Tag Archives: Egg

Scrambled egg banh mi

This sandwich was SO HARD to photograph. It just did not want to behave. I’ve been making a version of this sandwich once or twice a week for the past month, and they’ve all been docile and well-constructed and probably totally photogenic. Then I finally got around to charging my camera battery and made myself a sandwich specifically to photograph. This one decided to fall apart every time I put it down.

Once again, I beg you to ignore the photo. Because this right here? Is one phenomenal sandwich. I first had it at a sandwich shop near where I used to work, and fell in love. After almost a year of craving it since leaving that job, I finally managed to recreate it at home. It’s got the sunny chewiness of scrambled egg, which I like so much better than the pork you usually find in a banh mi. On top of the egg, add lots of utterly compelling things: pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber sticks, jalapeno slices, cilantro leaves, and lots of spicy mayo. It’s hot and cold, sweet and sour, crunchy and chewy, spicy and rich–everything there is to love about banh mi.

I call this a “scrambled egg” sandwich, but what really fills its belly is a simple flat omelet. At the sandwich stand, they’d steam the eggs in a special container in the microwave, creating a eggy half-moon. To replicate that effect, I beat the eggs and add them to a lightly oiled skillet over medium-low heat. Then I let them cook, completely undisturbed, until they’ve set into a springy, slightly puffed disc. (This usually takes about 15 minutes on my stove, which leaves plenty of time to leisurely prep the other sandwich ingredients.) Slide the disc out of the skillet, cut it in half, et voila–two eggy half-moons, ready to slide between halves of bread.

So much for the egg. There’s one other bit of advance prep needed for this sandwich: pickling some carrots and daikon. I made up a quart of refrigerator pickles, following a recipe from the New York Times, and have it handy in the fridge for whenever the banh mi craving strikes. You could also make a batch of fifteen-minute quick pickles, which will be ready in about the time it takes the eggs to cook. Either way, you’ve got the makings of one satisfying lunch.

egg banh mi 1

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Nicaraguan guacamole

The summer I spent in Nicaragua as a teenager, working on a volunteer project, I spent a lot of time in people’s kitchens. I’d only recently been bitten by the cooking bug, and it seemed somehow that every woman in the community I was living in was an excellent cook. (With the exception of my host father–a former restaurant chef–every cook I met was female.) I spent a lot of time peering over the shoulders of these brisk, sandal-clad women, watching as they prepared the afternoon and evening meals. I learned how to fry plantains, how to mix rice and beans in just the right proportions to make gallo pinto, how to shred cabbage for a vinegary slaw that we ate on top of fat masa cakes. But the thing that surprised me the most was how the Nicas made guacamole.

I only had it once, in the home of a woman I didn’t know very well. She’d just finished showing my volunteer partner and me how to form tortillas by hand–a skill I’ve sadly since forgotten–and told us she would make us some guacamole to have with our lunch. There were avocado trees everywhere in town, and we ate enormous ripe avocados every day with a spoon and a sprinkle of salt, but no one had ever offered to make us guacamole before. After a few minutes of slicing and chopping, she presented us with a bowl: in it was a chunky mix of avocado cubes, onion slices, and smooth rounds of hard-boiled egg. “Es el guacamole Nica,” she said. It was absolutely unlike any guacamole I’d ever had, and the flavors wrestled around strangely in my mouth. I felt very far from home. I finished my portion, thanked her profusely, and then for the rest of the summer we ate half-avocados with salt.

nica guacamole

I hadn’t thought about that guacamole until last weekend, when avocados showed up at the farmer’s market. I went shopping with my friend Molly, and she was craving guacamole. We agreed that it might be fun to try recreating that strange and startling guacamole I’d had over a decade ago. All we needed was an onion, an avocado, a few eggs, and some limes. I wasn’t expecting much–it seemed way too simple to be exciting. But when I took a bite, the memory hit me square between the eyes. Suddenly I was back in that Nica kitchen, shy and out of my element, taking the spoonful offered to me.

And something else happened, too. Suddenly, tasting with a teenager’s emotions and an adult’s palate, I realized just how delicious Nicaraguan guacamole is. The flavor is clean and sharp, with a bit of welcome chewiness from the egg and a prick of pungent sweetness from the onion. This will absolutely be my go-to guacamole recipe from now on–it’s that good.

The traditional recipe is dead simple: avocado, onion, hard-boiled egg, lime, and salt. I added some scallion tops and cilantro, just because we had them around, but these are neither traditional nor necessary, and the guacamole is great without them. You can mash the avocado to whatever texture you like, but for a real authentic guacamole, keep it chunky, almost like a salad. That way, the squishy avocado, chewy egg, and crunchy onion each have their say.

nica guacamole 2

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Mizuna and mushroom salad with poached egg

You guys. How has no one ever told me to put a poached egg on a salad before? I feel cheated.

To be fair, I should have figured this one out long ago. I put runny eggs on just about everything else in my life, so why not a salad? Particularly this salad, which combines tangy greens, pan-fried oyster mushrooms, and a warm rice vinegar dressing. Add the golden richness of the egg yolk, and suddenly something alchemical happens: the whole thing becomes crunchy, chewy, sweet, tangy, gooey, rich, wolf-it-down-and-mop-the-plate delicious. This is the kind of salad that impresses people. It makes an entrance. I love it so.

The idea for this salad came from salade lyonnaise, the righteous French assemblage of frisee lettuce, bacon, and egg. I learned about this recently, and it stuck in my mind. The original salad involves a couple elements I’m not crazy about: bacon, obviously, and though I like frisee’s wacky texture, I don’t usually enjoy how bitter it is. So I made a couple of swaps–mizuna and basil for frisee, and oyster mushrooms, crisped in a pan, for bacon. It worked like a charm.

Mizuna is one of those greens that I’d heard about, but never actually sought out. Then, at the farmer’s market on a warm September Sunday, I saw a basket of lanky bunches and decided to pounce. It’s a Japanese green, supposedly related to mustard greens, but much more delicate and less aggressive. The flavor is a bit like arugula, but not quite so peppery. What really drew me to it, though, was the texture: crisp and feathery, with juicy bits of stem here and there. The greens wilted obligingly under the warm dressing, and tickled up here and there through the richness of the egg yolk. I’m sure you could make this salad with other greens, but the mizuna really worked gorgeously. I highly recommend it.

Oh, and take it from me: you’ll want to have some bread around to mop up the leftover dressing once the greens are gone. The combination of vinegar, shallot, and egg yolk–sharp, sweet, and fatty–is really plate-licking good.

mizuna mushroom salad

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Egg-lemon soup

Oh, hello, cold and flu season.  I was wondering when you might show up.

My coworker has a hellacious sniffle.  Several of my friends are feverish.  The woman standing next to me on the train this morning kept wiping her nose with her hand and then grabbing hold of the handrail.  So when I caught myself feeling a little woozy at work and desperate for sleep, I knew exactly what I needed to do.

Bring on the soup!

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French toast, hold the sugar

Time for another entry in the list of breakfast foods that don’t have to be sweet:

French toast.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sugary, crispy custard-bread is a fine foodstuff indeed.  There’s a tiny roadside diner in Belchertown, Massachusetts that makes a gingerbread French toast I’ll remember for years. But for my money, that’s not breakfast.  It’s dessert.  It’s bread pudding by another name.

Breakfast French toast, in my book, is bread soaked in scrambled eggs, with enough salt and black pepper to make you sneeze. I love it especially when it’s made with Jewish deli bread: caraway rye or even a good chewy bagel.

Yes, I said bagel.

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