Monday, November 2, 2015

This is a blog about food and stories.  The two are definitely tied, because food is more than sustenance.  It tells the story of the moment we're in whenever we eat it, plays on our emotions in ways that little else does (even our relationships with other living beings), and evokes memories whenever we revisit specific meals.  Fried chicken--memories of overnight soaks in milk or beer and all day frying that filled the house with warm succulence; baked beans--big backyard parties filled with margaritas and a drunken miniature Schnauzer weaving through laughter and poolside discussions, sipping on more cups left on the ground... you get the drift.  And, so, welcome to a journey through the glories of food and the way it makes us feel--good, bad, happy or sad--told with a literary flair.

I love telling stories with food.  It's my form of painting and whenever I discover a unique take on how to make everyday food even more engaging, I'm not only intrigued, but charmed.  Today, I went to the market to grab some stuff.  You know, the basics that make up a family meal.  I cook every single night--it's just how I am--and I am at the grocery store a hell of a lot.  I like the grocery store.  Actually, I love grocery shopping in all its forms--the general supermarket, the farmers markets, specialty markets, ethnic markets... each one brings a smile to my face when I go.  I can spend as much time in any one of those as I can a book store, which is a long time.  And I love to check out the different sorts of stories companies tell on their packaging.  I'm a writer as well as a lover of creating food, and since my goal in life is to write and cook and find a way to bring the two together in a seamless, emotionally (and tummy) satisfying way, those kinds of things tickle me.  I laugh when they're both done well and poorly--some of the funniest jokes are the ones you'll read on a package desperately trying to set itself apart with its literary attempts.   And I discovered an incredibly glorious bit of warmth and emotional pull with an egg carton.

Yes, you read right.  An egg carton.  It's beautiful.  Simply put.  Absolutely beautiful.  It's more than how it looks, which is a delight and joy, but it's how much heart went into creating an experience with it to make it stand out amid the vast array of "organic" and "free range" and "cooler than any other eggs" that are screaming "pick me!  pick me!" in the egg aisle.  The name of the eggs are Al Fresco Eggs and I fell in love instantly.  The farm that offers the eggs is called Vital Farms and any of the cartons that feature those particular eggs are full of character, story and just plain wonder.

The simple act of creating an egg dish now becomes something to which to look forward.  Because these eggs have a history, a becomes something to which to look forward.  Because these eggs have a history, a background and a way of engaging you that you never really thought was possible in, yep, eggs.  They make me want to cook more and they send me on a journey down memory lane that I had put so far down, it was like a dream.

My father used to make us these pizza omelets that used leftover pizza as the filling.  They were amazing.  Not because of how good they tasted, but because of how much love and time he put into them.   My dad worked crazy hours.  We didn't see him a whole lot and the time we got to spend with him was precious.  Some Saturdays, if we were lucky, were spent going to Shakey's Pizza Parlor (which, I learned, was the first franchise pizza joint in the United States) with whatever friends we could muster, ordering enough of their thin crust pizzas to appease whomever we had with us, devouring them to our heart's content, but always making sure we had leftover, because that would mean Sundays were Greg's Leftover Pizza Topping Omelet Breakfast.  Dad was no one's early riser, which was fine for a sleepy Sunday morning, and he'd get up, go into the kitchen, and start making us our omelets.  It was that one time when he was purely there for our benefit.  He was all dad, not Greg, not Himself (which he liked to call, um, himself), just Dad.  Even Daddy.  The omelets were always a little underdone inside--creamy, actually--but that added to the flavor, the mystique, the entire event of it all.  You'd take a bite and were transported into his warm, smokey arms and, for just a few hours, you could imagine he was just like any other dad and wouldn't be off working all hours of the night and day in the week to come.  You could imagine him showing up at your softball game, tossing footballs to you on the beach, showing you how to swim... for awhile.  That was the power of those omelets, at least for me.

Al Fresco Eggs transported me to that memory and made me want to make a new one with my own sons.  It wasn't until I was looking at the carton of Al Fresco Eggs that I realized I'd never made those omelets for my kids nor shared that story with them.  It was something rather precious, deeply personal and such a part of my kiddom, I didn't want to pursue it from an adult angle.  But, my sons never knew my father.  He died when they were both babies and although he held each one, I don't have any pictures of him doing so.  So, I dusted off my memory, made some pizza then made them my father's omelets (with, of course, my spin).  They loved them.  Not only because they were delicious (which they assured me they were), but because of how much heart and soul I channeled from him to put into them.  It was like being with him again and I would make them everyday just for that.

I thank Al Fresco Eggs for taking me down that road.  Food does that, even the simplest kind.  I'd love to know what has done that for you--made you smile, laugh, cringe, be transported to a memory when you least expect it.  And what kind of memory did that one little morsel bring up for you?

We all have them.  Food just does that to us.  It's that visceral experience that makes us sit up and take stock of our life in the most unique way.  It's why I love food, because it's so much more than just sustenance.  It's the story of us.

And here's the story of my father's omelets cooked in my world of today.
I hope you enjoy them and create your own food story to share.


Ingredients (for 2 omelets):
6 eggs
A couple of drops of water
salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste (optional)
sprinkling of dried thyme, oregano & basil
1/4 cup (4 tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
2 slices of leftover pizza (preferrably thin crust, but whatever works for you) or however many you need to make 1 1/2 cups, finely chopped, split (3/4 cup & 3/4 cup)
1 cup marinara sauce (we use homemade, but a really good jarred sauce will do just fine, I recommend Newman's Own Organic, but that's me)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, chunks torn

What to do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºF.  Place two oven safe dinner plates in the oven to get warm.
  2. Crack 3 eggs into a bowl, add a couple of drops of water, the salt & pepper (optional), sprinkling of the herbs and whisk until creamy.  Add 3/4 cup of the chopped pizza and stir until combined.
  3. Heat the melted butter in a 10" frying pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat until hot--do a sizzle test with a couple of drops of water.  If they sizzle across the pan, then it's ready.  Pour in the eggs and swirl them about in the pan until the bottoms set.  Here is also where you can add salt & freshly ground pepper, if you like.  Gently lift the eggs and flip them.  Turn the heat to low and cover with a lid.  Let sit 1-2 minutes or until eggs are gently cooked through.
  4. Lift the lid and fold the eggs in half.  Slip onto one of the heated plates and return to the oven while you make the second omelet.
  5. While the second omelet is cooking, heat the 1 cup of the marinara sauce in a small sauce pan until bubbling.  Drizzle a little hot sauce over each omelet and top with a few bits of the torn mozzarella chunks.  Ladle the rest of the sauce into two ramekins, top these with the rest of the mozzarella and serve beside the omelets.
  6. Serve the omelets with the melty marinara and leftover heated pizza, if you like.
Honestly, these are more frittata-like than omelet, but they taste great.