Scrambled, sunny-side up, poached, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, over-easy, over-hard, shirred (baked with cream), etc., the humble egg is a nutritious, inexpensive, high-quality source of protein with endless possibilities. While we commonly associate eggs with breakfast, in the Mediterranean, eggs have a place at the kitchen table any time of day—breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
Eggs are a great vehicle, a bit of a blank canvas, for incorporating practically any variety of seasonal, fresh vegetables into your daily diet. One large egg has 6 grams of protein, is a good source of riboﬂavin (vitamin B2), and is an excellent source of vitamin B12, biotin (vitamin B7), selenium, choline, and more. While eggs in the U.S. are often served alongside bacon or sausage, the Mediterranean Diet takes a healthier (and more ﬂavorful!), vegetable-forward approach to this aﬀordable kitchen staple. From the Italian frittata to the Spanish tortilla, the Mediterranean Diet is full of nutritious egg-and vegetable-based dishes.
Think of an Italian frittata as an open-faced omelet. Unlike an omelet, which is folded over its ﬁlling, your desired ﬁlling for a frittata is whisked into the eggs. It’s typically started on the stove top and then ﬁnished in the oven until ﬁrm and set. Some people prefer to ﬂip a frittata in the air as if it were a ﬂapjack and continue cooking it over the stove top. Of course, successfully ﬂipping a frittata takes practice.
Tortilla Espanola is Spain’s answer to the frittata. Nothing more than eggs, potatoes and onions, it’s a meal in itself. This comforting, classic Spanish egg dish is popular throughout the country and is served at seemingly every restaurant and café.
Strata is similar to a frittata, with the addition of bread to soak up the eggy custard. Think of it like a savory bread pudding. A strata is an easy, crowd-pleasing dish that makes for a perfect brunch dish and calls for a minimum number of everyday ingredients—eggs, cheese, milk, day-old bread, and whatever additions you like, such as asparagus, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, etc. The perfect thing about a strata is that it can be prepared the night before and popped in the oven the next morning.
French quiche is similar to strata in that it features a creamy, luscious egg custard; however, instead of pouring the custard over the bread as you would for a strata, the custard is baked in a ﬂaky crust. As with frittata and strata, add any number of extras to a quiche, such as cheese, caramelized onions, leeks, sautéed mushrooms, or leafy greens.
If you’re looking for something light and airy, a French souﬄé has your name written all over it. A souﬄéis a baked egg dish made with egg yolks and whipped egg whites. The word souﬄé comes from “souﬄer” which means “to breathe” or “to puﬀ,” which is precisely what happens when the beaten egg whites expand in the oven as gases and steam inﬂate tiny air bubbles, resulting in an airy and delicate middle with a golden, crusty exterior.
Shakshuka is a decidedly tasty alternative to your ordinary omelet. Shakshuka has its origins in North Africa, though has certainly found its way to the United States in recent years. Shakshuka translates to “all mixed up,” as the eggs are poached in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices. There are many versions of shakshuka. Some use paprika, and others use a spicy North African chili paste known as harissa. You can make this dish as ﬁery as you please by adding more harissa. Italy puts its own spin on this dish called uova in purgatorio (“eggs in purgatory”). This name refers to the sizzling red tomato sauce in which the eggs are slowly simmered.
Last but not least, there are a couple of Turkish egg dishes that should be on your radar. Menemen is a deceptively simple egg dish packed with loads of ﬂavor. In it, eggs are scrambled until just barely set, then mixed with tomatoes, chilies, and good glug of olive oil. And, if you’ve not tried çilbir (Turkish poached eggs), consider whipping up a batch ASAP. Çilbir is an incredibly comforting dish of poached eggs over spiced yogurt, drizzled with chile infused olive oil. Just make sure to serve with ﬂatbread to scoop it all up.
Whether your pantry is starting to look bare, or you have more vegetables than you know what to do with, take a cue from the Mediterranean and whip together a delicious, vegetable-packed egg dish. No matter the time of day, these hearty, balanced dishes are sure to satisfy.
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