Posts Tagged 'eggs'

I was a lesbo-kitchen child

When my mother was still in her twenties, her mother came to live with us. My grandfather had just died, and even though Grandma was sixty eight and able-bodied, and would live another dozen years, Diamond Lil said goodbye forever to her life in Washington and moved in with us. The year she came, my elementary school, Borinquen New Building, solved its overcrowding problem by dividing grades between morning and afternoon shifts. Fourth grade began at noon. So Granny and I spent the mornings together, just the two of us.

Most of my early memories of her are from that time. Granny in her flowered mu mu in the kitchen having a snort. Handmade noodles rolled out six feet long on the kitchen table and draped over the backs of chairs. Cigarette smoke wafting down the hall from her first floor bedroom, over the dull flash and drone of a black and white tv. Sitting between her thick legs as she pinned tight braids over the top of my head into a crown. Instead of using elastic bands, she wrapped the ends of the braids with hairs pulled from the hairbrush.

That year Granny started teaching me to cook. We began with scrambled egg sandwiches. She liked her scrambled eggs straight up (no milk, no water), loose, and cooked in plenty of butter. I learned to turn off the electric burner as soon as the eggs hit the hot pan – letting the residual heat finish the cooking. Then I’d spoon soft, shiny eggs between slices of thickly buttered white bread, give them a generous shake of salt and pepper, and cut the sandwich neatly on the diagonal.

From eggs, we moved on to grilled cheese sandwiches, which were prepared using one of those hinged griddles that could be used for waffles if you flipped the grates over. Butter the first slice of bread and lay it on the counter, butter side up. Butter the second slice and lay it butter side down on top of the first slice. On top of that, slices of longhorn colby cut from a red waxed cylinder, and long strips of dill pickle. When the orange light blinks off, the griddle is good and hot: lift the top slice of bread with its cheese and pickle onto the griddle, then cover it with the second slice and close the lid.

Those two simple recipes were enough to give me command of the kitchen. Most days, Granny attended to her soap operas and I was left to my own devices. I remember the day that I was standing on the kitchen counter reaching for the griddle in a high cabinet and fell backwards off the counter flat onto my back. Knocked the breath clean out of me. Another time when I was making grilled cheese, the frayed cord of the griddle began smoking and sparking wildly. I can’t imagine how, but Granny didn’t see or hear either incident, and rather than lose my new found culinary autonomy, I kept these as my secrets.

The next year my parents separated and we moved out of the big house on the Coast Guard base into a single-story surrounded by lime, pomegranate and papaya trees. Our landlords grew tall stands of corn, and a couple of horses rambled about a rocky slope just the other side of a barbed wire fence. For fifth grade, I switched to a private school with a proper schedule. Granny was still asleep most mornings when my sister and I piled into a kid-packed Volkswagen Beetle for the sweaty and songful (Rocky Mountain High! The Hills are Alive! With the Sound of Music!) hour-long drive to school. For that year, the cooking lessons would cease. I remember little about the food we ate at home, except that we cooked over Sterno canisters when Hurricanes David and Fredrick hit, and that we were indulged with powdered doughnuts on Halloween (sugar!). Nevertheless, the mold was set. The next year, there would be another school, another house, and at the tender age of 11, I would be promoted to my grandmother’s sous chef.

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lesbo breakfast #1

The breakfast that I love, so much so that it causes me to exclaim about its deliciousness at least once a week, is kind of hard to explain. It starts out with an egg, which is obvious enough. Soft-boiling is where the complication begins. There aren’t many people I know who eat soft-boiled eggs anymore. Or ever did, for that matter. My mom occasionally cooked them for us when we were kids, spooning firm whites and liquid yolks into a teacup with butter and salt.

I’ve never tried to order a soft-boiled egg in an American restaurant, but given my hard luck with restaurant poached eggs, I think it best to stick with over-easy. Mexico, however, has the soft-boiled egg down to an art. You’ll find them on menus as huevos tibios, served with a basket of bolillos and a squeeze of lime.

So, soft-boiled eggs: uncommon, but intelligible. It’s with what’s next that things get more difficult, because instead of bread with these eggs, there is brown rice. Totally logical to most of Asia, and even Hawaii, but for now, rice remains quite outside the standard American breakfast lexicon.

How Kathy and I came to the rice and egg breakfast is a bit of a mystery to me. I think I heard about it from a friend who was raised on a free-loving, sometimes macrobiotic commune in Humboldt county, California: The hippies recommend steamed brown rice with egg and gomashio, a toasted sesame salt.

This, and variations of it, have become such fixtures in our daily routine, that I don’t remember the first time we tried it, or even when it was new to us. It just showed up at our breakfast table one day and shoved every other breakfast food into ancient history. Really. I can’t remember anything I used to eat for breakfast during the first decade of my adult life.

