The Formula for a Satisfying Breakfast

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Photo by Maria Robledo

To try Sally Schneider's recipe for pasta topped with fried eggs and Parmegiano, click here.

My personal Breakfast of Champions is a fried egg on a handful of raw greens--say, arugula, dandelion, baby spinach, watercress, or even mesclun--lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, maybe some snipped chives. It is a play on a classic rustic Italian dish: steamed asparagus with a fried egg and some grated Parmigiano. The operating principle is that when you break the soft-cooked yolk, it spills onto the vegetable like a sauce; vegetable and protein marry, with little fuss, in a single delicious dish.

I love that idea so much that I tried putting a fried egg on all manner of cooked vegetables--roasted sliced onions or peppers, crushed boiled new potatoes, piles of sautéed escarole or wild mushrooms--until it seemed the natural course of things to throw a fried egg on a plate of spaghetti, which, when mixed with Parmigiano, simulated a Carbonara. It is the ultimate lazy person's supper.

For me, it is a perfect breakfast, born of a formula that works for any meal, any time of day.

The idea of a breakfast version came from my belief in the energizing power of raw greens coupled with the need for an easily-made and delectable breakfast for myself when I'm moving fast. "Why not throw the fried egg on raw greens," I wondered "and marry the asparagus-fried-egg gist and with the dandelion-salad-topped-with-a-soft cooked-quail-egg that appears on restaurant menus here and there?"

For me, it is a perfect breakfast, born of a formula that works for any meal, any time of day:

      a savory base (cooked vegetables or pasta; if raw greens, dress them with extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper)

      + grated or shaved Parmigiano (grated for cooked stuff; on raw greens, use shaved or none at all)

      + a sunny side-up fried egg

Here's a recipe for the most elaborate version of it. You can improvise upon it on endlessly; replace the pasta (and cooking water) with warmed leftover cooked vegetables, or some steamed asparagus or crushed potatoes ...

Recipe: Pasta With a Fried Egg and Parmegiano

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.
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