to go on a picnic with you.

Make Quiche in muffin pans–he transforms into little 3-bite delights! Then they’re ready to join you in the sunshine.

Bring wine, because they like that too. Oh, and parties.

Click here for the quiche recipe. One crust and one egg mixture recipe makes about 12 muffin-size quiches. Just spray your muffin tins with nonstick spray, cut rounds of dough using a glass from your cabinet, then press the rounds into your muffin pan. Fill each about 3/4 full of egg mixture (including your favorite meats/veggies/herbs) and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Happy Spring!!! And, go listen to this song. Tap your toes and feed your soul.