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Living - September 11, 2009

Epicure: Creating eggs-ceptional omelets

by Jacqui Love Marshall

Every good cook should aim to master the basic art of omelet-making. And late summer to early fall is an ideal time to make and enjoy omelets for breakfast, lunch or dinner because of the abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs to use in them. They are also great for recycling small leftover portions of vegetables, cheeses, etc., as fillings.

Omelets are simple dishes but require some care in preparation. The classic French omelet is creamy and pale (no browning) and slightly undercooked inside. Of course, you can always cook it to your personal taste, once you acquire the basic skills. For consistent results, try following the eight-step process outlined here.

Omelet fillings include everything from the traditional cheeses (Gruyere, Swiss, Emmenthal, brie, etc.) to your favorite food combinations. For each two-egg omelet, use about 1/4 cup filling. And, if you trying to keep cholesterol down, you can substitute eggs with 1/2 cup cholesterol-free egg substitute or egg whites. The possibilities for omelets are endless. Create omelets with your own combos or consider some of these tasty filling variations:

* Bacon, caramelized onions, thyme

* Basil, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese

* Sautéed mushrooms, chopped fresh spinach, grated Swiss cheese

* Cooked/sliced asparagus, aged white cheddar cheese

* Sautéed onions, potatoes, peppers and sausage

* Crab meat, asparagus, tarragon

* Feta cheese, scallions

* Deli ham, shredded cheddar

* Avocado, pine nuts, yogurt

* Brie, bacon, green grapes

* Marmalade, cream cheese, scallions

* Green chilies, chopped tomatoes, shredded Monterey Jack cheese

* Flaked salmon, chopped dill, green onions, Brie cheese

* Chopped vegetables, grated Gruyere cheese

* Sauteed zucchini and onions, grated Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses

* Sauteed garlic, onions and shrimp

* Pepperoni, peppers, onions, grated Mozzarella cheese

* Steamed broccoli florets, sliced strawberries

* Sauteed peaches, ricotta cheese

* Assorted fruit, sour cream, vanilla

* Anything in your refrigerator!

Jacqui Love Marshall lives in San Ramon with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at jlovemarshall@yahoo.com.

Eight steps to the perfect omelet (serves 1)

1. In a small bowl, lightly beat 2 large eggs, salt and pepper with a fork until completely mixed and frothy.

2. Melt 1/2 tsp unsalted butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet; you'll also need a silicone spatula.

3. Pour the mixture into the pan and cook undisturbed until the eggs are just barely set around the edges, about 30-60 seconds.

4. With the spatula, scramble the eggs gently; turn off the heat as soon as the bottom has set but the eggs are still undercooked on top.

5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of grated cheese down the middle of the eggs; run the spatula round the edges.

6. With the spatula, fold 1/3 of the omelet toward the center of the whole.

7. Holding the spatula, at the point where the fold meets the unfolded portion, slip the unfolded portion onto a plate flipping the first folded portion over to complete the fold (as in folding a letter).

8. Serve immediately.

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