Friday, July 23, 2010
From Cali, with love
Husband and I took a recent trip to Northern California to visit the Wrangler and Bugsy. Bugsy suggested a breakfast restaurant in Occidental. While we drove the windy roads to this Northern California town, Bugsy whipped out her smart phone to show us the restaurant's website and, even better, its menu. I don't know about you, but I LOVE to read restaurant menus. I especially like to read the menus before I visit a place. I don't like to wait until I'm seated in the restaurant for the first glimpse of the menu. I want to know what to expect and have an idea of what I want to order. I'd much rather soak in the atmosphere of the place than spend the first 10 minutes with my head buried in the accordian, plastic-covered book. Plus, I find it exciting to read menus and start your mouth watering for something on that said menu. Thankfully, I found a kindred spirit who does this, too. Thanks, Anne, for making me feel like not as much of a food nerd!
Anyways, as I was reading the menu of this restaurant in Cali, two things jumped out at me: Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes and Organic Brown Rice Scramble. The first choice I knew I would love. As for the second choice, I was intrigued, but skeptical. The description: "Brown rice scrambled with eggs, green onion, feta, and spinach." My first thought, brown rice in eggs??? That sounded so weird to me and a little more of a "hippie" breakfast than I'm used to. But knowing I'd probably never find this dish on a menu at home, I decided to take the risk. I also ordered the pancakes. What can I say? I was on vacation.
The pancakes were amazing. The brown rice scramble -- out of this world! Everyone at the table raved after trying it. I think I definitely had the best breakfast at the table. The eggs were perfectly fluffy and beautifully studded with specks of brown rice. The spinach, green onions and feta perfectly rounded out the scramble. The flavor exploded with every bite and was not at all what I expected from brown rice in a breakfast dish. Brown rice notoriously has a bad rap for being bland. This dish helped me see that brown rice is what you make of it. It can be full-flavored if you do it right.
So, knowing that it maybe a long time before I would ever get that breakfast dish again, I had to make it back home. For me, part of the fun of going out to eat is finding inspiration for my cooking at home. If I eat something tasty in a restaurant, I often try to recreate it at home. It's like a challenge, a motivation to make restaurant dishes at home. This dish also kicks off my other feature I'd like to start -- I'm calling it "Oh, no, she didn't!" I love to put unexpected ingredients together. Sometimes it works out. And sometimes it's, well, a good story to tell. I also love a good challenge, so feel free to challenge me with ingredient combinations.
My take on the brown rice scramble is my Front Porch Frittata. Named as such because I ate it on our front porch. The recipe doesn't have green onions as I didn't have any at the time, but I would highly suggest them instead of the sweet onions I used. It just gives the dish the added flavor it needs. Another tip: make sure you turn your burner off after your put the frittata in the oven. Common sense to most, I know. Let's just say after I pulled the frittata back out of the oven, I might have placed it on the burner which may or may not have been still on. Continued sizzling could be a sign of a possible hot burner. I'm just saying. In case you weren't aware.
Front Porch Frittata
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion (or green onion if you prefer)
2 tsp minced garlic
5 oz raw spinach, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup cooked brown rice, cooled
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Bring the 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to a medium heat in an oven safe 10-inch frying pan. While the oil is warming, crack the eggs in a large bowl and whisk eggs with the milk, salt and pepper. Add the feta and brown rice and stir. Set aside. Turn on your boiler to the high setting.
Toss in the onion and garlic and saute' until onion is soft. If you are using green onions instead, they will need very little saute' time. Add the chopped spinach leaves and let them wilt ever so slightly. Add egg mixture and use a spatula to mix all ingredients together evenly. Let the frittata cook for 5-8 minutes or until it is set around the edges. Place in broiler for 5 minutes or until the middle is firm. Watch closely as this can sometimes go very quickly.
Every frittata recipe I've ever seen say to flip the frittata onto a plate. I've never successfully been able to do this. So, if you can, more power to you! And, please, share your tips.