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A good egg: it’s not just for breakfast

The egg is synonymous with potential. But let’s not get bogged down in symbolism.

Even for the most practical-minded cook, the egg is a marvel of possibility: Scramble it. Poach it. Boil it. Fry it. Beat a couple into an omelet. Whip several into a souffle. The choices nearly overwhelm.

But for my time and money, which is to say scant, I prefer the binder approach: Take whatever you’ve got on hand, and throw it in a pan with some eggs – which bring the ingredients together into something greater than the sum of its parts. For something savory, grab leftover vegetables and cheese. For a sweet take, stale bread and fruit. Or skirt the boundary with bread, apples, brie and pancetta. Master the basic concepts involved in making a frittata and baked French toast (aka strata), and you’ll have a potent strategy for dealing with both the time crunch of weeknight meals and making leftovers palatable.

Perhaps what I like best about these egg recipes is that they taught me how to cook – not just follow a recipe. Once you learn that, the potential is limitless.

BROCCOLI RABE FRITTATA

Makes: 6 servings

¾ pound broccoli rabe, washed, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces

10 large eggs

¼ cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune
A frittata transforms leftovers and eggs into a scrumptious dinner.

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and bright green, 4-6 minutes. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towels.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs and then blend in cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large skillet, heat oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic is just fragrant. Add broccoli rabe and red pepper flakes and saute until heated through. Add lemon juice and toss well to coat.

Heat broiler. Pour egg mixture over broccoli rabe and cook on the stovetop until bottom and sides are just set. Place pan under broiler, and cook until golden.

PER SERVING: 194 calories, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 315 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein, 406 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

BAKED FRENCH TOAST

Makes: 6 servings

8 eggs

1 cup milk

Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune
Baked French Toast works well with a streusel topping. You can also drop in dollops of ricotta or mascarpone.

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

1 loaf challah, brioche or Portuguese sweet bread

1 cup seasonal fresh fruit

Heat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a bowl until well combined. Tear bread into 2-inch pieces, and soak them in egg mixture until fully saturated.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Distribute fruit evenly. (Dish can be covered and refrigerated at this point up to 12 hours. If using a fruit prone to oxidation, add it just before baking.)

Bake until golden, 50 minutes to an hour. It should be well set in the center and spring back when slightly pressed.

PER SERVING: 499 calories, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 261 mg cholesterol, 73 g carbohydrates, 18 g sugar, 22 g protein, 908 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

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