I developed this recipe specifically for those times when I'm dining solo. It's not that it can't be expanded to feed two or more, but I like the fact that it is my special, alone-time treat. It is truly one of my favorite meals: good, basic, hearty eating that fills me up and makes me ready for whatever life is throwing my way. It's suitable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I am very happy to share it with you today.
The basic ingredients, with lots of room for improvisation.
At home, I call this "Egg and Chickpeas" because the truth is, you can make with or without the sausage and just about any green can be substituted for the kale (chard, spinach.) You could also make it with cauliflower or broccoli, too. Potatoes would make it even heartier, so perhaps best for fall and winter months. I suppose you could even switch out the chickpeas for another bean such as black beans or a white bean such as cannellini. But I highly recommend trying it just as it is first.
The Inspiration. This dish was inspired by a visit to Boot & Shoe Service, a favorite Oakland, California eatery. I went there on a day I was feeling a bit out of sorts and in dire need for comfort and nourishment. The meal that I had brought me back to life and I was so grateful and inspired that I wrote an entire Weekend Meditation post about it. A few days later, I was craving it again and happily realized that I had all the fixings to make it right there at home.
The Ingredients. You can certainly make this with canned chickpeas and even frozen spinach. Your egg and sausage can be supermarket bought and that would be fine, too. But I must confess, I feel part of the reason this is so good is that I cooked the chickpeas from scratch, got my pasture-raised chicken eggs at the farmers' market and a bunch of fresh kale there, too. And my sausage came from a reputable butcher that uses local, sustainable meat and makes them in-house. Still, with all those so-called fancy ingredients, I reckon this dish came in at about $3.00 per serving. And it was a good, fill-me-up kind of serving too.
The Bram. "What is that gorgeous, rustic dish you're using in the final step when you cook the egg?" you ask. It's a bram, a simple clay cooking vessel from Egypt that is glazed on the inside and rough on the outside. I use it because the clay really holds the heat and the moisture, and it's the perfect size for one person. I also like it for its rustic beauty. Is it necessary? No. You could start this whole dish in a small cast iron skillet, for instance, and just crack the egg on top and slide it into the oven. Or you could use a cazuela, like they did at Boot & Shoe Service. Just be sure that whatever you're using is oven-safe. See below for more discussion on this topic.
The Egg. As mentioned, I think the egg is key to the success of this dish and I encourage you to find the best eggs you can. Right now, eggs from pastured chickens are your best bet and are starting to show up more and more at farmers' markets around the country. Also, you can skip the whole step of cracking an egg over the chickpeas and cooking it in the oven if you want. Just plop a poached or fried egg on top instead. I recommend, though, that no matter what you do, the yolk should be runny.
The Toaster Oven. Is using the toaster oven necessary? No, but it is more efficient. Of course, if you have a wood-burning oven like they do at Boot & Shoe, you can just slide it in there. (Hahaha!) I use my toaster oven because I don't want to heat up my whole oven only to pop something in for 5 to 7 minutes. That said, if you're organized enough, this could be the time that you roast up some sweet potatoes or potatoes. You could also tuck it in anytime you have the oven on for other things, such as bread. Just keep an eye on it so you don't overcook the yolk.
Vegetarian? You can definitely make this without the sausage, thus making it vegetarian. I would recommend adding a bit more salt and olive oil and adding some harissa or other hot sauce to add spice. If you want spice, that is. You can also use one of those vegetarian sausages, like Soyrizo, if you're so inclined. The only way to make this vegan is to also eliminate the egg which would so alter the character of the dish that I cannot recommend a vegan version. I would love to hear your suggestions, though.
Kale, Chickpeas, and Sausage with Oven-Baked Egg
Serves one, with leftovers
1/2 large yellow onion, medium chopped 1 T olive oil Salt 1/2 spicy fresh sausage, about 3 to 4 ounces, sliced 1/2 bunch dino kale, about 2 oz after stalk is stripped 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can, drained) Hot sauce, such as harissa, optional 1 pastured egg
In a medium-sized frying pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil and a pinch of salt until it softens and is beginning to turn translucent. Add the sausage and continue cooking until the sausage begins to brown. You may want to break up the sausage as it starts to cook in order to distribute evenly.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F or turn your toaster oven onto its toast setting.
Add the kale. It's nice if the kale is a bit wet from washing, as a little water will steam up and help cook the kale, as well as help with scraping up any of the browned bits from the onion and sausage. If your kale isn't wet, you may want to add a splash of water to the pan. Cook until the kale is wilted and then add the chickpeas and heat through. Stir gently so you don't mash the chickpeas too much. Taste for salt.
This will make enough chickpeas for two servings, so scoop one half of the mixture into an oven proof dish. Add the hot sauce if using. Crack your egg into a bowl and gently slide it on top of the chickpeas. Sprinkle with salt and slide into the toaster oven. Bake for about 7 minutes, checking at the 5 minute mark, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Note: Depending on the kind of toaster oven you have, you may have to place some tinfoil over the top of the dish if the oven's heating elements are too close to the egg. It was fine to leave it uncovered in my toaster oven. If you are using a regular oven, you may also want to cover the dish in order to trap the heat inside and help the egg to cook.
Serve with some fresh, crusty bread to mop up the yolk, and enjoy!