These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.
Sometimes the only thing a tasty side dish needs to become a satisfyingly full meal is the addition of a bit of protein. Cooks worldwide already know that the creamy richness of an egg or two can make all the difference. In Japan, the yolk from a fried egg combines with a white miso butter to coat soba noodles and crisp asparagus. From the Levant region, tangy sumac and herbaceous za’atar brighten the toasty flavors of couscous, all rounded out with a topping of fried eggs. And in Portugal, roasted tomatoes and smoky pork sausage form a savory sauce for poached eggs topped with sweet peas (be sure to serve with crusty bread for dipping).
SOBA WITH MISO BUTTER AND ASPARAGUS
Makes 4 servings
Most soba noodles cook in 4 minutes. For noodles that need longer, adjust the timing for adding the asparagus. Assembling and preparing all of the ingredients before cooking the noodles is essential to properly timing the recipe. While the soba cooks, heat the skillet, then fry the eggs while tossing the noodles with the miso butter.
Asparagus stalks that measure about ½ inch at the thick end are best. Pencil-thin asparagus overcooks, and thicker, woody stalks require peeling.
We like a sprinkle of shichimi to garnish the finished dish; the Asian rice seasoning, made from sesame seeds and chili flakes, lends crunch and heat.
Don’t add salt to the soba cooking water. While we usually salt our pasta water, miso can be quite salty, and sodium levels vary widely by brand. Skipping the salt allows better control over seasoning.
1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed
5 tablespoons white miso
4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1½ tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
12 ounces soba noodles
3 scallions, minced, plus thinly sliced scallions to garnish
4 fried eggs
Shichimi togarashi rice seasoning, to serve (optional)
Lemon wedges, to serve
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, snap or cut off the tender tips of the asparagus. Set aside. Slice the stalks on the bias into ½-inch pieces. Set aside separately.
In a large bowl, combine the miso, butter, and ginger, stirring and mashing.
Add the noodles to the boiling water. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the asparagus stalks and cook for another minute. Add the tips, then cook for 2 minutes. Drain the noodles and asparagus, reserving ½ cup cooking water. The noodles should be just tender. Add the noodles, asparagus, and minced scallions to the miso butter. Add enough reserved cooking water to reach a creamy consistency, using tongs to toss until the butter melts and coats the noodles.
Divide the noodles between 4 serving bowls and top each with a fried egg. Sprinkle with the sliced scallions and shichimi togarashi, if using. Serve with lemon wedges.
TOASTED PEARL COUSCOUS WITH FRIED EGGS
Makes 4 servings
For this vegetarian main dish, we brown pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous) to give it a toasted-wheat flavor, then cook it risotto-style for a rich, creamy consistency. The couscous is an ideal base for runny-yolked fried eggs sprinkled with mix of za’atar and sumac. If you like, finish with harissa or hot sauce for a welcome hit of heat and spice to perk up the flavors.
Don’t use regular couscous in place of pearl couscous. Regular couscous is much finer, requires different hydration, and doesn’t have the right chewiness. Also, don’t overtoast the couscous. Aim for a light golden brown; toasting beyond that produces a flavor that overwhelms the other ingredients.
½ teaspoon ground sumac
½ teaspoon za’atar
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup pearl couscous
1 medium shallot, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, 2 minced and 2 smashed and peeled
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
4 large eggs
In a small bowl, combine the sumac and za’atar. Set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
To the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil, the shallot, and the minced garlic. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the shallot has softened, about 1 minute. Return couscous to the pan, then stir in ½ teaspoon salt. Pour in ½ cup hot water and cook, stirring, until most of the water is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Repeat 4 times for a total of 2½ cups water, cooking until the couscous is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Off heat, stir in the lemon juice, butter, and scallions. Taste and season with salt, then cover and set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and smashed garlic. Cook, stirring and flipping the garlic, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic, then reduce heat to medium-low. Crack an egg into each quadrant of the pan and use a silicone spatula to gently push the edges of the egg whites toward the yolks to keep the eggs separate. Cover and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are runny, about 1½ minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Serve the couscous in individual bowls, topping each serving with a fried egg and a generous pinch of the sumac mixture.
EGGS WITH LINGUIÇA AND PEAS
Makes 4 servings
If you can’t find linguiça, a cured Portuguese sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika, use Spanish dry-cured chorizo. Serve with slices of rustic bread for dipping into the savory sauce and egg yolks.
Don’t use regular crushed tomatoes — we greatly prefer the subtly smoky flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces linguiça (see note), quartered and thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
½ cup frozen peas, divided
4 large eggs
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves or finely chopped fresh chives
In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the linguiça and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the paprika, tomatoes, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Return the linguiça to the pan and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup peas.
Using the back of a large spoon, make 4 evenly spaced indentations in the tomato mixture. Crack 1 egg into each. Scatter the remaining ¼ cup peas over the sauce, around the eggs. Cover and cook until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with feta and cilantro.