Weeknight Vegetarian: Egg on, egg off

Spaghetti With Greens and Pistachio Pesto. (Deb Lindsey/For the Washington Post)
Food and Dining Editor September 10, 2013

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.”

Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column. View Archive

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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