Category Archives: eggs

Pick-Me-Up Spinach, Egg Drop & Parmesan Toast Soup Recipe

How should I explain better my appreciation of this soup in a few words? Umm, remember when Chef Sean Brock is reminiscing about his favorite mom’s chicken soup dumplings ‘In the Mind of a Chef ’ saying it’s the best dumpling dish he ever had? This dish is better, period. A bowl of it will make you feel as good as gold…
I make this vivid green soup at least four times a year, mostly around mid-seasons: summer and winter solstice; spring and autumn equinox. It is one of my favorite complete meals which never fail to surprise with the taste, texture and color. The consistency and color of it can vary depending on the amount of ingredients (which you can modify according to your taste – more/less spinach, greens, eggs, stock or Parmesan bread). This soup is very forgiving: the different stages of the eggs’ coagulation depending on a temperature or cooking method would deliver smooth, ragged or clouded broth. Nevertheless, all forms of it deliver a fine bowl of comforting, homey goodness: full-bodied yet very light. If you like the Greek soup Avgolemono , this egg drop soup might be your next favorite. If the Avgolemono’s color is pure yellow, this one is bright green and always reminds of the nature’s renewal. Which we are still some ten weeks (hopefully less) away from…
This soup is an immune system booster and will pick you up fast whenever you need. We felt we badly needed it last Sunday upon coming back from St-Paddy’s parade in a form of half-humans/half-icicles who haven’t felt their toes up until dinner. It brought us back to life fast.  
I can’t exactly state the origin of this soup other than disclose that this recipe is coming from the magazine clips of the cooking journal of my dear French Canadian mother-in-law. It is very close to Italian egg drop soup called Stracciatella and may be it is, by virtue of its ingredients including Parmesan, although most of the Italian versions have some pasta and/or herb in it instead of the Parmesan toast and spinach. I tentatively tag it as an Italian dish, but if you happen know the exact origin of it, I am all ears.  
I couldn’t resist messing with the egg’s chemical formula having studied its molecular magic as an ingredient. Few times, instead of following the recipe (below) method, I would mix fresh, spinach, herbs and eggs with a bit, or a lot of warm stock in the blender. It makes some white foam on top, which I discarded carefully. Other wise, it makes absolutely stunning emerald-colored mix, which when warmed through under the boiling point, would granulate into tiny green egg drop microspheres giving luxurious velvety texture and feel to the dish. I warm it through whisking carefully, without reaching the boiling point; then place it in the 400F oven for 15-20 minutes topped with Parmesan toasts. Voila – viva the cooking experiments!
This method delivers bright green, grainy texture that is really worth showcasing. Not bringing the soup to the boiling point also helps to preserve a lot of healthy enzymes in the dish, which you will find packed with flavors. Equally, I sometimes swap spinach for kale, Swiss chard or arugula, add a bit of garlic and sometimes, during the flu season, a dash of minced ginger. Spinach version is my favorite however because it doesn’t overpower the delicate taste of eggs and stock. You may wish to follow or not these leads, the results will be great anyways.
Complex in taste and highly invigorating, it is yet very simple and fast to pull off. Eggs, fresh spinach, home-made broth, sliced baguette (or other kind of stale bread of your preference) and Parmesan are five core ingredients to it. I like to also add a big bunch of parsley to bring the nutritional and detox value of it to even higher level.
Sometimes I use this simple trick to cut the rounds of the stale bread with the shot glass to have a better appeal and coverage especially if you are serving the soup to the guests.

Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc. 

Should you wish to make this soup a real taste bomb, try to assemble it with the ingredients of possibly highest quality, including: free range eggs, spinach and parsley from your own garden, stock made with organic chicken/veggies and so on. Ahhh, I can’t wait to welcome spring to our territory…
Bon Appétit!

Yields: 4 portions
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
6 cups packed, rinsed and minced spinach leaves, equal to 1-2 bunches fresh spinach, OR 10 ounces frozen spinach
1 cups fresh parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground (preferably white) pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
6-7 cups of hot broth, chicken or vegetarian
4 bread slices (or more depending on a size), grilled (* select gluten free if necessary)
½ cup Parmesan, shredded
Preheat the oven to 400F. Add butter to a big sauce pan or Dutch oven and heat to medium high. Add the minced spinach and parsley, stir for 1 minute. Add one cup of stock, mix and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.  Beat the eggs in a bowl and gently stir them into the spinach mix with the whisk.  Add the rest of the hot stock, mix well with the spinach-egg mix and check the seasoning. Place the grilled bread on top of the soup and sprinkle generously with Parmesan. Place into the pre-heated oven uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the bread and Parmesan dumplings are golden brown. Ladle into the bowls and serve immediately.

