I seem to have a problem right now. A little glitch in the way my Christmas spirit is playing out. I am not a shopper by any means. For the most part I avoid it with an admirable (I think) level of assiduity. And when I do have to shop, I psych myself up, put on my game face…and then still only last 10-15 minutes before I start to get childishly irritable. Anything I thought that I wanted or needed evaporates from my mind and I enter this amazing ascetic state of not wanting anything except to get out (it’s especially bad in TJ Maxx, even though, yes, I know the store can be incredibly handy for finding things you need like new towels or work clothes that don’t have worn out hems and pockets that lead people to raise a slightly judgmental eyebrow at you). But lately, happily, it has been the time to do some shopping for others, which in general I much prefer.
We’ve been scurrying around, wish lists in tow, searching for the standard hopalong boots for Barney and Ben and that doll that walks and talks for Janice and Jen, and so on. And I keep finding things for myself instead! I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to buy more for yourself than for your entire family shopping list combined, but there these lovely things are sitting on the shelves begging me to give them just a little closer look. A book that I suddenly remembered I want to read. Some awesome eggplant purple running shorts on clearance. Adorable polka dotted napkins. Oh, and this fabulous little individual-sized, red Le Creuset baking dish – on super sale! How could I not buy it? (Don’t answer that.)
Anyway, I saw the lovely little baking dish and the thought that instantly popped like a firecracker into my head was “baked eggs and greens. I need that to make baked eggs and greens for breakfast!” And so I bought it. I’ve had baked eggs on the brain a lot lately (hmmm, if “your brain on drugs” is a fried egg, I wonder what “your brain on eggs” is like?). Heaven knows why. But, this is what we had for breakfast, and then I automatically thought rather well of myself for having had this particular fixation because they were fabulous! The particular eggs I created this morning were inspired by an egg and spinach pizza in the new cookbook by Ottolenghi that I also bought for myself (I’m still obsessed with Mr. Ottolenghi’s cooking, as you have probably gathered). Instead of going through the bother of making a pizza, I used the sauteed spinach and za’atar spice – with the delicious addition of some sliced leek – as a bed into which I nestled the eggs to gently bake. I gave the cheeses and fancy oil drizzles a miss, it was rather early in the morning after all, and just added a nice dollop of sour cream to each serving, which lent the dish a wonderful tang and beautifully softened the unabashed greenness of the spinach. It was sooooo good, and so easy! It was really a remarkable way to wake up. But, ironically, I totally forgot to use my new baking dish! Which, actually, is great because it gives me an excuse to make this again, really, really soon.
Baked eggs with spinach and za’atar (serves 2)
2 or 3 cups packed, chopped spinach
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 medium leek, washed and thinly sliced (only the white and light green parts)
1 1/2 Tbs. butter
1 1/2 tsp. Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend – if you can’t find za’atar use a mixture of sweet paprika, thyme, with a little dash of vinegar and a sprinkling of chili flakes)
salt and pepper
2 dollops of sour cream or plain Greek style yogurt
Preheat your oven to 375F. In a medium sautee pan, heat the butter over medium, then once it is melted and bubbling, stir in the leek and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir occasionally. Then stir in the spinach and the za’atar. Cook for just a couple of minutes – the spinach will wilt down in no time! Transfer the cooked vegetables to a medium-small oven proof baking dish and use a spoon to make four sort of wells or indentations in the spinach. Carefully crack an egg into each of the indentations. Sprinkle the whole thing generously with salt and pepper, then slide it into the oven. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the whites of the eggs have firmed up and set but the yolks are still soft and uncooked. Divide the spinach and eggs between two plates, dollop each plate with a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt and serve. And, if you’d like, serve some nice crusty toasted bread alongside.