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SEASONAL PANTRY

Blossoms, cheeses, happy hens and other signs of spring

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.

Spring always makes me think of a collection of poetry by D. H. Lawrence called, “Look! We Have Come Through!” The title is enough and I read it as a gentle sigh, heaved outside on a spring morning when the trees, cloaked in a frenzy of overnight blossoms, are lit by the fire of sunlight pouring over the horizon.

We've made it through another winter. Spring, with all that it promises, is inevitable and imminent.

Trees all over the North Bay are beginning to bloom and, any day now, wisteria flowers will begin to emerge. A few farmers are beginning to harvest asparagus and there will be more soon, along with fresh favas, English peas, nettles and the first local strawberries.

Watch for fresh spring cheeses, too.

Hens are happier now that days are lengthening and growing warmer, so egg production is up. If you buy generic eggs in a supermarket, now is a great time to discover the delicious pleasures of local pastured eggs, which you can find at any farmers market, at some locally owned markets and at countless egg stands throughout the county, many of which operate on the honor system (i.e., take eggs, leave money).

A souffled omelette, sometimes called a puffed or puffy omelet, takes a bit more time than other types of omelettes, but it is not difficult to make and has a lovely ethereal quality, like a spring cloud.

Souffled Omelette, with Variations

Makes 3 to 4 servings

6 large pastured eggs, separated yolks and whites into two large bowls

1 tablespoon butter, cut into small cubes

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

¼ cup cold water

2 tablespoons butter

—Condiments, toppings and fillings of choice (see suggestions below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the butter cubes, a generous few pinches of salt and several generous turns of black pepper to the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Set aside briefly.

Whisk or beat the egg whites until they are quite foamy. Add the cold water and continue to whisk until the eggs form soft peaks that hold their shape when the mixer or whisk is lifted. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the yolks into the whites, being sure not to overmix, as you don't want to lose the egg whites' loft.

Put the 2 tablespoons of butter into a heavy pan, preferably one with sloping sides, such as an All Clad Saucier. Alternately, use a cast-iron frying pan. Set over medium heat and when the butter is melted, tip the pan to coat the sides with the butter.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and, without stirring, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom and sides are set. Transfer to the oven and cook until the omelette is puffed, the middle set and the top lightly browned, about 12 minutes or a bit longer.

Remove from the oven and use a rubber spatula to loosen the sides. Add toppings as described below and either cut the omelette into wedges and serve from the pan or fold in half, turn out onto a plate and serve.

Condiments

Top each serving with a generous dollop of apricot jam or preserves and a smaller dollop of creme fraiche.

Top each serving with about ¼ cup whole-milk yogurt and a spoonful of tapenade.

Sprinkle the surface of the omelette with your favorite hot sauce, fold over and add a spoonful of Mexican crema to each serving.

Toppings

Scatter about 3 ounces of crumbled feta cheese or blue cheese over the cooked omelette, add several turns of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil such as 2012 olio nuovo, cut into wedges and serve.

Grate 3 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on a large blade grater and scatter it over the cooked omelette. Use an eyedropper to add several droplets of true aceto balsamico tradizionale over the omelette, cut into wedges and serve.

Fillings

Saute about 3 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves in a little butter or olive oil and a pressed clove of garlic until just wilted. Season with salt and spread down the center of the cooked omelette. Top with about 3 ounces grated cheddar cheese, fold, tip onto a plate and serve.

Cover the surface of the cooked omelette with thin slices of prosciutto, top with julienned roasted sweet peppers, fold over, tip onto a plate and serve.

Saute a minced shallot and about 4 ounces of maitake (hedgehog) mushrooms in a tablespoon or two of butter until very tender, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt and spread down the center of the omelette. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley on top of the mushrooms, add a few dollops of creme fraiche, fold, tip onto a plate and serve.

Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients. This is an easy dish to make and is best, I think, for supper or dinner on a pretty spring evening. I like to serve it with a mound of roasted asparagus and a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc alongside.

An Ultimate Spring Omelette

Makes 3 to 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter

2 ounces fresh nettles, blanched for 90 seconds, drained and chopped

1 cup shredded fresh sorrel leaves

2 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

6 large pastured eggs, separated whites and yolks into two large bowls

¼ cup cold water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot minced

1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

½ cup fresh favas, blanched and peeled

1 tablespoon best-quality white wine vinegar

½ lemon

½ cup whole-milk yogurt

6 to 8 French breakfast radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

— Several radish leaves, chopped

1 tablespoons fresh snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a heavy pan, preferably one with sloping sides, such as an All Clad Saucier. Add the nettles, sorrel and parsley and saute in the butter until the sorrel just wilts, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Whisk the egg yolks until they are light and fluffy; fold in the cooled nettle mixture. Set aside briefly.

Whisk or beat the egg whites until they are quite foamy. Add the cold water and continue to whisk until the eggs form soft peaks that hold their shape when the mixer or whisk is lifted. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites, being sure not to over mix, as you don't want to lose the egg whites' loft.

Put the 2 tablespoons of butter into the heavy pan, set over medium heat and when the butter is melted, tip the pan to coat the sides with the butter.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and, without stirring, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom and sides are set. Transfer to the oven and cook until the omelette is puffed, the middle set and the top lightly browned, about 12 minutes or a bit longer.

While the omelette cooks, put the olive oil into a small saute pan set over medium heat, add the shallot and cook gently until softened, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute more and season with salt and pepper. Add the fresh favas, vinegar and a little squeeze of lemon juice, swirl the pan and remove from the heat. Taste, correct for salt and acid and set aside.

Working quickly, combine the yogurt, radishes and radish leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut the cooked omelette into wedges, set on individual plates and spoon the warm fava vinaigrette over each portion. Add a generous spoonful of the yogurt and scatter chives over everything. Serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.

E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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