Zucchini Eggs

Sometimes the last day of vacation makes me feel like I’m reliving one of the more forgettable parts of adolescence: that unshakable grumpy mood and, accompanying it, an overwhelming sense of sheer crapiness pervading everything. Fortunately (for me, and for those who have to be around me), this sullenness isn’t the all-day affair it used to be, at least partially because there are two things I always look forward to when I come home. The first is catching up on snuggles with this puppy:

And the second is seeing what happened in the garden while we were gone. I am like those proud aunts who exclaim “The last time I saw you, you were only this big!,” only I’m saying it to my squashes and peppers. I mean, we got home at 11:30pm and I was literally out there with the flashlight app on my phone, knowing it was too dark to see much but not being able to resist a quick glance through everything. I had asked a friend to help herself to anything that ripened while we were gone, but when I really checked out the garden in the daylight, would I find any new baby watermelons? Did everything survive? Would there be anything that was ready to pick? The answers, as I discovered the next morning, were: Yes, Mostly, and How did I not see that zucchini before I left? Did it seriously grow a foot and a half in a week?

Summer squashes are better when they’re on the smaller side; they can get bitter and tough when they get too big. Being practically incapable of getting rid of produce simply because it’s past its prime, though, I couldn’t toss this monster directly into the compost bin. He would just have to be grated and cooked into submission.
“Zucchini eggs,” as I uninventively call them, have been a summer brunch staple for 5 or 6 years now. They are one of my favorite weekend breakfasts because they taste awesome. Oh, also, they’re easy and quick, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. And, unlike some brunch fare, they don’t put you in a food coma or make you feel like you don’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

Basically, you sauté some zucchini with a bit of garlic, crack an egg into it, and scramble it all up. The trickiest part is forming it all into a couple of patties, which you then place on a toasted English muffin, top with some cheese, and pop in the broiler for a couple of minutes. It’s better with normal-sized zucchini, but if you have a gargantuan one to use up like I did, it works just fine with those too.



Note: You can double this recipe, and I have successfully tripled it before, but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than doubling it. It just gets too unwieldy in the pan.


Zucchini Eggs

serves 1; can be doubled (see note)

  • 1 English muffin, split
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (about 1/2 medium)
  • kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 oz. sliced mild melty cheese, such as provolone or Colby Jack
  1. Have a small baking sheet ready. You will also need a silicone-coated or wooden spoon and a small flexible spatula (the pancake-turner kind).
  2. Turn the oven on 350º and put your English muffin halves directly on the oven rack to toast. No need to preheat the oven; the muffin will toast slowly as you make the zucchini and egg.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan to just over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the zucchini and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally with the spoon, until the zucchini has started to release its water. Stir more frequently until the water has evaporated.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
  5. Check your muffin. Mine is usually done toasting now. Take it out of the oven and place it on the baking sheet. Turn the oven up to broil.
  6. Crack the egg directly on top of the zucchini, break the yolk, and mix it all up really well. Stir frequently with the spoon so that it cooks relatively evenly. Add a little more salt if you want. When the egg starts to dry out enough to hold some shape, separate the mixture into two mounds, mold them into patties that are roughly English muffin-sized, and let them cook a little on one side. Flip the patties once with the spatula, and continue cooking until the eggs are done.
  7. Place the two patties on the toasted English muffin and top with the sliced cheese.
  8. Broil until the cheese is melted, just 1 or 2 minutes.
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(Mostly) Egg White (Sort of) Frittata

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I did not make this (sort of) frittata from (mostly) egg whites because I wanted it to be healthier and threw away all the yolks. (That will happen after I enjoy holiday food.) No, it has mostly egg whites because I had a ton of them leftover after making lemon curd, pastry cream, and tart crusts. Why the glut of decadent desserts? Well, I’m not above bribing my students, so every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I give them raffle tickets when they participate, and then we have a drawing for prizes on the last day of class before winter break. This year, tartlets, eclairs, madeleines, and—the most prized possession of all—homework passes were in the mix.

