Friday, September 20, 2013

Fried Egg Sandwich with Blue Cheese, Basil, and Bacon

Never mind that spear of rosemary I stuck into the sandwich ..... Man, this was good eating!

When all else fails of what to have for dinner (or lunch or breakfast), there is always the egg. That humble oval neatly nestled in its own styrofoam or corrugated nest. Versatile. Healthy. Just waiting to be cracked. And then adorned.

I had planned on a fried egg sandwich with ham and smoked gouda. But when I returned from the deli and nibbled on the sliced "ham off the bone," I discovered it was anything  but. Way too sweet. They mistakenly gave me the honey ham off the bone..... I hate sweetened hams.

Plan B.

I had some leftover smoked and slice pork jowl (bacon to you Yankees) and some blue cheese crumbles. And I have a porch-load of basil that re-seeded itself from last year. So that's what I did.

The trick to a fried-egg sandwich is not to overcook the eggs. Once over easy and that's it! You want that wonderful, runny yolk to act as a thick sauce to bind everything together.

I used a hearty, seven-grain bread for this sandwich. You don't any wimpy bread or it just all falls apart. 

It's a messy venture eating a sandwich such as this. Have plenty of napkins. Truly, I savored every bite. And licked my fingers. The smoky bacon played well with the earthy blue cheese. Do not omit the basil. It's what brings this sandwich home!

  • 2 slices hearty bread, lightly toasted
  • 3-4 strips smoked bacon, cooked until crisp
  • Fresh tomato sliced thin
  • Mayo
  • Blue cheese crumbles (Maytag Blue if you can get your hands on it!)
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 3-6 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2-3 eggs, light fried, salted and peppered

Toast the bread. Give a light smear of mayo. Layer it with your bacon, tomato, torn up basil leaves, lettuce and blue cheese crumbles. Then fry your eggs. Carefully place them on the bread . . . Top with second piece of toast. Lightly push down to release all that drizzly, wonderful, runny golden yolk.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Okra with Tomatoes and Bacon (with or without Shrimp)

If you look closely, you will see the bits of bacon. They are not crisp and simply allowed
to render their fat.

Here in the South, okra is as much an essential kitchen ingredient as collards. Both are readily available in supermarkets and okra is almost always found in loose bulk at local farmers' markets during the summer months and early autumn.

Commonly, okra is simply "stewed" with tomatoes and onions on top of the stove and served over white or brown rice, usually accompanied by sausage or shrimp.

Here, I've added bacon, celery, green pepper, jalapeno and smoked paprika. A little bit of dried thyme goes a long way. Instead of using canned tomatoes, I used cherry tomatoes which impart a wonderful sweet taste that plays well with the spicier/smokier flavors. I then added tomato sauce.

While it is started on the range, it finishes in the oven at a low temperature. The baking times does great things to the okra. For one thing, it gives the stew time to marry all those great flavors. It also gets rid of any "slime" from the okra.

Some people enjoy their okra and tomatoes hot and spicy. While this recipe has a bit of heat, I prefer to let people add their own with a few shakes of Tabasco on top. Tabasco has that kind of nice vinegar base which goes well with this dish.

For this particular recipe, I used 1/2 cup diced, smoked hog jowl (readily available in the South). You may sub 2-3 slices of bacon, which will actually have more flavor (and it won't quite be as much as 1/2 cup).

I suggest grilling the shrimp for added flavor (no grills allowed where I live). Here I've simply sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, bacon grease, and Old Bay's. I finished it off with a bit of white wine and a squeeze of lemon. You can simply give it a quick boil, too, for convenience since the okra packs plenty of tastes to accompany a simply-done shrimp.
  • 1 lb. fresh okra
  • 8 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked hog jowl or 2-3 slices diced smoked bacon
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and de-ribbed, and minced/diced
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-grated black pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/2- 1 teaspoon Old Bay's
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed dry thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • Water
  • Olive oil

Look for fresh green okra pods such as these that have
no or few brown blemishes. If buying fresh packaged okra,
be sure to check for mold around the stems.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Wash okra and drain. Cut off ends and slice into 1/2-rounds. Set aside. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and set aside (you'll have about 2.5-3 cups.)

