Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dinner for Two- Eggs in Purgatory

Farmers Market season is just a mere five days away now and I can hardly wait! Des Moines is home to the number two  of The Best 101 Farmers Markets in the nation as ranked by The Daily Meal. That's pretty exciting! This year the market opens with 288 vendors, selling everything from produce, to crafts, to meat and eggs, to home baked goods and so much more. Hard to believe our amazing farmers market began with just fifteen vendors, so long ago in 1976. Seems a lifetime ago. Now it's a destination, a great spot for a date, a family outing, and with all the condos and lofts in downtown, a fantastic place to grocery shop!


Some of my farmers market goodies from seasons past
So, it's time for the 2017 farmers market. I've been reading up on what's new this year. Forty seven new vendors, that's what!! The market averages 97 farmers and produce growers. I love the fresh produce, not just the everyday stuff, but the unusual lettuces and greens, carrots in every color, all kinds of unusual mushrooms, just everything you can think of. Livestock farmers bring some of the most amazing meat products and eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Have you ever had a true farm fresh egg? Yes, the yolk is bright orange and not the dull yellow of commercially produced eggs, but the shells- the shells are not usually white! Most often you'll find brown eggs but many chickens produce "Easter eggs" in all shades of blue and green. They are beautiful and delicious. Ever try a duck egg or a quail egg? You can find them at the market.


Iowa is a rising star in the winery and brewery worlds and those businesses make their place at the market too. Iowa is a wonderful state for grape growing and we have some fantastic varieties. Brianna, Edelweiss, Marechal Foch and Frontenac are just a few. Need something to go with that wine? You can find artisinal cheesemakers at the market too. In fact, with some of the gourmet food producers, you can assemble a pretty darn good charcuterie plate from goodies you bought at the market. Grab a baguette from one of the many bakers that have stands, and take home a jar of jam or jelly too.

The changing seasons give you an ever rotating selection of fresh produce. Spring vegetables like asparagus, spinach and morel mushrooms are among the first to appear. The warm summer months bring bushels of green beans, onions, more salad vegetables, Iowa sweet corn, and the joy of the market- the Iowa summer tomato. I can taste them now. Summer gives way to the cooler days of autumn, and that means last season crops, greens, onions, potatoes, squash and pumpkins. Soooo many beautiful squash and pumpkins. You might even find a pumpkin pie or two.


Hungry now? You're in the right place, and you don't have to munch on your fresh produce. The market is packed with great food to eat as you stroll. Egg rolls, pupusas, Nepalese dumplings, breakfast burritos, pastries, gelato and breads, and if you are in a people watching mood, the Court Avenue District has a host of restaurants with sidewalk seating, so you can enjoy the gorgeous sunshine, sip a mimosa or Bloody Mary or an iced tea and watch the action. You will always find some live entertainment too. Musicians, street performers, dance troupes- there is always something fun going on.


I had a couple handfuls of sliced scallion and chopped
tomatoes in the fridge- tossed them in there too.
Before we get to our recipe, let's go back to the tomatoes. If you have ever had a garden, if you've ever tasted a juicy tomato fresh off the vine and still warm, if you've ever had to settle for a supermarket tomato in the middle of February, you know what I'm talking about. Summertime is also when we are the busiest, and least likely to want to come home and cook a big meal. As a kid we would even have dinners of sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and maybe some sweet corn. Believe me we weren't poor, but Dad was a gardener, and those home grown tomatoes....... mmmmmmm. Anyway, the farmers market is the perfect spot to grab the ingredients for this simple dinner. Basics- tomatoes, eggs, herbs. This classic Italian egg dish is so quick to get together whether you use fresh tomatoes or a can of crushed tomatoes. Grab a box of those beautiful Easter Eggs and some fresh herbs, a head of garlic, and a baguette. Now you're all set! The origin of the name "Eggs in Purgatory" is a little fuzzy. It's very similar to the African "shakshouka" and not all that removes from Huevos Rancheros if you think about it. Maybe it's the slightly spicy tomato sauce the eggs are simmered in, I don't really know, but I do know this- it's delicious, easy and good for you! Let's make some.

Eggs in Purgatory

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
big pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 eggs
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
crusty bread for serving

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook and stir until garlic is softened but not brown. Add the Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper, and cook for about a minute until fragrant.


Add the tomatoes to the skillet. Reduce heat and cover. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.


While the sauce is simmering, cut 4 slices from the crusty bread. Brush each side with olive oil and toast on both sides. Place two toasts on each of two plates and set aside. Reserve remaining bread for serving.

I had dinner for one, so I spooned a small amount of the
sauce into my mini cast iron skillet for one egg.
With a spoon make 4 wells in the sauce. Break the eggs into a small bowl, one at a tie, then slip each egg into a well. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook to desired doneness. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Use a slotted spoon to place the eggs on the toast slices, sprinkle with additional cheese if desired. Drizzle with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with additional bread for sopping up the sauce.


My yolk was soft but not runny, and it was still delicious.
Since The Chef was not home for dinner, mine was actually dinner for one. I soooo love breakfast for dinner, and trying new ways to prepare eggs. Normally I am not a  runny egg yolk kind of person but I am really trying to embrace them, especially since May is National Egg Month and Iowa is one of the top producing egg states in the U.S. The slightly spicy Italian sauce and crusty bread helps. This easy meal is perfect for busy nights and needs nothing more than a little salad with a vinaigrette on the side to complete your feast.

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