Here’s a game I play with my little friend Lily, who is 2. I ask her if she has an egg in her ear. Yes, she says, yes. May I look? I ask. Yes. She tilts her head and I look deep into the right ear. No egg there, I say. How about the other ear? She turns her head and I look into the left, this time tugging magically at her earlobe. Sure enough, out comes a cushiony toy egg.
Lily, I say, how did you get an egg in your ear? I hand it to her and she lobs it into the air. At the same time, she lets out one of those captivating giggles that only a child of 2 can make – straight down to her itty-bitty toes whose nails are painted pink. More, she pleads through the laughter, more.
That egg in that ear is nearly miraculous.
But an egg in the stomach is a good second.
Round, white, fragile, runny and rich – is there any food as alluring as the egg? Not to me. For years, I avoided them because of a vegetarian diet and a family history of heart disease. I still do not eat meat, so eggs Benedict is out of the question. But more and more my diet includes eggs – several a week.
The memory of egg breakfasts – dipping buttered toast into wiggly yolks and watching the eruption of flavor – simply overcame me. My favorite egg dish still is fried eggs over easy, but I am endlessly persuadable when it comes to this silky food that has as much versatility as it has elegance.
Lobster deviled eggs, breakfast burritos, egg salad sandwiches, egg foo yung, frittatas, tarts, souffles, omelets. Easter eggs, Faberge eggs, “Green Eggs and Ham,” L’eggs, tantric eggs, an egg roll on the White House lawn.
Dare we say those oval orbs are egg-cellent?
When my siblings and I were young, our mother used to keep a large, clear jar of beet-pickled eggs in the fridge. Each week, she dropped hard-boiled eggs into the purple liquid, which soaked into the shiny egg skin. The result was irresistible – slippery, chewy, exciting. The six of us ate those strange flavorful snacks after school or on lazy Saturday afternoons.
It’s so easy to be nostalgic about eggs – especially since they underwent such a personal attack by the medical police 25 years ago. Most of us obediently took them off our lists back then. It may come as no surprise that as cholesterol concern increased, consumption of eggs decreased in America – as much as 24 percent according to the Egg Nutrition Center. But the good news is that recent studies have cracked the shell of the danger-only cholesterol publicity that eggs got hammered with.
Just over a year ago, the American Heart Association issued new guidelines for egg eaters. Because the AHA formerly believed the amount of cholesterol per yolk (274 milligrams) came close to equaling the recommended amount of cholesterol per day (300 milligrams), it advised no more than three eggs a week. Now, researchers believe a yolk contains less cholesterol (214-220 milligrams) and the AHA gets behind eating an egg a day as long as you are otherwise careful about regulating additional cholesterol intake.
In fact, eggs are a good source of high-quality protein and contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals. They are easy to eat, easy on the stomach and, at a little more than $1 a carton, easy on the purse. At about 70 calories each (with about 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 of which is saturated), the egg is appealing any way you turn it.
American egg boards and associations will tell you that nonorganic eggs contain as much nutrition as organically processed eggs. And that’s probably true. But I eat only organic eggs, especially ones grown in Maine.
One last point about eggs. White ones come from white hens. Brown ones come from brown hens. In that regard, the nutritional value is exactly the same. Experts say buy them fresh. Keep them chilled. And don’t worry about that little squiggly chord – also known as chalazae – hanging off the yolk. It indicates freshness.
My cholesterol tends to run very low. Once a doctor asked me if I ate anything other than toothpicks. Clearly, he was looking at my blood work rather than my waistline. Frankly, I’ve never been able to master the difference between good cholesterol and bad. But a number of reports on egg consumption and cholesterol or coronary heart disease indicate that the scare is over.
So go ahead: Eat an egg.
Fresh Vegetable Omelet
Makes 2 servings
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning or oregano leaves, crushed
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon butter or cooking oil or cooking spray
1/3 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Swiss cheese
In medium saucepan or skillet, stir together onion, green pepper, zucchini, tomato and seasoning. Cook, covered, over medium heat until vegetables are tender, but not brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Keep warm.
In large mixing bowl at high speed, beat egg whites with water and cream of tartar until stiff but not dry, just until whites no longer slip when bowl is tilted. In small mixing bowl at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Gently, but thoroughly, fold yolks into whites.
