Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Beautiful chives + beautiful eggs = a beautiful supper. Chives courtesy of my herb garden, eggs courtesy of Steph's Pastured Eggs in Driscoll, ND. There is nothing better than a farm egg, and I'm pleased as punch that I can get fresh farm eggs from Steph every Friday with her deliveries to Bismarck. (Interested? Connect with Steph on Facebook here.)
As for the dish, I first encountered eggs and spinach in Switzerland where I was an au pair (aka nanny) for two German-speaking kids in a small village outside of Zurich. I spoke to them in English; they spoke back to me in German. Even though I knew no German outside of the swear words I picked up as a kid from the elders around the sauerkraut region of North Dakota, somehow the Swiss kids and I understood each other.
When I arrived in Switzerland, I didn't know how to cook. I knew how to follow a recipe, but I couldn't really put together a meal without a cookbook. As I was expected to make lunch daily and often dinner too for a family of picky eaters, in a country where prepackaged foods were nearly non-existent and all the cookbooks were in German with the metric system to boot...let's just say Switzerland served as my basic training into the world of slap-dash cooking, figuring out how to make something palatable out of whatever you have on hand.
After trying to make a broccoli quiche from a German cookbook, which took me hours to complete, I quickly discovered that simple is better. After making enough risotto one night to feed the family and the neighbors for a week, I figured out proper proportion and how much is too much. When I realized you can make a lovely meal out of good bread, good cheese, and a salad pulled out of the garden, a lightbulb went off that fresh, quality ingredients are key. After taking trips with der kinder to the dairy farmer up the road for fresh (raw) milk, the baker for crusty loaves of vollkornbrot, and the farmer a couple kilometers away for my pick at an astounding array of fruit and vegetables - including at least eight apple varietals, each with a completely unique taste - I was hooked on the somewhat romantic notion of purchasing food straight from the producer.
I also discovered that my two Swiss kids liked spinach and eggs from a neighbor who came over and helped me make lunch one day. The dish was so perfectly simple, easy, nourishing and tasty to both kids and nanny. Unfortunately, after that, I made them spinach and eggs for lunch too often, and the kids' mom actually asked me to stop.
Life as an au pair wasn't for me, and I came back to North Dakota grateful for the comforts of home, but that experience gave me the rough tools I needed to find my way around a kitchen and appreciate real good simple food.
I still love spinach and eggs. I hope those kids still do too.
Poached Eggs with Spinach and Chives
From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
2 Tbls. butter
3 scallions, sliced (white and light greens separated from dark greens)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 c. finely chopped chives
10 oz. baby spinach
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 c. heavy cream
Grated lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon juice
6 large eggs
Crushed red pepper and buttered toast, for serving
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add white and light green scallions and garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in chives and toss in spinach, a handful at a time, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more. Add 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Stir in cream and lemon; let simmer until spinach is very soft, about 3 mins.
Using back of a spoon, make six little indentations in spinach - like nests for eggs (five around edges, one in middle). Crack the eggs into the nests. Lower the heat to med-low and sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let eggs cook until almost opaque, about 3 mins. Turn of heat and let eggs rest, covered, until done to taste, 30 seconds for yolks that are runny (whites should be completely cooked through), or longer if you like harder eggs.
Carefully scoop eggs and greens into bowls. Season each with crushed red pepper; garnish with scallion greens. Serve with buttered toast.
Posted by Rhubarb and Venison at 4:30 PM