After the frenzy of baking, I made a mental note to collect money from my classes next year and buy treats from a local bakery in order to maintain my sanity. And then I tried to figure out what to make with the 7 egg whites and 1 whole egg (it didn’t want to separate nicely) that I had. Anything sweet was out of the question because I was on a sugar overload after all those bowls and beaters that I had licked, so a frittata seemed like the best way to go. And, as the title says, it’s not really a “frittata” because it’s cooked entirely in the oven and not at all on the stovetop. I supposed you could call it a “crustless quiche,” but “crustless quiche” makes me feel the same way a lot of people do when they hear the word “moist,” so I’d prefer to misname it a frittata. Also, it’s cooked in a cast iron pan, which is not nearly dainty enough for anything that calls itself a quiche.

I make frittatas pretty frequently; I usually use whole eggs and keep it vegetarian. I was afraid that the egg whites would make it bland, though, so I fancied it up a little more than I usually would. First, I found some Trader Joe’s chicken breakfast sausage links in the freezer, so I browned up a couple of them to add. Next, I harvested all the kale in the garden that’s threatening to die every time a frost comes around. It’s Red Russian kale, which supposed to be very cold tolerant, but it looked like it might be on its last leg.

I like my frittatas with a lot—and I do mean a lot—of vegetables. Even though my pile of kale was overflowing the salad spinner, it barely weighed 8 ounces, so I decided to use all of it.

Next, I usually just toss in some raw onion, but I caramelized half of a yellow onion instead. Finally, for the cheese, we had provolone but, oddly enough, it was a really nice provolone that was quite strong, and I found it to be almost overwhelming. So, I used just a bit of it and added some mozzarella for gooeyness and to let the other flavors come through.

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Note: I was double-checking the size of the skillet I used, and it says 5 on it, but it was about 7″ in diameter. And so I learned that the numbers on cast iron skillets correspond to certain standard pan sizes, not the actual diameter in inches of the pan.

You could make this in the same size pan with 4 whole eggs instead of egg whites. Also, my 8 oz. of kale didn’t need to be de-stemmed. If you have to de-stem your greens, you might want to start out with more than 8 oz., or just weigh them after you stem them instead of before. For the sausage,  I used 2 links of  breakfast sausage, and they weighed about 2 1/2 oz. before I cooked them. Lastly, this frittata reheats nicely in the microwave and will keep well for a day, but after much longer than that, the cheese will start to take on an unpleasant texture.


(Mostly) Egg White (Sort of) Frittata

serves 2-3

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. kale or other cooking greens
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 7 egg whites and 1 whole egg
  • 2-3 oz. sausage, cooked and then cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 oz. provolone or mozzarella, or a combination of both
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Add 1 tsp. of the olive oil to a #5 (6.75″) cast iron skillet, and put it in the oven to warm up while you prep everything else.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. When it’s warm, add the minced garlic and stir until just fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add a handful of the greens and a couple of healthy pinches of kosher salt and stir until the greens start to wilt. Keep adding greens by the handful until they’re all in the pot and are completely wilted. Remove from heat and let cool. This will happen faster if you put them in a different bowl instead of leaving them in the pot.
  3. While the greens are cooling, caramelize the onion. First, heat 1 more tsp. of the olive oil with the 1 tsp. of butter in a small pan over over medium-high heat. Slice the onion thinly crosswise. When the pan is hot, add the onion and a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and keep cooking, stirring regularly, until well-browned, about 10-15 minutes more. Remove from heat.
  4. Dice the cheese into 1/4″ to 1/3″ cubes. You could grate it, but I like how it doesn’t disappear into the frittata if you leave it chunkier.
  5. By this time, your greens should be cool. Squeeze them out as much as you can. Seriously, put some muscle into it and get them as dry as you can; otherwise, it while make your eggs gross and watery. Chop up the squeezed-out greens.
  6. Whisk the egg whites and egg in a medium bowl. Add the sausage, greens, onion, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste, but keep in mind that you’ve already salted the greens and the onion, and that the sausage has salt too.
  7. Use an oven mitt ! to remove your hot cast-iron skillet from the oven. The oil should be nice and shimmery. Swirl the oil around or use a spatula spread it out until it evenly coats the bottom of the pan, and then add the egg mixture and smooth the top. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the eggs are done.
  8. Remove from the oven and run a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen up the frittata a little. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then use the rubber spatula to slide the whole thing out of the pan. Enjoy immediately, or wait until it cools completely and then refrigerate it for later.

