The Chef and I like eggs.
Let me rephrase that, to approximate the force of our feelings: the Chef and I really, really like eggs.
We must, because we eat them nearly every morning these days. Scrambled, poached, sunny side up, and sometimes even fried — eggs appear on plates in our kitchen, side by side on the countertop near the stove, about 11 every morning.
I have never been a morning person. Not once, in my entire life, have I been thrilled in the gloaming hours just after dawn. When I was a full-time teacher, that alarm clock bleated at me, strenuously, at 6 am. And every time I heard it, my heart beating fast, I had the exact same thought, “No. Not this morning. I can’t do it this morning.” I wanted to beat that damn contraption into shards of plastic and head back to sleep, every time. In the winter, when the sun didn’t rise until well after I was in the school building, I often did go back to sleep. I hit that snooze alarm so many times I lost track of the time. Then, I sat upright in bed, looked at the late hour — all of 7:10 — and bolted down the stairs for the bus without even combing my hair. That was no way to start a day.
These days, though, I adore the mornings. After all, I wake up in the Chef’s arms, after we have held each other all night long. We wake up laughing, instead of panicked. There is no need for an alarm clock. And when we wake up — by the sunlight or other natural mechanisms — it is 8 or 9 am, and we are not late for anything. We are where we need to be.
One of the greatest gifts of being a full-time writer now is the late mornings with the Chef. Before the book deal came through, we were trying to steel ourselves for seeing each other only rarely. After all, chef hours and teacher hours do not match up. We would have had that dratted hour after six am, and then a brief window of time after 10 pm. I was contemplating power naps. Instead, we have these long, luxurious mornings together. We have a life.
Besides, late mornings means late nights. And since I have been a teenager, I have worked best from 4 pm to midnight. My body wakes up, gloriously, after a long stretch, and my mind starts focusing fast. Here I am. Time to write.
Writing for eight hours a day is much easier when I have started the day with food made by the Chef.
Every morning, after we have risen late, lingered in bed, drunk our coffee, left the house for a long walk or run, then read two newspapers (the comics first for the Chef, so he starts off every day with laughter), we start to think about breakfast.
“Honey, what are we going to eat?” I call out from the kitchen, looking into the refrigerator. I wait a beat, look over at him in the living room, finishing up the newspaper, and start to laugh before I even hear his answer.
“Um, how about eggs?” he says, his face lit up in boyish anticipation.
How can I resist? After all, during the mornings of the alarm clock, I rarely ate well. A piece of gluten-free bread, thrown into the toaster and smeared with peanut butter. A few spoonfuls of yogurt. A bowl of Peanut Butter Panda Puffs. It rarely satisfied. I felt as though I was eating for sustenance, and never for pleasure. There really isn’t much pleasure for me at 7 am. And the Chef never ate breakfast. It’s a little-known secret to those who don’t work in the restaurant world: chefs have crappy eating habits. Until they meet someone who insists they lavish as much attention on themselves as they do their customers.
So now, when the Chef suggests he makes eggs again, in some spectacular new way, I can’t help but say yes.
Of course, our cholesterol is probably shot to hell. But actually, I think we’re doing okay. We don’t have one of those obscene American omelets with eight eggs and half a pound of cheese. Instead, the Chef collects the best leftovers from the night before, and magically turns it all into something of just the right proportion. After years of eating without any real knowledge of what I was eating, I am eating better, and even healthier, with this man in my life.
So we eat eggs. My brother and sister-in-law keep chickens, so sometimes we have eggs laid by their hens. The butcher’s down the street have spectacular brown eggs, laid by hens at a free-range farm not thirty miles from here. In a pinch, we run across the street to the tiny grocery store for another dozen. We have eaten eggs with crab, eggs with avocado, eggs with creme fraiche, and eggs with all three. We eat eggs and chicken sausage, eggs with tiny bits of sautéed bacon mixed in, eggs with roasted potatoes, and eggs with all three. Poached eggs land on top of mushroom risotto, quinoa made with chicken stock, and leftover mashed potatoes from the night before. We sing their sunny yellow praises, and I moan with pleasure and still remember to say thank you to the Chef, every morning.
(Lest you start to worry about our cholesterol too much, I also make gluten-free pancakes a few times a week. I have made gluten-free scones with candied ginger, banana bread with nutmeg and cinnamon, and smoothies in the summer when we rose to heat. We are contemplating even buying a waffle iron, since I finally have that recipe down. But still, most of those baked goods still contain eggs.)
Always fascinated by food — people who are indifferent to food would be appalled by how many of our conversations start with questions about veal stock or wonderings about what vegetables to serve at the restaurant that night — we look for new ways to make eggs. One morning, as I was reading Cooking for Mr. Latte on the couch, I read this quote to the Chef: “I remember a story I did once about making scrambled eggs with Daniel Boulud. He prepared his in a double boiler, whisking the entire time, so that the eggs became more like a custard than any scrambled eggs I had ever seen. They were extraoridinarily delicate.” (289) The Chef jumped up and found a silver bowl in our kitchen, brought water to a boil in a saucepan, and made the eggs he had just heard described.
My god, they were delicious.
Today is our five-month anniversary. It seems hard to believe it has been that little time, since it truly feels as though we have been together for five years. In the best way. So, tonight, as a surprise, I am making him the dinner I put in my profile, the one he read online: roast chicken with rosemary and lemons; garlic mashed potatoes; flourless chocolate torte. We will eat it about midnight, laughing and smiling. There will be no eggs involved.
However, tomorrow morning. I am certain we will be eating eggs.
Pisto manchego, adapted from Tapas, by Penelope Casas
The Chef was making Spanish food for three months. His lovely little restaurant changes the world focus every shift in season, based on the wines they are featuring. The Chef investigates the tastes and spices of that part of the world, ponders, talks to everyone he knows, researches, then cooks spectacular food. On top of that, he changes the entire menu every month. I don’t know how he does it.
A few weeks ago, he brought home a small container of this side dish. You could even call it a thick sauce. Originally from La Mancha, this dish is apparently quite traditional, served hot or cold, with a multitude of foods. It won’t make you go knocking at windmills when you eat it, however. It’s quite amazing. The Chef spontaneously mixed it in with that morning’s scrambled eggs. Sighs around the breakfast table — we both loved it. I have been thinking of it ever since.
3 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
one green pepper, cut into medium-sized dice
one yellow onion, chopped roughly
one medium zucchini, cut into thick slices, then cubed
five cloves of garlic, minced
three large tomatoes (heirlooms are best here), chopped
one tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Maldon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Bring a heavy skillet to heat on a medium-high burner. Add the olive oil and bring it to heat. Sauté the pepper, onion, zucchini, and garlic together until the onion has become translucent and soft.
At this point, put the chopped tomatoes, minced parsley, salt, and pepper to the skillet.
Reduce the heat on the stove to medium and cook the mixture — uncovered — for thirty minutes.
After thirty minutes, when all the flavors have blended and the ingredients have become something new, bring up the heat to reduce the liquid a bit. Ideally, the pisto manchego should be juicy without being soppy.