By CHEF RENEE MORGAN
Spring has sprung, the birds are singing, the trees are turning green, and a chef’s thoughts turns to….eggs. Well, what do you egg-spect? (get it?) It is the Passover/Easter season, and it’s as if my chickens know it, or maybe they just know warmer days are coming. The production of those orbs of liquid gold they leave me each day has practically doubled as of late. I have crazy amounts of eggs. This is eggs-cellent! As long as you have eggs, there is no end to the culinary delights that await you.
Eggs are one of the most versatile foods available. I’m sure all of us have enjoyed eggs for breakfast, as well as breakfast for dinner. Scrambled, fried, over-easy, sunny-side up with a big ‘ol side of bacon, and maybe some country fried potatoes or grits. Yum! What’s not to love? But more than that, eggs are one of the most versatile, nutritious, in-eggs-pensive, vitamin packed foods on the planet. The whites leaven and lighten our cakes and make the most heavenly meringue for our pies. The lethecin in the yolks serve to thicken and enrich cakes, custards and sauces. Eggs are great prepared in many different ways, whether it’s a good old fashioned egg salad sandwich, deviled eggs, Spaghetti Carbonera or a beautiful Strata. When you have eggs in your fridge, supper is in the bag and only a few minutes away. One of my favorite light suppers is a warm spinach salad with bacon, mushrooms and balsamic vinaigrette, topped with a fried egg.
For many years, eggs have gotten a bad rap as the cause of all kinds of malady due to their cholesterol content. I’m happy to report that many experts have begun to change their minds due to recent studies and research. Both The Journal of the American College of Nutrition and the Harvard School of Public Health have reported that no difference can be found in heart disease risk between those who ate one egg a week and those who ate more than one egg a day. This is great news because eggs are high in protein and although they are not high-fat, they do have enough of the “good” fat to keep you feeling full longer. They are also a good source of iron, B and D vitamins, folic acid, all 9 essential amino acids and valuable minerals. They are high in caratenoids and lutein, which is shown to reduce instances of macular degeneration and cataracts; as well as Choline, egg-specially important for brain health and function. Seems with all that going on, eggs are practically a super-food. If you’ve been avoiding eggs for health reasons, it may be time to visit with your health care professional about whether you may be able to enjoy an egg now and then.
Believe it or not, until a few years ago, I was one of those egg distaining people. Oh, I liked dishes made with eggs, just not eggs on their own. They always had a strong sulfur taste to me. Then, when I went to culinary school, while we were learning breakfast cookery, we were made to cook and eat eggs prepared in any and every way you could imagine. Everyday, I faced the day with dread, knowing that I would be made to eat yet more eggs. Here’s what I discovered after trying dozens of different kinds of eggs…for my taste, I preferred eggs that were soft cooked. What I mean by that is this; adorable hubby likes what he calls thoroughly scrambled eggs. He wants them cooked until they are dry. To me, those eggs are terrible! They taste burned and sulfur-y. That’s the way I’d always had them so I just thought that’s what eggs tasted like.
On one of the breakfast cookery days, we made Eggs Benedict, which is a poached egg on top of an english muffin and slice of canadian bacon, and topped with hollandaise sauce. I absolutely loved it! I thought I’d be grossed out by the runny egg yolk, but it was rich and buttery and delicious. Another day, we made french omelets, which are quite different than our western omelets. They are adorned with herbs but no other fillings, cooked lightly but with no color and folded into thirds. Since the omelet is cooked lightly, the eggs are still a bit loose inside. Again, I much preferred these eggs to the more thoroughly cooked version. How eggs-trordinary! (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.) Finally, I understood that all the eggs I’d ever had were simply overcooked for my preferences and that’s why I didn’t like them. If you are one of those egg-haters like I was, let me encourage you to give them another try.
Personally, I prefer the taste and richness of the free-range, farm-fresh eggs that my own hens lay, but any egg is a good egg. If you are especially worried about the cholesterol content there are several things you can do. You could stick to the medium sized eggs as they contain less cholesterol than the large and extra-large ones due to sheer volume. Another idea is to eat mostly egg whites with only one yolk since the cholesterol lives in the yolk. Finally, you might look for eggs from “vegetarian” chickens. Yes, I said it. Chickens that are fed a vegetarian diet produce eggs that contain up to 100 milligrams each less cholesterol than a traditional egg.
The next time you find yourself staring into the refrigerator, wondering what to fix for dinner, consider eggs and my “clean out your fridge” technique. One of the best quick and easy meals you can make with eggs is a frittata. You can throw in just about whatever veggies, herbs or meat is in your fridge. The one I’m sharing with you today utilizes asparagus, ham, green onions and tomatoes, but you can use anything you like. Add a salad and a nice glass of wine to round out your meal. A hot, nutritious and delicious meal will be on the table in less than 30 minutes and your family will think you are a gourmet.
Asparagus and Ham Frittata
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped ham sandwich meat
1 dozen eggs, whisked
1 cup shredded parmesan
1 large tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat on the stove top. Sauté the asparagus and green onions for about 3 minutes. Add ham and allow to heat all the way through. Whisk parmesan and salt and pepper into eggs and add to the pan. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes. Place skillet in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes until the eggs slightly puff up and are almost firm in the middle. Let the frittata rest for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.