Baked Eggs in Sautéed Greens with Zesty Yogurt Sauce
It’s time for me to revise my list of brunch meals and come up with more selections. I have a couple of good options, like Zucchini Frittata or Maple Apple Dutch Baby Pancakes, but I wanted something different and made with eggs. One of the best ways to cook eggs for a crowd is to bake them in the oven. Oven baked eggs are very convenient and becoming more popular. One dish that is particularly popular now, is Shakshuka. I wanted something similar in style, but with hearty greens as the base instead of tomatoes.
Ultimately, I decided to combine the two and sautéed hearty greens with tomatoes as the foundation for the baked eggs. Additionally, I wanted a bright creamy sauce to drizzle over the eggs, but nothing too heavy because I did not want it to detract from the vegetables and eggs. I pushed myself to stay away from cheese and heavy cream and try something lighter instead. It is rare to come across a healthy and creamy combination, but recently I discovered yogurt is a great substitute for heavy cream. Yogurt brings more tang to the meal, but it has a similar smooth texture as cream without the weight. As a result, baked eggs in sautéed greens with zesty yogurt sauce was born.
I love baked eggs with greens, but they are usually cooked with lots of heavy cream and melted cheese. I live for creamy-cheesy foods. Yet, there are times I want a lighter start to my day and not require a nap after breakfast. Yogurt comes to the rescue. I first learned about how well yogurt and eggs taste together when I made Julia Turshen’s Olive Oil Fried Eggs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce. These eggs are delightful. The lemon yogurt sauce invigorated the fried eggs with a creamy and bright citrus flavor. Keeping the flavors of this dish in mind, I set about to create the same zesty flavor with baked eggs and greens.
Eggs and spinach is a classic food pairing. Unfortunately, cooking spinach causes it to wilt down to nothing. You need five times the amount of fresh spinach to make one small spoonful of cooked spinach. I decided a combination of Swiss chard and spinach would provide more foundation to bake the eggs in. Swiss chard is one of my favorite hearty greens to cook with. It’s texture and flavor are somewhere in the middle of spinach and kale. Spinach is soft and mild, and kale is hearty and tough. Swiss chard is the perfect compromise of the two. Combining the two greens with the tomatoes adds more depth of flavor and body for the eggs to nestle in.
To give this recipe some pizzaz, I decided to layer the spices and seasoning by steeping them in the juices from the canned tomatoes. Then, I divided the perky tomato sauce between the vegetables and the yogurt sauce. My seasonings include minced ginger, saffron, and mini pinches of ground cayenne and cinnamon. There are many flavors here and require a delicate touch for everything to blend as one. The main flavors are saffron, ginger and lemon. The cayenne and cinnamon round out the flavors and highlight the swiss chard and tomatoes.
A small pinch of cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness to the sauce. The amount is intentionally small. Too much cinnamon will ruin it and be overbearing.
In my opinion, Swiss chard tastes better with a little dash of chili pepper. The spice helps reduce the bitter taste. Be cautious when adding both the cinnamon and cayenne so they do not overpower the other spices. Keep in mind when you taste the steeped tomato liquid the flavors will seem strong, but become less potent when added to the vegetables and the yogurt. If needed, add more granulated sugar and/or Kosher salt to balance them out.
I find the most difficult part of making baked eggs, is determining when the eggs are done. Just like making any egg meal, it takes practice to learn the visual clues. It is not like you are going to cut one open to check. For this recipe, the eggs bake in the oven nestled in sautéed tomatoes and leafy green pockets. Ideally, the eggs are done when the egg whites are just cooked through. Hopefully, at the same time the egg yolks are cooked, but are soft and runny. Have faith and trust your intuition and experience. 10 minutes was the perfect amount of time in my oven set at 400°F (204°C), but your cooking time could vary.
Baked eggs with sautéed greens and zesty yogurt sauce has the right balance of spunk and comfort to ease into your day. It is creamy, bright and nourishing. If you are not a fan of yogurt, substitute it with crème fraîche. Serve baked eggs with crusty artisan style toasted bread, like a baguette or sour dough batard, to mop up the vegetables laden in runny egg yolk and sauce.
Baked Eggs with Sauteed Greens and Zesty Yogurt Sauce
- 1 pinch saffron threads
- 1 TB boiling water
- 1 14.5 oz can (411 g) diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Shy 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon optional
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 oz plain Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon
- 1 TB Extra virgin olive oil
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch Swiss chard cleaned and stems removed
- 1- 8 oz (227 g) bunch spinach cleaned and stems removed
- 1/4 cup (125 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 TB heavy cream
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs
- 4 slices of toasted and buttered baquette
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rack in the middle position in your oven.
Place the pinch of saffron into a small bowl and add 1 TB boiling water to the saffron. Let the saffron threads steep for 5 minutes.
Drain the liquid from the diced tomatoes into a small bowl. Reserve the tomatoes and pour the tomato liquid into a small sauce pan. Turn on the heat to medium and add the minced ginger, the saffron threads with their water, and a tiny pinch of each cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sugar, and Kosher salt to the liquid and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the liquid steep for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, zest your lemon and reserve it for later. In a small bowl add the juice of one lemon, a small pinch of Kosher salt and the yogurt. Stir to combine. Set aside to rest.
Fold the chard and spinach leaves in half and slice in one-inch slices across the width. Heat an
8-inch skillet on a burner over medium-high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil and when the oil starts to shimmer add the chard leaves and spinach. You will need to add them gradually into the skillet, so they do not spill over the sides. Turn the greens over to get coated with olive oil and begin to cook the greens. Sprinkle a small pinch of Kosher salt and a few rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and stir to combine.
Drain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the liquid. Add the collected minced ginger and saffron from the strainer, 3 TB of tomato liquid, vegetable stock, and heavy cream to the skillet. Stir. Cook until the greens are tender and most of the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10-12 minutes.
While the greens are cooking, add the remaining tomato liquid to the yogurt. Add just enough to reach your desired consistency. You want the yogurt to have some body, but thin enough to easily coat the vegetables. Add any remaining liquid to the chard, spinach and tomatoes. Make sure you scrape out any stubborn saffron threads from the strainer and add to the greens or the yogurt.
If you added more liquid to the skillet, cook it down with the greens a few minutes more.
Use the back of a wooden spoon to make 4 impressions in the cooked greens, creating a nest for the eggs. One at a time, crack the eggs and carefully add them to the vegetable nests.
Place the skillet into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done. The whites will be set and the yolks runny. Or to your desired level of doneness. I check the eggs after 7 minutes to see how they are progressing.
Garnish the eggs and yogurt sauce with the reserved lemon zest.
Serve immediately family style, or plate for individual servings. One egg with greens and one piece of toasted bread.
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