Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, you can make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Gabriella shows you how to dress up even the simplest meal with an egg.


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There is a very simple trick to make even the most frugal meal instantly seem fancy -- and you probably already have it in your fridge:

Add one little egg.

You already know that they're one of the cheapest sources of protein out there. But there's something about the aesthetic of a singular egg that just makes any dish a little more beautiful to look at. It's the culinary equivalent of red lipstick on days when you're feeling especially disheveled.  

You'll want to have your technique down first, so we'll walk you through how to make the perfect fried, poached, and boiled eggs.

Then, get inspiration from these egg-topped dishes:

Breakfast Egg Salad
Emily eats this Arugula, Avocado, and Radish Salad, topped with a soft-boiled egg, for breakfast; but grab a piece of crusty bread and it makes for a great lunch or dinner too. Or turn to Martha for the perfect brunch dish: Warm Spinach Salad with Fried Egg and Potatoes


If you're reading this, you've likely eaten leftover pizza for breakfast before. (It's okay. This is a judgement-free zone.) Next time, make it a little less sad with a fried egg. Cacio e Pepe Pizza with Roasted Radishes works especially well for this, as does a classic margherita. If you have a little more time on your hands, try out this breakfast pizza from The Kitchn. 

Lemony Quinoa
Here's the quickest, cheapest way to host friends for dinner while keeping things light: pull together a grain salad and divide it amongst your guests' plates, and then top with your favorite type of egg. Round out the meal with a big green salad, good bread, a bottle of wine, and fresh fruit for dessert. The Farro Salad with Roasted Mushrooms and Parmsan is an old standby, as is this one with asparagus and pesto. Or try Lemony Quinoa with Leeks, Spinach, and a Fried Egg.


I'm a firm believer in the one-pot meal -- and shakshuka is one of the best. All you need is tomato sauce, eggs, and pita bread for dipping, and you're set for any meal. I grew up with a version from my Egyptian grandmother that relies on a generous amount of spinach, but there are endless variations, from the mild, yogurt-based recipes to the hot and spicy

Sweet Potato Quesadilla
A longtime standby of dorm room chefs, quesadillas can easily be transformed into a grown-up dinner. Try Caroline's Sweet Potato and Cilantro Quesadilla with Fried Egg + Cumin Oilthis feta version, or these fresh Farmers Market Quesadillas. Just make sure to leave the tortillas whole before you stick that fried egg on top. 

Tell us: what are you favorite foods to top with an egg? 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Yes, my name rhymes.


MiriamI January 1, 2014
I began the day with Joan Nathan's Sunnyside Up Pita from her Foods of Israel Cookbook--basically an egg baked on focaccia with olive oil, zaatar and feta. And of course, there's always bi bim bap.
Irene August 22, 2013
I love a poached egg or gently fried sunny side up on many things. Now living in Hawaii, you see them put this on many things. Loco moco is a Hawaiian standard!
Keka D. July 18, 2013
absolutely agree! my favourite brunch fix is a couple of fresh rotis, some steamed green beans and some fried eggs - bliss!
cerealmom July 17, 2013
I have my own ranch chickens and put eggs on strange things. The first crop of kale I picked one morning I sautéed with garlic, lemon and chili flakes and put a poached egg on for breakfast. Yum. Always on left over pizza or steak. There is no end on how to eat eggs.
Carlie July 17, 2013
Any white fish fillet.
ryanm July 17, 2013
Egg on ratatouille is super.
I'll also admit to putting one on the Tarte Flambée from Trader Joes.
Monica M. July 17, 2013
I could not agree more!
ChefJune July 17, 2013
There's a very regal Italian chicken soup called "The Soup of the Grand-Duke Ferdinand" that calls for eggs poached in the soup just before serving. It's really beautiful and delicious.
Eggs are the most wonderful food...
HalfPint July 17, 2013
A soft poached egg on a caesar salad is pure bliss.

Though, I have seen the egg-on-food backlash recently. All I can say to those haters "More for me!".
Kenzi W. July 17, 2013
This post speaks to my heart.
Angela @. July 17, 2013
Add an egg to ramen or soup. You can stir it into the pot for ribbons or leave it whole and let it poach on top of each piping hot individual serving. Try it with chili or stew too.