Even those of us who espouse a slow food philosophy sometimes need fast food. And by fast food, I don't mean McDonald's or Taco Bell--I mean food that tastes good, is good for you, and can be made quickly to satisfy a raging hunger. For me, eggs often fill the bill.
Although I do sometimes eat eggs in the morning, I actually prefer eggs for dinner rather than breakfast. There are two major ways I prepare eggs for a quick dinner: omelets and frittatas.
Before I get started on omelets, let me address the mistaken view that eggs are bad for you because they're high in cholesterol. First, as Mary Enig (see this also) and others have argued, the villainization of cholesterol is highly questionable. Second, even those who buy the arguments for lowering cholesterol now say that eggs belong in your diet in moderation. Walter Willett, in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, says, "No research has ever shown that people who eat more eggs have more heart attacks than people who eat few eggs." So put your anxiety about eggs to rest.
Are you among those people who believe it's tricky or difficult to make an omelet? I was, until I saw my son-in-law make them with ease. At one time we had an omelet pan that my husband would use to make omelets. This was a pan of two compartments joined by hinges in the middle; the egg mixture would be divided between the two compartments, the filling placed atop the eggs in one compartment, and then the other compartment would be flipped closed over the bottom compartment. I disliked this pan: there was something inelegant about it.
But one day I got out a cookbook or two and read about omelet-making. By following the directions, I made a perfect omelet, and it wasn't hard at all. But there are a few essentials in terms of ingredients and equipment.
The equipment is simple. You need an 8- or 10-inch pan with sloping sides, preferably non-stick. You need a narrow, flexible spatula. I have a narrow rubber spatula that's heatproof, and it works well. I use a wire whisk to beat the eggs, although a fork may do if you're vigorous. As for the ingredients, the eggs should be fresh (a fresh egg, when it comes out of the shell, will have a yolk that sits very high and holds its shape) and, preferably, organic. And use real butter, please, about a tablespoon melted in the pan.
I like to use three eggs in a 10-inch pan, and the two of us usually share the omelet. You may want to use two eggs and an 8-inch pan and have the omelet all to yourself, or even have a three-egg omelet to yourself as far as that goes.
Beat the eggs, adding a splash of milk or cream, if you want, a pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper. Sometimes I add a pinch of herbs to the eggs as well, such as Penzey's fines herbes mix or freshly snipped chives or parsley from my garden. Melt the butter in the pan. After it has started to foam, and after the foam has started to subside, pour in the eggs. You should have the heat at about medium. Tilt the pan around so the eggs spread over the bottom evenly. The eggs will start to set in a moment. When that happens, run your spatula gently under the edges, lifting carefully and tilting the pan so the uncooked eggs on top run underneath. I usually do this several times successively all around the edge of the omelet.
I don't like the thought of uncooked eggs, so sometimes I put a lid on the pan briefly to heat up the moist eggs on top. You can overdo this, though, and if you do, you won't be able to fold the omelet very well.
Now place your filling atop one half of the eggs in the pan. I like to use shredded cheese and briefly sauteed onion and/or mushrooms (done ahead of time, of course). I've also used leftover cooked potato, sauteed bell pepper, even leftover chili. Use a light hand with the filling: too much will make it impossible to fold the omelet properly. Carefully take a pancake-turner type spatula--sometimes I use that plus my rubber spatula--and flip half the egg mixture over the bottom half. Let it sit there a moment until the cheese is melty, if you've used cheese, but be careful not to overcook. It should be golden brown on the outside and creamy on the inside.
Slide it onto a plate. Voila! Good eating, and endlessly variable by means of the many different ways you can fill an omelet. With a salad (especially a pre-mixed salad from a bag), you have a lovely, fast meal, and you haven't had to sacrifice taste or nutrition to do it.
Look for an entry on frittatas soon.