Omelettes with Purple-Sprouting Broccoli (Borough Market, July 15, 2011)

At the end of my first week in London, I took a trip to Borough Market. I decided to walk there from my room in Bloomsbury. The weather was grey and damp but the market was still busy and a hot breakfast soon took care of the gloomy atmosphere. Borough Market isn’t exactly like the farmers’ markets I frequented in Chicago. If you’re looking for heaps of produce, you might be disappointed. It’s more like what you’d imagine a market in Dickensian London to be (or, at least this is what they are like in my imagination): butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers and bakers, along with places to grab a hot something-or-other, usually consisting of bread, potatoes or meat. A cornucopia of produce it isn’t, but set amongst the backdrop of the railway viaduct on narrow brick paths, it has plenty of charm and it’s not hard to see why this remains one of the favorite markets in London.

            

Meat pies and English cheeses were more common than greens, but there was good produce to be had as well. Among the best-looking seasonal things last week were just-ripe figs and chili plants with yellow and lime-green fruits.

 

That day I ended up going for something that is really a winter vegetable but caught my eye nonetheless: purple-sprouting broccoli. Purple-sprouting broccoli is simply a version of what we in North America call broccolini. It looks nicer though, and I’ve seen it on the shelves of many-a supermarket here in London. I suppose it’s a popular alternative to boring green broccoli. So, with a “When in Rome” attitude, I picked some up. It turns out to be perfect for omelettes.

Omelettes with Purple-Sprouting Broccoli and Fresh Herbs

This is a 15-minute or less dish, and it is great not only for breakfast but for lunch and dinner, too.

Ingredients (for 1 omelette):

Several stems of purple-sprouting broccoli or broccolini (about 1/4 lb)

A handfull of fresh chives, chopped coarsely

A handfull of fresh basil and/or thyme leaves, chopped coarsely

3 eggs

Two tsp. of water

Two tsp. of olive oil

Grated white cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare the stalks by removing the leafy bits and separating the bushy shoots from the stems. Choose the tenderest stalks from your bunch of broccoli for the omelette. If the florets are large, you can half them lengthwise so they form wispy bits that will fry nicely. (Take the woody stems, chop them up coarsely along with the rest of the sprouting broccoli and steam this to go alongside the omelette.

"The Wheat from the Chaff"

Heat olive oil in a frying pan, adding the broccoli stems and frying over medium heat so that they brown a bit but don’t burn. Meanwhile chop the herbs just coarsely and set these aside.Beat the three eggs together and add the water to make the mixture smooth. Add salt and pepper and whisk together.

When the broccoli has gone a bit brown but still retains its purple sprouts (see above), add the chives and other herbs to the pan, toss lightly and immediately add the whisked eggs. As the eggs cook, use a spatula to drain the runny part to the edge of the pan so that you get a thin, even omelette with the vegetables incorporated into the body.

When the top of the omelette is still just a bit runny, add the cheese and fold the omelette over. Turn the heat to low and cook the omelette for 2-3 more minutes, flipping it around so that the outside edges don’t burn.

Serve the omelette with the rest of the steamed broccolini and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

 

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