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Eggs

Alsatian Onion Tart

To tell you the truth, this is really a type of quiche, but because quiches developed a bad rap back when they were so overdone in the 80’s, we’re calling it a tart to avoid immediate rejection. Quiches have some excellent qualities–easy to make, relatively healthy, they can be eaten hot or at room temperature, taken on picnics, served at cocktail parties, and of course with a salad they make an excellent lunch or light supper. So bring back the quiche!  From the ubiquitous Quiche Lorraine to those made with spinach and mushrooms or ham and cheese, there’s a quiche to suit everyone’s taste.

My very favorite is the rich yet earthy onion tart. Its origins are in the Alsace region of France where it is often made without eggs or with the addition of cheese instead of bacon. I like to pack a pie shell to the brim with long-cooked, deliciously sweet onions, cover it with a mixture of eggs and cream and top it with a shower of crisp bacon. I start to feel hungry just thinking about it.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1  9″ tart shell 

3-4 large onions (about 5 cups), thinly sliced and separated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

4 slices bacon

3 large eggs

1 cup half and half (cream)

1 pinch nutmeg, salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 15 minutes until the bottom is cooked and the pastry shell is lightly browned around the edges.  Remove foil and weights and cool the baked shell.

Meantime, cook the onions:  Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onions, the thyme, and a half teaspoon of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring, for a couple of minutes then cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelize.  If there is liquid remaining, drain them in a colander, reserving the wonderful onion juice for another use.

Cook the bacon strips in a non-stick skillet until barely crisp.  Drain on paper towels and cut into small pieces.

Whisk the eggs and cream, adding a grating (or pinch) of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper.  

When the onions are somewhat cooled and drained, distribute them evenly in the tart shell, pour over the cream mixture, and dot with the bacon pieces.

Bake in a 350-degree oven until the filling is just set and the top is golden.

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(Photo by Brad)

Huevos Rancheros

Just the thought of barely runny yolks, silky beans, earthy tortillas, spicy salsa, and the way they go so wonderfully together gets my tastebuds excited. It’s a Mexican breakfast dish worthy of indulgence at any time of day or night. Versions vary: Some scramble the eggs, or leave out the beans, or add cheese. We like it just as you see it pictured above. It’s not a dish to make for a crowd unless you have multiple burners and are adept at frying several eggs at once while heating up the beans and the sauce and the tortillas. I like to make it just for two – a perfect way to start the day.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

The beans:

1-15 oz. can black beans

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lime juice

The tomato sauce:

1 small onion

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-14 oz. can chopped tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)

1 clove garlic

1 serano chili (or use jalapeno)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Pinch sugar, salt

4 x 6″ corn tortillas

4 eggs (wonderfully fresh organic if you can)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Half avocado, sliced (optional)

Tip the beans with their liquid into a pot, along with the cumin and garlic.  Allow to simmer gently until the flavors are blended, then add salt to taste and the lime juice.  Mash them against the side of the pot until semi-mashed. Keep warm.

Cook the onion in the oil for a few minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, the garlic and as much of the finely chopped serano or jalapeno as you think prudent.  Add salt and a pinch of sugar to taste, then the cilantro.

Wrap the tortillas in a wet paper towel and heat them in the microwave for 1 minute.  Or toast them individually in a skillet 30 seconds each side.

Now fry the eggs: In a skillet that will accommodate 4 eggs, heat the oil, gently crack each egg and slide it into the pan. Over low heat, cook the eggs sunny-side-up until the whites are no longer opague but the yolks are still just runny.  

Place two tortillas on each plate, top each with a fried egg, then add a serving of beans, the tomato sauce and optional avocado.

Have a nice day!

While asparagus at the height of its season is probably best with little more than melted butter or olive oil and lemon, those imported at other times from southern climes shouldn’t be totally ignored. I know this would probably be rejected by hardline locavores, but if you love asparagus as much as we do, there are many tempting dishes that can alleviate your asparagus craving in the winter.

Eggs and asparagus have a natural affinity. They are wonderful companions whether the eggs are boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, or made into an omelette or quiche.

Our favorite is an Italian frittata. There’s not a significant difference between a frittata and a Spanish tortilla, and once you’ve mastered the technique, the sky’s the limit in the variety of ingredients you can use. In addition to the classic potato tortilla, we especially love the combination of onion, shrimp and spinach and the French omelette paysanne which includes onion, bacon or ham, mushrooms, potato and red peppers.

Asparagus Frittata

Serves 4

2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, sliced thin

12 fat asparagus, tough ends removed

8 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

Saute the onion in 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 10″ non-stick skillet over low heat until softened.  Meanwhile, steam the asparagus until they pierce easily with a knife, depending on size, 5 – 8 minutes. Cut each asparagus spear into 3-4 pieces, add them , the onions and half the parmesan to the beaten eggs and salt and pepper to taste. 

Add a second tablespoon of oil to the pan and increase the  heat until the pan is very hot. Add the egg mixture, distributing the asparagus and onion evenly. It will immediately begin to bubble and solidify around the edges.  With a spatula, and working as quickly as you can, start pulling the cooked egg into the center of the pan, releasing the rest to the outside.  If your pan is hot enough and you work quickly, you should have a fairly solid (but not dry) mass within a minute or two. Now comes the tricky part: You need to place a plate slightly larger than the skillet on top of it and invert the frittata onto it.  It may be a bit tricky the first time but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Now add another half tablespoon of oil to the pan, let it heat briefly, and slide the frittata back into the pan, uncooked side down.

