The Little Black Dress of the Kitchen


Every woman has one in her closet.  It may be a blouse, or a pair of jeans, or a skirt, or a jacket, or something else entirely.  It’s the garment that she knows that, when she’s having an I Hate My Body Day, she can put it on without making things worse, and might even wind up feeling better about things. It’s the garment that, when she’s having a I Look Good! Day, she can put it on and feel like a million bucks, and connect with that feeling like maybe she can stop traffic or kill the conversation in the room just by walking in. It’s the garment that she knows that, when she’s got a fussy situation – a job interview, a first date, an awkward conversion scheduled – she can put it on, and never worry for one second about being distracted by a poky tag, or a weird seam, or something riding up, or something slipping down. It’s the garment that has Confidence woven directly into the fabric. It’s the garment that takes whatever is going on, and makes it noticeably better.

Every woman has at least one, and if she doesn’t, she needs to get a couple of good friends and go out and get one. It doesn’t have to be expensive. I had one of these from Target, once, and I paid $17 for it. Before that, it was one I ran up myself, on the household sewing machine. Money isn’t required. Paying attention, and knowing that such things exist, is.

Which brings me to tonight’s dinner. The recipe that goes anywhere, does anything. The recipe that is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and leaps buildings in a single bound.

You know those nights when you drag in from work and you’re completely exhausted, you sure as hell are too tired to go to the grocery, and too tired even to think about ordering out, and don’t want to order out anyway, because Junk Food, and you’re too tired to cook, but you know that if you go to bed hungry, you’ll only be Extremely Sorry later? Those nights when you’re really wanting to do Right by the kids, and give them a balanced meal, but soccer, and laundry, and a clogged toilet?

Or maybe it’s those mornings when you wake up, thinking maybe you shouldn’t have had that third martini last night? Or you have a houseful of family, and not enough breakfast cereal and milk? Or maybe you’ve invited six people over for brunch, and just can’t face making a batch of crepes?

This is your recipe. I have had this recipe in my cookbook for so long that I have completely forgotten where I got it, or when, or how. I have this recipe like I have hair on my head, or the ability to read. I think sometimes I may have been born with this recipe.  And now, I am going to pass it along to you.

The version of this recipe I have in my personal cookbook is this:

1 lb. fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T parsley
4 eggs
2 T basil
¼ C milk

Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato, and drop into a pot of boiling water until the skin cracks and starts to peel.  Remove with slotted spoon and plunge into dish of ice water.  The skin should fall off directly.

Melt some butter in a medium skillet.  Cut tomatoes into pieces and put them into the melted butter with the garlic.  Add parsley.  Cook over medium-low heat until tomatoes melt and cover the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, beat eggs with basil and milk.  As soon as the tomatoes have melted, add egg mixture and allow to cook through, stirring occasionally.  Serve with toasted french bread.

The real recipe is this:

Take however many tomatoes you have.  Peel them using the blanching technique described above, because, really, it is the absolute best possible way to get the skins off tomatoes.  Cut them up into a couple of pieces, discarding the super-hard bit around the stem area.

Pick a fairly large pan and melt some butter in it.  Or ghee.  Or coconut oil, although that’s really not the best, or olive oil, again, not the best.  Butter here really is optimum.

If you have some garlic, peel it and chop it up, or, better yet, run it through a garlic press.  How many cloves depends on 1) how big the cloves are, and 2) how garlicky you like things.   We had a run of really crappy garlic here that had cloves the size of toenail clippings from the nail salon.  You’d need about 30 of those things to get a good garlic flavor.  Or, if you have them, use a half-cup or so of chopped-up garlic scapes.  Or if you don’t have garlic, and you do have shallots or scallions, chop 2 or 3 of those, finely, and use that.  Or, if you don’t have anything fresh at all, but you do have dried garlic flakes, use a half-teaspoon of those.  Saute any actual vegetables in the butter until they soften up. If all you have is garlic flakes, add those to the tomatoes.

Once your Seasoning Vegetable Of Choice has softened up, dump the cut-up tomatoes in the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low, and go give the kids a bath, or fold the laundry, or sit down with your feet up and drink a cold beer.  Let those tomatoes cook softly until they’re basically melted into a mush.

Then take some eggs.  How many eggs depends on how many people you need to feed.  For me, if I’m cooking this for my own dinner and not eating anything else, I use about 3 or 4 eggs.  If I’m cooking brunch for my ten closest friends, I use about 4 lbs of tomatoes, and most of a carton of eggs.  Use enough eggs to feed the number of people you need to feed.  Put the eggs in a bowl, and dump an herb into it.  Dried basil, dried thyme, oregano, fresh basil, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, all of these work really well.  Add a bit more herbs than seems sensible.  When I made this tonight, I added four tablespoons of herbes de provence, which is – in my opinion, the Best Possible Herb for this dish – to the eggs.  Beat it all together.

Take grated cheese.  If you have shredded parmesan or grated pecorino, that’s the best.  If you just have the parmesan out of the big green canister with the top that wheels back and forth between “shake” and “pour”, that will do too.  If you have grated cheddar, OK.  Dump a good quantity of that into the eggs.  How much depends on how well you like the cheese you’re adding.  Beat it all together for a half-minute.  Then pour it into your melted tomatoes.

Now let it sit.  Once in a while, as you’re unloading the dishwasher, or pouring a bath, or changing the laundry over, or mixing bellinis for your brunch guests, give it a stir.  Cook it until the eggs are as dry as you like.  Serve with whatever bread you have.  Slices from a three-day old sourdough loaf work fine.  Chunks torn off a baguette work fine.  Pita works fine.  Naan works fine.  You do, pretty much, want to serve this with some kind of absorbent bread-like substance.

Eat happily, knowing that even though you spent a minimal amount of time on this, and didn’t focus on it any more than you’d focus on Flea Market Flip, you’re eating a relatively nutritionally complete meal…and if you’re serving it for brunch, just prepare yourself for the Inevitable Question: “Is there any more of this?”  because – if you’re dining with good friends – that question will arise.

About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner will take you right there.

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