A Shared Tradition: Eggs for Breakfast

September 7, 2012

In her biweekly column, A Shared TraditionCIA grad and amateur food historian Molly Siegler cruises around the world (and into the depths of her pantry) to explore the versatility of a single food item. 

This week: Molly unearths four egg-centric recipes that are made for mornings.

Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs
Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs (photo by James Ransom)

- Molly

I’ve always had a bit of a rocky relationship with eggs. When I still needed a step stool to reach the counter, I helped in the kitchen, and my breakfast job was to break up raw eggs for scrambling. I often snuck bites of the gooey raw egg yolks (there’s photographic proof), which might explain why eggs and I started off on the wrong foot. 

When I moved on to cooked eggs, I first insisted that they be evaporated to a fine powder (I exaggerate only slightly). Then, when eggs were allowed to appear in larger morsels, they were barely visible through a thick veil of hot sauce. I have since matured and have learned to embrace eggs in their natural form. I even have an egg joke (it’s the only joke I know).

If you’re a little egg shy, too, these dishes will help to prove your commitment to the breakfast table workhorse.

Israeli
Shakshuka has left a trail of happy egg eaters across Northern African and the Middle East, and is ensconced in Israeli culinary tradition.

  • Roughly chopped tomatoes, onions, and a mix of sweet and hot peppers stew away to develop the poaching liquid.
  • Fresh eggs are cracked directly into the tomato base, and then basted with the sauce to cook the whites.
  • Tangy, crumbled feta is distributed evenly atop the poached eggs.
  • Warm pita bread should be on hand to sop up the sauce.

Persian
A frittata look-alike, the green-tinged egg cake kuku-ye sabzi (often called "kuku" for short) is a traditional New Year's dish in Iran, and may be eaten hot or cold.

  • Fresh, leafy green herbs -- parsley, cilantrodill -- and scallions form the bulk of this egg dish.
  • Advieh is a Persian spice mix typically consisting of cinnamon, dried rose petals, cardamom, and cumin, and should be added liberally to the mix.
  • Dried barberries (zereshk) have a sharp, sour flavor and pop against the deep emerald backdrop of the kuku. Yotam Ottolenghi recommends a bit of lime juice if barberries can’t be found.

Tex-Mex
Migas (Spanish for "crumbs") is a Texas standard, perfect for weekend brunches.

  • Crushed tortilla chips or slices of stale corn tortillas flesh out this scrambled egg variation.
  • Jalapeños ratchet up the heat.
  • Homemade salsa is added to the migas in the last few moments of cooking time, just long enough to warm through.
  • Top with a generous helping of chopped cilantro and grated Monterey Jack.

Japanese
A sweetened, rolled omelet often served in slices, Tamagoyaki makes appearances in breakfast spreads and bento boxes alike.

  • Mirin, a sweetened, rice-based cooking wine, and soy sauce provide the seasoning and give the layered eggs a tawny glow.
  • Sugar balances the savory elements of the omelet and adds a bit of surprise in this simple preparation.
  • Only a few tablespoons of the gently beaten egg mixture (sometimes thinned with a splash of dashi) are added to a small pan at a time, each addition forming a layer in the fluffy egg log being rolled back and forth.

Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs Petite Pea Omelet with Mint and Mascarpone
Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs and Petite Pea Omelet with Mint and Mascarpone. Photos by Sarah Shatz (left) and James Ransom.

These are just a few of the ways I like to travel by way of eggs in the morning. What other regionally inspired flavors would you use to make this breakfast powerhouse your own? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Do you love a good food theme as much as I do? Tell me what food items or themes you'd like to see featured in this column and your idea could be the subject of an upcoming post!

Like this post? See Molly's previous topic: Soda.

When she's not dreaming up themed menus and exploring the wilds of Northern Wisconsin, Molly's dishing out other delicious content as the assistant editor for the Whole Foods Market Cooking program.

