Thursday, November 13, 2014

Feasting at the Table of a Friend…plus Bonnie’s Recipe for Eggs Baked on a bed of Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a few days away with a group of very dear friends.  I wrote of another week with this same group a few years ago, spent at a house on Lake Michigan.  This time we were at Bonnie’s home in Minnesota. Up until the very end, I didn’t think we were actually going to be able to get away to do it.  Life is so busy.  Coordinating the schedules of four sandwich-generation women seemed an almost impossible task.  When three of us finally climbed into the packed car and made it to the interstate headed north, I think we were all a bit stunned that it was really happening.

As always, we had a wonderful time together.  What I will remember most from this trip is the hours spent lingering at Bonnie’s inviting table….and around her kitchen island....sipping coffee (freshly roasted in Bonnie’s garage, of course!), nibbling on the remains of delicious meals (or the bits and pieces of meals in progress), sharing and talking on and on about the happenings in our lives, big and small.  What a privilege to get to take a break from the busyness and just be…  together. 

Since all four of us work—or have worked—as professional cooks, much of our time together is always spent talking about, preparing and eating(!) delicious food.  It is so much fun to see and taste some of the things each of us have been learning about food since we were all together last.  I learned a new technique for cooking baby potatoes (material for a short, future post) and got to have an impromptu “hand pie” lesson as Bonnie took a minute to nail down the final quantities for a recipe she is teaching in an upcoming class.  

For my part, during the past few months I have been intermittently experimenting with a new technique for fresh pasta, and having the opportunity to make pasta with my friends…sharing the things I’ve learned....was a treat. 

One of the things Bonnie made for us was a delicious breakfast she has gotten into the habit of making for herself…eggs baked on a bed of wilted greens.  She served it with toast, her homemade granola, some yogurt, and fresh berries.  It was loaded with flavor and very satisfying.  

I liked it so much, that when I got home I prepared it for a light dinner…with some roasted potatoes on the side.  I had it for lunch a few days later (with toast).  

When I shared a picture of this beautiful dish (Bonnie’s version) on my personal Facebook page, a friend requested the recipe, so I am including it in today’s post.

This easy little dish is amenable to all kinds of variations.  Instead of grape tomatoes, you could add a handful of sautéed mushrooms…or some diced roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes…anything you like in partnership with greens and eggs.  (Just make sure your addition is something that will cook through in a minute or two or that has already been cooked and only needs a brief reheat.)  I can see many a Sunday night meal coming from this simple and delicious idea.

I should tell you that we didn’t spend all of our time sitting and eating.  We also walked the trails into town…   to get wine…and bread….  and taste olive oil.  And we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (revisiting paintings we remembered from previous visits…and making friends with ones we hadn’t noticed before).  Of course after an afternoon on our feet we had to stop at a coffee shop on the way home for some sustenance.

For the most part our meals were not grand affairs….a quick roast chicken with salad and potatoes….breakfasts of scones or toast, yogurt, fruit and granola…and on our final night, a simple spread of bread and fruit and cheese and wine (after overindulging a bit on the pastries at the aforementioned coffee shop….).  But whether simple or involved, I will cherish the memory of these meals for months to come.  It is not often that any of us have the time for such an extended feast.  But I like to believe that with a little bit of effort we can have small moments like this every day, in our own homes, sitting at our own tables…as long as we make the time—however brief—to pause and connect with those we love.  Because it doesn’t matter if the food is a multi-course extravaganza or a humble dish of eggs and toast, it is the company around the table that makes the feast. 

 Bonnie’s Eggs Baked on a Bed of Greens

Olive oil or 2 strips of bacon, cut in thin strips cross-wise
1 or 2 shallots, peeled and sliced
5 oz. baby spinach (see note)
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 to 6 eggs (room temperature—see note)
Blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Minced parsley…or other soft herb (chives, dill, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  

Warm the olive oil over moderate heat.  Or, wilt the bacon and cook until crisp.  Lift the bacon out of the pan and pour off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat.  Add the shallots to the pan and sweat until softened and sizzling in the fat.  Begin to add the greens to the pan, a handful at a time, waiting to add each handful until the previous one just begins to collapse.  When the greens are mostly collapsed (they shouldn’t be completely wilted), push them to the side and add the tomatoes to the pan.  

Cook briefly—covering the pan if necessary—until the tomatoes are just warmed through and have a bit of give when you press them with your finger…they shouldn’t be collapsing or disintegrating.  Season well with salt & pepper, add the bacon back to the pan (reserving some for garnish, if you like), and toss (or fold) to distribute the tomatoes among the greens.

At this point you may proceed in a couple of ways: 

For a dish that is more about the eggs than the greens and is intended to serve as the protein for a breakfast or brunch for 3 to 4 people, simply make 4 to 6 depressions in the mixture of greens and tomatoes and carefully crack an egg into each depression.  Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.

For a light lunch or dinner for two, when you begin to wilt the greens place two buttered/oiled individual casseroles in the oven to warm through.  When the greens are ready, divide them between the two casseroles, making one or two depressions for the eggs as you do.  Carefully crack the eggs into the depressions, cover tightly with foil and place in the oven.

After 7 minutes, uncover the eggs.  The whites should be mostly set and the yolk still liquid, covered by a thin film of cooked white (because of the nice steamy environment created by the covered pan).  At this point, you should remove the pan from the oven whenever the yolks are cooked to your liking…anywhere from another minute or two to seven minutes.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper and scatter with cheese if you like…or the reserved bacon…and some fresh herbs.   Serve immediately (placing the large pan directly on the table and the individual casseroles on heatproof plates) with some nice, crusty toast.  Serves 2 to 4.

·         Any young green that is tender when just wilted will work in this recipe—baby spinach, young chard, arugula (Organic Girl’s Super Greens is a good choice)
·         If your eggs are refrigerator cold, submerge them (in the shell) in a bowl of hot tap water for five minutes or so, to warm them up.
·         You could use both the bacon and blue cheese if you like, but I like this dish with one or the other.  

Printable Version


Karen Goodell said...

What a treasure it is to have friends like that. I'm so glad you all were able to carve out time to spend together. Days like those are precious and sustaining. (The eggs look pretty good, too.)

Paige said...

Thank you Karen. Yes...good friends are a special kind of wealth. We were very blessed to find the time to get together.

Katrina said...

What a great post and wonderful that you got to have a friend getaway. I'm well past due for one of those!

Paige said...

Thank you Katrina. We were all well past due too! I think we all scrambled a bit with our work loads...both before and after...but it was worth it!