I know it sounds dorky and a tad cliché, but my mom is my best friend. As I’ve grown up into a real, ‘adult’ person, she’s become less my authority figure, and more my buddy. We like all the same things, save for my obsession with chlorella and her obsession with jube jubes (sorry mum, you know it’s true). She came all the way from Toronto last weekend to visit me in Copenhagen. Looking back, we didn’t really “do” much except hang out, eat, and sit on my sofa, yapping until we collapsed. In between verbal marathons, I fed us veggies. And on the morning she left, I created a special and scrumptious meal to fill her with as much love as I could possibly muster in food form. Knowing she had a long flight back across the Atlantic, something both filling and energizing was in order – and a dish so delish she would want to come back very soon.
I suppose this creation could be compared to eggs Benedict, but without the defining hollandaise sauce, that meal is just, well, eggs on toast with a slice of ham, right? And my version nixes the bread in favour of roasted sweet potatoes. Plus there’s spinach. And caramelized onions. And rich, gooey tomatoes. Okay, this is nothing like eggs Benedict. It’s a whole new kind of awesome loaded with flavour, texture, stunning colours and satisfaction. Comfort food for the kind of person that feels like going for a walk instead of back to bed after breakfast. Behold the Veggie & Egg Tower of Power.
The other reason I wanted to post this recipe, is because I realized I have never written anything about eggs here at My New Roots. I suppose this is because I don’t eat them very often, and because I try to stick to mostly vegan ingredients so that everyone can enjoy my dishes. But it’s time. We all want to know a little something about those curious little orbs, don’t we? Yes.
Obviously eggs are a huge subject matter that brings up all kinds of issues: the cholesterol question, ethics in raising chickens, salmonella, etc. Although these are all relevant topics, I am going to focus on just one specific topic today and maybe tackle the rest of it another time. Deal? I’ve only got so much free time.
The thing I love most about eggs may surprise you: it’s lecithin. What the heck is that?, you ask. I bet if you were to go into your fridge or pantry right now, you could find at least one packaged food that contains this stuff, especially if you’ve got some ice cream lurking around, yoghurt, cheese, margarine, even bread or granola bars.
Lecithin is a nutrient produced by the liver, and is found in both whole and processed foods. Its function in the body is to emulsify fats, and enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamin A. The big reason for consuming lecithin however is the fact that nearly 1/3 of your brain is made of the stuff. Did you get that?! 30% of your brain’s dry matter is lecithin. Seriously. You can imagine then, that lecithin is rather vital to proper brain function, increasing mental activity and enhancing memory. Lecithin also exhibits a calming effect and can be helpful in reducing hyperactivity. What’s more, lecithin protect against gallstone formation, high blood pressure, and cholesterol excesses.
Whole food sources of lecithin include egg yolks, rice bran and soy beans. Processed foods often contain soy lecithin to ensure that the fats and water-based substances do not separate, and to make the food creamier. It is added to baked goods to prevent the dough from sticking and to improve its ability to rise. Because soy is a very inexpensive and widely cultivated crop, it makes sense to use its byproduct in food processing (soy lecithin comes from the production of soy oil).
The lecithin found in eggs is of high quality and should be eaten with enthusiasm, not fear! Does this mean that egg white omelets are a thing of the past? In my opinion, yes. So much of the good stuff is contained in that gorgeous yolk, but here’s the kicker: you have to keep those bad boys runny. Lecithin is a very delicate nutrient and is destroyed with heat. You know that when the yolks are hard, as in scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs, you’ve gone too far and the lecithin is no longer viable. Poaching and soft boiling are therefore your best choices for preserving the many health benefits of that precious lecithin. Fried eggs are best avoided because of the problems with fried fats.
How to cook eggs with runny yolks, 2 ways
For the perfect soft boiled egg:
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil (no need to use a large pot for this; the water level only needs to come halfway up the egg as long as you use a lid)
2. Drop the number of desired eggs into the pot. Set timer. For medium eggs, 6 minutes. For large eggs, 7 minutes. Cover with a lid.
3. When the time is up, remove eggs and run briefly under cold water. Crack open shell and eat.
For the perfect poached egg:
1. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, add one tablespoon of vinegar, and reduce to a gentle simmer.
2. Crack one egg at a time into a teacup and carefully tip it into the water bath. With a spoon, gently encourage the white to encase the yolk, if desired.
3. Set the timer for 4 minutes.
4. When the time is up, remove egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to remove any excess water. If you are cooking more than one egg at a time, keep the cooked ones in a little bit of poaching water to keep warm.
This recipe is a tad funny: there are surprisingly few ingredients for the lengthy directions that follow. Although no part of the process is difficult or complicated, it requires a little coordination. I suggest reading through all the directions before preparing or cooking anything, as the end product comes together very quickly in a time-sensitive manner (as are most dishes that deal with hot eggs, and runny yolks).
Make sure to choose a sweet potato with some considerable girth, as you will cut it widthwise into discs, which act as the base for the other ingredients. Otherwise, slice the root lengthwise into strips.
1. Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel and slice the onions into rounds. Heat some ghee or oil in a skillet, add onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally (not too often, or they will not brown) until dark, soft and sweet – approx. 30-45 minutes. Do not wash pan after use.
2. Preheat oven to 400 °F/200 °C. Slice sweet potatoes across their width into ¼”/6 mm round discs. Coat with a little ghee or oil, place in a single layer on 2 baking sheets, leaving one sheet with a little space for the tomatoes. Wash and slice tomatoes in half. Place on one baking sheet with sweet potatoes, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until everything is soft. Keep in the oven until ready to serve.
3. Once the onions, sweet potatoes and tomatoes have all finished cooking, put a shallow saucepan of water on to boil, stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
4. Wash spinach, but do not spin dry, as the water will serve to steam the leaves while cooking. Add spinach to the onion pan on low heat and stir occasionally until wilted (3-4 minutes).
5. While the spinach is wilting, poach the egg (see instructions above).
6. While the eggs are poaching, assemble the plate: place 6-7 slices of roasted sweet potato on the bottom, followed by the wilted spinach and caramelized onions. Scatter the roasted tomatoes around the base with a drizzle of good olive oil. Place the poached egg on top of the stack, sprinkle with chili flakes if desired, and a generous grind of sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.
Are you a vegan? I still love you! This dish is totally stellar without the eggs, so give it a shot. I would suggest however some sort of lube on the top, perhaps Green Giant Cilantro Pesto, or Canary Islands Mojo Sauce. Even a decent drizzle of good quality olive oil would do the trick.
Mum, I hope this lip-smacking send-off was enough to convince you to come back sometime soon. I ate the leftovers today and thought of you the whole time, hoping you weren’t back home eating jube jubes for lunch. Thanks for the visit. I love you to the moon.
Source:  Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2003.
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If you haven’t picked up the March issue of Bon Appetit yet, I would highly recommend you do so. This month’s feature on the Tastemakers of 2012 includes yours truly – an indescribable honor! I’ve been crowned “The Queen of Quinoa“. Dreams do come true.