Skillet-Baked Eggs with Garlicky Yogurt
My three sisters often team up to get me kitchen-related birthday presents. (The kitchen-related part practically goes without saying since I started this blog.)
Last year, they got me an ice cream maker (which I have actually used far more often than this would lead you to believe). In previous years, they’ve also gotten me beautiful sets of dishes, gift certificates for spices, and cookbooks.
This time there was a slight communication break-down, since my younger sister has had a crazy busy summer. While they all took the time to consult Paula and check in about whether I already own the cookbook, Jerusalem (I do), they didn’t get a chance to consult with each other…
So for my birthday this year, I got not one but TWO copies of Plenty.
My sisters know me so well.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s prequel-to-Jerusalem cookbook features vegetarian recipes inspired by cuisines from around the world. Despite the fact that I already own and love several other cookbooks, which could be said to have the same general theme—like Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Linda McCartney’s World of Vegetarian Cooking—Plenty seems by far to have the boldest flavor combinations and the most original, mind-opening, mouth-watering recipes. (Not to mention the photos!)
So what to do about this two-cookbook conundrum? My younger sister’s gift showed up later—days after I’d torn the plastic off my first copy of Plenty—so it was technically the redundant one. Luckily, that sister was happy to take the cookbook off my hands (I just packed it in my carry-on to Chicago this past weekend), and she was kind enough to get me The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook instead (bonus!).
So by now you’re thinking, stop bragging about your piles of cookbooks and get to the recipe already, right?
This recipe came about from a very sudden, specific craving. My younger sister’s (redundant) copy of Plenty was on my bedroom floor, leaning up against the wall, near a pile of stuff to pack for my Chicago trip.
My mind was just starting to toss around potential breakfast ideas—and I was just on the verge of becoming too hungry to make myself anything other than plain old fried eggs—when a photo on the back of the cookbook caught my eye.
In the top-left corner of the back cover of Plenty is a photo of Ottolenghi’s “Baked Eggs with Yogurt and Chile” inspired by Çılbır, Turkish Poached Eggs with Yogurt. I knew immediately that I was having THAT for breakfast.
Unfortunately, it called for arugula but I only had spinach.
Unfortunately, it called for kırmızı biber, a Turkish spice mix of dried chili peppers and sweet red peppers, but I just substituted sweet paprika and chili flakes, as recommended by Ottolenghi.
Unfortunately, it called for turning the oven on, but we were in the middle of a (rare) Santa Barbara heat wave and it was about 95 degrees in my non-air-conditioned apartment.
What to do? I set my mind to “baking” the eggs on the stovetop, by just lowering the heat and covering the skillet with a tightly-fitting lid. There are several advantages to this: you can check on the progress of your eggs much more easily, especially if the lid is clear; you don’t need a non-stick yet oven-safe skillet; the cooking time is much shorter on the stovetop than in the oven, pre-heating time aside; and last but not least, you don’t need to turn on the oven and pump up the heat in your apartment until you’ve made your own DIY hot yoga studio in your living room.
So that first morning (and about ten mornings since then!) I made skillet-baked eggs with spinach and a peppery, sweet, garlicky Greek yogurt topping.
That first morning, I devoured it with a spoon (in about five seconds). I didn’t even think about needing toast. I didn’t even remember that I had coffee within arm’s reach until I had polished off the last bite. It was SO good.
In a slightly later rendition, it occurred to me to add cherry tomatoes. They were lovely with this dish—warmed through, just splitting open, soft, tangy, and juicy.
With stovetop- and oven-baked eggs alike, the yolks can definitely end up a bit more cooked than my ideal super-runny-yolk preference, yet these are still tender and soft, and almost fluffy, from the slow skillet baking—which Paula pointed out is really more like steaming because of the juices from the spinach/tomatoes and the condensation in the pan.
(One strategy to combat too-cooked yolks might be to make wider/lower spinach nests that allow the egg white to spread out more—and thus cook faster, so the whites can set up completely before the yolks firm up too much.)
These eggs are my new favorite weekday (and weekend) breakfast; I haven’t yet made them for dinner, but it’s only a matter of time… They might also be good with some za’atar sprinkled over the top, or with some chopped fresh mint leaves tossed into the yogurt just before serving.
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Skillet-Baked Eggs with Garlicky Yogurt
(Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)
~ 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 8 oz. spinach (or mix of spinach and arugula)
~ sea salt, to taste
~ 20 cherry tomatoes (optional)
~ 4 eggs
~ ⅔ cup Greek yogurt
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ pinch of chili flakes
~ pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
~ generous sprinkling of sweet paprika
~ non-stick skillet with a tightly-fitting lid
How to make it:
(You can make either two or four eggs at a time, depending on the size of your skillet. I prefer to make two eggs at a time—so that the eggs have a shorter cooking time and I can have more control over the yolks staying soft.)
1. Heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet. Add a few handfuls of spinach (only 4 oz. for two eggs at a time), and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, adding more spinach gradually, and adding more olive oil as needed. Sprinkle sea salt over the spinach to taste. Once the spinach has shrunk down to a manageable size, add the cherry tomatoes to the skillet as well. Cook until spinach has wilted completely, for about 5 minutes.
2. Turn the heat down to the lowest (or near-lowest) setting. Bunch the spinach up in the center of the pan, then hollow out two (or four) nests for the eggs, into a spinach figure eight, making sure the egg whites will be mostly walled-in by the spinach. (I use chopsticks to do this.) One at a time, crack eggs into a small bowl, then slowly pour them into the spinach nests. Cover the pan with the tightly-fitting lid, and let it steam/bake for 6-10 minutes (or more time for all four eggs), checking after 6 minutes to see if the egg whites are set.
(Note: stovetops and skillets are all a little different from each other, so you may have to experiment a bit with the perfect cooking time for your burner/skillet combination. The eggs may take 6-7 minutes in a small omelette pan, but 8-10 minutes in a larger skillet with a high-domed lid.)
3. While the eggs are cooking, make the garlicky yogurt. Stir the garlic, chili flakes, and paprika(s) into the yogurt, adding a pinch of salt if desired.
4. Once egg whites are set, transfer spinach, eggs, and tomatoes to a serving plate and top with a dollop or two of yogurt. (Repeat for other two eggs.) Sprinkle the yogurt/eggs with additional paprika or chili if desired, and serve immediately with fresh bread or toast, or just a spoon.
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