Poached to Perfection – Two Kinds of Eggs Benny at Futures Bakery!

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When I was growing up, I was fascinated with all the different ways eggs could be cooked and served.  This might sound all sorts of nutty, but when I used to accompany my mum to the supermarket when I was little I would grab all the little egg recipe books (you know, the ones by Get Crackin’) and all the coupons around the store not for their discounts, but for the recipes on the back and for the pretty pictures of egg sandwiches, omelettes, and frittatas on the front.  And till this day, those tiny recipe flipbooks are sitting comfortably in a file folder reminding me of the days when I dreamed of cooking great meals all on my own. 

As weird as it sounds, eggs play a role in a lot of my foodie memories, both sentimental and otherwise.  My grandmother made – and still makes – the best Chinese style preserved egg, something I really enjoy eating but also something I eat as sparingly as possible because of its salt content.  My little brother and I would test our “cooking” skills on Mother’s Day when we would “surprise” our mum with scrambled eggs a la breakfast in bed.  And the runny style eggs used in dishes like Chinese shrimp and egg rice remain my favourite along with the classic overeasy.

One thing that always left me stymied growing up though was figuring out what a poached egg was, and how to make one!  Up until I started university, I had no idea what a poached egg was and I had no idea that it was the center of attention when it came to the ever popular brunch dish, eggs benedict.  All of that changed though when I ate my first eggs benny a number of years ago and found out how to cook a poached egg.  I thought to myself, “I get to create a whirlpool of hot water in a pot to cook an egg?!  How funky!”  And so began my journey into the world of hollandaise sauce, eggs benny, and all its different variations: smoked salmon, peameal, ham, spinach, you name it.

Futures Bakery offers 3 different kinds of eggs benedict including eggs benny with grilled ham ($6.95), eggs florentine with fresh spinach ($6.95), and eggs blackstone with smoked salmon ($7.95).  I’ve tried both the eggs blackstone and eggs florentine and eating these two amazing breakfast dishes makes me realize what was wrong with past eggs benedict dishes that missed the mark.  For one thing, the English muffin is soft and moist.  I’ve had eggs benny on English muffins that were dry and let me tell you, it’s not fun.  It is also not a walk in the park when you need to saw through an English muffin that crunches like broken glass.  With eggs benedict, the English muffin is supposed to mesh with the poached egg and whatever it’s being served with so that you can cut into it with one swift motion.  It’s meant to be creamy and pillow soft, not starchy or anything that would remotely leave you feeling parched.

Futures does SUCH a bang on job with both of these.  The eggs are poached to perfection.  None of the yolk threatens to spill out before you even take a poke at it, and the hollandaise sauce is delicious.  It has the perfect consistency (not so thick it goops up but not thin and runny either) and they’re sprinkled with the yummy all-dressed chip-like spice mix which is also what coats their scrumptious potato home fries on the side.  The spinach leaves are HUGE on the eggs florentine and the smoked salmon has that wonderful slightly salty flavour to it that makes the whole dish explode with savouriness when you combine it with hollandaise and home fries.  Two eggs benny dishes for brunch, poached to perfection.

*****

Futures Bakery and Cafe is located at 483 Bloor St. West, in between the main intersections and subway stations of Spadina Ave. and Bathurst St.  It sits right at the corner of Bloor St. and Brunswick Ave. on the south side of Bloor.  They are open from 7:30am to 2am 7 days a week.

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Putting Market Vegetables to Use: Roasted Eggplant, Marinara, and Mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan Melts!

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It was eggplant day at my house today!  Remember the baby eggplants that I was so super excited about finding and buying at the farmers’ market this past week?  We put them to use for dinner and made our version of roasted eggplant parmesan sandwiches!  Super simple, super DELICIOUS!  I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, but over the years it has grown on me and I’ve found ways to cook it that make my tastebuds and tummy happy.  Roasting, for me, is definitely the way to go and breading it also makes for delicious eggplant meals. 

This past Tuesday I bought 6 beautiful baby eggplants at the East York farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave. and we were hemming and hawing on how we should cook them and what to serve with them.  Should we throw them on the grill?  Mix it with other vegetables?  Eat them alone?  My mum came up with a great idea today: make eggplant sandwiches!  We sliced them to roast in the oven for our melty, cheesy, saucy sandwich melts.  The eggplants were sliced and seasoned and tossed in olive oil with a little bit of black pepper, dry basil, and minced garlic. 

