Mother’s Day Brunch: Zaatar Eggs Benedict


Photo: Evan Sung

Growing up, I was very picky about eggs. I liked them scrambled, on the verge of too dry and with salt and pepper only. I don’t know how my parents put up with me. Luckily, I’ve overcome my picky palate and now appreciate the finer things in life: namely, the runny yolk.

My mom and I are big breakfast food fanatics. Every time I go home to visit, we return to our favorite brunch spot in town. Most of the time, she’ll order the eggs Benedict, and I always regret not following her lead. My mom really must love me because when I reach across the table to steal bites from her plate, she pretends not to notice.

Since I’m in New York and she’s in California, we won’t be able to celebrate Mother’s Day together this year. So to honor her in spirit on Sunday, I’ll be making a special brunch with a Mediterranean twist: Zaatar Eggs Benedict.

This recipe comes from Chef Philippe of ilili in New York City. English muffin halves are topped with garlicky sauteed spinach, herb roasted Roma tomatoes, a perfectly poached egg and zaatar Hollandaise sauce. Zaatar is an herb similar to thyme and oregano that is very popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. When thrown into the mix with fresh lemon, parsley and garlic, it makes one beautifully vibrant Hollandaise that stands apart from the traditional sauce usually on the menu.

This Sunday is no ordinary Sunday– it’s time to celebrate Mom. Make something special and deserving of the day. This here is my game plan. If you’ll be in New York City this Sunday, you can get a taste of these eggs and more Mediterranean brunch specials at ilili. Cheers to you, Mom.

Zataar Eggs Benedict
Courtesy of Chef Philippe Massoud, ilili Restaurant
Serves 4

Sauteed Baby Spinach
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1.5 lb baby spinach
Salt to taste

Sauté garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, about one minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Salt to taste. Place the spinach in a strainer to discard juices.

Roasted Roma Tomatoes
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix the tomatoes with all ingredients and roast on cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until semi-dried.

Hollandaise Sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter (to render to 1/3 cup clarified butter)
1 extra large egg yolk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp hot water
1 Tbsp finely chopped pickled Lebanese zaatar leaves (if these are not available, substitute 1 Tbsp total fresh thyme, oregano and marjoram)
1 Tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 Tbsp freshly minced garlic
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

Place 1/2 cup of butter in a saucepan and melt slowly while stirring over low heat. Remove from heat and let stand for at least five minutes. Skim the foam from the top and pour into a glass container, discarding milky solids at bottom. You should have 1/3 cup clarified butter. Set aside.

Whisk egg yolk with lemon juice, hot water, zaatar, parsley, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper until you have a pale yellow mixture over a low simmer in a double boiler. Slowly add the warmed clarified butter and continue whisking until blended.

To Assemble
8 poached eggs
8 English muffin halves

Poach eight eggs and toast eight large English muffins.

Serve as follows: top each English muffin half with approximately 1/4 cup spinach, half of the roasted Roma tomatoes, one poached eggs and one tablespoon of zaatar Hollandaise.

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