Goat Cheese and Tomato Charlotte.

Eggs are the Answer

The Christian world begins its observation of Lent today, and for those who observe it, Ash Wednesday means fasting (eating one full meal or two small ones) and abstinence from meat on this day and on Good Friday (March 29); additionally, those “of age” must abstain from meat on all Fridays. Enter lots more fish on the menu for the next six weeks, more soups, salads, and definitely more eggs. These recipes feature eggs, cheese, and milk (or cream), and lots of vegetables — spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, or onions, to name a few. Most of these recipes have appeared in one or more of my cookbooks.

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Serves 6                     

Slow-roasting tomatoes gives them a rich flavor that adds depth to salads, tarts, and to this soufflé-like dish made with goat cheese. The dish is an invention of Denis Cotter, chef-proprietor of Paradiso, the vegetarian restaurant he established in Cork in 1993. He shared the recipe with me in The New Irish Table (2003) and it will appear again in my new cookbook Delicious Ireland, to be released on March 12. At Paradiso he served the small soufflés over a bed of puy lentils with wedges of polenta, but they’re equally delicious sitting on a bed of steamed or sautéed spinach or next to a salad of mixed greens dressed with your favorite vinaigrette. Thirty years on, Cotter still serves some of the most imaginative vegetarian food in Ireland.

For the tomatoes

6 large beefsteak tomatoes

Sea salt 

Ground black pepper 

Extra virgin olive oil 

For the filling

3 garlic cloves

16 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 large eggs

3 large egg whites

1/3 to 1/2 cup half and half

4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Ground black pepper 

Steamed or sautéed spinach, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly brush two baking sheets with olive oil.

2. Cut each tomato horizontally into 3 thick slices; place on the prepared pans. Season with salt and pepper; brush with olive oil. Roast, turning once, for 60 to 75 minutes, or until partly dried and slightly caramelized. 

3. Increase the oven temperature to 375° F. Butter six 8-ounce ramekins. Line the bottom of each ramekin with a round of parchment paper.

4. In a food processor, combine the garlic, goat cheese, cream cheese, and eggs; process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth. With the machine running, add the egg whites, one at a time; process for 30 seconds, or until blended. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in enough half and half to give a thick pouring consistency. Stir in the basil and pepper.

5. Put a tomato slice in the bottom of each ramekin; top with a tablespoon of cheese mixture. Repeat twice to make three layers in each ramekin. Place the dishes in a roasting pan filled with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides. 

6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set in the center. Remove the pan from the oven; let dishes sit in the pan for 5 minutes.

7. To serve, run a sharp knife around the sides of the dishes to loosen. Invert onto the center of each of six salad plates; remove the parchment. (If serving with spinach, put some in the center of the plates; invert the dishes onto the spinach).


Serves 6

1 refrigerated pie crust

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 cup baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup crumbled Kerrygold Cashel Blue cheese

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

Pinch of nutmeg


Ground black pepper 

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slowly unroll crust. Press into an ungreased 9-inch glass pie dish. Press crust firmly against side and bottom; bake for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from oven; let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, thyme, and spinach; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onions are soft but not browned. Add sugar; cook for 5 minutes. Strain off excess liquid. Stir in vinegar. Spread mixture evenly over the crust; sprinkle with cheese.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, sour cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour over onion-spinach mixture. 

5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and filling is set. Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting into slices. Garnish with thyme sprigs.


Serves 6 to 8

            This crustless quiche is packed with fresh vegetables and herbs — perfect with a salad, some crusty bread, and a glass of wine.

4 tablespoons olive oil

10 ounces white mushrooms, chopped

5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

2 scallions, sliced

1 small zucchini, sliced

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

4 large eggs

1/2 cup half and half

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


Ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, thyme, and flatleaf parsley

5 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-inch glass pie dish with no-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoon oil. Cook the mushrooms for 2 to 5 minutes, or until soft but not browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl; set aside.

3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add spinach, scallions, zucchini, and tomatoes; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until spinach is wilted. Add to the mushrooms; let cool for about 5 minutes. Arrange the vegetables in the prepared dish.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, half and half, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the herbs. Spoon over the vegetables in the prepared dish. Evenly distribute the cheese. Put the quiche in the center of a baking sheet.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into slices. 

          Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page occasionally incudes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed cookbook, visit irishcook.com