May 25, 2010

Arugula and Goat Cheese Soufflé

Filed under: Egg Dishes — by Carla



Farmer’s markets often sell the tastiest vegetables and fruits, but fresh, local food isn’t the only reason to seek them out. Lovely outdoor environments and knowledgeable, friendly people with colorful stories about the food they grow and sell are perks you definitely don’t get at the A&P. So, even though the growing season here in Northeast Ohio is just getting started, I look forward to getting back to my local farmer’s market. Last week there was arugula, spinach, chard, mushrooms, honey, maple syrup, cheese and lots of eggs. Definitely enough  to stir my imagination.  Thanks to spring’s unexpected largesse, my thoughts turned to making a fluffy goat cheese and arugula soufflé for dinner. Dense and rich in flavor yet airy and light at the same time, a soufflé is the oxymoron of the food world. Paired with a crispy baguette and a light salad, who could want for more?


There is no reason to be faint of heart at the thought of making a soufflé. They are really pretty easy to make and so delicious and exciting to eat. It’s fun to watch a soufflé rise in the oven and it’s absolute theatre to set one dramatically, yet gently down on the dining room table for all to dig in. I have a thing for bitter arugula and the tangy prize winning goat cheese from local Mackenzie Creamery. But, let’s face it, the star of any soufflé is the eggs and on this lucky day I scored the most beautiful eggs in the world…from Arucana chickens. The intensely flavored yolks are a rich, bright orange, but good taste is only half their appeal. They are so gorgeous to look at in restful shades of beige, brown, blue and green that it’s kind  of a shame to break them. When I asked the Egg Lady why those particular chickens laid such colorful eggs she replied that chickens lay eggs with shells the same color as their ears. Have you ever thought of chicken ears? Of course they must have ears somewhere under all those feathers, right? Thinking about chickens with enormous blue, green and brown elf ears, I bought 2 dozen on the spot.

So there you have it, straight from Egg Lady’s lips, the most colorful and by far the best farmer’s market story of the day which I am now passing along to you with a recipe for a yummy, cheesy soufflé. Buk, buk, buk, bukaaaa. You’re welcome.

Kitchen Counter Point: Since time seems to be the enemy in the kitchen these days, I thought I’d give some tips on how to make a soufflé quickly and easily.
1) Start with room temperature eggs. The whites always beat up better warm rather than cold. Lay them out on the counter 30 minutes before you start the soufflé. Or, if you’re in a hurry and the eggs are cold from the fridge, just place them in hottish water for a few minutes to warm them up.
2) Make the base ahead of time. The base is just a basic white sauce, egg yolks and the flavoring. You can make it earlier in the day or even the night before and keep it refrigerated until about 40 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Warm the base up to room temperature, whip up the egg whites and fold them together, bake, eat, yum.
3) Don’t over beat the whites. When they are over beaten, the air bubbles are more likely to burst when folding them into the yolks. Just beat them with a hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form, and then whip another 20 seconds or so. You know they are firm when you remove one of the beaters and the whites form a stiff pointy peak on the end of the beater.
4) Fold gently with your widest spatula and not overmuch. Folding is a technique used to mix airy, foamy ingredients. Using a large spatula, scoop the mixture up and over onto itself until blended. It is important not to over mix so that most of the air bubbles in the mixture remain to puff the soufflé when heated in the oven. It isn’t necessary to completely fold the whites into the yolks with each addition. Some streaks are ok.
5) Assemble the soufflé 1 hour ahead of time. It will keep on the kitchen counter with a bowl inverted over it for up to 1 hour. Then just pop it in the preheated oven. It really works!

 Serves 4 to 6

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, divided
4 large handfuls arugula, tough stems removed
1 shallot, minced
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk, heated
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 large egg yolks
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup Gruyere, grated
8 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and up the sides of an 8-cup soufflé mold with 1 tablespoon of the butter and coat the inside of the mold with a few tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese.

Bring a 2-quart saucepan of salted water to a simmer. Add the arugula and when wilted, about 20 seconds, drain and rinse under cold running water. Squeeze dry and chop finely by hand. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the flour and cook over medium heat stirring until the butter foams, about 2 minutes. Quickly pour in the hot milk, whisking until blended. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne and boil for 1 minute. The sauce will be thick. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool for 3 minutes. Whisk in the yolks, one at a time and then stir in the arugula, goat cheese and Gruyere. It’s ok if the cheese remains lumpy but it will probably melt. Reserve. (The soufflé base can be made up to this point a day ahead, kept covered and refrigerated. Let come back to room temperature before resuming the recipe.)


Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a stand mixer with the whisk, using a hand held mixer or by hand using a balloon whisk (a big one)  until the whites are stiff. Fold 1/4 of the whites into the soufflé base to lighten it then fold in half the whites, leaving streaks, then add the rest of the whites folding carefully but completely.

Turn the soufflé into the prepared mold and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top.

Quickly place the soufflé in the lower third of the oven. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees F. and bake for 30 to 35 minutes without opening the oven door to check on it. It is done when puffed and the center is no longer runny. To test, plunge a wooden skewer down the center of the soufflé. If it comes up dry, the soufflé is done. If wet with uncooked egg, bake for another 5 minutes and check again. Serve immediately.

March 12, 2010

Swiss Chard Fritatta with Bacon, Potatoes and Feta

Filed under: Egg Dishes — by Carla



There is much to be said for a light supper. We don’t always want or need a large meal in the evening and so when hubby and I are feeling only a bit peckish, a frittata is one of our favorite dinnertime solutions. Similar to an omelet, but without the technique laden flip and fold, it’s a quick and easy one pan meal with no special shopping necessary. As long as I have a few eggs  there are usually plenty of tasty ingredients on hand in the pantry and refrigerator to fill out the dish. 

Omelets and frittatas are one of the best ways to utilize those leftover bits from previous meals that don’t quite add up to a proper meal for two, but for this one night  I had to start from scratch. No leftover Chinese cartons of fried rice or mac and cheese peeked back at me from the inside the frig. However, I did have a lovely bunch of Swiss chard and decided that IT should be the centerpiece of the dish. What made this frittata different from the ones I’ve made in the past was that I used the whole bunch of greens and a smaller amount of potato so that  the greens actually created the bulk of the dish. I think the combination resulted in a more toothsome frittata, and I’ll stick with this high vegetable ratio  whether filling the eggy cake with broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms or other countless vegetable combinations the next time.

To give the filling extra flavor I cooked the onion, potato, chard stems and greens in bacon fat. In my opinion, just a touch of salty pork makes everything taste better, but if you want to keep your frittata on the vegetarian side, skip the bacon and substitute a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To make the meal seem less Spartan, serve this simple meal with a glass of wine à la Elizabeth David who “regard(s) a glass or two of wine as not, obviously, essential but at least an enormous enhancement of the enjoyment of a well-cooked omelet.” I’m not sure of Elizabeth’s wine preference, but I prefer a non-oaked chardonnay with most egg dishes.  If you can find it,  Kim Crawford makes an especially nice yet inexpensive quaffer.

So there you go. The recipe for a simple, civilized meal is probably lurking in your refrigerator at this very moment. Elizabeth David said it best, “Let’s just have an omelet (or frittata) and a glass of wine”!


Kitchen Counter Point: When it comes to filling omelets and frittatas, greens reign supreme. Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. Chard is one of my all time favorites. I just love the magenta stems and leathery green leaves, but don’t overlook other tasty options such as escarole (yes, the lettuce), frisée, collards, dandelion, arugula, mizuna and spinach. I haven’t included kale here, because it is very tough and most times needs more than a quick sauté to render it tender. As I said above, greens love salty pork, but they also have an affinity for onions and garlic.  I usually begin the sauté in olive oil with the onion and stems, followed by the greens and then add the garlic for only the last few minutes to insure that it doesn’t over brown and become bitter.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 Yukon gold potato, finely diced, about 1 cup
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and thinly sliced, stems finely diced
Pinch salt
Pinch nutmeg
Grind of pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
5 large eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons half and half, milk or water
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 grinds fresh pepper
Pinch Cayenne
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch cast iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer it to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve.

Cook the onion in the hot fat in the pan until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the finely diced potato and chard stems, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the potato, stirring every now and then until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the Swiss chard in bunches, adding more greens as they wilt and room allows. When the chard is wilted, add the pinch of salt, nutmeg, pepper and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes or until the greens are tender.

Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper and pinch of cayenne.

Set the oven rack to the second highest position and preheat the broiler.

Crumble and sprinkle the reserved bacon and feta cheese into the greens and pour the eggs evenly over all. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 2 minutes, covered. Uncover and transfer the pan to the broiler and broil for about 4 minutes or until the eggs are set and the top is browned. Remove the frittata from the oven and let rest for 3 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve hot or at room temperature.