In 10-inch omelet pan or skillet with ovenproof handle over medium-high heat, heat butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Pour in egg mixture. Gently smooth surface. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until puffed and lightly browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. (Lift omelet at edge to judge color.) Bake in preheated 350 F oven until knife inserted halfway between center and outer edge comes out clean, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Loosen omelet edges with spatula. With sharp knife, cut upper surface down center of omelet but do not cut through to bottom of omelet. Arrange reserved vegetable mixture over half of omelet. Sprinkle with cheese. Tip pan. With pancake turner, fold omelet in half and invert onto warmed plate or platter with a quick flip of the wrist. Cut in half or into wedges.
To make handle ovenproof, wrap completely with aluminum foil.
8 ounces bulk Italian sausage
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 small tomato, thinly sliced
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
In 10-inch omelet pan or skillet with ovenproof handle over medium heat, cook sausage, green pepper and fennel seed, stirring to break sausage apart, until sausage is browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well. Return to pan.
In medium bowl, beat together eggs, ricotta cheese and garlic powder until blended. Pour into pan over sausage mixture. Cover. Cook over medium heat until eggs are almost set, about 8 to 10 minutes. Top with tomato slices. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Broil about 6 inches from heat until cheese is melted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve from pan or slide from pan onto serving platter.
To make handle ovenproof, wrap completely with aluminum foil.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli spears
1 tablespoon water
1 can (4 ounces) button mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup skim or low-fat milk
11/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed
6 very thin tomato slices
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a 10-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium heat, combine oil, broccoli and water. Cover and cook just until broccoli can be broken apart with a fork, about 3 minutes. Take pan off the heat.
Arrange broccoli spears so stems point to center of pan. Set mushrooms, rounded sides up, between broccoli spears. In medium bowl, thoroughly blend eggs, milk and seasoning. Pour over broccoli. Cover and cook over medium heat until eggs are almost set. Remove from heat.
Place the largest tomato slice in the center. Cut remaining tomato slices in half and arrange around center slice. Sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Cover and let stand until eggs are completely set, about 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve from pan.
Curried Eggs and Peas
Makes 4 servings
1 cup (8 ounces) plain nonfat yogurt
2 teaspoons flour
1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas
1 cup (about 4 ounces) thinly sliced onions
2 teaspoons curry power
4 hard-cooked eggs
Parsley sprigs, optional
In small bowl, stir together yogurt and flour. Set aside. Evenly coat 10-inch omelet pan or skillet with spray. , onions and curry power, covered, until onions are tender and peas are heated through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in reserved yogurt mixture. . Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated throughout.
For each serving, spoon 3/4 cup egg mixture over rice. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Place eggs in single layer in saucepan. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above eggs. Cover. Quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove pan from burner to prevent further boiling. Let eggs stand, covered, in the hot water, 15 minutes for large eggs (about 18 minutes for extra large eggs and about 12 minutes for medium). Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled.
To remove shell: crackle it by tapping gently all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Then peel, starting at large end. Hold egg under running cold water or dip in bowl of water to help ease off shell.
1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons butter or cooking oil or cooking spray
In 7- to 8-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. (If very large pan is used, more butter will be needed.) Break and slip eggs into pan. Immediately reduce heat to low. Cook slowly until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, covering with lid, spooning butter over eggs to baste or turning eggs to cook both sides.
Reduce butter to just enough to grease pan or substitute light coating of cooking spray and-or nonstick pan. In 7- to 8-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Break and slip eggs into pan. Immediately reduce heat to low. Cook until edges turn white, about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon water. Cover pan tightly with lid to hold in steam.
Cook until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.
Omit butter. Break and slip eggs into lightly greased or sprayed pie plate. Gently prick yolks with tip of knife or wooden pick. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook on 50 percent power just until eggs are almost done, about 2 to 3 minutes. Let stand, covered, until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Note: All microwave cooking times are based on a full-power output of 600 to 700 watts. For a lower-wattage oven (500 to 600 watts), allow more time.
Maine organic egg farmers
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association helps food producers adopt organic practices. The following is MOFGA’s list of MOFGA-certified organic egg farmers in Maine.
Wholesome Valley Farms, Oakfield
Shalom Orchard, Franklin
Straw’s Farm, Newcastle
Woodcock Farm, Arrowsic
Wild Asparagus Farm, Whitefield
Orchard Hill Farm, Andover
Laughing Stock Farm, Freeport
Laughing Tree Farm, Denmark
Sunrise Acres Farm, Cumberland Center
Community Rising, Bowdoinham
Deborah Ganster, South Berwick