Molly Head Shot

14 Comments Add a Comment
  • Missing_avatar

    Jan Dash says: I am always looking for "tiny" food= VERY small portions presented either individually or more often in groups on platters. I like Japanese food for the small portions and I am starting to be interested in tapas as well. I like the idea of a very small and beautiful portion presented as a work of art (but good to eat too!). I don't know if you consider this idea a "theme" but if it is something that interests you, too, I'd be very happy to see what you come up with.

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: Thanks Jan! I love the idea of focusing on intentionally small portions. I will start thinking about a possible theme!

    about 1 year ago
  • Don4

    dgibson says: The tamagoyaki is great fun to make and yummy, too!

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: I love it, too! Have you ever put sugar on scrambled eggs for a similar effect?

    about 1 year ago
  • Don4

    dgibson says: Sugar on plain scrambled eggs? That would be cheating!

    about 1 year ago
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: A little bit cheating, it's true! :)

    about 1 year ago
  • Missing_avatar

    Jan Dash says: I am always disappointed when recipes call for unknown ingredients- especially by brand name. The Internet is INTERNATIONAL and while most foods or their substitutes are available, they are not recognisable by brand and quantities are not recognisable by words like package, stick or tin. What size, PLEASE! Also please remember to include metric measurements as the USA is the only place in the world that still uses imperial measurements. Disappointingly so many food blogs reveal their writers to be excellent cooks but quite parochial ones. A slight change in point of view would make friends world-wide.

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: Hi Jan, Though I'm not sure what recipes you're referring to, I'm sure you noticed that the blogs I linked to are from all over the world. I chose them because they most accurately recorded the egg dish I was highlighting. A Shared Tradition is designed to inspire Whole Foods Market Cooking community members to explore international food traditions, which I hope appeals to our entire Cooking community. It's also so easy (because the internet is international) to search for specific measurement conversions if recipes don't have metric units. I have to do the same in reverse for many of my favorite recipes.

    about 1 year ago
  • Missing_avatar

    Katy says: Man, that joke definitely deserved to be featured in the post, you tease! But I'm glad I found it down here in the comments. On to eggs, I have always loved eggs any way any time (except raw... eek!) and those Israeli AND Moroccon renditions above look/sound AMAZING, maybe I'll have to try this weekend, I do have a bunch of eggs I need to use up... ALSO, in Spain, migas is a little different, all bread crumbs with some sausage or pomegranate or whatever you like, so basically like stuffing? I didn't realize there was a Tex Mex migas with eggs, I'll have to scope that out. Your blog is so educational.

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: I'm glad you like my joke! I would love to know how the Israeli or Moroccan poached eggs go for you -- which variation do you think you will make? Did the Spanish migas you had have pomegranate seeds on top? I like your comparison to stuffing; it's certainly more starch-heavy than the Tex-Mex variety.

    about 1 year ago
  • 290

    aargersi says: Now I have to confess - it was Laughing Cow Light garlic and herb. I love that stuff! I am a Laughing Cow Advocate! Your breakfast sounds yum too - I am out of tomatoes and will rectify tomorrow

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: Nothing wrong with a go-to flavor enhancer! :)

    about 1 year ago
  • 290

    aargersi says: HAHA! And - grooaaaannnnn scrambled eggs with grilled asparagus (leftover) and herb cream cheese down the hatch

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: Those scrambled eggs sound perfect! What herbs were in your cream cheese? I pulled off a fried egg sandwich on Finnish rye (with lots of tomatoes on the side) for breakfast.

    about 1 year ago
  • 290

    aargersi says: Allright then, let's hear that joke! I'll go fix some eggs while I wait ....

    about 1 year ago Reply to this »
  • Molly1bw

    molly's kitchen says: Oh good! I was hoping someone would take the bait -- thank you for stepping up to the plate, aargersi! Ahem. Why do the French only eat one egg for breakfast? Because one egg is an oeuf!

    about 1 year ago

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