Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Kicked up a notch" french toast

I know it's been a while since I've posted. A long-anticipated camping trip (and preparing for said trip) have kept me away. We returned home this afternoon after spending most of the week at an annual church camp out.

Once a year for the past 15 years our church has reserved a U.S. Forest Service campground near a river just east of the Cascade Mountains. When we first began this tradition, most of us were "tenters", but as the years have passed (and our backs have aged) the majority now arrive in trailers, RV's or 5th-wheels. In the morning the first ones up prepare coffee and visit each campsite offering a hot cup of joe and a warm "good morning". In the afternoons we swim, hike, fish, and do "a whole lot of nuthin" together. There is usually a group campfire in the evening where memories are shared, and stories are told and re-told. The week culminates with a Saturday scavenger hunt, a potluck, and then Sunday morning worship service near the edge of the river.

Now, if you know anything about Forest Service campgrounds, you'll recognize that we were not exactly living the life of luxury this past week. No electricity, no showers, pit toilets, and (as we jokingly say) running water only if you can move that quickly with a full bucket. We ate well but not exactly gourmet. So, in between making PBJ's for lunch and grilling hot dogs or turkey burgers for dinner, I dreamed about food--amazing, decadent, imaginative food.

My daydreams started the way we should start each day--with a good breakfast. I've never cared much for pancakes or waffles. Both tend to get rather boring after a few bites. But french toast is a different story--crisp on the outside, soft and almost custard-like on the inside. So, what could I do to make it even better? I've seen recipes for stuffed french toast, most of them involving cream cheese and/or mascapone. In the words of Emeril, I'd like to kick it up a notch. What about brie? Is there anything more deliciously self-indulgent?

Carb Diva's French Toast with Brie
1 baguette
3 ounces brie, chilled for easier slicing
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter, divided
fruit topping (see below)

Slice the baguette on the diagonal (this gives you larger slices of bread), making the slices about 1 1/2 inches thick. Discard the ends or save for another use.

With a sharp knife, cut a slit in the bottom (crust) side of each slice. Slice the chilled brie into small wedges, about 1/4-inch thick and 1-inch square. Stuff one wedge of brie into each slice of baguette.

In a shallow bowl, beat together the milk, egg, and salt with a wire whisk until well blended. Dip the baguette slices into the milk/egg mixture, turning to coat both cut sides.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. of the butter; as it melts tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Add as many of the baguette slices as will fit in the pan without crowding. Cook until golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes). Turn over and cook the other side until brown. Remove from pan and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining butter and baguette slices.

Fruit Topping
There are so many things that could be done with this recipe, depending on what seasonal fruits are available. In late Spring I would choose strawberries--slice, sprinkle on a bit of sugar and let sit for a few minutes until juices begin to form.

In summer one could do the same with fresh raspberries or blackberries.

However, my favorite fruit with brie is apples or pears, pared, cored, and thinly sliced, sprinkled with sugar and a generous amount of cinnamon. Let sit for about 30 minutes then place in a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until apples or pears begin to soften and juices become syrupy.

Baguettes and brie--could french toast be any more "French" than that? Ooh-la-la!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Don't hurry the curry

Today my husband and I attended a gathering of retirees from the office  where we worked years (and years) ago. This loyal group gets together once a month for brunch, at this annual occasion for a potluck picnic, and many times in-between. But for my husband and I it was a first time reuniting with the moldy oldies. What a shock! The faces are still recognizable, but there are a few more wrinkles, a bit more gray hair, or less hair entirely! (How odd, because we haven't aged a bit).

But once past the initial awkwardness of "...and you are...?" we easily fell into a comfortable warmness of exchanging stories of kids and grandkids, fondly remembering those who have passed away, and recounting old stories (which are improved upon with each telling).

And we ate. What an amazing display--salads, casseroles, roast chicken, and desserts (crunchy, creamy, gooey--all of them wonderful) of all shapes and sizes. I decided to experiment on this group so surfed the internet for ideas on how to make a chicken salad with curry. There were no leftovers.

Carb Diva Turkey Curry Salad
1 tablespoon curry powder*
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp. lime juice

3 cups diced roast turkey or smoked turkey
2 medium firm-ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup salted cashews, coarsely chopped

Place the curry powder in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Watch carefully so that it doesn't burn. Remove pan from heat and immediately scrape toasted curry powder into small mixing bowl. When cool, stir in mayonnaise, yogurt, and lime juice. Set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients except cashews in a large mixing bowl. Add curry-mayonnaise dressing and stir gently to combine. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Add salted cashews just before serving.

*I used McCormick--a blend of coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, nutmeg, cloves, onion, red pepper flakes, and ginger

Monday, August 1, 2011

I crawled into the vegetable bin...

Photo: John Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross
"I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skin and all. It must have marked me for life for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of onions." (James Beard).

James Beard was an American chef and food writer; an eccentric personality who brought French cooking to middle America. His legacy lives on in twenty books, numerous writings, his own foundation, and his annual Beard awards in various culinary genres.

And he loved onions.

This recipe, featured in was created long after James Beard's death, but I'm pretty sure he would have loved it.

Onion Tart
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1. Preheat oven to 425°.

  • 2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, thyme, salt, and pepper; cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • 3. Roll dough out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle feta cheese in center, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border; top with onion. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese. Fold piecrust border up and over onion mixture, pleating as you go, leaving a 6-inch-wide opening. Combine egg and 2 tablespoons water; brush over dough. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until golden. Cool for 10 minutes.