The incredible edible egg

A basic quiche (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Spring has arrived, bringing more daylight to the North Country. Gone are the short, dark days of winter. That means that chickens – especially those chicken not raised on indoor chicken farms where they see no daylight – are laying more eggs. Eggs are plentiful, inexpensive, and play a major traditional role in spring holidays like Easter and Passover.

Eggs have been colored, blessed, exchanged and eaten long before Christian times. Early civilizations celebrated the spring equinox, and viewed eggs as symbols of fertility and the renewal of life each spring. Christians adopted the egg as the symbol of Christ’s resurrection, and coloring and hunting for Easter eggs became part of our holiday tradition. The Jewish Passover plate also includes an egg as part of the ritual.

People have eaten eggs since the dawn of history. No one knows when the first chickens were domesticated, but Egyptian and Chinese records both show that fowl were laying eggs by 1400 BC. Europeans have enjoyed eggs from domesticated fowl since 600 BC, and brought chickens to the New World in 1543, on Columbus’ second voyage.

In recent years, eggs have suffered a bad reputation. Because the egg yolks contain high concentrations of cholesterol, they have long been considered a contributor to heart disease. In the 1980’s Americans began to limit their consumption of eggs, and alternative products such as eggbeaters came on the market. Per capita egg consumption declined steadily since 1945, when Americans ate an average of 403 eggs each, to a low in 1994 of just 238 eggs per person.

However, research studies at Harvard found no association between egg consumption and risk of heart disease. Other studies have confirmed these results and suggested that eggs don’t raise cholesterol levels substantially. Lecithin, plentiful in eggs, is an excellent emulsifier that helps the body to break up and absorb fats, including cholesterol. Choline, another substance found in the egg yolk, is important to the health of both the nervous and cardiovascular system.

Eggs contain high-quality protein, with all of the essential amino acids. 45% of the protein is contained in the egg yolk, as well as 13 important vitamins (including A, D, and some B vitamins) and minerals like zinc and sulfur. Egg yolks are one of the few food sources that naturally contain vitamin D. The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, important for eyes and brain, are also found in eggs.

A large egg contains only 75 calories and 5 grams of fat. The fatty acids in eggs are healthy omega-3’s, which are good for your heart, skin, and digestion.

Eggs are versatile. They can be boiled, fried, scrambled, and eaten for breakfast, lunch or supper. They can be made into many dishes from puddings and custards to French toast, omelets, quiches, frittatas and soufflés. They’re common ingredients in baked goods like popovers and angel food cake. Sauces like mayonnaise and Hollandaise sauce contain eggs, as do popular holiday beverages like eggnog. Grated hard-cooked eggs are great sprinkled on salads, vegetables or sauces.

Eggs are classified by size and grade. Inspect before buying to make sure they’re not broken or cracked. Store eggs in the refrigerator. They will age more in one day at room temperature than they will in one week in the fridge.

Spring Egg and Cheese Salad

Ingredients:

3 eggs

1 cup cottage cheese

2 Tablespoons sour cream

3 green onions

3 radishes

1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt and pepper to taste)

Directions:

Place eggs in single layer in pan and cover with water one inch above eggs. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 7-8 minutes. Drain; dunk into cold water, peel, and dice. While eggs are cooking, cut off root ends and brown parts of green onions, and slice thin.

Do the same with radishes. Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Serve with bread or crackers.

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Basic Quiche

The classic version of this savory custard pie originated in France, and is made with bacon and Swiss cheese. But you can use ham or vegetables and a cheese of your choice.

Ingredients:

Pastry for single crust pie OR potato nest (see below)

1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked vegetables (can use leftovers)

3 eggs

salt & pepper

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup shredded cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry or shredded potato nest (see below).

In bottom of pastry shell, spread cooked vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes or sautéed mushrooms; these can be leftovers). Beat eggs with milk and salt and pepper; stir in grated cheese. Pour over the vegetables in the crust. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before serving. Serve with a tossed salad. Serves 3-4.

For Potato Nest:

1 to 3 potatoes depending on size (about 2 to 3 cups shredded)

1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter or oil pie plate (use about 1 Tablespoon butter).

Shred potatoes into pie plate and arrange with fingers to coat bottom and sides.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from oven; lower oven temp to 350 degrees, add quiche filling according to recipe.

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, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on

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Yvona Fast.

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