Growing up, I was a big fan of egg salad sandwiches. But in adulthood I developed an aversion to mayonnaise, so I don’t eat them much any more. I was happy when Heidi rejuvenated them on her blog several years ago—her recipe minimizes the mayo and maximizes the flavor—and was again happy to see a new recipe included in her (totally wonderful, which by this point you surely already know) new cookbook Super Natural, Every Day, one that substitutes yogurt for the mayonnaise. I haven’t tried that recipe yet, but it sounds like something I’ll definitely enjoy.
I’ve been taking my egg salads sandwiches in a somewhat different direction. Texture is always key for me, and so I wanted to incorporate as many different types of crunch as possible. I also wanted it to be filling, and easy to make from on-hand ingredients (this aspect seems to be part of egg salad’s everlasting appeal). What I ended up with is a bit more like a chopped salad, with the hard-boiled eggs as an ensemble player rather than the star of the show.
My pantry and my fridge set the parameters: eggs, almonds, celery, romaine, feta cheese. I didn’t have mayonnaise, and I didn’t have yogurt, so some leftover vinaigrette would have to do. And then bread. I made the salad by chopping everything into bits and tossing it with the vinaigrette—in this case a lemony, cumin-spiked one that my friend Brian introduced me to. But when it came time for the bread, I wasn’t sure what to do. This egg salad has no spreadable consistency, so I worried it would just topple out if I tried to give it the standard sandwich treatment. So I opted for something between a sandwich and a fork-and-knife job: tartines!
The combination of feta and almonds is one of my favorite recent discoveries and it shines through here, and I love the fresh, cooling crunch of the romaine used as bulk rather than a sandwich condiment. The next morning, when I was putting together my lunch to take to work with me, I wondered how to make this egg salad transportable. I suppose I could have packed the bread and salad separately and assembled and the tartines on site. But panzanella—the Italian salad made from day-old bread—seemed like a much simpler solution.
This is the kind of thing that just begs to be toyed with. The bread I used was an Italian pugliese loaf, but something more robust and whole-wheat would give the salad a new dimension. And if you want to substitute a different, or more nutrient-dense, green for the romaine, go for it. Try walnuts or hazelnuts instead of almonds. Add some fresh herbs, or shallots or other vegetables along with the celery. The type of vinaigrette you use will give it its own personality, but maybe you’ll just opt for oil and vinegar. I’ll be curious to hear what ideas you have.
Egg Salad Two Ways: Tartines and Panzanella
3 hard-boiled eggs (see note below)
3-4 leaves Romaine lettuce, chopped finely (about 1-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped, roasted almonds
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
About 2 tablespoons of your favorite vinaigrette
Salt and pepper, to taste (you may not need it depending on the vinaigrette you use)
Peel and then, using your hands, coarsely crumble the hard-boiled eggs. Combine with the lettuce, almonds, feta, and celery. Season with the vinaigrette, salt, and pepper, as instructed below.
To make tartines: Toast 4 thin slices of your favorite bread until crisp but yielding, then smear one side of each piece with Dijon mustard. Toss the egg salad with the vinaigrette and adjust seasonings as needed. Divide the egg salad over the slices. Cut the toasts into smaller pieces if desired.
To make panzanella: Cut or tear 3 or 4 slices of you favorite bread (day-old is preferred in this instance) into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces. Toast until golden brown and slightly crisp. Add to the eggs, almonds, lettuce, feta, and celery, then toss with the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for at least 30 minutes (or a few hours, until lunchtime) for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.
* Hard-boiling eggs: No one likes the green-gray nebula around the yolk that happens when you over-cook them. The yolk should in fact be somewhat moist, rather than chalky and dry, and have a little bit of bright yellow vibrancy left to it. My method is to place them in a saucepan, cover with cold water by a half inch, and bring to a boil. The moment the water reaches a gentle boil, let it boil for 1 minute, then off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit for exactly 7 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking and cool until ready to use. The bigger problem, to me, is peeling them. I hate when it comes off in miniscule chips and takes half the white with it. I gather from research that this happens when the eggs are fresh. So for hard-boiled eggs, opt for slightly older eggs. But I also discovered recently that they peel more easily if you leave them in the ice bath for a half-hour or so.