While remaining faithful to the basic concept of egg-rice-sesame, we began changing things up, working our way through the ancient grains, as lesbians are wont to do. As alternatives to rice, we steamed through millet, barley, amaranth and spelt, and settled on quinoa, brown rice’s only serious contender. At some point, the sesame salt became just salt and sesame seeds. And then, (this is embarrassing to admit), during a time when we were following a body builder’s diet and exercise routine, we started adding a couple of teaspoons of Udo’s oil. Which stuck. And has since crept up to a couple of tablespoons.

I sat down the other morning to our breakfast of red quinoa with soft boiled eggs, sesame, and Udo’s oil, and told Kathy, in all seriousness, that we were perhaps the only two people in the universe eating this particular breakfast on this particular day. I don’t know. Maybe, somewhere out there in a parallel universe, there are a couple of beings out there eating exactly the same thing. But I’d wager that they’re lesbians.

Brown Rice with Egg and Sesame

Brown Rice with Soft-Boiled Egg and Sesame Seeds

The thing that makes this breakfast so easy is our trusty rice cooker. We add the rice and water the night before, plug it into the ‘timed bake’ outlet on our 1950’s stove, and wake up to the smell of cooking rice in the morning. If you have a fancy rice cooker with a built in timer, all the better.

Keep in mind that free range eggs, while being the best choice for lots of other reasons, are the best for this recipe because their thicker shells make them less prone to cracking. In Albuquerque, our co-op has quite a few options for local free-range eggs, including Beneficial Farms, and my favorite, Ann’s Girls.

The Udo’s oil is optional, but it lends a delicious nutty richness and lots of trendy omega 3s. It has to stay cold, like flax seed oil, so look for it in a refrigerated case, usually somewhere near the supplements section in your natural foods grocery store.

2 free range eggs
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (or quinoa, or other ancient grain of choice)
unhulled sesame seeds, optionally toasted
Udo’s oil (optional)
kosher salt

Boil several inches of water in a small sauce pan. Using a large spoon, carefully lower eggs into the boiling water. Set a timer for four minutes if you’re in Albuquerque, or about three minutes if you are at sea level. Depending on elevation, you may need to experiment some to find the perfect amount of time for your soft-boiled eggs, but keep in mind that you want the whites to be just barely set, and the yolks liquid. If they’re too cooked, the eggs won’t melt into the rice like they should.

Divide the hot rice between two bowls. Crack open each egg: Place it in the palm of your open hand, and then give it a good whack in the middle with a butter knife. The knife should cut cleanly through the egg. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the egg onto the rice. Pour on the Udo’s oil, sprinkle with a teaspoon of sesame seeds and a pinch or two of kosher salt.

Serves 2 lesbians.

where better to start

It was seventy degrees today. Up in the flower bed out front, stocky crocuses waft purple, and the first tentative daffodils nod yellow and white. Out back, new shoots of tarragon and oregano peek through last season’s dried woody stems, chives are springing up green and soft, and rosemary branches are fat with lavender blooms. These afternoons, we fling open the back doors and sit on the steps, drinking in the low western sun.

But before long we are running for sweaters. These short-sleeved days still give way to wool and flannel nights. For a few more weeks, dinner will continue to be a cooked inside affair, with socks and candles. And crucifers, which, thanks to our local CSA, continue to be in good supply.

This winter, because of Alice Waters and Judy Rogers, I learned to think differently about kale, which I’d previously only known as a stir-fry-with-tofu-and-eat-with-brown-rice affair. Boiled kale, like most anything boiled, doesn’t sound like anything very good. Certainly not like something that you would eat if you had a choice. But long-cooked and ladled over toasted bread with a soft-yolk egg over the top, this kale is comforting and meaty, brothy and delicious, and nice enough to serve to friends for an impromptu weeknight dinner.

Boiled Kale on Toast with Fried Eggs and Vinegar

Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

2 bunches of kale, thick stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
olive oil
red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves
4 cups water or chicken stock
4 thick slices peasant style bread
4 eggs
red wine vinegar

Place the onions and 4 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, 5 to 10 minutes. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, the garlic, and the kale. Stir for a few minutes until kale is wilted. Add water or stock, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat and cover. Cook for 30 minutes, or until tender.

While kale is cooking, brush both sides of bread with olive oil, then grill or toast until golden and crisp. Lightly rub with a garlic clove, then place each piece of toast in a warmed soup plate.

Ladle over the bread a generous amount of kale, and a good amount of broth. Top with a fried or poached egg. Warm a few tablespoons of vinegar in the egg pan, then drizzle a little over each egg. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you are feeling really fancy, give each plate a few drops of truffle oil just before serving.


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