November 13, 2006

Infinite Possibilities

Of course, eggs aren't just breakfast food, or the glue that keeps your cakes and meatloaves from crumbling helplessly as you attempt to slice/eat them. Eggs have an infinite number of possibilities attached to them, whether as the star ingredient or merely an essential component. Merely, of course, practically deserves air-quotes, because there is nothing insignificant about the role of the simple egg in great baking and cooking of our time. Really, there isn't a single culinary nook they haven't invaded: they help breadcrumbs adhere to chicken, they make a dandy snack when stuffed, they are critical to hollandaise and quiche, they make muffins rise better, an egg salad sandwich is a perfect summer lunch... the list goes on.

I also like to have eggs for dinner. Sure, scrambled eggs on toast are a classic and kind of fun breakfast-for-dinner sort of thing to do, but the very best eggs-for-dinner that I know is a family of Indian dishes known as Masala Eggs. (or, Eggs Masala. Or, insert variation of your choice here.) I think of it as a family of dishes because there are literally thousands of variations to choose from - some regional, some preferential, some dictated by your darkest curry desires.

I confess that my (current) very favourite Eggs Masala actually uses the sauce from this Chicken Korma recipe (but pureed smooth with an immersion blender), but I'm happy to have just about any version, and the one shown here has the advantage of feeling very light on the palate, while still being satisfying.

Once again, I have adapted this from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by the inimitable Madhur Jaffrey.

Hard Boiled Eggs Masala

Serves 2 for lunch, or 4 for dinner as one of several dishes

4 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 cup of canned diced tomatoes (with some liquid)
chopped cilantro to taste

Combine ground spices with lemon juice and a tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Mix to create a thin paste.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan, over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, give the pan a shake, then add the onion and ginger. Stir and fry until onion browns nicely. Add the spice paste, and stir and cook for another 15 seconds or so. Add the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and lay the eggs (sliced in half length-wise) onto the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the eggs. Serve with rice or naan, or (!) even over toast. For a thinner, smoother sauce, just add a tablespoon or two of water and puree before laying down the eggs.

November 01, 2006


Baked pasta is a popular execution which can range from the simple combination of noodle-of-choice with sauce-of-choice, generally topped with cheese and popped into the oven, to elaborate layers of disparate ingredients which meld into a glorious and highly specfic dish, such as the classic lasagna al forno. Whenever you stray too far into the realm of binders, breadcrumbs, and cross-culture fusion, however, it generally becomes safe to call the resulting concoction a casserole.

Mexican is a frequent flying flavour, at our house. That is to say, I cook a number of straight-up Mexican dishes, as well as the odd Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex items thrown in. I also am not at all above flinging Mexican flavours into decidedly non-Mexican dinners - in part because I believe many dishes improve with a little hot sauce added, and in part because I simply like the flavours, and am quick to reach for the ground chipotle or jalapenos to spruce up a dish that is otherwise lacking.

This is a variation on a Cooking Light recipe - I haven't gotten the perfect texture yet, so some experimenting is yet to occur. The basic structure is this:

Chipotle Macaroni Casserole

Sautee an onion with half a green pepper (diced), until softened slightly. Sprinkle with chipotle powder and a little flour (about a tablespoon or two) and stir in some minced garlic, and minced or pureed chipotle in adobo sauce, along with some cumin and oregano.

When the mixture starts to stick, add a 398 ml / 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes with their juice, and stir well until thick and bubbly. Next, stir in about a cup of milk, and a cup of ricotta mixed well with a beaten egg. Reduce heat to low and stir until well integrated. Mix in a couple of handfuls of cheese - Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Parmesan - whatever spirit moves you, really, and turn off heat. Taste the sauce and adjust for salt and pepper, hot sauce (feel free to add whatever hot sauce strikes your fancy), and general flavour components.

Stir in cooked pasta - approximately 4 cups of cooked macaroni or its equivalent - and some nice diced, cooked chicken breast - great for leftovers - and pour the whole lot into a casserole dish. Top with a little more cheese, and breadcrumbs, if you like that sort of thing and can be bothered. Cover lightly and bake at 350 F for about half an hour, or until bubbling and browned.

Leftovers, should there be any, reheat well on medium heat in the microwave.