We placed the slices of eggplant on a tin foiled baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes at 400°F.  I can’t even put into words have AMAZING they smelled!  And of course, tasted 😀  They were soft, the skin was nicely blistered and roasted, and the garlic…ahhh.  And then the fun part came: assembling our eggplant parmesan melts!  We loooove English muffins in our house, so we toasted some English muffins, put some mushroom and tomato marinara sauce on the stovetop to heat up, and got our slices of mozzerella cheese ready to go.  I slathered on a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottoms of the English muffins, placed two big slices of roasted eggplant on top, layered it with a slice of mozzerella cheese (which melted beautifully omg yum), placed another slice of eggplant on top, and topped the whole shebang with another generous dollop of tomato sauce.  Eggplant sandwich success! 

I was inspired by a lot of different things in making these roasted eggplant melts: the amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches at St. Lawrence market, Giada’s eggplant and asparagus stacks on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, and the eggplant parmesan at Frankie Tomatto’s!  Even though we didn’t have any parmigiano-reggiano cheese to shave on the roasted eggplant or fresh basil to finish off the melts, we made do with what we had at home and made a great dinner with fresh vegetables straight from the market.  It made me so happy to see my market vegetable purchase go from farm to table and it was such a simple way to make a wholesome, healthy, and hearty dinner.  I’m super excited to see what other fresh and delicious eats I find at my next farmers’ market visit!

Saturday Morning Brunch – A Twist on the Cucumber Tea Sandwich

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It feels like forever since I first posted about the English muffin pizzas my mum and I love to make!  One of the reasons why I love weekend mornings is because it gives me time to bake and also experiment in the kitchen.  Even though I may go out on weekends to go to appointments or to just sleep in a bit to catch up on some sleep, it’s a comfort knowing that the morning is all mine.  I don’t have to worry about running out the door to school or work with a brush still in my hair (not that I’ve ever had that happen…but you know, one of these days it very well could!), or nabbing that morning bus/train.  Weekend mornings, to me, are languid and relaxing and are so perfect for brunch meals.  What my mum and I did this past Saturday: a twist on the cucumber tea sandwich a la English muffins!

For us, we kind of make our English muffin pizzas in 3 steps.  Pick your cheese, layer the meat (if you’re using meat), and add the veggies with some extra cheese and herbs sprinkled on top.  Thus far we had made a Hawaiian type pizza with cheese, ham, and pineapple; a deluxe type of pizza using cheese, pepperoni, button mushrooms, and green bell pepper; and a chicken one with marbled cheese, tomato, and sliced chicken breast.  On the menu that morning: sliced English muffins with generous handfuls of shredded mozzerella cheese, a mix of blackforest ham, kielbasa loaf, and mortadella on alternating English muffins, and slices of English cucumber.  We sprinkled some extra shredded cheese on top so that it would get nice and melty in the oven (set to 350°F, using a cookie sheet and aluminum foil), and added some dry parsley flakes. 

We served it on a bed of mixed green and arugula salad with freshly peeled and sliced sweet navel oranges and had ourselves a lovely weekend morning brunch 😀  It was a great combination and I’m so glad it worked out!  The toasty English muffins were crunchy, the cheese and meats had a nice smoky flavour, and the cucumbers lightened up the taste and gave it as hint of freshness.  The onset of spring means more lovely weekend morning meals (it’s always nicer to be woken up by streaming sunlight as opposed to an annoying alarm clock and a dark room) and more exercises for my oven.  Yay!

Home Cooking: English Muffin Pizzas!

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Me and English muffins are good friends.  Which is saying a lot because I would normally choose rice or pasta as my choice of starch over bread any day.  But English muffins and I get along very well.  Especially on cold days like the ones we’ve been experiencing lately, it’s very comforting toasting these little guys and slathering on some cream cheese or some fruity jam over top.  And admittedly, sausage McMuffins are a weakness of mine.  I don’t eat them often, but when I do, it makes me wiggly.

Little English muffin pizzas have to be one of the easiest things to make, and they’re cute and delicious to boot!  And best of all, you can be super creative with them and they’re great for a lunch, a snack, or a holiday party appetizer.  This one here is one of our family’s favourites: little deluxe pizzas! 🙂  We took our cue from some of the actual pizza pie toppings and used pepperoni, green bell pepper, button mushrooms, and shredded marble cheese.  A pack of English muffins normally come with 6 in them, which makes 12 little pizzas when cut in half.  We set the little muffins on a baking sheet with some aluminum foil (or parchment paper, whatever suits your fancy) and we set the oven (we use an electric range) to 300°F – 350°F and have them bake for about 8-10 minutes until all of the cheese is good and melted.  And voila, you’re done! 

The possibilities are seriously endless as we did a Hawaiian version too, with shredded marble cheese, thinly sliced ham, and pineapple.  Oh!  And we also made little pizzas with chicken strips, tomato, and basil flakes.  I cannot wait to make more of these and to try combinations like basil pesto with bocconcini or fresh mozzerella cheese and cherry tomatoes, or roasted red peppers with mushrooms and some provolone or gouda.  Mmmmm.