First Post: Yogurt with Sautéed Apples and Spiced Pecans

 

I rediscovered a bag of apples in the basement a few days ago. They were leftover from an apple-picking / winery-visiting afternoon in September. At first, I left the bag on the kitchen table, and I would grab one to have with lunch every day. After I finished the ones that met my apples-eaten-fresh-must-be-crisp standards, the rest of them just kept sitting there, taking up space on the kitchen table. At some point, we had friends over—which is the only time our house ever gets cleaned—and I put the apples in the basement to get them out of the way. And then I forgot about them for a month or so.

These were sad, wrinkly apples. They were super soft, which is how I like my cookies, but not my raw fruit. They weighed next to nothing because they were so dried up.

Wrinkly apples

With the salvageable ones, which were all Golden Delicious, making applesauce didn’t sound that appealing, and I wasn’t sure they would make a very tasty pie. Sautéing them to use as a yogurt topping sounded like a winner though. In general, I think real fruit mixed into plain or vanilla yogurt is way better than flavored yogurt. I’ve done the real-fruit-and-yogurt combo with juicier fruits like raw berries, but never with apples. Also, I have tried some apple-cinnamon flavored yogurts, and I always wish they tasted more like apple and less like cinnamon.

I didn’t want the apples to be overly sweet or buttery, because I was looking for something that would be more like a breakfast and less like a dessert, something I could eat on a weekday and not feel like I was indulging (too much). I also found that cooking the apples for a really long time gave the most concentrated flavor and the best textural contrast because they almost got a little chewy—if I didn’t cook them long enough, it just tasted like applesauce mixed into yogurt: mush and mush.

Lastly, I wanted to add nuts, for protein and for crunch. I tried adding toasted plain pecans, which were good, but chopped-up candied pecans were even better, and also added an extra boost of cinnamon-y deliciousness.


 

This is definitely a sweeter breakfast, and I did like it best with vanilla yogurt, but you could use plain yogurt or plain toasted pecans (or any other nut) to make it less sweet. I don’t call for much cinnamon in the apples because there is also some cinnamon in the spiced nuts, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the apple flavor. If you prefer more cinnamon or if you use plain nuts, you could increase the cinnamon in the apples. You can also scale back the apple recipe for one serving–just use 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar per apple, and cinnamon and lemon juice to taste.

 

Yogurt with Sautéed Apples with Spiced Pecans

Sautéed Apples:

serves 4

  • 4 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 cooking apples (peeling optional; I kept it on)
  • healthy pinch of table salt
  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Set a large, 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter.
  2. Cut each apple into quarters and core them. Slice lengthwise again (so you have 8 slices per apple), and chop crosswise into about 1/8″ wide slices.
  3. Add the apples to the butter, then sprinkle with the brown sugar and the pinch of salt.
  4. Sauté over medium-low for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The heat should be low enough that you really don’t need to pay that much attention to them. 30 minutes is a long time if you’re just staring at the pan. It’s a perfect time to do something like get caught up your Serial podcast, which is what I did.
  5. After 30 minutes, turn the heat up to medium, and sauté for another 15 or 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and quite shrunken. (My 4 apples shrunk down to less than 2 cups.) Stir more occasionally to avoid burning.
  6. When the apples are brown to your liking, remove from heat, and stir in the cinnamon and the lemon juice.
  7. Let cool, then serve over plain or vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of chopped spiced pecans (see recipe below).

 

Spiced Pecans:

yields about 2 cups

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s sugar-and-spice candied nuts, which was adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. Note: You will only use about 1/4 of the egg mixture. The original recipe calls for 1 egg white for 16 oz. of nuts, and I scaled it down to 4 oz. of nuts, partly because even just 4 oz. will make way more than you need for 4 servings of yogurt topping, and partly because they are really snackable and I didn’t want to be tempted to chow down on a pound of spiced nuts. Trying to measure out 1/4 of an egg white seemed like an exercise in futility, so just use what you need and dump the rest. And no, I’m not going to make a post on what to do with 3/4 of a leftover egg white that’s been mixed with water.

  • 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg
  • 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 4 oz. pecan halves (about 1 cup)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300º, and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Mix together both sugars, the salt, and all the spices until no longer lumpy.
  3. Beat or whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.
  4. Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pecans, until they are just coated.
  5. Add the sugar and spice mixture to the pecans, and toss until evenly coated. It is going to look like more coating than is necessary, but it works.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.