Three D Chocolate Cake Recipe

This one-of-a-kind chocolate cake is great for any or no occasion at all. We whisked this DDD (decadent, delicious, disappearing) cake last week-end as a part of a surprise Happy Birthday salute. Well, it was a DOUBLE surprise, both in taste and the secret major ingredient of it which nobody could guess: the BEETROOT. Really?  Abso-xx-lutely.  Hmmm, how can the chocolate cake be decadent and delicious if its major ingredient is beet? And yet, the sweet-savory taste of beets marries dark chocolate happily making this cake deep and unbelievably moist. I promise, your guests will be asking what is in that cake besides chocolate first thing.
This velvety rich, mildly dense, slightly fudgey and delicate-crumbled cake is both rustic and elegant and guarantees to make the most vivid sweet food memories.  Few decades ago using beets in chocolate cake might have been considered downright shocking, but with today’s baking taking a scientific direction it totally makes sense as a second major ingredient, providing healthy and colorful starch and fiber while still letting the chocolate shine through the cake’s earthiness.
Health and fashion-wise,  this Chocolate, Almond and Beetroot Cake (to be exact with its name) ticks multiple WOW boxes, including: ‘trendy’, ‘no flour’, ‘no butter’, ‘no grain’, ‘gluten-free’,’ paleo’, ‘ kids friendly’, and more.  So, yes, DECADENT, DELICIOUS and fast DISAPPEARING cake. Unfortunately, the latter adjective is not just used in a figurative sense.  According to the news, the most wanted food of Gods is imperiled by droughts and diseases and the future of the proverbial cocoa seed doesn’t seem so bright.  I therefore suggest you schedule your next chocolate baking session while it’s still available and/or affordable…
Not to mention, how nicely it juxtaposes with today’s gloomy and foggy weather…
The recipe didn’t fall on our lap, we’ve made an extensive research trying to find/compile it and balancing the demand (birthday person’s love for chocolate) and the supply (our personal choice to skip the flour and butter from the cake and replace them with leaner and healthier nuts and edible fiber).  We’ve casted avocados, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini as possible combinations with dark chocolate, but to no avail of something extraordinary in our archives. We then reached out for several modern baking guru suggestions (Anna Olson, Nigel Slater, Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, David Leibovitz, Aran Goyoaga) and the beets quickly surfaced from their recent books, shows and Internet recipes. The beets in chocolate cakes are mostly appreciated for adding the moistness and caramel flavor touch (while the beets themselves being completely disguised in the cake to absolutely no way you can tell them apart from chocolate). These facts got us hooked. We couldn’t wait to experiment with them and chocolate!
The recipe became a cross of Jamie Oliver’s ‘Chocolate & Beetroot Cake’ recipe with ground almonds (no flour or butter in it, just like we wanted), and beetroot ingredient being baked in advance (like in Anna Olson’s recipe).  Quick note: most of the recipes stipulated that the beet should be baked, so we decided to skip raw beets and use the cooked ones (although may be next time we will dare to use them raw – we just didn’t want to take a chance this time).  As for the icing we’ve selected Martha Stewart’s ganache recipe (thusly, adding some butter and cream to what otherwise was supposed to be just a melted chocolate drizzle). 
This recipe is not complicated:  we found it simple and relatively fast to prepare (guess what, it’s coming from the Jamie’s Garden Project with Kids series, so, clearly, you can engage your kids into play when making it for more fun).
For the chocolate ganache glaze, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering, then pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, Cognac or rum, if using, and mix until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Pour glaze over chocolate cake.
As for the swaps I used 50/50 golden and red beets. I assume you can replace them with raw zucchini or pumpkin (excess water squeezed out). Ground almonds can swap with ground hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan or macadamia. The crowning glory of the chocolate ganache coating can swap with just melted chocolate drizzle and/or powder sugar dusting, and/or fresh berries, like raspberries. The chocolate and cocoa are, naturally, irreplaceable for now. So far, and Ummm, for the next XXX years?  
Finally, one last note: according to Jamie Oliver, measuring the ingredients is ‘a key to the success of this cake, so please use the scale to exact the amounts.
Have fun and indulge your senses!

