it came out of nowhere

I Love Leftovers. For this home chef, ‘Leftovers’ is code for, ‘Easy-Meal’ and that’s a good thing. I usually plan for leftovers when I can; cooking an extra chicken breast and stashing it away, boiling too much rice and storing the extra, or sauteing two onions when I only need one then saving the rest.  In this day and age, time seems to be as expensive a commodity as fuel and food and it makes sense to cook two meals at once, saving time, energy and thought.

But, even with all this careful meal planning, every so often I face an interesting situation. It usually goes like this; there are two more days until it’s time to go shopping and we’re running low on ‘regular food’. The main meals I planned have been cooked and eaten, the leftovers conveniently consumed, and I am left with a smattering of completely unrelated ingredients. A couple of eggs, a quart of chicken broth from Monday’s stewed chicken, half a cup of lemon juice, a serving or so of cold white rice from Tuesday’s stir-fry and some garlic.

For all my love of easy-peasy menu making and ‘second meal’ strategizing, I do love the once-in-a-while meal challenge. I need a meal to come out of nowhere – something recycled, repurposed, reconstructed, rethought. Something that is going to spring from the cupboards and fridge and appear in delicious completion on the dinner table – and, oh yes, I need a meal in less than 30 minutes, if you please. If there were such things as Good Kitchen Fairies, this would be the time to summon one, but as I am yet Kitchen Fairy-less, I must think of something all on my own.

Last night was such a night in our angled apartment. I needed a meal, a good, recycled sort of meal that was going to take the culinary cacophony in my fridge and turn it into a poem of  a meal – and fast. How do eggs, lemon, chicken broth and cold (slightly old) white rice sound?

How about Avgolemono? It’s alright if you can’t say it – I barely can, but thankfully for us we don’t need to pronounce it to be able to enjoy it. This is a traditional Greek soup that just happened to call for several of my misfit ingredients. Here’s how you make it:

Avgolemono

4-8 cups of chicken stock

1 cup cooked white rice (you can also use small pasta if that’s one of your random ingredients)

3 eggs

4 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 garlic clove, grated or minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

In Greek, the name of this soup means “egg” and “lemon”. Ah ha.

 The first order of business is to put the stock into a pot and get it boiling. Once it boils, add the grated garlic and let it simmer for a minute. Now, add the rice. While the rice is being warmed by the broth, beat the eggs until they are frothy. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Now, this is the tricky part – tricky, I say, because if you dump the cold egg into boiling broth you will end up with a Greek-styled egg drop soup. This is Not what we Want. You are going to gently, kindly introduce the hot broth to the egg mix. Take a spoon and add a few spoonfuls of broth to the egg, stirring well. When that’s mixed in, add a couple more spoonfuls of broth. This warms the egg mix up slowly so that you can bring the two together without tragedy. It’s important that the broth isn’t boiling, so you might want to lower the heat to make sure it stays just ‘really really hot’.

When you have mixed enough broth into the eggs to make the egg mix relatively warm, stir it into the broth. Don’t let it boil again, or the egg will curdle. Take it off the heat, stir in salt and pepper and serve.

You’ve done it. You’ve made a meal come out of nowhere. Impressive, isn’t it?

the waffle-fairy *is* just a bedtime story; breakfast on a cloudy day

I have just made a perfectly crispy, golden brown waffle with my stove top Belgian Waffle Maker.

Ann- 1; Waffles- 3

It’s a lovely thing to behold, sitting among a short pile of soggy, beige waffles- the unhappy offspring of my inexperience and the new recipe I am test driving this gray morning.

The plan *was* to go hiking in lovely 70 degree weather today, but we are stuck inside instead, disappointed and rather disgusted at the weatherman’s gross miscalculation- it is a raw, cloudy 50 degrees with rain. Alex is sleeping, I am producing anemic waffles at an alarming rate in the kitchen, Louis Armstrong is singing “La Vie En Rosa” in the living room. “My life is one of Roses….”

