Eggs and asparagus: welcome, plentiful signs of spring
MAKE-AHEAD OPEN-FACED EGG SANDWICHES ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH PANKO
My most vivid Easter memories include the year my dog, Ruffy, ate the contents of my Easter basket while we were at church. I also had a general fear of the Easter Bunny and serious concern that my older sister would find more than her fair share of eggs.
We spent hours decorating those eggs. My mom boiled a dozen for each of us and equipped us with the supplies necessary to create colorful, patterned eggs that we always considered too pretty to eat.
As a mom, I now boil a dozen eggs for each of my kids, and they kindly share a couple so that I may relive those fun childhood memories. These masterpieces are not just for hiding and seeking, however. We do eat them, and I have devised a few favorite ways to take them a step or two past our favorite egg salad.
The prep-ahead aspect makes these sandwiches an easy breakfast. We also enjoy them as a welcome breakfast-for-dinner option, paired with a salad or green vegetable. Fresh fruit or sliced, vine-ripened tomatoes are an equally delightful pairing when in season.
While regular English muffins work well in this recipe, I enjoy the heartier Ezekiel muffins. For a gluten-free version, Amaranth's Gluten-Free Sesame Sandwich Rolls are fantastic. (Look for both in the organic freezer section.) Toast them until they are crisp to create the perfect crunchy base for the creamy, cheesy egg topping.
7 large or 6 extra-large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
¼ cup mayonnaise
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 whole English or Ezekiel muffins, split and toasted until crunchy
Combine all ingredients except muffins. Cover and store in fridge until ready to use -- overnight is fine if having for breakfast.
Spread the egg mixture on the toasted muffin halves. In an oven preheated to 400 degrees F, bake for three minutes, and then broil for one minute or until bubbly and golden brown on top. (Watch closely while broiling.) Leftovers, if there are any, reheat well in the oven or toaster oven. Recipe doubles easily.
Option: Reserve roughly 1/3 cup of the cheese and a couple tablespoons of the chopped bacon to sprinkle over the top of the egg mixture before baking the muffins. Also, to easily and evenly toast several English muffins at once, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until crisp.
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A few years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," which chronicles a real-life family that vows to buy food locally, grow it themselves or do without for an entire year. There was much consternation over when to start this process but, in the end, it was decided that they would begin when local asparagus was available.
As our growing season starts to sprout, I think back to this story. In many ways, asparagus is a harbinger of spring -- a delicious teaser of the many fruits and vegetables soon to bombard us. While I've never taken on such a challenge, we are fortunate to live in an area where, at least during the growing months, eating locally feels more like a blessing than a burden.
Somewhat by necessity, Kingsolver's family consumed so much asparagus that year they had no desire to buy it when it was no longer a local option. I tend to be much the same way with this particular vegetable. The season is short, so dig in!
For a simple preparation, toss asparagus with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, and then sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Roast in a single layer for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, at 400 degrees to yield perfect spears -- bright green and still boasting a bit of snap. (Test for doneness a couple minutes early by piercing the thick end of the stalk with the tip of a sharp knife.) For a French country-inspired meal, top the roasted asparagus with an over-easy or poached egg.
The following recipe is a dressed-up version of my every night approach. Serve these spears as a satisfying side or a finger food hors d'oeuvre. For a delicious gluten-free option, I substitute crushed Rice Chex for the panko. The recipe may easily be halved for one bunch of asparagus.
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (non-fat and 2 percent work equally well)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice (when caught lemon-less on occasion, I have omitted or substituted ½ teaspoon vinegar)
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, sold near other dry bread crumbs; see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound thick asparagus (about 2 bunches)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On top of a flat dinner plate, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put bread crumbs on another plate.
Grease a large, rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Roll asparagus in yogurt mixture to coat, then in bread crumbs so spears are well breaded. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. At this point, the asparagus may be covered and refrigerated for several hours before baking.
Drizzle asparagus with the olive oil or, even better, spray lightly with an olive oil mister. Then roast asparagus, turning halfway through, for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness. The spears should be golden brown and tender but still have some bite. For a recent batch, I roasted 6 minutes, turned, and roasted 6 more minutes.
Note: Those gluten-free Rice Chex I used instead of panko? No one could tell the difference.
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