Last week I got a new cast iron skillet as a gift from Gina and Erik, my newly married friends, as a thank-you for designing their wedding invitations. (I am an editor and designer by day…and by night.) This is, in fact, my first cast iron piece, though I’ve been wanting one for some time. I am already obsessed with it.
Something about cooking in iron feels so natural, and I guess it is. I believe food was cooked in pottery before iron cookware came along, but iron is ancient enough that it feels like this is how nature intended food be cooked (well, besides open flame cooking). Cooking in iron automatically makes you think about the countless generations before you, about the dishes they used to cook.
So I made ‘jjeh, an old Arab dish that is made of a handful of some of the simplest ingredients, ones humans (or at least humans of the Middle East) have been eating for millennia. You need olive oil, eggs, onion, parsley, salt, and black pepper. C’est tout!
‘ijjeh is basically an omelette of sorts (but not in the pale, supersoft French fashion) that is eaten in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It is usually eaten for breakfast, but makes a nice lunch or dinner as well.
First, chop some onion and parsley. Fry the onions in the olive oil until they are soft. While the onions are cooking, scramble the eggs and season them with salt and pepper. When the onions are soft, add the scrambled eggs to the pan. Add the parsley (quite a bit—the parsley is not just for garnish) into the egg before it sets. Once the edges of the egg have turned brown, flip it over. As you can see from the photos, it doesn’t matter if the egg breaks as you flip it. The outside forms a thin crust, and the inside is fluffy, sweet, and fresh-tasting from the onions and parsley.
This particular one had nine eggs for six people, which made it pretty thick. Obviously, if you need to cook only a few eggs, it’ll produce an thinner result. No need to use cast iron; a stainless steel or aluminium pan is fine too. I ate my ‘ijjeh on its own (more Primal that way!), but you can also enjoy it with your favorite gluten-free bread.