For the Cake:

Olive oil to grease the baking pan
Flour (regular or gluten-free if necessary) for dusting the form
10.5 oz (300 g) quality dark (bittersweet)chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
9 oz (250g) baked beet root, peeled and coarsely grated
4 large eggs
5.3 oz (150 g) caster (powder) sugar
1 1/5 cup (120 g) ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp quality cocoa powder
For the Glaze (Ganache) (optional):
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
½ cup heave cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Cognac or rum (optional)
Berries, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm cake spring form with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper, size of the bottom of the tin, to line the base. Dust the sides of the tin lightly with flour, then tap the tin to get rid of any excess.
Break 7oz (200g) of the chocolate up into small pieces and add to a heatproof bowl over the barely simmering water to melt.
Place the grated beetroot into a big bowl.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a separate large mixing bowl and adding the yolks to the beetroot, then wash your hands.
Stir the sugar, almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and melted chocolate into the beetroot and mix together well.
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks.
Use a flexible spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the beetroot mixture to loosen, then, once combined, fold the rest, but try not to over mix.
Add the mixture to the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly using a spatula.
Bake in the hot oven for 50 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Check with the cocktail stick if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If slightly sticky it needs to cook for a bit longer.
Allow the cake to cook slightly. Open the spring form and carefully move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.  Discard the parchment paper.
When ready to serve, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake, or glaze it with chocolate ganache (see instructions above).
Serve with fresh berries, yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream if desired.
Adapted from Chocolate & Beetroot Cake by Jamie Oliver, 2014

Spinach Pie Spanakopita and Fun in the Sun

Oh, summer, how I longed for you! And finally, you came to Eastern Canada with all your colors, welcoming breeze, humming sounds, camping, wilderness and millions of the itsy-bitsy things.

Summer is the season I can live through with no bigger ambition than my next BBQ or a pool party and it’s been like that for years. Which is why, the timing could not have been any better than the last real week-end of sun when we had our first BBQ-pool party. First real hot, long due sunny day, after prolonged raining and pouring. With almost overwhelming number of ideas and inspirations for a nice alfresco getaway – I was almost lost in choices.
The BBQ party is usually all about grilled meat, which we’ve had plenty of: assortment of kebabs, rack of pork, chicken tzatziki drums – they were all good. But when I caught my breath to pause and see which dish was the biggest success, it happened that an oven baked homemade spinach pie, Spanakopita, stole the show. Once again, Chef Redzepi’s prophecy about 2014 being all about the veggies and packing on greens turned out to be true – and, yes, it was a humble freshly baked spinach pie stuffed with hot aromatic puree of greens, herbs and cheese that was a star of our soiree.
 When those are real Greek people giving you kudos about your spinach pie, you better take a note and a good picture, because they do know a thing or two about Spanakopita. After all, this traditional savory pastry dish made of spinach, feta cheese and eggs wrapped in crusty dough, has been a Greek soul food for centuries. I must admit, it does taste great on a hot summer day and not only in the Greek islands. 
Another party winner was a perfectly fluffy marble cake (Gâteau surprise) Diane brought for the dessert – it was simply amazing so light and decadent at the same time. Thank you, Diane, I’ve savored the last sliver of it this morning with coffee – it was a super-delicious party reminder.
Saturday was really the first most beautiful summer day with plenty of sun; clear sky; cool summer wind; roses, daisies, poppies, irises, lupine, peonies – all opening at the same time; the bees buzzing and birds humming. This is our Canadian summer: everything in the nature suddenly rushes to bloom and seed almost screaming to complete the life circle in the short few months before going back into the long months of slumber. 
We did a fair amount of hammocking, swimming and splashing. Our doggy joined the water ball play in urge to bust the damn ball, which she did eventually. (No biggie, Michael, I will get you a new one.)
And of course the food: nothing tastes better than a good food eaten outside in a great company! It was so nice and so deservedly relaxing, it now feels it might have been other people from a great summer outdoors sketch… But it was us and the fun was ours and the Greek savory pie did exist, although for no longer than 20 minutes. This gave me an idea to write this post and share some apps about the successful Spanakopita making. 
Here are my tips for a great homemade Greek spinach pie, Spanakopita:
– A freshly chopped spinach would deliver the best results, but most of the time (I won’t lie) I use freshly frozen (thawed and drained) spinach to save time and effort. As long as you don’t let a pack of frozen spinach sitting in your freezer for months, I see no reason why not to go for this little convenience.
– Savory herbs add an amazing kick to the taste: freshly minced chives/scallions, oregano, dill, parsley slightly cooked in ghee or olive oil with the dash of nutmeg before mixing them with chopped spinach do make wonders to the taste of the pie. Feel free to use any extra of your favorite herbs like fresh thyme, basil or mint just to experiment for the taste you’d like to attain.
– The feta cheese I use most of the time is less salty than a standard feta cheese (I soak it in a milk or water overnight to drain out the excess salt. Sometimes, I use the mix of feta and ricotta or cottage cheese instead.
– Finally, I always use store bought puff pastry dough instead of phyllo dough, which, again, saves a lot of time and cuts on the amount of butter.
Quite often, I also use puff pastry dough making spinach puffs or turnovers with the same spinach filling – a superb companion to a bowl of soup or a cup of tea, not to mention the array of grilled things you can have them with.
And that’s basically it about my Spanakopita pie. I hope you, your guests or family will enjoy it like we did. Cheers to the happy summer times y’all!
4 tbsp olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
3 tbsp ghee or butter at room temperature for greasing the pan and brushing the top
¼ cup chives or scallions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup dill, minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (optional) or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small pinch nutmeg
2 packages (10 oz each) frozen, thawed and well-pressed/drained spinach or 2 ½ – 3 lbs of fresh spinach, chopped
1 ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (I also drain the excess salt in advance by soaking feta in milk or water)
4 eggs, lightly beaten (plus 1 egg for egg wash to brush the top)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (397 g) pack frozen puff pastry dough, thawed in the fridge overnight
Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the ghee or butter, or olive oil in the frying pan and add chives or scallions. Cook for 2 minutes until soft and add parsley, dill, oregano and nutmeg. Add spinach, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Add crumbled feta and eggs, mix well.
Brush the bottom of 8 by 8 (for the thicker crust) or 9 by 13 inches (for thinner crust) baking pan with melted ghee or butter. Roll out ¾ of the puff pastry to cover the bottom and sides of the dish. Brush with ghee or butter. Add the spinach filling and spread evenly to be flat. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top with the second dough sheet ½-inch thicker than the bottom sheet. Press the edges together with fork or fingers to seal. Brush with the rest of melted ghee or butter. Finish brushing the top with egg wash. Cut a few slits on top with the paring knife for the steam to get out. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until well-puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit for about 10 minutes before cutting in pieces. Serve warm or at the room temperature.

