Skillet Eggs and Polenta

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And, finally, it rains. Not so joyous an occasion for sun bathers, felines, and other bitter Betsy-types, but most of California breathed a slight sigh of relief when the skies opened up this morning. My reaction? “I don’t have to water my plants!” and a beer was opened in observance of this glorious day. So, I’m in the celebration camp, but probably for the wrong (read: lazy) reasons.

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

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Wake up and smell the pumpkin spiced lattes Northern Hemisphere, because fall has officially arrived. Maybe we get it a bit later in California and maybe we don’t feel it as acutely as the show-off New England crowd with their big fancy leaf festivals and their crisp breezes, but we FEEL fall just as much as the rest of you. And, to top it off, we don’t have to deal with that horrid snow stuff that turns to slush stuff and ice stuff and cold stuff.

But I will turn the conversation back to food, something we can all agree on is what keeps this party going.

Soup is THE best comfort food (aside from fattie delicious fried stuff) on a cold night and it has the added bonus of having a gagillion healthy options. Gagillion– that’s a technical term, by the way. You should probably write it down for future reference in a novel or something.

My friend is about to bring over some home made bread to go with this delightful intro-to-fall-soup-a-thon, so here it goes. Enjoy!

And isn’t that a beautiful bunch of purple kale?

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Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1″ cubes
2 t paprika
1/4 t cumin
3 T olive oil
1 large onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 c rice
1/4 c lentils
1/4 c white wine
6 c stock, heated
1 bunch kale, de-ribbed and coarsely chopped
1 can garbanzo beans
grated parmigiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potato, 1 t paprika, cumin, and 1 T olive oil on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes or until sweet potato is fork-tender. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. When hot, add the diced onion and cook until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1 t paprika. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and white wine, then the stock. Simmer until rice and lentils are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add kale, beans, and roasted sweet potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste, then serve with grated parmigiano on top.

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Chard Frittata with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions

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One does not actually flip a frittata, so don’t go trying anything crazy here. But I would highly recommend giving frittatas a shot for a whole slew of reasons: you can make them super healthy, they are delicious hot or cold, and it’s a great way to get rid of leftover veggies or meat. I went on a major food kick over the Fourth of July and made everything from Peach-blueberry pie to Strawberry Cake to Filet Mignon. But what really got me thinking was a discussion I had with my cousin Kathy about frittatas and how gosh darn delicious they are. So here it is:

Golden Chard Frittata with Goat Cheese, Caramelized onions, and Yams.  Isn’t it pretty?
So what is a frittata? In essence, it is a quiche without the crust. “But the crust is the best part,” said my silly coworker today, even as he forked some of the deliciousness past his eager chompers. A well-made frittata has a crusty exterior that is simply marvelous. I have not yet perfected the art, but am working my fingers to the bone (kind of) to achieve eggy nirvana. I have heard a couple of arguments with frittatas and their crusts:

1) Once the eggs are added, cook over a very low heat and do not touch. This will allow the crust to form along the bottom without burning the eggs. Finish the frittata under the broil so it puffs and finishes cooking.
2) Once the eggs are added, cook over medium heat and move the eggs around slowly, so everything evenly cooks, but no crust forms. Finish under the broil.
3) Add the eggs with a touch of flour and baking powder, then cook the entire thing in the oven for almost an hour, with no stove top time at all.

Being the indecisive gal that I am, I did a mixture of latter two and was pleased with it. It did not have as much crust as I hoped, but it tasted magical with a hunk of bread. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 small onion, color of your preference
1 t brown sugar
olive oil
1 bunch chard; I went with golden
2 cloves garlic
2 t soy sauce
1 t garam masala
1 small yam
1 T butter
3 T half and half
2 T flour
S+P to taste
small log goat cheese
8 -10 eggs, depending on your preference

There are several different components going on here, so pay attention and don’t slack or else you’ll be kicked out of class. First:
Start caramelizing your onion, since this can take up to 40 minutes.

Thinly slice and throw it into the pan (medium-low heat) you intend to finish the frittata in; ie, a pan that is deep enough to handle the whole frittata and being put in the oven. Don’t skimp too much on the oil– 2-3 T at least. After the onion has softened, add the sugar and continue stirring.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Peel and thinly slice the yam and parboil in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until they are sufficiently softened.

Drain and run cool water over, to stop them from cooking any further. Set aside.

Wash the chard thoroughly, making sure that no stray beetles make their way into your dish. Ew.

Chard is one of the most magnificent greens you can eat and it is very much in season right now, so go to the hippie store and grab yourself a vibrant bunch. You can read all about the health benefits here. They are quite extensive!

You should be checking your onions periodically and giving them a good stir. How do they look? They should be slowly browning and softening.

Chop your chard, stems and all, into small pieces. Throw in some chopped garlic as well.

Heat over medium heat until fragrant. Throw in the chard and the garam masala and saute for about 5 minutes.

I was hunting through recipes for chard only and found a very intriguing one that sang the praises of garam masala+soy sauce, so I decided to take the plunge. I am happy to say that it came out very well. I don’t know much about Garam masala, but it turned out with a very nice exotic sweetness that was quite pleasing, especially with the yam.

How do the onions look? Give them a good stir, but at this point they should look delicious:

If they have turned dark brown you can turn the heat off. Otherwise, keep them going at a low heat.
Once the chard has softened, add the soy sauce and continue to saute until the liquid has evaporated and it is basically done. It won’t cook much more with the eggs, so it needs to be very nearly cooked through.

Once it reaches this state, turn the heat off and prepare the eggs. Crack them into a bowl with the half and half, S+P, flour. Whish vigorously to break up any lumps, but do not over beat. It might be worth your while to mix the flour in with a single egg before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients.

Slice the goat cheese into 1/4 inch-thick chunks:

You’re ready to rock and roll, so roll up your sleeves, turn up Shania Twain, and center your chi. Turn the heat under the onion to medium, throw in a cube of butter and let it melt, then add the chard and yam.

Add the egg mixture:

Let it settle in for about a minute or two; meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375. At this point, you can choose to turn the heat down to low and let it do it’s thing for about 10 minutes. If so, make sure you gently push the sides in sporadically, so the uncooked egg can roll onto the bottom of the pan to cook.

Or, you can do what I did and leave the heat on medium. I then pushed the egg from the outside in at a very slow pace. This will ensure even cooking, but you won’t have as impressive of a crust. Once the egg is mostly set, stop pushing it around and let it settle back into itself.

Start layering the cheese on top; once it is all ready to go, pop it into the oven for 5-10 minutes. Turn on the broiler and let it go until brown and bubbly. It should puff up nicely due to the high heat of the broiler. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, carve yourself a slice, and enjoy!

Nomnomnomnom