Weeknight Vegetarian: Egg on, egg off

Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post - Spaghetti With Greens and Pistachio Pesto.

One of my favorite rejoinders when accosted by salesfolk in clothing stores comes when they ask, “Looking for anything special?”

“Of course,” I say. “I’m always looking for something special.”

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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It’s a joke, but I do pursue clothing that I think won’t show up being worn by every other co-worker at the office or every other stranger in a restaurant. I feel the same way about cooking; I want ingredients that put a twist on a dish. For a long while, one of those ingredients has been the egg. I’ve been known to put a runny-yolk egg on just about any dish in need of a little oomph.

At a recent event in Atlanta to promote my new book, though, one of the audience members asked me how my palate has changed in my year-plus of committed vegetarianism, and the answer surprised me as soon as I realized it: I’ve been putting fewer eggs on things. The more vegetarian dishes I cook (and eat), the more my palate is appreciating combinations that don’t require a hit of golden-yolk protein to make them feel satisfying.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like eggs-for-dinner anymore. When I was flipping through Lara Ferroni’s recent book, “Put an Egg on It: 70 Delicious Dishes That Deserve a Sunny Topping” (Sasquatch Books, 2013), more than one recipe jumped out at me. But it was the combination of spaghetti, wilted greens, a quick pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes that quickly made it into my dinner lineup. With a sunny-side-up egg on top (sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes), it was rich and hearty yet also bright and spicy — just the thing for this time of year.

When I ate what was left over the next night, without the egg, I liked it just as much. I didn’t miss the egg — not then, anyway. When I do miss it, I’ll fry one up and put it on whatever I want.

I’ll do that not because an egg is the default, or a reflex. It will be because the egg is special.

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