Give it a minute or so (no more) and it’ll be cooked. Many instructions for frittatas and tortillas advise cooking it for several minutes on each side or putting it under the broiler instead of inverting it.  This makes for one tough frittata.  Slide or flip it back onto the (cleaned) plate. Shower with the rest parmesan and serve immediately.

When to have this? It’s great for lunch or a light supper with a green salad,  and wonderful picnic fare, cut into cake-style slices and served at room temperature.

Sam says:

When I was a little girl, my mom used to make us soft-boiled eggs with soldiers whenever we were in need of comfort food, long before the term “comfort food” existed. Soldiers are essentially buttered toast cut into strips, making them ideal for dunking. I loved placing my egg in my little chicken egg cup (which I still have!), tapping off the “lid” of it, and dipping each soldier in slowly to soak up the golden nectar inside.

I still love soft-boiled eggs, though nowadays I prefer using asparagus as the “soldier” or peeling them entirely and placing them atop a hearty salad of greens with bacon and potatoes.

To make the perfect soft-boiled egg, I place an egg in a pot of boiling water, leave it for five minutes, and then drain and run it briefly under cold water.  When it’s cool enough to peel, I do so. Delicious!


As many of you probably know, San Francisco doesn’t have well-defined seasons. In fact, summer is often foggy, cold and windy. Although we are almost always rewarded with beautiful weather in the fall, it’s easy to reach a point – dare I say it – when you can’t face one more heirloom tomato salad or another picnic in the park, but instead long for a steaming bowl of minestrone or a civilized sit-down brunch.

Being creatures of habit, our Sunday brunch involves two constants: champagne, and eggs in some shape or form.

We  always kick off at noon with a glass of bubbly. Often it’s the real thing, but we are also partial to prosecco, cava, or any other methode champenoise, as long as it’s not sweet.  Sometimes we add a few drops of a fruit liquor, either creme de cassis, peach or raspberry.

Then an egg dish: Maybe a Spanish tortilla, a goat cheese souffle, huevos rancheros, or arguably the best of all: piperade.

A popular Basque dish, piperade is a mixture of olive oil, onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes combined with eggs.  Most recipes add the beaten eggs directly to the cooked pepper mixture but I think this is a mistake as it makes the eggs grainy and an unattractive pink color. Better to scramble the eggs slowly until half cooked and then tip them into the piperade. The heat will complete the cooking.

It’s a simple dish for two or four, but can easily be turned into a festive brunch for a half dozen or more. You would simply need to increase the pepper and egg mixture, add a garnish of ham and, if you want to be really decadent, some fried bread.  I like to serve it on a large platter with the piperade in the middle and the ham and fried bread round the edges. In the Basque country, they use jambon de Bayonne but you can substitute Canadian bacon or any similar slices of cured ham.  For the bread, cut thinnish slices of a baguette and fry them in oil until golden. They are so delicious they could even be worth the million extra calories.

Piperade

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for the ham and bread)

1 large onion, chopped fine

2 red, 1 green, 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips, 1″ x 1/2″

1 large clove garlic, chopped fine

3/4 of a  28-oz. can diced tomatoes (not in puree) 

8 eggs

Salt, a pinch of cayenne or piment d’Espelette

4 slices ham, about  4″ x 3″, cut in half        

8 slices of baguette, or other bread of your choice

Warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan.  Add the onion and cook 5 minutes over low heat.  Add the peppers and cook a further 20 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes and the garlic and continue to cook over low heat until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed and the peppers have softened but retain some bite.  Season with salt and a pinch of cayenne or piment d’Espelette.  In a separate (smaller) pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over low heat and add the eggs, stirring, until large curds start to form.  Tip the eggs into the pepper mixture and stir briefly to incorporate.  The heat of the peppers will complete the cooking.  If you’re not planning to add the ham and fried bread, serve immediately with toast or French bread.

 If you’re going for broke, BEFORE cooking the eggs (which will require your undivided attention), and while the pepper mixture is simmering, fry the ham briefly until it starts to color.  Remove and drain on paper towels. Add a few more tablespoons of oil to the pan and fry the bread on one side until golden. Be careful, it can go from golden to burnt in a flash. Turn the bread over, add a bit more oil if necessary and repeat the process. Keep the ham and bread warm while you cook the eggs. Put the egg and pepper mixture in the center of a large platter and arrange the ham and fried bread around the perimeter. 

This is a common dish in the Basque country, such a wonderful place to visit. Tucked into where the north-east corner of Spain and the southwest corner of France meet the Atlantic, it has a character, culture and language all of its own. Lively San Sebastian, famous for its many Michelin-starred restaurants, has a charming old town great for bar-hopping and for sampling the local tapas (called pintxos) – arguably the best in Spain. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao with its mindblowing architecture is worth a trans-Atlantic voyage. The colorful fishing villages along the coast and the picturesque towns that dot the emerald green foothills of the Pyrenees have a charm all their own, and some of the best food you’ll find anywhere.

If a trip there is not in your immediate plans, perhaps a helping of piperade will whet your appetite.

Sam adds: A few years ago I discovered for myself the art of cooking bell peppers: Patience. If you have patience, you can turn out deliciously sauteed peppers every time simply by keeping the heat low in the pan and giving them time to soften slowly in oil. They’re a wonderful thing to know how to make because you can add them to so many things. Two of my favorites: toasted baguette spread with goat cheese and piled high with sauteed red peppers, and sausage and peppers served over pasta. Though I’ve been eating my mom’s piperade for decades, I’ve never attempted to make it myself before last weekend. I was happily surprised to find that it’s much easier to make than I imagined. Essentially it’s simply combining two things I already have a pretty good handle on: sauteed peppers & scrambled eggs. The fried bread, in my opinion, is mandatory when making this dish.