June 5, 2007

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Right now I am reading Eat, Pray, Love. In the first part, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels to Italy in search of pleasure, the art of eating well. At one point, she describes a meal that "will always count amongs the happiest [hours] of my life." After purchasing some "thin, bright asparagus" from a vegetable stand in Rome, she goes back to her apartment where she soft-boiled a pair of fresh brown eggs for her lunch, peeled the eggs and arranged them on a plate beside the seven stalks of asparagus (which were so slim and snappy they didn't need to be cooked at all), put some olives on the plate with four knobs of goat cheese and two slices of pink, oily salmon.

She writes, "For the longest time I couldn't even touch this food because it was such a masterpiece of lunch, a true expression of the art of making something out of nothing. Finally, when Ihad fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat int he patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and ate every bite of it, with my fingers, while reading my daily nespaper article in Italian. Happiness inhabited my every molecule."

I read that yesterday morning and actually salivated. I then remembered a recipe in Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites cookbook for "Soft-boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers" and decided to make that for my lunch.

I don't recall ever cooking soft-boiled eggs, though I know I have eaten them at some point in my life. It seems like such an easy thing, especially compared to the last two recipes I've tackled. But, I was ready for something a little lighter and simpler.

Nevertheless, I thought that if I was going to make such a simple recipe I needed to have the correct paraphenalia. So, I stopped by my favorite little antique shop in town in search of a pair of porcelean egg cups. Buyer's remorse hit me as soon as I stepped out onto the sidewalk after my purchase, but I figured that the $12 cups were a good investment. After all, part of the joy of eating a soft-boiled egg is in the aesthetic of it all. I simply couldn't eat it without the equipment.

At home, I followed Nigella's recipe: Bring a pot of water to a boil, lower in the eggs, and boil steadily for four minutes. Immediately cut off the tops, sprinkle in some salt, then dunk in the steamed asparagus spears. I also dunked in some slices of crusty french bread. When the runny golden yolks were gone, I scooped out the delicate whites and ate them on the bread with herbed butter. I sat at the kitchen table, eating with my fingers, taking my time to savor the texture and flavor of the eggs.

I am typically pretty picky about how my eggs are cooked; I usually can't stomach runny eggs. But these were good. Really good. I am thinking they should be a new lazy late morning ritual.

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