It’s been a little quieter than usual around here lately. We’ve been dealing with some career changes and general life shifts, not to mention unavoidable winter colds and flu bugs over the last few months. All of that has been keeping us more occupied in ‘real life’, which has meant less time for us to devote to our blogging life and cooking in general.
We’re slowly getting back into a groove, but the last few weeks we’ve been leaning towards cooking meals that are simple and fast while still being interesting.
Last week I reached into my ‘archives’ when we wanted to make a meatless dinner that was in line with the changing weather and freshness of spring.
I discovered the unexpected pleasure of the brie and strawberry jam omelet many years ago on a visit to Montreal. It stood out for me on the brunch menu at Orange Café in the NDG area of my hometown. I rarely use this adjective when describing food, but I have to say that this is one ‘sexy’ omelet. It’s the perfect combination of textures, flavors and even colors on the plate. I even made it for Neil when we first started dating in an attempt to impress his advanced palate.
Once I started making it at home for brunch and dinner, the very idea of it inspired other omelet combinations like cheddar and spicy mango chutney, or havarti and pear & ginger preserves.
But this one’s the ultimate. L’original.
This time around I used goat brie for a little more earthiness and Greaves Rhubarb Strawberry Jam, which I absolutely love. There’s not much to this simple omelet, but the key for me is using just the egg whites. With the egg whites providing a neutral base, the cheese and jam really shine and stand out. I also like the texture of an all-egg white omelet better than what you get when you include the yolks.
But we needed a side dish. Something that could stand up to the fabulousness of the omelet and complement it at the same time.
Somehow the idea of a fresh strawberry panzanella came to me. Panzanella is a rustic Italian bread salad that’s usually made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions and a simple vinaigrette. I always order it when I spot it on restaurant menus because it’s usually delicious, however simple.
Neil was the one who actually executed our take on the classic salad after we talked about some ideas, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. The sweetness of the fresh strawberries worked so well with the tartness of the balsamic and the shreds of basil. And we actually used fresh bread instead of day-old and found that it gave a really nice spongy consistency on the inside, and a toasty crunch on the outside. It was a great texture combination and the flavors of each ingredient came through. It really was a great complement to the omelet. We ooh’ed and ahh’ed with every fresh, tasty and flavorful bite.
What better way to welcome spring to our table?!
Brie & Strawberry Jam Omelet with Strawberry Panzanella Salad (serves 2)
For Strawberry Panzanella Salad:
Approx 8 fresh strawberries (3-4 per person)
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Approx 3/4 to half a loaf of crusty bread (we used Brick Street Bakery‘s wheat bread)
1 clove garlic, sliced into thin slices
1 handful of basil leaves, chopped
Approx 6-7 thick slices of brie (we used goat brie)
Good quality strawberry jam (we used rhubarb strawberry)
Approx 6-8 egg whites (I actually used egg whites from a carton – so much easier!)
To Assemble Salad:
Slice the strawberries and add them to a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar and a grind of pepper. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Cut the bread into cubes and toss with a few drizzles of olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt.
Slice the garlic into thin slices that will be easy to remove later from the pan.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and cook garlic for a few minutes. Lower the heat to medium low, add bread cubes into pan and cook for a good 7-10 minutes until nice and brown on the outside.
Remove the bread cubes from the pan, leaving the garlic behind, and set aside to cool.
When ready to assemble, add the cooled bread cubes to a bowl. Add in a little bit of arugula. You don’t want to add as much as you would in a regular salad, the bread and strawberries are the main ingredients here. Add the chopped cucumber and basil. Drizzle in some good quality olive oil and toss into the salad with a little bit of sea salt.
Spoon the balsamic strawberries into the salad, reserving some of the liquid. Mix the salad and taste. Add more of the balsamic to taste. Toss everything together well and serve.
To Assemble Omelet:
Spray an omelet pan with a little bit of cooking spray and heat the pan over medium low heat.
Add in the egg whites and leave them for a few minutes to firm up. Slide a thin spatula around the edges to lift and separate from the pan.
Layer the slices of brie down the middle of the omelet or just off to one side, depending on how you like to fold your omelet. I decided to fold the two sides in so I layered my ingredients into the middle but you can also attempt to flip one side onto the other. Spoon a generous amount of jam onto the brie.
Fold in the sides and slide the spatula underneath to loosen the omelet from the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a few minutes to let the cheese melt and jam warm through. If you’re feeling daring, you can flip the omelet over and let it cook on the other side for a few seconds so the brie melts on both ends and the jam gets sticky and cooks as it oozes out of the edges.
Cut the omelet in half to serve two and plate with some Strawberry Panzanella salad.