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).
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.
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