Put a bit of olive oil in a large stainless-steel pan and add the pork jowl or bacon. When it just begins to sizzle a bit, add the onion, celery, and green pepper. You do not want the bacon to brown but to cook with the vegetables. Saute until soft and most of the bacon has rendered its fat. Now add the garlic and jalapeno and stir for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and stir. Stand back to admire the beautiful colors. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the tomato sauce. Mix the paste with 1/2 can of water from the empty sauce can and add to mixture. Stir in Okra. Stir in, Old Bay's, smoked paprika, and bay leaves. Cover. Lower heat and allow to simmer for five minutes or so.

Uncover. Taste for seasonings and re-season if necessary.

If your pan is oven safe and has a cover, transfer to oven. Or transfer contents to a lidded casserole dish of appropriate size. I used an earthenware casserole dish with a glazed interior. Avoid cast iron unless it is enameled. Bake for one hour, removing lid for the last 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve over rice. Pass the Tabasco sauce.

While it's anything but traditional, I sprinkled mine with a bit
of Parmesan cheese . . . (I'm such a Yankee!).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Buttermilk Peach Streusel Cake

Are you in a panic over peaches? In a few weeks they will be a summer memory as apples tumble in to take their place. The last few weeks I've been making all things peaches. I made a pie last week. And then jam. I did an interesting Amish buttermilk pie with the intent to add peaches, but I haven't gotten that far. Yet.

The trouble with peaches, if one could ever so sadly ascribe such a tawdry phrase as that to such a delicate fruit, is that peach recipes tend to be "stickly." Syrupy. Sugary. I wanted something with some teeth in it. So when I came across this buttermilk cake recipe by Lisa Boyle from her cookbook, The Cake Book, I knew it would great. What's not to like? A thick buttermilk batter, crunchy streusel on the inside AND the outside. And then those wonderful summertime peaches nestled in the middle.

If you make one thing to celebrate the end of summer, please make this. You won't be disappointed. It was a hit both at work and with my neighbors. And it's the kind of recipe  with which one can be creative. Next time I will tumble a few red raspberries on top of those peaches for a bit more flavor and color. 

For a great Christmas dessert, use frozen peach slices and dried, sweetened cranberries for a festive cake.

For the batter, I chose to swap out most of the white sugar for light brown sugar. I also added rum flavoring. In the future, I will just probably sprinkle a bit of rum over the peach slices. One could also certainly use a bit of bourbon.

Unlike the original recipe, I whipped the butter and then added the eggs, one by one, without adding any sugar. I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then added that to the wet mixture. When all was incorporated, I beat it for several minutes for a luxurious thick batter.

  • Streusel Topping and Filling

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar (I used 1/4 c. light and 1/4 c. dark)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 2/3 cups chopped pecans 
  • 7 tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
  • Cake Batter
  • 2 cups (242g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup white granulated sugar and 3/4 cup packed, light brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, about 3/4 teaspoon rum extract, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract)
  • 3/4 cup whole-fat buttermilk
  • 2-3 peaches (one heaping cup) sliced a bit thicker than 1/4-inch.
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. If desired, cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom.


In a small bowl stir together the flour, sugar, spices, salt and pecans. Stir in butter and mix until moist and crumbly. I use my fingers. Set aside.


In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Set aside. (I also mixed in the sugars.)

In another medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. ( I beat the butter without the sugar and then added the eggs. At first, the eggs will seem to "curdle" and then suddenly they will "whip" beautifully into the egg mixture.)

Add the extracts to the buttermilk and stir. 

With mixture on low, begin adding flour to butter/egg mixture in three additions and the flavored buttermilk in two additions. (If adding the sugar now, continue to beat several minutes after all the dry ingredients have been added until batter is thick.)

Remove a little more than half the batter to spread on the bottom of your greased springform pan. Sprinkle half the streusel topping over the batter. Now concentrically place your sliced peaches around the pan and then in the center. Spoon remaining batter over peaches and then cover with remaining streusel mix. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before releasing from pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing.


Be sure to sift your cup of powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Add the cream and vanilla and mix until smooth. Drizzle over completey-cooled cake and allow to set.

Use a sharp, serrated knife to slice this cake. It's even better the next day, I think--moister.

This cake had a beautiful rise to it and took the full 60 minutes to bake.