Of Daffodils and Omelettes

Happy vernal equinox! Astronomically speaking, that means equal parts night and day (give or take eight minutes); here on the ground level of the Northern Hemisphere, it also means spring is kicking winter to the curb (fingers crossed).

Eggs and herbs: A fitting way to say hello to spring. (Kim O'Donnel)

The changing of the seasonal guard officially takes place this evening at 8:07 ET, and I for one can't wait. Seven years ago at this time of year, I was enrolled at a cooking school in the Piedmont region of Italy. I remember the mornings best, as they were crisp and slow to start, but eventually the sluggish sun did rise to remind us that "primavera" had arrived.

Broken down, the Italian word is translated as "first" -- and then some combination of look (from the verb "vedere"), view (from "vista) and true ("vera"). A first true look/view. Yeah, that's about right.

For many of us, this time of year yields little in the garden or at the farm, but that's okay. What's key is the arrival of this day, the one that rewards us with an emotional high-five, the place in the road that embraces potential of things to come -- the sense of renewal, rebirth and growth.

In the coming weeks, you'll start to see signs of produce life at market -- baby pea shoots and broccoli sprouts, tender lettuces and maybe some early 'cress. You might get a whiff of morels, a gander at rhubarb and the crunch of a breakfast radish. It's all coming, slowly but surely.

Next month (after Easter), the citizens of Egypt mark the seasonal shift with Sham el nessim, an ancient secular holiday, which is translated as "sniffing the breeze." I love that imagery -- when was the last time you sniffed the breeze? Makes me want to hang laundry outside to dry and pick daffodils.

The very color of a daffodil -- an assertive, gently sun-kissed yellow -- is what brings me to eggs. While I wait for Mother Nature to release her first crops, I turn to my frying pan and fry a coupla eggs.

Lightly beaten, with salt, pepper and hot sauce, plainly cooked eggs cooked omelette style, with a smattering of fresh herbs are the epitome of spring. Now, I'm talking a very thin layer, so thin you can almost see through the hot pan, which is greased with butter or olive oil.

Sure, I know, we can get eggs all year round (although I highly recommend you go with the chicken flow at your neighborhood farm market and taste the difference), and that parsley (pictured in the above photo) is from California, but the freshness of the colors, the sparkle of the yellow against the green, remind me of the field of daffodils I passed this morning.

If you've got five minutes, you've got enough time for an omelette aux fines herbes.
Use a pan no more than 1 inch deep, shallower is even better. Heat your fat of choice, then add your seasoned beaten eggs (no more than 2 if you want the desired thinness). Using the handle, tilt the skillet so that the egg covers the entire surface, and reduce heat.

Meanwhile, chop your favorite leafy herb - parsley, chervil, chives, basil, mint - and sprinkle in the middle of the eggs. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon with a flat edge, gently prod edges of omelette to make sure it's not sticking. Within 2 minutes, the omelette will transform from liquid to solid. With your flat-edged tool, coax one end of the omelette to fold over, and allow to cook until desired doneness.

Tilt omelette out of pan onto a plate and dig in. Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner, just like food doyenne M.F.K. Fisher used to do.

What's your favorite way to say hello to spring? Share in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 20, 2007; 11:15 AM ET Spring Discoveries
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My way to say hello to spring is to hose off the patio table and chairs and eat my first meal outside when the weather warms up.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 12:25 PM

Forget the California parsley. Instead, turn to Nature's spring partner for eggs, the dandelion. Early spring brings tender leaves and succulent little buds that are delicious sauteed in a little olive oil, then coated with eggs. You'll never use weed killer again.

Posted by: kaleberg | March 20, 2007 12:26 PM

Dandelion tea, freah-picked with extremely-hot water and sugar.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 1:04 PM

I have had daffodils up in my garden since January (it was mild this year) and buds since mid-February. This weekend I cut a handful to put in a vase on the mantel. I also have a row of lilacs along the front of the yard and absolutely have to cut bunches for the mantel when they bloom in late April. I clean up the porch furniture and spend a lot of evenings sitting on the porch with candles, a glass of wine, and just breathe in the fresh air.

Foodwise, I look for fresh strawberries, asparagus, and salmon in the market and prepare a special dinner.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | March 20, 2007 2:01 PM

My favorite spring dish is "Luau Roasted Crooked Politician"

To make this dish you must have the ingredients - and if you do you're already in need of some therapy of the hearth. There is nothing to relieve stress like a rewarding afternoon communing with your stove and a lardar full of ethics.

At this time of year we in
America luckily (or unluckily as it may be) have a number of fine speciments to choose from. We have crooked elected, AND appointed officials, AND their aides! What a spring bounty to choose from!

After you've selected the constitution subjugating offender of your choice prepare a bed of hot coals in your back yard. You'll want to do this "Luau Style", wrapping the criminal in chicken wire so that the meat falling off of the bones is kept intact whule buried under hot stones and earth, like that of a luau hog. When the hardwood has reduced itself to strong coals glowing white hot you'll cover the bed with large stones. Place a few of them inside the gutted politician, so that the cooking is even throughout. Now bury your chicken wire wrapped pol by placing him (or her - Ms. Katherine Harris and Ms. "Addam's Apple" Coulter are still available, we understand. Ms. Schlafly is deemed too tough and leathery for an enjoyable dish) on top of the rock bed, cover them with more rocks, a canvas tarp, and earth. Leave for a fun afternoon and by evening (cooking time varies - hardcore criminals are tougher and require more time than lackey staffers toosed into the market as a scapegoat) approx 10 hours, the world will be a much happier place and you'll delight your friends by reciting the indictments made of your main course while sipping mai-tais before dinner. Serve with grilled pineapple, mango, and spring-fresh produce from your local farmers market. If you prefer texas style bar-b-que, be sure not to mop the politician with sauce before its completely roasted (roasted in the cooking process, not in the press... big difference) Bon Appetite!

Posted by: Long Beach CA | March 20, 2007 3:20 PM

Long Beach CA, take it somewhere else.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 4:08 PM

My sign of spring is picnics. What goes in them varies, but the eating out is the same. I ride a motorcycle, but not in winter weather. When the days get longer and warmer, I'll head off on the bike with a picnic lunch and a nice book in my saddlebags. When I get hungry, I find a nice park and pull over. I think I've eaten lunch in every state park in Western or Central Maryland by now.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | March 20, 2007 4:12 PM

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