Tuesday, September 30, 2008

City Kitchen Chronicles: An Omelette

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Today I bring you a recipe – which didn’t start out as a recipe or an attempt at anything other than a quick, healthy breakfast – that was so good that when I got up to take my plate to the sink I said, out loud, in my empty apartment, “Holy crap that was good!”

But to backtrack a bit... I think I’ve written before of my love and appreciation for beet greens. Love because they’re tasty. Appreciation because they’re healthy and, if you’re lucky, free.

Beet greens are my very own urban foraging. No, I’m not picking them wild in the park and growing from cracks in the sidewalk. I’m foraging them, discarded, from the refuse crates under the tables at the farmers market. When people buy beets at the market, nine times out of ten they take them without the tops, which are chucked along with radish and carrot greens into crates that eventually go to be composted. If you ask nicely (I mean, if you ask at all, but why not ask nicely), the folks working at the farm stand will happily give you a bagful of the discarded greens, or let you take your own.

It’s like freegan-lite – it’s not a garbage pile, only freshly cut off plant tops. But it’s still excitingly free.

You can cook beet greens like spinach or any similar green. Because beets aren’t cultivated for their tops, the leaves are sometimes spotty or a bit bug-bitten, but as long as they’re not wilted or slimy, they’re still totally good, and they can keep in the fridge for almost a week.

I usually sautee them with garlic and oil, to be added to other veggies and protein. But getting a little bored with that, I started thinking of other ways I use spinach that would work for these greens. They’re a little more bitter than spinach, and I don’t love them raw, but this morning I stumbled into this “Holy crap that was good” preparation that takes advantage of the extra punch they pack, and is super healthy and, yay! – dirt cheap.

It was, after all, breakfast time, so I chopped up some already-sauteed greens to use as omelette filling. The accidental magic, though, was in the spices I added to the greens. I was reheating them with some nutritional yeast, and started reaching for spices. There's something about the combination I ended up with (cinnamon??) that feels Moroccan to me. I'm not sure why. It’s a flavor combination I don’t usually end up with, but daaaaaaaamn. Enjoy.

(A note on the price of this recipe: I buy local, free-range, happy-chicken eggs from the farmers market. Local, free-range, happy-chicken eggs are also expensive eggs. Supermarket eggs, obviously, will make this a much cheaper recipe.)

Vaguely Moroccan (or something) Beet Green Omelette
(serves 1)

2 eggs
½ cup cooked beet greens (about 3 cups raw)
½ t oil
2 T nutritional yeast (nooch)
½ t cumin
1/4 t cinnamon
½ t dried minced garlic (or fresh)
¼ t dried minced onion (or fresh)
generous pinch salt & pepper

(A note on spice quantities - I didn't measure anything when I made this... unless you count the eggs. The nooch was a few generous shakes, the cumin was a generous dash, the cinnamon was a small dash. Do what feels right, taste, change as needed.)

1) Chop the cooked (cooled) beet greens. Sautee with a smidge of oil. Add nooch, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Sautee until hot, set aside.

2) Separate eggs.

3) Beat egg whites until bubbly. Reincorporate yolks. (An extra bit of time to spend on weekend mornings for an extra fluffy omelette. Regular unseparated egg-beating also works fine.)

4) Make an omelette,* with the beet green mixture as filling.

*Omelette technique is really a trial-by-error sort of thing, and lots of people have different methods. Mine is pretty hands off: Pour the beaten eggs into a medium-hot pan; when the edges are set-ish, pour the filling into the middle; when the whole thing is close to set but not dry, fold the omelette into thirds over the filling; cover, and keep cooking until you think it's done; learn over time how long it takes; enjoy.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
168 calories, 11 g fat, $1.03

2 eggs - 125 calories, 8g fat, $.58
½ cup cooked beet greens (about 3 cups raw) - 35 calories, 2g fat, free!
1/2 t oil - 20 calories, 2g fat, $.05
2 T (nooch) - 31 calories, 0 fat, $.70
½ t cumin - negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 t cinnamon - negligible calories and fat, $.02
½ t dried minced garlic (or fresh) - negligible calories and fat, $.01
¼ t dried minced onion (or fresh) - negligible calories and fat, $.01
generous pinch salt & pepper - negligible calories and fat, $.02
TOTAL PER SERVING: 211 calories, 12 g fat, $1.41

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