I used to really enjoy watching Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef program on the Food Network. I loved his casual style to producing wonderful meals with very simple preparation of good ingredients. I have a few of his cookbooks.
I have adopted one of his recipes as a signature dish: take Sun Gold tomatoes fresh from the garden, slice in half, cut a red onion first into thin wedges, add pitted kalamata olives, a can of mandarin oranges, a few jalapeno peppers with seeds and membrane removed cut into an ¼” dice, some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and some red wine vinegar. Add cracked pepper, mix together and then chill. When ready to serve, mix in some fresh spinach leaves and you have a delicious salad.
I haven’t kept up with Jamie too closely although I have started following him on Twitter. I have read and seen where he is really involved with embarrassing public officials and educating the public on the poor state of food and nutrition in schools. And a few weekends ago he was hosting a Food Revolution weekend. He was travelling the world and using his social media to educate people about eating and the importance of where our food comes from. He is an amazing guy, thinking about where he has gone with his celebrity chef status.
So the meals we had that Saturday and Sunday for dinner were cooked in honor of Food Revolution and let me share them with you.
Saturday I got up to the farm around midday and started the spring bush hogging of the fields. A little later in the afternoon a friend came up, an intern from work, and I put him on the tractor. He really enjoyed finishing mowing the field (I really need to start charging ride fees I think!). The wife came up and he helped her in the garden with planting the pepper and eggplant plants that I had picked up from Durham Farmer’s Market and with weeding.
We had harvested our first artichokes (we had successfully planted them last year and they had over wintered to produce this year). I harvested green garlic and one of our red onions. I headed in to make dinner while they finished the garden chores.
When I had first arrived at the farm I had made a batch of Sangria with the improved recipe that I previously shared. It was chilling.
I took the artichokes and cut the tops off of them. I put them in a pot with about 3/4” of water in the bottom. I spread the leaves open and poured in EVOO and added some finely chopped garlic and put the lid on and set them to steam for about 40 minutes.
I topped the onion and the garlic and sliced them in thin wedges. I added them to a pan where I had heated EVOO and butter. I had the pasta water on to boil (had added a bit of EVOO and salt to the water). I sautéed the onion and garlic as I cooked the spaghetti. I added some sundried tomatoes from last summer to the onion/garlic mixture. As the onions and garlic finished wilting, I added fresh chopped spinach leaves from the garden. I added salt and some cracked black pepper and added a few sprinkles of pepper flakes. As the pasta finished cooking, I added a couple of cups of water from the pasta to the “sauce”, drained the pasta and tossed it with the toppings.
I quickly sautéed some asparagus, adding coarse sea salt at the end. We sliced some cheese and bread and sat down to a wonderful meal based on several things that we had just harvested from the garden. In fact, I realized we had not had artichokes since we moved from California. Oh they were nice!
After dinner we retired to the rocking chairs on the front porch with more Sangria and discussed some of the thoughts in my converged ideas postings. We listened to the night noise start up and saw the first fireflies come out. Mmm, I think Jamie would have approved.
Sunday night we were back at the house in Raleigh. The kids were back from their various outings and my son, the Chef, was over. I decided it would be fun to make a crespou and for the family to eat out on the porch. I had first read of crespou in Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”. When we got the BBC video series for the book, I got to see what crespou looked like because I had never heard of it before. I did some research on the web and finally found a recipe that seemed like what I had seen/read about. It is not a very common dish, given how much digging I had to do to find recipe. After making the dish for several years, I got a Spanish cookbook that had layered omelets like crespou and they used the same technique that I am going to describe.
So basically a crespou is four thin egg layers with filling in between each layer, all bound together with an egg omelet around it. It is made and flipped just like you would make a Spanish Tortilla Omelet.
I first make the fillings; I have two frying pans that are identical in size to help. I choose the fillings based on tastes, color and what is available. One layer will usually be mushrooms, thinning sliced and sautéed in olive oil and butter. You only need about half dozen mushrooms, just think a very thin layer covering the bottom of your frying pan. I like to have another layer be a colorful pepper layer. Sometimes I use the colored bell peppers, but in summer like to find what is in the garden. Again I sauté it in butter and olive oil and again an amount to just cover the bottom of the pan. Another layer I used this time was sautéed onions and spinach from the garden. A small dice on the onions and coarse chop of the spinach, sautéing the onions first and add the spinach after the onions go translucent. I will also grate a hard cheese to mix in one of the layers. You can see the four filling ingredients here in bowls ready to the next step.
So I butter one frying pan and add a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley across the bottom. In the other frying pan I heat butter on medium heat and add two whisked eggs. I immediately cover. The two eggs are usually thin enough that with the cover they will cook through. When the layer is done, I slide it into the first frying pan and add one of the filling layers, spreading it thinly to cover the egg layer.
I fry out three more layers and build up the tiers in the other frying pan as I go. I then whisk 7-8 eggs, adding salt and pepper. I pour over the tiered omelet, lift the sides to allow some of the egg to flow under the bottom tier. I then cover and put on medium-low heat. As the eggs mixture cooks, I will take the cover off and push down on the side of the omelet to let more egg mixture flow underneath to cook.
When it looks like it is mostly set it is time to flip it. This is most highly skilled step, I think (having learned once by flipping the whole Spanish Tortilla into the sink).
I have a plate the matches up exactly or larger than my frying pan. I turn off the heat and I remove the cover, put the plate on top and then put a folded towel across the plate. I use the towel as a hot pad and hold the pan/plate on opposite sides. I cross to the sink and flip the mixture over the sink (in case of disaster). I lift off the pan and set it onto a hot mat on the counter. I sprinkle in more chopped parsley and then slide the omelet from the plate back into the pan. I have found it is a good idea to wipe the outside of the pan because it is not unusual for drippings to be on the side after flipping. I cover and then put back on the burner on medium-low heat. Once it is done, I will do one more flip to put it onto the serving plate, using the same process described above.
As the omelet was cooking, I defrosted some of the frozen tomato sauce we made last summer. I brought it up to the point where it was just thawed, still cold. To server the crespou we cut a wedge for the plate and then spread the cold tomato sauce over the top. This is a perfect hot weather dish, a warm omelet and cold tomato sauce. Here you can see the layers in the cut omelet.
The son, the Chef made a batch of oven roasted new potatoes. Basically cutting the potatoes into wedged about a 1/4-3/8” on the side and adding them to a tray with ample olive oil , salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Mix all potatoes to coat with oil and then put in oven at 425 deg. Stir every 15 minutes to brown all sides. In the last stirring add in chopped rosemary and the son added chopped lavender this time which was really a nice touch. They are done in 40-45 minutes.
We had a few chilled bottles of white wine, the crespou, the oven roasted potatoes, some bread, cheese and olives. Sat out on the back porch and enjoyed the family company on a warm spring evening.
So Jamie, as Anthony Bourdain says in “Nasty Bits“, you are a hero. Thanks for standing up and helping us understand the importance of food and that where it comes from matters. Here was our contribution to the Food Revolution!