Easter is almost here. It’s time to decorate eggs!
Why do we color our eggs? Well, it’s fun. And they’re beautiful creations.
Colored eggs have a long history. They were a part of spring festivities in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.
By the Middle Ages, colored eggs became part of Easter festivities and were given as gifts. Because eggs were forbidden during Lent, they were cooked and saved for when they could be consumed again at Easter.
Records from the time of King Edward I (1239 -1307) show that 450 colored and gold-leafed Easter eggs, costing 18 pence, were sent as gifts.
Pope Paul V (1605-21) prayed a blessing over eggs: “Bless, O Lord, we beseech you, these Your creatures of eggs, that they may become a wholesome sustenance to Your faithful servants, eating in thankfulness to You, on account of the Resurrection of Our Lord.”
By the end of the 17th century, colored eggs for Easter had become commercialized. Pre-painted eggs were often sold. Fabergé, a French jeweler, sold expensive egg jewelry.
Modern egg-decorating traditions vary from country to country. Germans welcome spring with green eggs. In Greece, red-painted eggs symbolize Christ’s saving blood that was shed on the cross. In Poland, children bring baskets with colored eggs and other holiday foods and are taken to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed by the priest. The food is then eaten on Easter Sunday.
In some central European countries, eggs are blown out rather than boiled, and the contents are used in baking and cooking. The empty shells are decorated with lace and ribbons and hung on trees and bushes.
Ukrainians have the most elaborate egg decorations and designs. Called pysanky — from the verb ‘to write’ — the eggs are decorated with a batik method where melted beeswax is applied to the fresh eggshell. Designs are drawn in the wax carefully with a sharp implement, so as not to break the delicate shell. The egg is then dipped in dye, creating an intricate pattern of colors and lines. This is repeated with different colors. The end result is a beautiful artistic creation.
This year, local artist Sue Young taught classes on making pysanky. The decorated eggs are part of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts auction, with proceeds benefiting World Central Kitchen which supplies meals to Ukrainian refugees. The auction catalog can be seen at https://tinyurl.com/4n749yt6. The auction closes this Friday, April 15.
In 21st century America, decorated eggs, chocolate eggs, hidden eggs, rolling eggs, and a variety of egg dishes are all part of Easter celebrations. More than a billion Easter eggs are hunted each year in our backyards and parks and on the White House lawn. Candy eggs and chocolate eggs have been popular since the 1800s. In the 1960s, plastic eggs were introduced.
With only 70 – 80 calories per egg, hard-cooked eggs leftover from Easter festivities are simple and nutritious. They’re an excellent source of protein and high in essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, both critical carotenoids for healthy eyesight. Most of these healthy substances are found in the egg yolk, along with most of the egg’s fat content.
Those hard-cooked eggs are also quite versatile and can be used in salads, sandwiches and casseroles. Use them for deviled eggs, for topping vegetable pies and salads, creating elaborate dips and pates. Finely grate eggs and use as a garnish on cooked vegetables like asparagus and fresh spring greens.
Salade Nicoise is a delicious blend of fresh dressed greens, hard boiled eggs, cooked potatoes and steamed green beans. Make a curry with rice, hardboiled eggs, tomatoes and a curry-flavored white sauce. Potatoes, cooked greens like kale or spinach, hardboiled eggs and cheese sauce can be layered to create a delicious casserole.
Classic Deviled Eggs
6 hard cooked eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/2 cup of any of these, chopped fine: sweet bell pepper, jalapeno, scallions, chives, celery, pickles, parsley, olives, ham, crumbled bacon, chopped salted peanuts or pistachios.
1 teaspoon paprika (for garnish)
Peel the eggs and half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Carefully remove the yolks.
Place in bowl and mash. Blend in mayonnaise and mustard to form a smooth paste. Stir in other ingredients. Carefully spoon the mixture back into the egg white halves. Garnish with paprika.
For a spicier deviled egg, stir in a pinch of cayenne or a little hot pepper sauce into the mayonnaise. For a curried egg, stir in one teaspoon curry powder into the mayonnaise, and omit mustard, and stir in finely chopped ham or cooked, crumbled bacon.
Egg and Spinach Salad
1 cup cottage cheese
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
3 green onions
3 – 4 radishes
1 cup (or a bit more) fresh, washed, torn baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt and pepper to taste)
Additional fresh greens (spinach or lettuce) for serving
Place eggs in single layer in pan and cover with water one inch above eggs. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat. Let sit 20 minutes, then drain. Rinse under cold water (or dunk into ice water), peel, and dice.
While eggs are cooking, cut off root ends and brown parts of green onions, and slice thin. Wash radishes, cut off roots and dice fine. Wash and chop spinach.
In a bowl, combine chopped eggs with cottage cheese and yogurt. Fold in chopped radishes and onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Line two or three bowls with the spinach. Place a dollop of the egg salad on top.
Serve with a fresh baguette.
Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!
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 found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.