Savory Mushroom Leek Parmesan Bread Pudding

The weather has been nasty in Montreal for the last few days which predisposed us to mostly stay home and do tons of baking (hoping that the ice rain will not bring electricity cut so often challenging us in this area).  Our family’s patriarch was successfully experimenting with kamut and millet bread to the Christmas jazz tunes. While I came up with an idea to make this bread pudding as a prequel to my Christmas post menu (which goes next).

This recipe was conceived last summer when I was staring at the mountain of the leftovers of commercial multi-grain gluten-free bread (which no one in our house eats except me) thinking how can I possibly re-use it.  I cut the stale bread in small cubes preparing first to use them instead of the crumbs in some fancy deep-fried recipes. Then I realized what a caloric bomb it would be if used that way (putting an extra load to our already weakened livers).
So pudding came next to my mind – I like no frills recipes where I can also recycle the leftovers.  Porcini, leek and Parmesan (I used old cheddar initially) factored in and Ta-dah! – few hours later I was trying the creation surprised with how little savory it tasted against my expectations.  I put other puddings in the fridge and re-heated one of them next day to have with a stew and, oh boy, it tasted so different! All the flavors I expected in a first place were set and present and waiting to be discovered upon a quick broiling to make the top crusty. Excellent main (with some good sauce or gravy) or side dish for stews and roasts.

Tonight I am repeating this exercise as I think it will work marvellously with the mystery bird I planned to cook for the Christmas dinner and act as a new age holiday stuffing. Buckle up with me if you like bread puddings.

