Anyone who has lived with me for any significant period of time can tell you that while I love to cook—multi-course meals and complicated desserts don’t scare me—in addition to fruits and vegetables, the food that is most likely to appear on my plate at any time of day is the humble egg, and not just during its peak Passover/Easter/spring season.
In college, after I moved into an apartment, I retired my cafeteria peanut butter-and-banana panini habit (I haven’t been able to eat one since) in favor of the “eggy in the hole,” also known as “egg in a basket” and “rocky mountain egg” in my house (we don’t know why either…): cut a hole in a piece of bread; put it in a hot, lightly-greased pan; drop an egg into the hole and voilà! During finals I ate little but eggs; the rest of the year, they were accompanied by something a bit more balanced. While studying abroad, I took to an egg fried in olive oil, and since college, the same egg has, in most cases, found its home on toasted corn tortillas topped with mashed avocado and a swipe of hot sauce.
Imagine my happiness in Israel, which seems, at least to me, less like the “land of milk and honey” and more like the “land of the egg.” During a visit last winter, I ate so many awesome egg dishes that…well, let’s just say I waited a while before getting my cholesterol levels checked again.
Leah wrote about shakshuka, and I am no stranger to a good one, though I am partial to the North African variety that leaves the eggs intact. I make plenty of shakshuka at home, but in Tel Aviv, my favorite is slightly unorthodox: the “green shakshuka” served at the totally vegetarian and mostly gluten-free Mezze, in which organic, free-range eggs are cooked in a nest of spinach, chard, onions and garlic and topped with salty Kashkaval cheese.
At MantaRay, which overlooks the beach, I had a leek and Parmesan omelette with basil. My leek-loving roommate was thrilled when I replicated it at home in frittata form. Like most Israeli breakfasts, MantaRay’s was served with a side salad and an assortment of breads, including a mini cornbread and slices of whole-grain bread with walnuts, and spreads, like quince and pumpkin jams and tahini.
At the popular 24-hour breakfast joint Benedict, in a nod to my doctor, I had a somewhat boring egg white omelette, which was thankfully spiced up with herbs and served with a hot drink (coffee), a cold drink (grapefruit juice) and a side salad and breads.
The eggstravaganza isn’t limited solely to restaurants, though. One Shabbat morning, a Tel Aviv friend made us scrambled eggs with onion and parsley—ingredients I, for some reason, never think to add at home. Though I am not an onion lover, the following week, my cousin won me over with a caramelized onion omelette. And later that day, for lunch, my Tunisian aunt pulled out eggs she had buried in the hamin, the Shabbat stew that simmered overnight on the hotplate. Nestled in their shells among the meat and potatoes, the eggs had turned brown and creamy and gained a rich roasted flavor.
Passover may be over, but I still have a lot of lonely eggs in my refrigerator that would, I think, take well to some inspiration from their Mediterranean cousins. Incredible, edible egg, indeed.
Benedict, +972-3-686-8657, 29 Rothschild, Tel Aviv, Israel; +972-3-544-0345, 171 Ben Yehuda, Tel Aviv, Israel; +972-9-958-0701, 1 Ramat Yam, Herzliya, Israel. All open 24 hours.
Mezze, +972-3-629-9753, 51 Ahad Ha’Am, Tel Aviv, Israel. Sunday-Thursday, 8:00 am-12:00 am; Friday, 8:00 am-5:30 pm; Closed Saturday.
MantaRay, +972-3-517-4773, Alma Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel. Sunday-Saturday, 9:00 am-12:00 am.
Top photo: Leek, Parmesan and basil omelette at MantaRay