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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Make Dad An Omelette For Father's Day

When I was nine years old, my parents told me it would be fun if I made them breakfast in bed every Sunday. I was such a geek, I didn't know they were pulling a Tom Sawyer on me.

At first I practiced with something easy--scrambled eggs. I worked up to over-easy eggs and was very proud when I could plate the eggs without breaking or overcooking the yolk.

My sister, Barbara, didn't like to cook. She could be coaxed into helping me with some of the prep, but she wasn't happy about it.

In time my mother felt I was ready to take on the El Dorado of breakfasts: an omelet.

The first time I had one, I thought it was so great. The outer crispness contrasted with the custard-softness on the inside.

My mom taught me to use a big pat of butter to prevent the omelet from sticking to the pan. She made savory fillings, using a tasty piece of sausage, some mushrooms, spinach, and a bit of cheese. At times she'd switch gears and put something sweet inside, like fresh strawberries she'd cooked down into a compote.

For Father's Day one year she showed me how to make my dad's favorite filling: crisp bacon, sauteed potatoes, and cheddar cheese. Because he had an Eastern European sweet tooth, he liked his bacon dusted with sugar.

Over the years I refined what my mom had taught me. I found that sauteing the ingredients added layers of flavor and got rid of excess water.

On my limited student's budget in college, I learned how omelets could be a breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I could make the filling out of any favorite ingredients, even left-overs.

Sauteed sausages with potatoes and cheddar cheese. Steamed asparagus with herbed goat cheese. Sauteed spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and roasted tomatoes with Gruyere. Sauteed chicken livers, caramelized onions, and mushrooms.

Chopped raw tomatoes, sauteed spinach, onions, and garlic make a delicious vegetarian filling, add sauteed ham and cheese and you'll make a carnivore happy. Even a simple omelet filled with sauteed parsley, shallots, and garlic with Parmesan cheese was elegant and delicious.

The combinations are limitless.

The only difficult part of omelet-making is flipping one half on top and then sliding it onto a plate so it looks plump and neat. Using a good non-stick pan makes that easy. I still add butter to the pan, but it's very little and strictly for flavor.

Another refinement I'm proud of is a one-egg omelet where the spotlight is entirely on the filling: Eggsellent: A One-Egg Omelet That's All About Flavor.

My Father's Favorite Omelet

Traditionally what's inside an omelet is hidden by the fold. Sometimes I make them that way, sometimes, I leave the filling where it can be seen.

My father didn't like surprises so I always left his open so he could see what he was eating.

Yield 1 serving
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 bacon slices
1 small Yukon Gold potato or 2 small fingerling potatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons yellow onion or shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup parsley, washed, mostly leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
2 farm fresh eggs
1 tablespoon cream, half-and-half, milk, or skim milk
1/4 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese

Method

Saute the bacon in a small frying pan (not the nonstick pan) until crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel. Set aside. Pour off the fat.

Add the olive oil to the pan, put on a medium flame and saute the potato, onions, and parsley until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

Put the eggs and milk into a mixing bowl. Using a fork or wisk, breat the eggs until they foam.

Melt the butter in the nonstick pan, pour in the beaten eggs. Let the eggs begin to set. Place the sauteed vegetables on one half of the omelet. Sprinkle the grated cheese and crumble the bacon on top of the vegetables.

Using a rubber spatula so you don't scratch the surface of the nonstick pan, flip the side that doesn't have the filling on top of the side that does.

Carefully slide the omelet onto a plate and serve.

Variations

Before serving dust the top of the omelet with finely chopped Italian parsley or crumbled crispy bacon or cayenne pepper

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam or a fruit compote on the top of the omelet before serving

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fresh Fruit is Appearing in the Farmers Markets, Time to Make Fruit Infused Vodka

Easy to make and colorful, fruit infused vodkas are a fun way to celebrate summer. Soft fruit like berries adds flavors quickly. Hard fruit like cherries takes a bit longer. Limoncello, the classic Italian liqueur, uses lemon peels to flavor vodka and takes many months.
Last year at this time I read an article about umeshu, Japanese plum wine. Marukai, a Japanese market, with a store in West Los Angeles on Pico near Bundy, mails a magazine-style newsletter with the store's weekly specials. The opening article each month has an explainer about a particular Japanese food or cooking style.

The article last year described how to turn ume (Japanese plums) into umeshu. The process was simple. Buy ume, wash them, pull out the little stems, place in a large glass jar, add Japanese rock sugar and a large bottle of vodka, put in a cool dark place and come back in a year.
Now I was on the hunt for ume which have a short season. I found them at Marukai and downtown at a farmers market near the Los Angeles Public Library Main Branch.
Because I had made Limoncello, the idea of waiting a year seemed so cool. I don't know why but waiting that long appealed to me. And the added benefit of putting out very little effort added to what seemed like fun.
When we visited Yabu, down the block on West Pico from Marukai, I told the waitstaff we see all the time that I was going to make umeshu. They loved the idea. It turned out umeshu is a liquor traditionally made by grandmothers.

I brought them a bottle of the umeshu and every time we came in during the year they asked if it was time to drink the umeshu. Not yet. Last month it was a year. Time to celebrate.

What they also told me was that after a year bathing in the vodka, the hard green ume would become sweetly edible.
Serving the fruit with the liqueur is a nice touch. Kind of an alcoholic fruit punch. I wrote about making sangria with chopped up fruit, so I'm continuing the idea with umeshu.

For Zester Daily I wrote about how to make cherry infused vodka and umeshu. The recipes are there. Enjoy!