Savory Mushroom Leek Parmesan Bread Pudding
Yields: 8 portions
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
3 green onions (scallions), minced
30+ gr dried porcini, reconstituted and minced, or, ½ lbs (225 g) fresh shiitake or button mushrooms (or fresh mushrooms of your choice), minced
2 leeks, white and tender green thinly sliced
Splash of white wine, or apple cider vinegar mixed with water (50/50)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
4 cups multi-grain (gluten free), or whole wheat stale bread, diced or in crumbs
4+ cups chicken stock, or milk, or mix of milk and cream
¾ cup Parmesan or other dense cheese of your taste, shredded
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Butter eight ¾ cup ramekins and set them in a roasting pan.
Melt the rest of the butter in a skillet, add scallions and mushrooms and cook stirring on the high heat for about 2 minutes. Add leeks, garlic, thyme and a splash of wine and continue stirring for another 5 minutes lowering the heat to moderate.  
In a large bowl, stir together the leek mushroom mixture, bread crumbs, stock, cheese, salt and pepper to taste until fully combined. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. In a saucepan, bring the stock (or milk and cream) till hot, but not boiling, remove from heat and gradually start whisking the eggs into the liquid. Stir the custard into the bread mix and let stand, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, for about 15 minutes. 
Divide mixture into the prepared ramekins, place in the roasting pan, add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover loosely with the foil (all at once). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil and broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn the bread puddings out onto an ovenproof platter. Sprinkle (optionally) with Parmesan and broil for about 30 seconds or until golden. Equally, you can make the pudding ahead and perform the same after up to 48 hours of refrigeration. Serve hot.


My Twist on Salmon Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Although a classic quicheis a German-French invention, for many Montrealers it became almost a ”taste of home”. From food courts to high-end restos to street food that has just begun circulating streets of our city, you can find a piece of quiche at every corner. Quiche is so popular here, that Jamie Oliver and Derek Dammann serve it as a staple at their Maison Publique British pub! What is it about this dish that made us so much in love with it? Perhaps it is its ”versatile and forgiving” nature: so many things can go into this great mix, each bringing its own touch of flavor, texture and look! There are numerous iterations of quiche components (ham, fish, mushrooms, veggies), but certain ingredients remain constant: eggs, cheese and crust.
I love salmon broccoli cheddar quiche and make it quite often. This time I decided to challenge the crust and replace it with pain perdu (old bread) just to experiment and save time and effort. The result – simply amazing! What an excellent way to skip time taking and messy crust-making or rolling, not to mention the whole list of ingredients you have to have on hand when you do a gluten free crust! Gluten free bread (made of mostly rice flour) adds some sweetness to the dish. Combined with cheesy, spongy and custardy egg-broccoli-salmon-cheddar mix, it brings a subtle hint of a soufflé into the dish.
This quiche’s versatility does not stop with the gluten-free crust! Use freshly cooked salmon or replace it with ham; swap broccoli for leek, spinach or Swiss char; change Cheddar cheese for Swiss or Guyere; use your favorite herbs and spice: experiment until you find YOUR favorite! And for those who like their crust classic, here are some interesting variations of Ham & Cheddar Quiche or Salmon & Spinach Quiche from Montreal Gazette.
My tips for making this quiche a success:

– bake the old bread cubes for about 10 minutes at 350f  until slightly golden
– mash the canned salmon with its liquid (for extra flavor) and bones (high in calcium)
– boil chopped broccoli for 2 minutes, drain and let cool
– add a few spoons of flour (spelt in my case) into the eggs mix for that spongy-airy soufflé-like result; do not add too much salt to the mix because the cheese will add enough saltiness to the dish
– layer the buttered dish in the following order: bread cubes first; then mix of salmon, broccoli and sauteed onions; then egg-milk-flour mix; then shredded cheese
– make sure you butter your dish well, so the crust will not glue to it
– bake uncovered at 350F for the first 15 minutes, then at 325F for another 35-45 minutes.

Hot or cold, you can have it for breakfast, work/school lunch or picnic. It also freezes very well, so you can keep some extra until next time and then just pop it up and warm up in the oven. Enjoy your cooking! 

Makes 9-inch pie of about 6-8 servings.

2 cups cubed old gluten-free white bread (or old dense white bread of your choice)
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 cup cooked salmon, or 1 can (106 g), broken in pieces
3/4 cup milk
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons spelt flour (or wheat flour if you are gluten tolerant)
freshly ground nutmeg, pinch
1 to 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 teaspoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the old bread in cubes, spread onto the buttered pan and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove and let it cool.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute onions until translucent. Put aside to cool. Boil or steam broccoli florets for 1-2 minutes, drain and set aside. Mash the salmon with fork and mix with onions and broccoli. Spread the mix over the bread cubes.
In a bowl, mix well the eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the egg mix over the salmon mix evenly.
Top the layers with shredded cheese and bake at 350F for the first 15 minutes, then at 325F for another 35-45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving for the flavors to set.