Summertime Bounty Breakfast

A breakfast of summertime bounty

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit but have just wrapped up weeks of work (on this year-long project) that culminated in a research paper manuscript submission last night; now I’m looking forward to time for friends… and for breakfast, and perhaps the two combined.

Here’s my morning’s breakfast of summertime bounty with ingredients from the farmer’s market and some lovely friends:  scrambled egg and skillet potatoes with avocado and mesclun of arugula and other salad greens home-grown on my front porch, thanks to a lovely person that trusts me to babysit them.

The skillet potatoes are sliced red potato from the market, pan-fried in canola until tender, seasoned red pepper flakes, oregano, fennel seed, salt, and pepper and with shallots and garlic from a generous friend’s garden.

The scrambled egg is prepared with crisp corn tortilla strips and red pepper spread. Unfortunately, I did not know the chicken. :)

A breakfast of summertime bounty

Happy summertime eating with your fresh ingredients and friends!

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Fried Fresh Bluegill

Fried Bluegill with zucchini green salad and sautéed chard

I haven’t posted many “rustic” meals. However, here’s one tied to my fond memories from summers at the lake in my childhood.

When I was young, my dad would fry panfish on the grill. First, of course, we’d have to catch the fish; typically for the lake we visit those would be perch, bluegill, and crappie (the latter two being varieties of sunfish.)  Then he would clean them, stationed on an old wooden bench covered with newspaper; if there happened to be many perch in the catch, he was not happy… apparently they’re harder to clean. Next he would drop them in flour and fry them in cast iron pans on a charcoal grill, so as not to make a mess of the kitchen.  My dad passed away more than half-my-life ago, but I still have these good memories and the cast iron pans as well. :)

I spent these past few days on a splendid holiday vacation at the lake in the northwoods (out of mobile phone coverage) with lots of swimming, canoeing, and just a bit of fishing.  While in recent decades I’ve eschewed fishing, opting instead for even lazier passtimes at the lake, a recent interest in foraging and finding one’s own food, and the idea of preparing a meal one might be able to do solely from what the earth provides directly, helped to change that.

Bluegill, a common variety of freshwater Sunfish

Bluegill are an attractive, colorful variety of panfish, i.e., a fish that typically fits, whole, in a frying pan.  (That’s a bit gruesome… wouldn’t that mean human beings could be called “pine box apes?”)

My companion and I caught four bluegill for this dinner, two for each of us; one was caught by casting an artificial lure and the others simply with cheese dangling on a hook as bait. I’ll admit I caught one and she caught three. :-) (When I was a kid, we usually fished with live bait: worms or night crawlers, but the cheese was conveniently on hand.)  I don’t believe that bluegill have any special affinity for cheese, but they were more interested in it than hot dog. :) Sometimes you can even catch panfish on a bare hook!

I considered cooking the bluegill whole (sans scales and guts, of course), but decided to do it as my dad did, removing the fish’s head and its gills along with it.

Scaling the fish with a knife…Warning to the squeamish: fish guts!

 

Once cleaned, I simply patted the rinsed fish partially dry, and dipped them in flour, spiced with salt, pepper, fresh thyme leaves, and an adobo seasoning mix (from Penzey’s.)

Bluegill dipped in flour and seasonings

I poured perhaps 1/2 inch of canola oil into a cast iron pan on a medium heat grill.  Once the oil was hot (test with a small piece of batter or food), I placed all four bluegill in the pan and cooked for 3-5 minute per side, until they began to brown and the fish flaked easily from the bone.

Frying bluegill in oil

Once done, place the fish on paper towel to drain excess oil.

Fried Bluegill

I don’t try to fillet panfish… besides, eating them carefully and watching for bones brings a civilized pace to the meal. :)

We ate our bluegill accompanied by a delicious green salad of fresh lettuces with sautéed zucchini, croutons flavored with fresh sage, and a touch of salad dressing; sautéed rainbow chard with garlic scapes; and a nice beer.

A meal of fried bluegill and vegetables

The bluegill were tasty, with a mild flavor and just slightly crisp, thin coating just as I remembered, having last had them prepared this way more than 20 years ago. They went from lake to plate in about an hour. I bet my dad (and mom) would be proud of my preparation from childhood memories. :)

Mmmm, fried bluegill tails!

Last but not least, don’t forget to try the crispy tails! They’ve got a potato chip-like consistency, and you can eat perhaps the last 1/2 end of the tail, just as you might eat the tail of a deep-fried shrimp.

Oh, I am also fresh from the lake in that last photo. :)

Oeufs de Soleil

So hot, you could fry an egg

Last week on Independence Day, July 4th, it was 100° F (38° C) where I live, as it was for most of the week, and it seemed you could fry an egg. Is that really possible?
Here, Bill Nye suggested that you might try it: So Hot, You Could Fry an Egg

From my cursory reading, it seems he found that a constant temperature of 130° F (55° C) can cook an egg.  Having a bit of time to kill, why not do some science? (Truth be told, I was partly just passing the time until the beautiful girl that suggested we try frying an egg, on the sidewalk, was done working.)

To perform this “eggsperiment,” I used one of my black cast iron pans and placed it in the sunshine around midday.  Fairly quickly, a thermometer indicated that the pan’s surface temperature exceeded 140° F and it was too hot to handle comfortably.

This looked promising, so I put a bit of olive oil and an egg into the pan.  A portion of the egg white, at the edge, immediately cooked to opaque.

Shortly after though, the action stopped; in part, I think, this was because the egg (which began at approximately room temperature, actually ~90° F) cooled the pan and decreased the pan’s ability to absorb the sun’s energy (by decreasing the non-reflective, black surface area).

After about 1/2 hour in this state, shadows encroached on my wooden deck, so I moved the pan to the sidewalk.

However, despite continuous sunlight on the hot sidewalk, the egg didn’t cook much more.  I believe this was because the sidewalk acted as a heat sink, pulling heat from the pan, resulting in a lower cooking surface temperature than when the pan was on the (insulating) wooden deck.

After perhaps 1/2 hour again, I returned the pan to the sunlit deck.

The half-cooked result

So, after about 1 1/2 hours total sunshine-cooking time, I ended up with this half-cooked, partially dried-out unappetizing fried egg.

My conclusion is that it is possible to cook an egg this way under some conditions, but maintaining the pan temperature, despite the egg being introduced and despite possible heat-sapping surfaces, is imperative.

Anyway, I hope you all stayed cool and likewise had a pleasant Independence Day!

Open-Faced Poached Egg and Hummus Quesadilla

Open-Faced Quesadilla with Poached Egg and Hummus

Here’s a colorful quick breakfast (and, for me, lunch) idea: poached eggs atop hummus on a open-faced quesadilla of flour tortilla with sharp cheddar cheese, tomato salsa, fresh scallion and habanero pepper.

This is simply a melenge of favorite ingredients that I almost always have on hand.

Poached Egg and Hummus Quesadilla

Oh, on an urelated note, Happy Canada Day! :)
Here some interesting Canadian craft beers for the occasion: