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I don’t think there’s an appetizing way to photograph split pea soup, and if there is, I’m sure I’m not capable of it, so this entry will contain no pictures.

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – enough to coat the bottom of the pan
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 – 3 nice meaty smoked ham hocks, depending on how big they are and how meaty you like your split peas (You can use ham or bacon, but neither of them really compare to smoked ham hocks. If you use bacon, brown it in a separate pan. If you use ham, leave it in big pieces because it will break down during the long cooking time, and then will fall apart into delectable chunks when the soup is done.)
  • 4 – 6 carrots, chopped
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 cups split peas
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped (if using dried sage, probably just a pinch will do)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Small pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Pour enough olive oil into a large, heavy pot (preferably oven proof) just to coat the bottom.
  3. Add onions and garlic, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and brown over medium or medium-low heat.
  4. When onions and garlic just begin to brown, add ham hocks to pan.
  5. As ham hocks begin to brown on the first side you’ve placed them on, turn and then add carrots.
  6. When carrots are tender, add 1 quart of water and scrape tasty crusty bits off the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the rest of the water, the split peas, thyme, sage, and black and red pepper, and then turn the stove to high and cover to bring to a boil.
  8. After the pot has come to a boil, transfer to oven and cook at 300 for about 4 hours, until the split peas have disintegrated. Stir every so often and if you need more liquid, add some.

NOTE: I believe that the difference between a super delicious soup or stew and a pretty tasty soup or stew is the browning and deglazing process. Even if I want to make something in my crock pot, I always brown my onions, etc. before placing everything in the crock pot. Then I pour some liquid in the pan and scrape up all the yummy crusty bits, and then pour that liquid into the crock pot. This works well when you can’t be home all day to make sure your stove or oven don’t start a fire. Most of the time, though, I prefer to make soups and stews in my Creuset pots so I can brown everything on the stove, add my liquids, and then transfer to the oven. This makes all meats and beans really tender and delicious and gives stews and soups a second-day taste even on the first day, since we all know soups and stews are most delicious when they’re left over.

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OK, folks, I’m back! I’m going to start out slow and post the simplest recipes I can think of that I keep making each week.

Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon

Ingredients

  • Kale (any kind will do – you can use whatever looks best or whatever comes in your veggie box)
  • Lemon (Meyer is the nicest, but any kind will work)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

As you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your kale: I tear it off of the stalk as I rinse it, and then place it in a dish pan. Sometimes I rinse it again, depending on how dirty it is.

When the water has come to a rolling boil, add salt (about like you would for a pot of pasta) and then put the kale in. I just bring the water back to a boil and then drain the kale in a colander, so basically I guess that is blanching.

Place the hot kale into a large bowl, and then squeeze lemon and drizzle olive oil over the top. Serve warm or cold. The lemon will discolor the kale, which is unfortunate, but it still tastes good.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Until recently, I thought cauliflower was kind of a nothing vegetable that you gave squeamish kids who only eat white food and are afraid of broccoli, but then I learned that it’s actually good for you and it can even be delicious!

Ingredients

  • Cauliflower
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 and place rack on the bottom.

With stem side up, remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower – I use a paring knife and score them, then break them off. Cut about 1/4 of an inch off of the dried up end of the stem. Following the line of the stem, cut the florets off of each side, and then cut the middle part into three “steaks.”

Place cauliflower in a cast iron skillet or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. For best results, make sure your pan is large enough to spread out all of the cauliflower along the bottom so that everyone gets equally brown.

Place skillet or pan in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or so, turning steaks and rotating florets halfway through. Serve warm or eat cold for a healthy snack!

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Chrismukkah Meal #1

We had our first Chrismukkah meal on Sunday. It was a modified version of the “Viva Hanukkah” meal from this month’s Bon Appetit, and it was DELICIOUS!! There were 6 hearty eaters, and for the first time in my life we had the perfect amount of food (i.e. just enough leftovers to know that nobody went hungry, but not enough to feed us for the entire week). Here’s the menu:

  • Latkes with Ancho Chile Salt
  • Watercress, Cilantro, and Mango Salad with Lime-Chile Dressing
  • Grilled Antelope Steaks with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate-Chile Sauce (Bon Appetit used roast duck breast)
  • Toasted Coconut Souffles with Cranberry Sauce (this recipe was a GIANT FAIL – I followed the directions exactly and it FELL – Shame on you, Bon Appetit! You really should test your recipes before publishing them!)

I find Bon Appetit‘s recipes very difficult to follow. They combine totally separate recipe elements into the same list; they separate the instructions from the ingredient lists; they don’t always test their recipes. What really gets me is that their recipes are not consistent – sometimes they work exactly like they say, and sometimes they don’t, so you never, ever know what you’re going to get – a delicious puree or a fallen souffle. What Bon Appetit really needs to do is pay me to edit and test their recipes 🙂 But I guess I’ll just it for free so that it’s all in one place for when we make this stuff again:

Course #1: Latkes with Ancho Chile Salt and Watercress Salad

Ancho Chile Salt

2 large dried ancho chiles

1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

  • Pull stems out of chiles, and then use scissors to slice them open down length wise.
  • Seed and de-pith the chiles, and then place them in a skillet over medium heat until darker and aromatic, about 2 – 5 minutes per side.
  • Grind finely with kosher salt in a spice mill. We don’t have a spice mill, so we used our blender and it worked fine.

Latkes

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups chopped white onions, divided

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1 large egg

1 Tbsp masa harina, toasted

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

6 Tbsp (or more) vegetable oil for frying

  • Drape smooth kitchen towel over large bowl.
  • Place chopped potatoes and 1 cup onions in food processor and blend until the mixture is very finely ground, scraping sides of bowl often.
  • Scrape mixture into towel.
  • Gather towel tightly around the mixture, and then squeeze out at least one cup of liquid (but if your kitchen assistant has the strength of 20 men, tell him to tone it down a few notches so that the towel doesn’t burst – trust me).
  • Scrape dry mixture into another bowl, and then add egg, masa, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 1/4 tsp coarse salt, and 1 cup onions.
  • Stir until mixture becomes moist and sticks together (the salt will draw out additional moisture, and I am not sure how the starch thing works).
  • Heat 6 Tbsp oil in a large skillet. For each latke, drop 1 rounded tablespoon full of potato mixture into skillet; flatten to 2.5-inch diameter round, and fry until golden brown.
  • Add oil as necessary.
  • Place on drying rack so oil can drain off.

Watercress, Cilantro, Mango, and Chile-Lime Dressing

This idea evolved as we made the meal, so we threw it together at the last minute and forgot to measure, so a lot of it is “to taste.”

2 large bunches watercress

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped (minus the 2 Tbsp you used in the latkes)

1 Mango, thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lime

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 Tbsp chile salt

Additional salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

2 Tbsp assertive red wine vinegar

4 Tbsp grapeseed oil

1 Avocado, sliced

  • Wash and drain watercress, and remove the hard-to-chew stems.
  • Place watercress, cilantro, mango slices, and pepitas in large bowl.
  • Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chile salt all around.
  • Cut the lime in half and move it around in a spiral over the salad, drizzling the delicious juice all around the bowl of greens (and stuff).
  • Drizzle the vinegar and then the oil around the bowl in the same spiral patter you used for the lime.
  • Toss the salad, and then plate it up as shown in the picture (we had a little extra after plating it up for 6, but I just put it on the table and it got eaten).

THE PLATING

  • Place 2 – 3 latkes on each of six plates.
  • Place avocado slices on each plate.
  • Place some watercress salad on each plate.
  • Sprinkle chile salt over everything in an artful manner. Use a flamboyant flourish to remove any chile salt from your fingers. This will impress your guests.

Course #2: Grilled “Speedgoat” Steaks with Butternut Squash Puree and Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

I swear it's not blood! It's the pomegranate chile reduction sauce and it was delicious! Obviously, I need a squeeze bottle for more precise drips and smears.

Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (like Pom)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

4 large dried California chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 tsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo

1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Stir sugar and water together in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat and boil until syrup is a deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, about 8 minutes.
  • Add juice and broth, stirring constantly (syrup may solidify as you add the juice, but it will melt again when the mixture heats up).
  • Add chiles.
  • Boil until sauce has reduced to about 1 1/2 cups (about 25 minutes).
  • Remove from heat; puree in a tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  • Transfer to bowl, and mix in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Season to taste with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grilled “Speedgoat” Steaks

My dad acquired some Speedgoat steaks from a friend (well, he called them Antelope steaks – see my brother’s comment below), so I kind of planned this meal around them. I just thought that the strong flavors from the pomegranate reduction sauce would go nicely with big game. You could substitute regular beef steaks, or buffalo, or venison – whatever you have available to you.

3 lbs antelope steaks

Drizzle of olive oil

Coarse kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Finely minced garlic

  • Rub salt, pepper, and garlic onto steaks a couple of hours before grilling them.
  • Drizzle olive oil on steaks.
  • Grill steaks to desired done-ness.

Butternut Squash Puree

So as to avoid any fingertip burning when dissecting the squash and sweet potatoes, the first thing I did in the meal prep was to start cooking those guys. I cooked the squash in the microwave and the sweet potatoes in the oven about 3 or so hours before dinner.

2 3ish pound butternut squash, each pierced several times with a knife

Coarse kosher salt

1 – 1.5 pounds sweet potatoes

1/4 cup butter (I know, I know, not kosher to serve dairy and meat in the same meal, but so delicious – substitute margarine for schmaltz if you want to be all kosher about it)

1/2 tsp ground allspice

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cook squash, one at a time, on high in microwave until very tender, turning once, about 25 minutes per side.
  • Cook sweet potatoes for about 30 minutes, or until quite tender.
  • Let squash and tubers cool, and then remove skins/seeds.
  • Puree in food processor, add allspice, butter, and kosher salt, and then transfer to baking dish.
  • About 30 minutes before serving, heat the puree.

THE PLATING

  • Place some puree on a plate.
  • Place an antelope steak on top and squish the puree with it.
  • Drizzle pomegranate-chile reduction sauce about the plate in an artful way; this will impress your guests.

Dessert

Toasted Coconut Souffles

Like I said, this one was a total flop (literally) – They just looked like ramekins with some stuff at the bottom. Therefore, no picture. Do NOT make these ahead of time, as Bon Appetit suggests. I think the custardy stuff would be OK to make ahead of time if you keep it at room temp, but definitely do NOT add the egg whites ahead of time. Bake immediately after you add those guys. I mean, they were still good, but they were neither light nor fluffy and that made me very sad, especially since I had my suspicions about the recipe, but since I’d never made a souffle before I figured I would follow the recipe for a change. Big mistake!

Sauce

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (about 4 ounces)

3/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail

1/2 cup sugar

  • Bring all ingredients to a boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until berries are soft, about 6 minutes.
  • Pour mixture through strainer set over bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid.
  • Bon Appetit recommends discarding the solids. I recommend saving them and putting them on your oatmeal in the morning 🙂

Souffles

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk

5 Tbsp sugar, divided, ;lus additional for sprinkling

1 1/2 tsp white rum

3/4 tsp coconut extract

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites, room temperature

1/3 cup coconut flakes (Bon Appetit suggests using sweetened, but I used unsweetened because I don’t like stuff to be very sweet, and it was delicious), lightly toasted, cooled, and crushed into small flakes

  • Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add flour; whisk until bubbly but not brown, about 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the coconut milk and whisk until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in 2.5 Tbsp sugar, rum, extract, and salt.
  • Transfer to large bowl.
  • Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of mixture and bring to room temp.
  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 375
  • Butter 8 3/4-cup ramekins and coat with sugar.
  • Place cups on rimmed baking sheet.
  • Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.
  • Add 1/4 of whites to coconut base and whisk until lightened.
  • Add remaining whites in 2 additions and fold in with rubber spatula.
  • Fold in toasted coconut.
  • Divide mixture among prepared cups; smooth tops.
  • BAKE IMMEDIATELY!!!!
  • Bake souffles until they are puffed and beginning to brown (about 18 minutes).
  • Serve in ramekins with sauce drizzled over the top.
Erica.r.Cipriani@gmail.com

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IMG_1717Our butternut vine has found its second wind. I had an idea for a lentil soup with butternut squash in it, and it was so delicious we couldn’t even believe it. I’ve been instructed to use all of our butternuts this way.

VEGETARIAN FRIENDS, of course you can make this without the meats. Just use some olive oil to brown the onions, and then use vegetable broth instead of beef stock. I would not, however, recommend fake bacon. Ever.

Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Kale

1 onion, chopped

6 oz bacon, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 package hot Italian sausage, cut in small pieces

4 celery stalks, chopped

1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and cut in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks

4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8 cups low sodium beef broth (preferably home made, from the bones of a cow named Bessie)

1 bunch kale, sliced

8 sage leaves, sliced

1 Tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp pepper

salt, to taste

1 Tbsp paprika

hot pepper flakes, to taste

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

1 cup dry French green lentils

1/4 cup dry bulgur

  • Place bacon chunks in large heavy bottomed pan on medium heat while you chop up your onion and garlic.
  • Add onion and garlic to pot and cook until bacon has browned and onions start to caramelize, stirring frequently.
  • Add sausage. Either brown the sausage separately ahead of time if you want to drain off the juices, or just add it directly to the pot and cook through, stirring frequently.
  • Add celery at the same time as the sausage, or as soon as you have it chopped. Cook until celery is wilty.
  • Add the butternut chunks, and stir.
  • Add the tomatoes, kale, and then the broth.
  • Add spices, and bring to a boil.
  • When the kale has wilted to make room in the pot for the lentils and bulgur, add them.
  • NOTE: this soup gets better as it sits in the fridge – boy are you in for a treat!
  • **VEGETARIAN FRIENDS, of course you can make this without the meats. Just use some olive oil to brown the onions, and then use vegetable broth instead of beef stock. I would not, however, recommend fake bacon. Ever.

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    I think Meliza originally found this recipe in O magazine. It’s delicious! When I made it, we had a whole bunch of smoked salmon that we had made and screwed up because we followed a recipe for a brine that made the salmon taste more like a salt lick than the delicious smoked salmon we like to make and snack on. Since this was specifically for salads involving that salty salmon, I omitted the salt. This made for some very delicious salads. Another delicious salad addition when using this dressing is fresh corn, sliced off the cob and thrown into your salad bowl.

    Ranch Dressing

    1 clove garlic, very finely minced

    1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped

    1 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

    2 scallions, finely chopped

    1 Tbsp chives, finely chopped

    1/2 cup buttermilk

    1/3 cup sour cream

    1 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    • Place all ingredients in a jar or sealable container that is good for pouring.
    • Shake well.
    • Pour over salad.

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    This post has been on hold since July when things got hectic because that guy Dan proposed to me and then we launched straight into wedding planning. Fortunately, September is a good month for barbecues, and this potato salad is fantastic for barbecues! (Picture will be added later – I forgot my camera at someone’s house last weekend, and that’s where the pictures are.)

    ===================

    My grandma made the best potato salad, but I can never leave well enough alone so I added a few things. I believe I have maintained the integrity of the dish, however, with the perfectly balanced flavors and textures of big chunks of red potato and hard boiled eggs, and a nice creamy sauce. We had this with Dan’s smoked ribs and our home made barbecue sauce and, let me tell you, THAT was a match made in heaven!

    Grandma’s Potato Salad, with a Twist

    1. Boil the potatoes, and then dress them while they’re hot. Here’s what you’ll need:

    2.5 lbs red potatoes (as fresh as possible so the skin is still tender), scrubbed, bad spots cut off, and cut in 1-inch cubes (do not peel)

    Large 8 – 10 quart stock pot

    Enough water to cover the potatoes, plus about 2 inches more

    1/8 cup salt (for boiling the potatoes)

    1/4 cup cider vinegar (to dress the potatoes after they’ve boiled, but while they’re still hot)

    1/8 cup olive oil (to dress the potatoes after they’ve boiled, but while they’re still hot)

    • Pour a few cups of water into the stock pot to throw the potatoes into as you chop them. My mom told me this prevents them from getting gray. I never questioned it; I just do it and the potatoes never get gray, so do with this information what you will, as I cannot explain the chemistry behind it and have never not done it.
    • When you have cut all of the potatoes and they are in the stock pot, make sure you have covered them with water, plus about 2 more inches above that level.
    • Use a larger stock pot than you need in order to prevent a big foamy mess on your stove. You should have at least 4 inches of clearance between the top of the water, and the lid.
    • Add salt.
    • Cover pot, and place over high heat.
    • Keep a close eye on the pot, as potatoes always look sweet and innocent, and then they suddenly boil over.
    • If you’re bored, hard boil your eggs and start chopping scallions as you wait.
    • As soon as the potatoes feel a bit tender (but just before you think they’re perfectly done), pour them into a large colander. They will continue to cook after you drain them, which is why you want to drain them before they taste perfectly done.
    • Transfer potatoes back into the pot, and pour the cider vinegar and olive oil over them.
    • Place in fridge to chill and marinate overnight.

    2. Hard boil the eggs. Here’s what you’ll need for that:

    10 chicken eggs (preferably brown, cage free, hormone free, antibiotic free, made by happy chickens)

    2 -3 qt sauce pan

    Enough cold water to cover the eggs

    • Carefully place eggs in pot, and cover with tap water.
    • Place pot on stove, and heat over medium to medium-high heat to rolling boil.
    • Boil for 10 minutes, then remove from heat, pour off water, and run cold water over the eggs.
    • Crack and peel eggs while warm (it seems to be easier when they’re warm, and then they’re easier to store in the fridge overnight when they’re out of their shells).
    • Store in fridge overnight.

    3. Make the Dressing

    1/2 cup sour cream

    1/4 cup mayonnaise (I like the Trader Joe’s organic kind)

    1 – 2 Tbsp crumbled Roquefort (optional)

    Fresh dill to taste, coarsely chopped (optional)

    Fresh ground black pepper to taste

    • Place mayo, sour cream, and Roquefort in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
    • Add dill and pepper in bowl and mix.

    4. Assemble the Best Potato Salad Ever:

    Chilled potatoes (from step 1)

    Chilled eggs (from step 2)

    1 bunch of scallions, chopped

    Dressing (from step 3)

    • Place chilled potatoes and eggs in a large bowl.
    • Chop scallions and add to potato/egg bowl.
    • Pour dressing over potatoes, eggs, and scallions.
    • Stir with a large spoon to distribute dressing.
    • Snack on some while you’re nice and hungry.

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    Ostrich Egg Frittataspanolouffle with Black Rice Salad

    Ostrich Egg Frittataspanolouffle with Black Rice Salad

    When I found out that Whole Foods was selling ostrich eggs (thanks for the heads up, Monica), I instantly had a vision of a frittata-esque dish. Then, I looked through my latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated and saw a recipe for Tortilla Española. I decided to use this as inspiration, as I thought the subtle flavors of potatoes and red onion would allow us to taste the flavor of the ostrich egg, which I’d read taste different from chicken eggs.We noticed that the ostrich egg had a delicate, almost sweet flavor. I’m not sure it’s really worth 10x the price on any kind of a regular basis, but it was definitely worth it to try it out, and maybe for some sort of special occasion. The one ostrich egg was roughly equivalent to a dozen chicken eggs, and boy was it hard to break into that thick shell. Christin took pictures of me struggling with the thing. First of all, you really have to whack it, and it’s as if you’re whacking a dinner plate – bits of shell flew everywhere. I ended up just prying open a large enough hole that I could pour the egg out.

    I should have used a wider pot for this, but it was kind of fun to eat a really tall Tortilla Española – Frittata – Souffle hybrid, so I’m not sorry I used my old standby 5.5 quart Creuset pot for the job.

    Ostrich Egg Frittataspañolouffle

    6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

    8 small Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced with skin on (preferably from Holly’s CSA box)

    2 tsp salt

    ½ tsp cayenne

    1 tsp paprika

    1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    1 ostrich egg (or a dozen chicken eggs, or probably 8 duck eggs)

    1 Tbsp cream

    ¼ cup swiss cheese, shredded

    ¼ cup provolone, shredded

    ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

    • Preheat oven to 375.
    • Place olive oil in heavy bottomed, 5.5 quart or larger, oven safe pan over medium heat.
    • Slice onion and place in pan, stirring occasionally. Add salt.
    • Scrub and slice potatoes, and add to pan.
    • When potatoes and onions have started to brown, add your spices, then cover and cook until potatoes are tender.
    • While potatoes are cooking, whack and pry open your egg, pour into a bowl, and whisk with cream.
    • Add cheeses and parsley and whisk once more (I forgot to do this before adding to the pan, which is why you can’t see the parsley floating around in the picture – it would have been easier if I’d remembered to do this before pouring the egg into the pan).
    • Cover pan and place in oven. Cook for about 45 minutes (check at about 30 minutes), or until the egg springs back when you poke it in the center.
    100_1241
    Check out the size of this thing!

    100_1242

    100_1243
    After whacking the bejeezes out of it, I finally have a hole I can pry open.

    100_1244
    Pouring the egg out of its shell.

    100_1245
    That’s a big egg.
    100_1246
    Whisking the egg.
    The egg is now in the pot!
    The egg is now in the pot!
    It’s a masterpiece! (Or at least the tallest frittata Sasha's ever seen)
    It’s a masterpiece! (Or at least the tallest frittata Sasha’s ever seen)

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