Spring into souffles
The sun shines warm and the sounds of melting snow are everywhere. Spring is not quite here, but the snow is melting fast, and the days are becoming noticeably longer. Longer days mean more light, which means that hens lay more eggs.
In addition, they contain ample amounts of vitamins A, D, B12, and E, beta carotene and folic acid as well as omega 3 fatty acids.
Those round symbols of new life and fertility are incredibly versatile, with so many ways to prepare them. Eggs are one of the least expensive nutritious foods in your family’s diet. Although they do contain cholesterol and saturated fat, they’re a good source of high quality protein. They’re also high in vitamins (A, D, E, folate, and B group, including B12) and many minerals (iron, phosphorus, iodine and zinc). Eggs are also a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the antioxidant lutein.
Contrary to popular opinion, eggs will not raise your cholesterol. It is true that a large egg has about 213 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol (all of which is found in the yolk) – which also contains all the vitamins in the egg, and half the protein. A Harvard School of Public Health study found no significant link between eating eggs and developing heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic site, the extent to which dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels isn’t clear. And your body produces more cholesterol than you get from food.
A delicious dish that will use many eggs quickly is the souffle. They can be savory or sweet, and can be filled with fruit, nuts, vegetables, meat — or nothing at all.
Souffles were invented in 18th century France. The name comes from the French verb souffler which means “to blow up.” Some early recipes appear in Louis Ude’s The French Cook, published in 1813. By 1841, Careme in the book Patissier Royal Parisien gives a detailed description of how to make souffles.
This light, fluffy dish has gained a reputation for being complicated and difficult. In fact, however, soufflés are fairly simple to make. You must be able to separate eggs, beat the egg whites stiff, and fold ingredients into a batter to make a souffle. Modern electric beaters make this quite easy.
You can use any size straight-sided casserole dish to bake the souffle, but traditionally they are made in ramekins or souffle cups, which are flat-bottomed, round, white porcelain cups with fluted outside borders. The basic hot souffle has two parts. It begins with a roux, or a blend of butter and flour that has been lightly browned on the stove. Use a wire whisk or fork to blend the butter and flour. Other ingredients blended into this sauce give the souffles its flavor.
The beaten egg whites are the other half of the souffles. They are responsible for the lift, or for raising the souffle, because they trap bubbles of hot air, which expands when heated — and contracts again when cooled, giving the souffle its reputation for falling. It is best to separate the eggs while they’re cold, but let them come to room temperature before beating them, because they will hold more air. Be sure to have a large enough bowl for beating the egg whites, since they expand quite a bit as you beat air into them! Have the oven preheated and fold the whites into the batter to incorporate as much air as possible just before putting the dish into the hot oven,.
Make sure you butter the baking dish. Baking the souffle in a pan of hot water will help keep it moist. Because the souffle will deflate just minutes after you take it out of the oven, it is very important that you have punctual dinner guests! Everyone should be seated at the table as you bring the dish out of the oven.
3/4 cup cauliflower florets, broken up
3/4 cup peas
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup plain yogurt at room temperature
1 teaspoon paprika
Separate the eggs into 2 bowls. Cover and set aside.
Steam or cook cauliflower and peas until just crisp tender; drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 2-quart souffle dish or casserole.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Peel and dice the onion fine, and chop the mushrooms. Add to the butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, over medium heat about five minutes.
Lower the heat and sprinkle in the flour, whisking constantly, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Beat in the yogurt. Stir in the onions and mushrooms and the steamed vegetables.
With clean beaters, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold these into the egg yolk mixture, and pour into the buttered souffle dish. Dust with paprika. Set in a pan of boiling water and place in the lower third of the oven. Bake without peeking until set, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve right away.
Yogurt Berry Souffle
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons flour
3 Tablespoons honey
1 cup berries (I used red currants and blueberries)
2/3 cup plain yogurt
If fruit is frozen, defrost.
Separate the eggs into 2 bowls. Cover and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 2-quart casserole or 4 individual (2 cup) souffles cups.
In small jar, combine milk and 1 Tablespoon flour; shake well. Transfer to saucepan and cook on low, stirring. Add honey and whisk in the remaining tablespoon flour. The sauce will be quite thick. Stir in the berries, along with any juices, and simmer just a couple minutes.
Combine yogurt and egg yolks. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the yogurt/egg mixture.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into the fruit mixture. Spoon into souffle dishes. Set in a pan of boiling water and place in the lower third of the oven. Bake without opening the oven until set and puffed up, about 35 to 40 minutes for the casserole. Serve right away.
Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook as Author