I am making a special breakfast for The Man because he will surely be disappointed when he wakes up and finds that Spring has once again snuck around the corner of next week. For the past few weeks it has been, “Next week, next week the weather will be fair and we can spend some time outside…” Next week comes and Spring has vanished into a day that is far too much like my earlier, ugly waffles. Undercooked. Unenthusiastic. Yuck.

Lemon Meringue Waffles. How does that sound? Lovely and sunny, right? I have never heard of such a thing before, but I am making them even as I type. The lemon pie filling is resting on the stovetop behind the waffle iron which is busily baking the last waffle. The meringue is sitting next to me on the counter, looking like the fluffy clouds we were expecting to see in the sky today. We shall eat our Spring.


Here Comes The Sun:

I found My*T*Fine pie filling in the store yesterday while we were doing our weekly shopping and nearly fell apart. I love that stuff, but I haven’t seen it outside the Midwest! It comes in a lovely little vintage-styled box at something like 69 cents, in chocolate, butterscotch and Lemon. Yum. It’s rather like cheating, but you have to add egg yolks and attend to it on the stove for a while, so it’s a little like making lemon filling from scratch too. It’s a happy medium that I can deal with!


Laughing At Clouds:

I made meringue with no cream of tartar. Is there some sort of award, or recognition for that? Is is even possible? I had no idea it was until I hopped in and Did It. Meringue it was, and it adorned the lemon filling deliciously.

3 egg whites

1 Tbsp sugar

Beat the egg whites until they are ‘frothy’. Add a little of the sugar. Then Beat – Vigorously – adding a little more sugar by turns until it is all incorporated and the froth has turned to a white, shiny foam that holds a peak when you remove the beating instrument. *thank you, vintage egg beater… for making my life so easy…*


I’ll Make WAFFLES:

1 3/4 cups flour, sifted

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tblsp sugar

Mix well.

Beat three egg yolks  *with*

5 Tbsp melted butter or cooking oil *and*

1 1/2 cups milk

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stiffly stir several times so that everything is damp. It still should have some dry ‘pebbles’ in it, like pancake batter. Don’t beat it- save that for the egg whites. Speaking of which, you should have some more of those resting somewhere handy after making the lemon filling and waffle batter. Hopefully, you have three of them. They need to be beaten, whipped, stirred up and fomented until they look something like the meringue. Now, you are going to FOLD them into the waffle batter. Oh. My. Word. Fold gently, and your reward shall be light, fluffy waffles.

Sounds like a fairy-tale, don’t it?

The waffles get cooked on a waffle iron until they are tanned and lovely, then topped with a dollop of lemon filling and at last, graced with heavenly meringue. I made up several of them then put them on a baking sheet and broiled them for about a minute, just until the tops of the meringue browned up nicely.

 

20120320-173102.jpg*ok, so that one in the back burned up nicely, still working on oven temperatures…*



And then we dined in hope of a Spring that was right around the corner.

****Not For The Faint Of Heart***

Traipsing into deep waters, we are, when we ask, “What if we want to make our own Lemon Filling?”

Suppose we don’t *want* to depend on a powder well-dressed in its little vintage box?

What then?

This then: “Joy Of Cooking” has an answer for all such daring supposings.

“Lemon Meringue Pie Filing”

Combine in the top of a double-boiler:

1 cup sugar

5 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/8 tsp salt

Add very gradually, 2 cups water *or* milk

Stir and cook these ingredients over hot water for 8 – 12 minutes, or until the mix begins to thicken. Cover and cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Pour a little of the mix over 3 beaten egg yolks in a separate container, carefully, so as not to cook the egg yolks. Beat together and then add to the sauce in the double boiler. Cook and stir gently over boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat again.

Add 3 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tsp grated lemon zest

Cool slightly by gently stirring to release steam, then pour into a waiting pie crust (or in our case, adorn some lonely waffles with it…)

Go Ahead. Make Your Own Lemon Filling.

I’d love to hear how it turned out……