Baked Eggs with Goat Cheese and Green Peppercorns

After reading my Food Technology: Advancing Food & Health Through Sound Science magazine, I was inspired to visit McCormick’s website to browse through their 2011 Flavor Forecast.  The recipe below is adapted from theirs.  The tangy goat cheese gets a a nice crust from the baking process on top while the panko forms a nice crust on the bottom.  The buttery, peppery spinach complements the egg and tomatoes extremely well and the whole package swivels out of the pan quite nicely if buttered correctly.  I’d highly recommend this recipe but making it for a crowd would be the best option since green peppercorns are a bit expensive for a simple breakfast and the process involves two steps: sauteing and baking.

For some background info- green peppercorns aren’t as dense as black peppercorns and nowhere near as peppery.  Black, white and green peppercorns are all products of the same plant but each is harvested and handled differently.  Black peppercorns are picked when they’re not quite ripe and are known for having a spicy, biting flavor.  White peppercorns are derived from fully ripened berries that are just about to turn red.   When they’re set out to dry, the sun naturally bleaches them white.  Green peppercorns are harvested when the berry is immature.  They tend to have the freshest flavor and are far less pungent than black or white peppercorns.

Baked Eggs with Goat Cheese and Green Peppercorns
Makes 2 servings
Total Time: 40 min

• 1 tablespoon panko (Japanese bread crumbs), divided
• 1.5 tablespoon butter
• 3 tablespoon finely chopped Vidalia onions (or shallots)
• 3/4 teaspoon coarsely crushed McCormick® Gourmet Collection Green Peppercorns
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 3 tablespoons thawed from frozen chopped spinach
• 3 grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese (chévre)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously butter 2 small ramekins or 2 muffin tin cups including the sides and top lip.  Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of panko in the bottom of each cup.  Crush peppercorns by placing them in a resealable plastic bag, closing the bag and then pounding with a rolling pin, mallet or heavy skillet until finely crushed.

Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Add onions, crushed green peppercorns and 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt; cook and stir 3 minutes or until tender.  Add frozen spinach; cook and stir on medium-low heat about 1 minute.

Spoon 1/2 of the spinach mixture into each cup.  Crack 1 egg into each cup and top with 1.5 grape tomatoes and 1 tbsp goat cheese.

Bake 15 minutes until the egg is set.  Remove from oven. Let stand 10 minutes. Season to taste with additional crushed green peppercorns and serve with buttered toast and fruit salad.

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