Laura and I as a couple have been on a constant food quest since my first attempts to impress her with my knife skills on our second date which resulted in a permanently damaged index finger and Papa Johns carry-out pizza. We have eaten our way through dozens of cookbooks and hundreds of food magazines, trying different regions, cuisines, flavors, ingredients and chefs.
We are lucky as a couple to have such similar tastes. She hails from the eastern shore of Maryland where all things crab are revered. Fresh rockfish, old bay seasoning and a very French cuisine shaped her childhood.
I grew up in the mountains of Appalachia, where food was scarce and not to be taken lightly. Rhubarb pie, roasted sweet potatoes, bean soups, sweet corn and the proverbial “everything-but-the-squeal” attitude towards pork were the staple of my culinary upbringing. Men were largely banished from the kitchen and relegated to grill duties, which mainly gave them an excuse to nip on jars of white lightning.
I was the lucky one. My mother and her mother had me in the kitchen during my earliest memories, allowing me to sit on the counter and help sample, taste, stir, baste and pluck. I listened to their stories and admired their intricate dance around the kitchen, always cutting, chopping; always using their hands and rarely, if ever a cutting board.
We’re lucky, for as a couple, our tastes and cooking styles have converged. Although Laura shuns all things liver and I have retained the traditional southern Appalachia notion that if it’s not biting you, and if you use enough salt and pepper, you can eat it. We cook predominately rustic Italian, a perfect blend of our childhoods and skills. We use as much fresh fish and local meats and vegetables from our gardens and neighbors as possible and we are thrilled by the variety of food that is available here in Giles County if you but open your eyes and look.
This dish was born out of a wish for something different for breakfast. It is simple in preparation yet complex in tastes and texture. Fresh farm eggs are poached in gently boiling salted vinegar water while fresh brined cheese curd such as a Greek feta roasts with Mediterranean olives. This is topped with the poached eggs, cayenne, fresh sage with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Served with fresh grilled foccacia bread seasoned with olive oil and accompanied by English tea or strong black coffee, this dish is perfect for either an early brunch or late breakfast, combining cuisines and textures – the creaminess and subtle bite of the feta with olives and the gentle, rich depth of the garden fresh eggs with sage.