A Tale of Two Gadgets

I’ve written so much about kitchen gadgets that I always find myself surprised when I find new ones to talk about, or new things to say about them.

In the past, I’ve mostly compared the virtues of good gadgets with the folly of the bad. For Christmas this year, I received two gadgets both of which, I think, fall into the general realm of the latter.

The first arrived in my Christmas stocking, and I was immediately fond of it — not so much because I imagined ever using it, but because a.) it came from Santa, b.) it had French writing on it, and c.) it had a cute little egg with a face on it.

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This is the kind of gadget children love — like heart-shaped cookie cutters or the circus animal waffle press I got my one of my kids for Christmas last year. More

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Sundays with Nat

On Sunday afternoons, many of my male friends will retreat to their “man caves.” I’ve written before about these enigmatic places — spare rooms, basements, converted garages where a guy can steal away to play computer games or smoke a joint or read, I guess. I don’t know what happens in man caves, I’ve never actually been in one. In my imagination they are dark and smell of tobacco and dust.

The kitchen serves a similar purpose in my life. When I’m cooking, it’s a space — both mentally and physically — I can withdraw to, focus and engage in my craft. Except unlike a man-cave, there’s no locked door, no barrier to entry for my wife or kids. More

The Trusty Egg Salad Sandwich

Chickens are mercurial creatures. Sometimes they lay like crazy, and other times they appear spooked and go barren. Then they like to play little tricks on you. One of our hens hadn’t seemed to be laying in weeks. But then I saw her emerging nervously from within a shrub. I looked beneath the leaves and found 11 eggs.

Chicken behaving suspiciously.

When they’re laying like gangbusters, I’m always looking for interesting ways of using our eggs. I massage them into flour and make homemade pasta, I boil them for Nicoise and Cobb salads, I crack them into congee and over the top of chilaquiles, I fry them and plop them onto a pile of spaghetti. I even do a groovy Spanish-style deviled egg with chorizo, pimenton and lots of olive oil (let me know if you wanna know how to make that one!) More

Top o’ the Mornin’

Around a decade or so ago, my friend Dan and I were tooling about Ireland in a little Spanish compact. We stayed mostly in bed-and-breakfasts, and it didn’t take long before we were waking with a craving for the Irish breakfast.

Irish breakfast

What was not to like? A couple of eggs, some Irish sausage, black and white puddings (i.e. more sausage), Canadian bacon, a roasted tomato, a couple cooked mushrooms and plenty of Irish brown bread spread with fresh Irish butter. Of course, you can have too much of a good thing — as we discovered was the case with both Guinness and the Irish breakfast. More

Sonoma Market Breakfast

One sparkling winter Sunday morning in Sonoma County, as mist rose from frozen fields through the bare leaves of apple trees, with my wife and kids, my mom and the Wine Guerrilla and miscellaneous sisters, we went to a favorite spot for breakfast. Willow Wood Market Café in the tiny one-horse town of Graton. If you’re ever hungry and meandering along the Gravenstein Highway north of Sebastopol some morning, I suggest you hang a left on Graton Road and do the same.

Unraveling scarves and jackets as we settled around a large table, the comforting scent of sausage and coffee filled the sunlit room. Browsing the menu, my eyes gravitated toward the usual suspects: steak and eggs, smoked salmon, french toast and sausage. And then I spotted an interesting choice: the “market plate breakfast”. Warm polenta, a farm fresh egg, spinach cooked with coppa, roasted tomatoes and camboloza toast. It was a surprisingly harmonious symphony of morning flavors — even the things you wouldn’t expect on a breakfast menu like spinach and blue cheese.

Your kids might screw their noses up at this breakfast, as mine did. That’s just fine… give them Eggos, and save this gem for the grown ups. Did I mention it’s the perfect brunch, particularly when served to friends with a good, spicy Bloody Mary? Cheers.

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Sonoma Market Breakfast
Note: for my version, I like two eggs per and use pancetta instead of coppa

for each breakfast:

2 eggs
1/4 cup dried fine polenta
1/2 cup spinach
1 slice pancetta
5 or 6 heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 slice crusty bread
1 slice (or 1 tbsp crumbled) blue cheese such as cambozola or gorgonzola
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Cook the polenta first: use 2x the water of the dried polenta you are cooking. Heat the water to a boil and add polenta, lowering heat to medium-low. Cook polenta, stirring every few minutes and adding water as it cooks away, for 20 minutes until thick. Cover and set aside.

While the polenta is cooking, roast the tomatoes. Make a little pan out of foil, add the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the spinach, cut each slice of pancetta into a few pieces, and saute until rendered and crisp in a tbsp or so of olive oil. Add spinach and cook briefly until wilted. Toast your bread slices and top with a little blue cheese while still hot.

Lastly, cook your eggs. They served poached eggs at Willow Wood, I like to fry them in a pan with a single flip. To compose your Market Breakfast, place some polenta on a plate with the tomatoes and cooking oil drizzled over the polenta. Put the spinach and pancetta next to the polenta, and the eggs next to that. Put a slice of toast on each plate, sprinkle some good sea salt and pepper over the top, and serve.

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