The flurry of activity from the weekend is over. Everyone is back to his corner of the city for the weekly routine. I absentmindedly reach over to pick up a pair of scissors jutting out from under the couch. I walk over to the set of drawers with the fading labels and pull on the handle of the one marked, “scissors, hole punch and stapler.” Inside I find clay, glue, oil pastels, crayons, tape, a pencil and a bell, but not one pair of scissors until I deposit the ones I’m holding. With a bit of a sigh, I push the drawer back in and recall a time when those drawers actually held exactly what appeared on the labels…back when I cared. Back when I was known to stay up until one or two in the morning, organizing, purging, labeling, cleaning, painting, rearranging. I think it’s safe to say that my sweetie is a very…very…patient man. Actually, I take that back. He’s not patient at all. Perhaps it’s that he is wise to the ways of women and knows when to stand back and let me work through the frenzy.
I pull up my email in-box and wait for the new messages to load. Glancing down the list, the one entitled, “Spring Cleaning: Day One” catches my eye. I open it up, glance at the thoughtful advice and then, promptly delete it. I can’t even keep up with regular cleaning. The thought of “spring cleaning” just overwhelms me. I recently confessed to my mother, my sister and one of my oldest, dearest friends who is a frequent guest in my home that the impendence of their arrival no longer spurs on a flurry of home projects. Where before there would be flowers and decorations reflecting the seasons along with a well-scrubbed house, now, well….oh sure, I clean the toilets (I have boys after all) and I may do a quick little sweep of the kitchen floor, make the beds and fluff a pillow or two but after that, it’s more like, “Good to see ya. Here’s a glass of wine. Let’s sit and chat.”
You know, the great irony is that my home may no longer be the pristinely clean and perfectly organized place that it once was but I find I’m more relaxed (which means my sweetie is more relaxed.) I enjoy my time with my guests more. Maybe it’s that spring seems to come more quickly with each passing year (Didn’t we just pull all of these spring weeds?), and I recognize that I must decide exactly how I want to spend my time. And, I’ve decided that I want to spend my time with my guests enjoying a home cooked meal, a glass of wine and their company.
Looking for inspiration for the evening’s dinner, I pull out the crisper drawers in the fridge. Still having the “spring cleaning” article on the brain (old habits die hard), I recognize that the contents of these drawers could use a little purging. Grabbing the bundle of asparagus that is a bit past its prime, a half a shallot, some potatoes rolling around in the back, some eggs, a couple cloves of garlic and a bag of mushrooms from last weekend’s Farmer’s Market and drawing on the recollection of a favorite “Egg Scramble” I loved at a diner in Eureka, California….I whip up my own “Spring Cleaning Scramble” and place it on the table for dinner along with some toasted, day-old bread. As we inhale the medley of spring flavors, we chat about our day. What’s coming up in the week. And, for some unknown reason we seem to linger a little longer at the table than usual. It’s then that I decide that this is the kind of spring cleaning I love. The kind I can handle. The rest of it….eh….
Spring Cleaning Scramble
While I confess that I am not a huge “egg person,” I do love this dish which can be made with any veggies you may have lying around in your fridge….peppers, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes….you name it….scramble it up. This particular evening I made this with mushrooms but I’ve also made it without them and it was lapped up just as quickly (maybe even more quickly by certain family members.) Also, I find that there is nothing like potatoes browned in a cast iron pan but for a weeknight, I’m picky about how much clean-up I have to do. For these potatoes, I followed Pam Anderson’s inspiration for using a non-stick pan and her steam/saute method of cooking them up. I hope this recipe will inspire you to do a little spring cleaning of your own refrigerator to make room for all the berries that are just about to hit the markets.
4 tbsp olive oil, divided below
a bundle of asparagus with “tough” ends trimmed off (or snapped off like I do)
1 small onion, quartered, white, yellow, red, whatever you have
1/2 lb of shiitake mushrooms (optional)
2 c diced, fingerling potatoes, Yukon Gold or any other thin-skinned potatoes you have lying around
1/2 shallot, chopped (or 1/4 c onion)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
kosher salt and pepper
3 tbsp water
8 eggs (two per person)
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp butter (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While your oven is heating, prepare your asparagus, onion and mushrooms. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or two. Drizzle a tbsp or two of olive oil over your vegetables. Using your hands (or tongs) mix them around to ensure that they are coated with the olive oil but not drenched in it. Laying them back out in a single layer, sprinkle them well with kosher salt and pepper. Put them in your heated oven to roast for 15 -20 minutes, stirring halfway through. You want the asparagus browned but not blackened, tender but not mushy.
While your vegetables are roasting, prepare your potatoes, shallot and garlic. Place them in a non-stick skillet, along with 2 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp water and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cover and steam over medium-high heat until the potatoes are just tender about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates and the potatoes are lightly browned about 6-8 minutes longer.
While your potatoes are cooking, prepare your eggs by cracking them into a medium bowl and lightly beating them along with the 3 tbsp of milk. (Don’t ask me why but I always put a bit of milk in my scrambled eggs.) Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
Once your potatoes are done, spoon them into a bowl, tent with foil and set aside. Turning the heat to low, add one tsp of butter to your already warm skillet (or forgo the butter and just rely on the magic of the non-stick surface.) Once melted, add your eggs. Allow the eggs to set slightly on the bottom and then, cook on the lowest heat, stirring almost constantly. Although, I would take a second here to pop that day-old bread into the toaster. Cook the eggs to your desired doneness…usually 3-4 minutes for me. They continue to cook even after you’ve turned off the stove.
At this point, it’s time to ring the dinner bell and call the troops to the table. On a side note, I did recently acquire a cow bell just for this purpose. No one seemed to pay any attention to me before when I called everyone to the dinner table after slaving away over a hot stove. It’s amazing how the extremely loud, incessant and annoying sound of the cow bell seems to bring everyone to the table…quickly…even those people trying to hide from me in the woods. Once they’ve arrived, hand everyone a plate, tell them to load up with the veggies, potatoes and eggs and mix-it all up on their plates. Toss them each a piece of toast, set some salt and pepper on the table and you’re good to go. Dinner….check. Refrigerator cleaned out…check. Family fed…check. Dishes…pending.
Yield: Enough to feed a family of 4 and one person who still insists on eating like a bird
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010