Do you have a lot of curious condiments lurking in the fridge? Like a strange bedfellow that you had a one-night stand with, but for whatever reason, life moved on, and you don’t feel the need to connect? Maybe it’s that Thai green curry paste that you thought was exciting and adventurous, but has since dried up and gone stale. Maybe it’s a bottle of salad dressing that you once genuinely loved, for a time, which is now squarely in the past. I don’t mean to sound distasteful of passing phases. Perhaps they served their purpose, if fleeting; you’ll never know how those might pay off again. Perhaps you’ll simply feel more determined when whisking a dressing from scratch someday, or assume a more sophisticated air in a Thai restaurant, detecting the nuances in a sauce. Maybe a friend will relate a curious encounter she had with someone, and you’ll feel yourself nodding knowingly, before doling out your piece of advice. Well, I’ve got a new fling that I — for now at least — intend to enjoy before its expiration date.
Like many jars and bottles of condiments found in my fridge, this one was made by a friend — Chitra, who also blogs at The ABCD’s of Cooking and has a new sauce line called Brooklyn Delhi. It’s not necessarily a “chutney,” which has become something of a catch-all for all manners of Indian condiments. It’s tomato achaar, a South Indian pickle or relish that can be used for everything from dipping chips in to marinating meats with. As I’ve found, it’s also great to mix into beaten eggs for an omelet. The flavors permeate every bite, and it’ll smell sensational as the eggs become golden on a pan.
That’s my one bit of advice if you’re ever feeling a little bored of omelets, or need a diversion from using a lot of rich cheeses to give eggs an umami boost. I was actually inspired to make this omelet not by something that I’ve seen Chitra make, but by a humble dish referred to as a Berber omelet, which I encountered on a trip to Morocco several years back. Cooked in a tagine with spices and chopped fresh tomato, this egg dish was memorable, and easy to replicate. The eggs are beaten and then steamed through more so than browned on a pan like an omelet, so more like the savory steamed eggs of my Chinese mom-bearing youth; but they incorporate fresh ingredients and flavorful spices much like an omelet as we know the word.
It might be a little premature for that fresh vegetable to be tomatoes–this early into the summer, in the Northeast at least. But that’s why hothouse tomatoes are so tempting right now. Grown in greenhouses, these fat, overpriced fruits are a tease before its real harvest season begins. They seemed so precious that I ended up “saving” mine a tad bit too long on the counter, where they got a little soft.
But that’s just fine when the tomatoes are being tossed into some beaten eggs for an omelet. Juicy-ripe, these fresh tomato chunks really enlivened the concentrated flavors of the tomato achaar (substitute with fill-in-the-blank Indian sauce or chutney if you can’t find it). There are so many things going on in that little jar, taste-wise, that only a dab was needed to season a three-egg omelet. Don’t forget the requisite salt and pepper, though.
I’m not sure what I’ve gained from this brief experience with a new kitchen condiment, except the knowledge that it’s not over yet. How long will this last? Maybe it’s best just to savor the moment.
Spiced Tomato Omelet
(makes one 3-egg omelet)
about 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 teaspoon tomato achaar, or substitute with your favorite savory chutney
1/8 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
Beat the eggs well. Stir in the tomato achaar or chutney, followed by the chopped tomatoes. Season with the salt and pepper.
Heat the butter or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and spread to distribute evenly. Once the butter or oil is just starting to bubble, pour in the egg mixture. Once the eggs start to firm up along the edges, push the edges towards the middle with a spatula and turn the pan to allow uncooked egg mixture to fill in the gaps all across the pan. Continue for about 30 seconds, until the mixture has begun to firm up everywhere and the eggs don’t run as loosely anymore. Carefully loosen one half of the circle with a spatula and lift (using two spatulas, if desired for control) to flip over quickly into a half-circle. Continue cooking about 20 seconds, then carefully flip the entire omelet over to cook the opposite side another 20-30 seconds longer. Remove from pan and serve immediately.
(for 1 serving)
3 eggs (at $5/dozen): $1.25
1 cup chopped tomato (at $3/lb): $1.50
1 teaspoon tomato achaar (at $8/jar): $0.50
1 tablespoon oil, salt, pepper: $0.20
Five brownie points: This can be a main course to be filled out with other sides for a more well-rounded, full meal. We all know that eggs have cholesterol, but also protein, and even have some omega-3 fatty acids to counteract the bad fats. (Check out my egg-buying guide posted on Serious Eats.) It could be a hearty, quick snack otherwise, and with all that plant-based flavor from the achaar, a satisfying one, too.
Six brownie points: The great thing about omelets is that you can incorporate any seasonal vegetables into its fold, and eggs are often found from local sources that you can take your pick of. Chitra’s chutneys are also made at home using fresh, non-GMO ingredients, and those tomatoes can be grown in your own home even if you have a spare pot and some sunlight (start a plant now).