Rules were made to be broken. Who came up with that phrase anyway? I’ve always said that there’s a reason for cliches and I’m holding myself to it on this one.
My diet is pretty much wheat-free, dairy-free, green smoothie laden and low on animal foods these days. I certainly don’t expect my clients to eat like me – this is the culmination of over 18 months of integrative nutrition on my part. But, there always has to be a dark side, a yang to the yin, a night to day, blah, blah and THAT is why every now and again, you just have to be naughty.
Today was a naughty day. While some people might go and paint the town red, my definition of being utterly rambunctious was hitting the tastes buds with a few ingredients they hadn’t had in a while. Like cheese. Like prosciutto. Like pastry. Like chocolate that wasn’t raw.
I have the weekend to myself, a rarity in and of itself, so I was itching to do something a little beyond my usual green smoothie or veggie omelet sans fromage. It’s funny how being on your own and having the ultimate luxury of time all to yourself can turn you into a whirling dervish of culinary creativity. “He’s not here; bring out the cheese and prosciutto.” Well, if he were here, he’d probably be thrilled to see them coming out of the fridge because he bought them in the first place despite my protestations.
I digress. I love eggs and eat pretty much one a day, usually scrambled or in a veggie omelet. I get my eggs at my local farmers’ market and pay way more than one does for “regular” eggs ($5.99 a dozen), but they’re from pasteured chickens and are free of hormones and antibiotics. And a word about the price, I look at it like I get a healthy breakfast for 50 cents a day for 12 days.
So how thrilled was I to see this recipe as an opportunity to go beyond fried and scrambled to en cocotte but with the lovely twist of prosciutto. There’s even a green veggie in there. Even better, it takes no time to prepare so it works mid-week. Switch on the oven when you first get up and bake the egg while you take your shower.
Individual Prosciutto and Spinach Pies
12 servings (Only making one? Amounts are in italics and parantheses)
- 12 thin slices prosciutto, halved crosswise (1/2 pound) (1 slice)
- 10 eggs, slightly beaten (1 egg)
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt (pinch)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (smidgen)
- 1 cup loosely packed spinach, stems trimmed and roughly chopped (small handful)
- 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1 tablespoon)
Pre-heat oven to 350. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan or 12 ramekins. Place prosciutto slices into bottoms and up sides of cups, overlapping in a crisscross pattern.
Combine eggs, salt, and pepper. Divide spinach and cheese among muffin cups. Pour egg mixture evenly into muffin cups.
Bake pies 14 to 16 minutes or until just set. Let stand about 5 minutes. Loosen pies by running a knife around the edges of each cup, and then lift out of pan with a small spatula. Serve immediately.
Single serving: butter ramekin and line it with prosciutto in criss-cross shape. Add chopped spinach and grated cheese. Add beaten, seasoned egg. Bake as above.
When I’m on my own, I like to not have to fuss about meals. If I want to create a magnum opus I can, but if I don’t feel like a performance while flatly refusing to eat something that isn’t made from scratch, here I come. I’d been eyeing up a recipe for an olive and onion tart that I’d pulled out of a magazine. (Can’t remember which one, sorry).
Onion and Olive Tart
It had the air of pissaladiere that I’ve had in France. Plus by now, I was deep into a magazine article I was writing and really didn’t have much time to come up for air. Did I have all the ingredients? Frozen puff pastry. Check. Large sweet onion. Check. Arugula or Spinach. Sort of. A bit of spinach (I’d used most of it in the egg recipe) but found kale which is ubiquitous in my house. Olives, because this is an olive and onion tart. Er, the husband has them, along with the spinach but he doesn’t know when he’ll be home. Okay. Ha! Found some homemade tapenade in the fridge, we’ll figure this out.
Defrost the puff pastry but don’t do what I did and leave it for too long so you can’t do anything with it. Since only half is required, I cut the thing in two and rolled it thin. Next time I’ll do it right and read the instructions, just like I never do.
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1/2 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh arugula or spinach leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup chopped green rip or kalamata olives
- Fresh arugula leaves (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Stir egg yolk in a small bowl. Place puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and cut 1/2-inch-wide strips off each side. Lightly brush each piece with egg wash. Place cut pastry strips on top of puff pastry to form raised edges, trimming as needed. Prick center of pastry with a fork. Chill 30 minutes.
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute onion 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low, add sugar and vinegar, and cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until onion is a dark caramel color. (Take more time with this if you need to. Crunchy caramelized onions don’t work. If it takes longer to soften them, take the time). Set aside.
Puree arugula, garlic, and anchovies, if desired, in a food processor. Slowly add remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil; process until mixture is thick and creamy. Stir in breadcrumbs and next 3 ingredients.
Spread arugula mixture over puff pastry, and top evenly with onion. Bake 30 minutes or until tart edges are golden brown and bottom is firm. Let cool to room temperature. Top with olives, and sprinkle with additional arugula, if desired. Cut tart into squares. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
A note. My hubby is still AWOL with the olives so, as you can see, I enjoyed my tart with a dollop or two of the tapenade which I spread atop. It would have been lovely with some mixed greens and a homemade vinaigrette, but alas the greens are also in the back of a car somewhere in Indian River County, Florida.
Not to worry, I washed my tart down with a suitably hearty red wine. A tempranillo/merlot/cabernet sauvignon mix from Navarra, Spain. A wimpy wine won’t match up to the strong tastes of the arugula paste and the olives so be bold. As one should, if one is being naughty.
My final digression was some delicious mango chilli chocolate that said prosciutto- and cheese-buying husband had stashed in the fridge. It also went extremely well with the wine. On reflection, even though my other half was away all weekend and not home in time with some of the goods, I did really well working with what he had provisioned. He can buy prosciutto, pastry, cheese and chocolate more often!