Not an ordinary egg

Add vegetables for more variety and flavor.

By FAYE, YAKIR LEVY
March 15, 2012 11:57
Egg

Egg 521. (photo credit: James F. Quinn/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

‘Green beans and eggs – my favorite dish!’ said Harry, the Armenian cashier at the supermarket, when he saw that we had a big bag of green beans in our cart.

He said it with such enthusiasm that we asked how he prepares it. His recipe was simple: “Cook the beans lightly, heat them in olive oil, add beaten eggs and scramble.”

“You have to try it,” he added.

The next time he saw us, Harry asked if we had made the dish and said, “I forgot to tell you to fry a small onion before you add the green beans, and add a bit of diced tomato – but just a little; the green beans are the main ingredient.”

“Green beans and eggs is a favorite Caucasus dish for a light meal,” wrote Kay Shaw Nelson, author of Cuisines of the Caucasus Mountains. To make her creamy version, she sautees minced onion in butter or olive oil, stirs in a little flour, salt, pepper and cayenne, and then mixes in the cooked green beans. She adds eggs beaten with chopped dill and yogurt or sour cream and cooks the mixture slowly, until the eggs are set, but still a little moist. The small amount of flour helps prevent the yogurt from separating.

In Georgia people prepare green beans with eggs in the form of a green-bean pie. To make it, Nelson puts drained, cooked, shredded green beans in a buttered shallow baking dish. After adding beaten eggs, dill, parsley and nutmeg, she bakes the mixture with a little more butter until the eggs set.

Green beans and eggs are liked in Turkey, too. Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman, the authors of A Taste of Turkish Cuisine, flavor theirs with a generous amount of garlic.

(See recipe below.) If we had purchased cauliflower and Harry had been Czech, he might have suggested that we make cauliflower and eggs. This dish, wrote Lesley Chamberlain in The Food and Cooking of Eastern Europe “is a solid example of Czech provincial cooking.”

We learned to make cauliflower with scrambled eggs from a friend when we lived in Bat Yam. She recommended it as a way to use cooked cauliflower stalks when you have used the florets for another dish. It appealed to us because we could get a big plateful of tasty food using just a couple of eggs.

Joza Brizova, author of The Czechoslovak Cookbook, makes cauliflower with eggs by sauteing an onion in butter, and then adding the cooked cauliflower and scrambling it with beaten eggs seasoned with powdered caraway seeds.

She makes a similar dish from kale (dark leafy greens), and refers to both the cauliflower and the kale versions as mock brains (which surprised us, until we remembered that Ashkenazi Jews call certain vegetable spreads “mock chopped liver”). In Eastern Europe this is a popular way to use cabbage as well.

Actually, most vegetables go well with eggs. When we want eggs for a quick supper, Yakir uses whatever cooked vegetables happen to be on hand. Usually there are plenty because I cook a variety of vegetables every morning.

Often he begins by sauteing a chopped onion in olive oil, and then dices and sautees a couple of tomatoes.

Next he heats the cooked vegetables in the mixture. He then adds the beaten eggs with any chopped green onions, parsley or other herbs he finds in the refrigerator.

We eat our vegetables and eggs for supper with pita, tortillas or fresh bread.

Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book, Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook.

GREEN BEANS WITH EGGS AND GARLIC

This has become the way we most often prepare eggs.

This recipe is from A Taste of Turkish Cuisine. Authors Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman write that it is an old family recipe from eastern Turkey. The eggs are scrambled in butter in a separate pan, and then are added to the pot of drained cooked beans. The garlicky relish stirred in at the end provides plenty of punch, as it is heated only briefly.

Makes 6 servings as a side dish

900 gr. (2 pounds) fresh green beans, ends removed, and cut into about 1-cm (1⁄2-inch) pieces
110 gr. (4 ounces) butter
3 eggs
4 cloves garlic
1 to 2 tsp. salt

In a large pot cook the beans, covered, in boiling, salted water for a minute or two, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until beans are tender. Remove from heat and drain well.

In a small skillet, melt the butter and when hot immediately crack and drop in the eggs, mixing well. As soon as the eggs begin to set, remove from heat.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, salt and 1 tablespoon of water together. Set aside.

When beans are cool enough to handle, carefully squeeze by the handful to remove any excess water. Return beans to the pot along with the egg mixture and turn heat to medium. Stir in the garlic mixture, mixing well. Remove from heat and serve with bread.

CZECH CAULIFLOWER WITH ONIONS AND EGGS

This dish makes a good supper with rye bread, and a cucumber and tomato salad.

Makes 2 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
About 3 cups cooked small cauliflower florets, including diced cooked tender stalks (half a 900-gr. or 2-pound cauliflower)
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 or 3 eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. chopped green onion or parsley (optional)

Heat oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute, stirring often, about 7 minutes or until golden. Add cauliflower, sprinkle with salt and pepper and heat through.

Beat eggs with milk and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to pan and cook over low heat, stirring, until set to your taste. Stir in half of green onion. Serve sprinkled with remaining green onion.

OUR VEGETABLES WITH EGGS

This is a vegetable-rich version of my mother-in- law’s shakshuka. She made hers by scrambling the eggs with vegetables, not poaching them the way many restaurants do.

We usually have cooked vegetables on hand.

There might be green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, asparagus, carrots, turnips, mild radishes or greens. Any of these vegetables is good in this dish, or, better yet, a combination of several. When we don’t have cooked vegetables ready, we substitute frozen ones.

Serve this dish with good fresh or warmed bread.

Makes 2 or 3 servings

About 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 small tomatoes, diced 21⁄2 to 3 cups cooked vegetables, diced salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
3 or 4 eggs Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, cilantro, dill, green onion or a mixture

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden.

Add tomatoes and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add diced cooked vegetables, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin and heat thoroughly while stirring.

Beat eggs with salt, pepper, pepper flakes and herbs. Add to vegetables and stir over medium-low heat until eggs are set to your taste. Serve hot.


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