These days, many people gravitate toward warming, hearty dishes — comfort is king as we weather these chilly temps, not to mention the pandemic, tumultuous political climate, economic downturn and general stress.
Who wouldn’t seek solace in a bowl of macaroni and cheese?
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we want to fit into our clothes when the time comes that we can resume normal life.
With that cheery thought in mind, I offer three satisfying, healthy, but lighter meals.
They are versatile; the poached egg “bowl” can be served for any meal day or night, and can incorporate a selection of whatever vegetables you have on hand.
It is the favorite of my college-age daughter, who tends to appear in the kitchen around noon after a morning of virtual work from her third-floor bedroom. This serves as a healthy brunch and sustains her through the rest of the afternoon, when she descends again for dinner.
Winter caprese offers a January version of the summer favorite. By reconstituting sundried tomatoes and using the heated tomato “tea” in the dressing, the salad avoids an overly summer vibe and delivers a bit of warmth.
Both of these meals can be rounded out with crusty bread (or not) and can serve as a light main, or a side with other dishes for a more substantial meal.
Poached Egg Bowl
An interesting thing about this dish is the blending of cooked and raw veggies. My daughter is a fan of Brussels sprouts and avocados, so that is the selection described here.
However, there is truly no limit to the options — you can use sauteed onions and white or sweet potatoes and top it with chopped fresh herbs or baby lettuces; cooked greens like spinach or kale topped with sprouts; or cooked broccoli topped with raw scallions, just to name a few.
It’s a little like shakshuka, but more veggie and less saucy than the versions I usually encounter.
The one slight downside is that despite this being a simple meal, you do need to use two pans — the skillet for the veggies and the saucepan for the poaching — but it is worth the effort.
1 teaspoon white vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
The vegetable base:
Oil for spraying the pan
Pinch of salt, sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper
8 Brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half
½ ripe avocado, cut in chunks
Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce, to taste, if desired
Fill a 2-quart saucepan ¾ way with water; add the vinegar and salt, and bring it to a boil. While you wait, heat a small skillet, coat it with a light spray of oil and sauté the Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper until done, about 8 minutes. Set aside.
When the water boils, lower it to a simmer and crack an egg into a small cup, then gently pour it into the simmering water. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pan and allow the egg to cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, depending on how firm you want it.
While the egg cooks, pour the Brussels sprouts into a bowl, then top them with the avocado and season as desired.
When the egg is done, gently remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and place it atop the veggies. Drizzle with Sriracha, if desired, and serve immediately.
The Best Egg Salad
My friend Kate Markowitz (she of the Spanish lamb stew featured in the Nov. 29 column) provided me with this recipe. She was spending some time in a friend’s vacant Florida condo and called me from the lanai, where she was enjoying this dish.
It was an improvised version because the condo was not equipped with a huge spice selection, so she had to make do, but now says her old version is out the window and she will use this recipe from now on.
This is great served on a bed of lightly dressed lettuce or spooned onto rye bread.
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
½ teaspoon “everything but the bagel” seasoning
Place the eggs in a pan of cold water (be sure they are covered). Bring the water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to sit, undisturbed, for 12 minutes.
Remove them from the hot water, cool completely and chop coarsely. Place the eggs in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix, chill, if desired, and enjoy.
Winter Caprese Salad
I am a huge fan of the summer version of this salad — in-season, local heirloom tomatoes are almost an addiction.
But this time of year we can enjoy an alternative version of the iconic dish.
By soaking the dried tomatoes in hot water, we soften them up and also siphon some of their intense flavor out into the water, or tomato “tea,” which adds flavor to the dressing.
Also, drizzling a warm dressing over the salad makes this a little more appropriate for January.
This recipe uses the dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, which saves some calories and cost, but you can certainly substitute those and skip the hot water step.
If that is the case, just use the tomato oil for the salad in place of the olive oil and tomato tea.
If you can’t get burrata, or don’t like the creaminess seeping all over the greens, try fresh mozzarella instead.
Note: You will not need all of the tomato tea for this recipe.
Feel free to save it and add it to pasta sauce, soups or other dishes that could benefit from an additional boost of flavor.
8 sun-dried tomatoes cut in strips
½ cup boiling water
1 small head curly
green leaf lettuce (or your favorite type)
1 ball burrata cheese
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato tea
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the cut tomatoes in a bowl or measuring cup and cover them with boiling water. Allow them to sit for about 30 minutes for the tomatoes to soften and the water to absorb the tomato flavor.
Place the lettuce in a bowl.
Drain the tomatoes, saving the liquid, and toss them over the lettuce. Add a burrata ball or fresh mozzarella.
In a small cup, mix the vinegar, tomato tea, olive oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle it over the salad, toss and serve immediately.