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The Humble Egg
© Mother Linda's
from grace in the 1980s, the humble egg is being resurrected and restored to an
honorable place in the kitchen.
upon a time, the humble egg was the symbol of life, containing within its shell
all that was needed to sustain a newly hatched chicken. For millennia,
civilizations cracked, stirred, beat, whipped, and poached, enjoying the
resultant egg delicacy guilt-free.
Then something happened. Sometime in the 1970s or '80s, eggs fell from grace.
They were no longer a symbol of life but of potential death. They were
accused--wrongly, as it turns out--of raising serum cholesterol, which was
considered a factor in coronary disease. For two decades, eggs were
disparaged--yolks were eliminated from recipes, egg substitutes were created out
of plums and other un-egglike and almost unpalatable commodities. With
cholesterol concerns compounded by potential Salmonella contamination,
the egg hit bottom.
But recently science has changed direction. Just as it did an 180-degree
about-face over nuclear winter, trading in that environmental theory for global
warming, it has now determined that eggs are back in. Many scientists no longer
believe that there is a direct link between cholesterol in the diet and serum
cholesterol levels. That is good news for egg lovers around the world--and
didn't you intuitively know it all along?
Not all eggs are created equal
I personally long to have my own flock of heirloom chickens, but that requires a
lot more space than I now have. So I depend on others to supply my eggs. I visit
the farmer's market and regional purveyors to forage for the best quality.I
believe all eggs have the genetic potential to be equal, but I've found that how
the chickens are fed greatly impacts the finished egg--that is, nature vs.
Do the experiment yourself. Buy a dozen eggs from a small organic-egg
and -chicken producer in your area and another dozen eggs from the local
supermarket. Crack a couple eggs from each carton together into a bowl. I
guarantee you will see a marked difference between the yolks. The store-bought
will be a much paler yellow and usually smaller, while the farmer's eggs will be
dark yellow, even orange (see picture at left) and larger. I have even seen farm-raised eggs with bright orange
This difference comes from the diet. While many egg cartons now claim their
chickens are "free-ranged," unfortunately it isn't dependable labeling anymore,
because some confinement egg producers leave a small door for the chickens to
exit the confinement sheds, even if they never do. Some let them roam around
inside big barns, but they never see a blade of grass. The new standard for eggs
is "pasture-fed" eggs. The term pasture-fed usually means that in addition to
some supplemental grains, the chickens are allowed to forage on pasture where
they can incorporate wild plants and omega-3-rich bugs into their diet. Joel
Salatin is the pioneer of a moving-cage system that keeps the chickens safe from
predators, but gives them access to fresh pasture every day.
While you might not find these best-quality eggs at the local supermarket
anytime soon, organic food stores usually carry several different kinds, and
more and more restaurants are pioneering farm-to-restaurant connections with
small egg producers. Patronize these restaurants and treat yourself to
traditional and nutritious egg dishes and desserts like the unbelievably yellow
créme brûlée I recently enjoyed at Bistro Lepic in Washington, D.C. Chef Bruno
Fortin created this timeless French classic with the bright-orange egg yolks
from free-roaming chickens raised on Amish and Mennonite farms in Pennsylvania.
Whether you have easy access to true free-range or pasture-fed chickens' eggs
may be a factor in whether you can use them extensively, but do guiltlessly
reincorporate the simple egg back into your diet--no matter the source. And when
you can prepare or purchase egg dishes made with the best-quality eggs, you'll
not only be getting superior nutrition, but you'll also be helping to preserve
some small family farms at the same time.
Scrambled Eggs with Ricotta Cheese
This recipe from Marie Simmons' new cookbook
The Good Egg is the perfect way to
make eggs for a Sunday brunch. I buy ricotta freshly made from Guernsey cows at
a local farmer's market. Used by permission of the author.
6 large eggs
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. torn fresh basil leaves
Combine the eggs and ricotta in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Melt the
butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the foam
subsides, add the egg mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the eggs are
soft-set but still creamy, about 3 minutes. Do not allow the eggs to develop a
curdlike consistency--that means they are overcooked. Sprinkle with salt to
taste and a grinding of pepper. Sprinkle with the basil leaves and serve at
Pepper n' Egg Skillet Supper
This is a quick and easy way to make a fun evening meal.
7 cups thinly sliced sweet red, green, and yellow peppers in rings or
1½ cups thinly sliced onions
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
In a 10-inch
nonstick pan or skillet over medium heat, cook the peppers, onions, and garlic
in hot oil, without stirring, about 3-4 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring
occasionally, until vegetables are tender and all the liquid has evaporated.
Stir in the vinegar and cook until evaporated.
With the back of a wooden spoon, make 4 indentations in the vegetable mixture.
Break open and slip a whole egg into each indentation. Cover and cook over medium
heat until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not
hard, about 3-4 minutes. Serves 4.