A Spring Awakening

Well Nourished

A frittata or a flat omelet, Italian style, makes great use of leftovers like herbs, cheeses, meats and vegetables.

Eggs are a symbol of new beginnings, a universal and versatile food used in every cuisine. They exist in a wide range of colors even before they’re roasted for the Passover Seder plate, dunked in vibrant dyes for Easter egg hunts, or used as the focal point topping a Greek Easter bread. 

While the egg’s health benefits are touted or disparaged, depending on the diet du jour or the latest medical journal study, it remains one of the most economical sources of protein and one of the few foods to naturally contain vitamin D. Eggs are nutrient rich and a large egg has a mere 70 calories. The whites of the egg (albumen) provide the majority of the protein, while the yolk offers all of the egg’s fat and most of the vitamins.

To understand egg carton labeling, remember that ‘cage free’ means only that the chickens are not living in a cage. ‘Free range’ designates the hens have access to the outdoors (not necessarily a pasture or grass), and ‘pasture raised’ indicates they are living outdoors with access to shelter. Pastured (outdoor based) poultry’s diet usually includes plants and insects, and you’ll be able to see the difference in the egg’s brighter orange colored yolk contrasted with a paler yolk of a hen fed primarily corn and soy.

Boiled, scrambled, sunny-side up or adorned Benedict or Florentine style – eggs rise and shine as breakfast fare. Lunchtime offers opportunities for egg salad, Croque Madame (the French version of grilled ham and cheese with a fried egg; the Croque Monsieur omits the egg), eggs poached, and perched on beautiful spring asparagus. Egg drop soup, eggnog, aioli, crepes and brioche provide ample recipe options, too. Quiches and frittatas (the Italian version of an omelet) make for an easy supper paired with a salad and baguette, where an elegant dinner party might spotlight a savory airy soufflé with spinach or salmon. Side dishes of egg noodles or spaetzle wouldn’t exist if not for the egg. Desserts like flans, meringues, mousse and cream puffs rely on eggs emulsified, whisked and whipped.

Eggs provide limitless inspiration for nutritious and delicious sweet or savory meals and desserts. The columnar chef’s hat, or toque, boasts 100 pleats, representing the number of ways to prepare an egg, and chefs in training often spend days learning to cook sophisticated dishes or perfecting culinary technique with the egg. Here, you’ll find a couple of easy-to-execute recipes that make good use of the most perfect food.

The Fabulous Frittata

The frittata can be made substituting a variety of cheeses, meat, vegetables, or herbs (a great way to use refrigerator leftovers).

Yield: Six to eight single servings.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced or ¼ cup chopped onion or ramps (wild leeks)
7 spears of asparagus, woody base discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup feta, diced or grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup parsley (or favorite herb)
7 large eggs (or approximately 2 cups liquid measure)
½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a 10-inch cast-iron (or oven-proof) skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and asparagus (or other vegetable of choice) and sauté for a few minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Add parsley, increasing the heat to medium-high. 

While vegetables are cooking, lightly whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl with salt and a grinding or two of pepper. Add egg mixture to vegetables in skillet; sprinkle cheese over the top. Do not stir or mix the eggs while in the skillet.

When the top of the egg mixture starts to set, take the pan off the burner and place in the oven (or under a low broiler), watching closely for a couple of minutes or so until the top turns a golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for a minute. Slide the frittata out of the pan onto a serving platter. Slice into wedges and serve hot or at room temperature with a side salad of spring greens (arugula, baby spinach or mesclun mix) drizzled with your favorite vinaigrette, and a crusty baguette.

Crepes

Yield:  10-12 crepes
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
Oil for pan
Fresh berries or jam
Confectioner’s sugar

Lightly whisk together milk and eggs; slowly mix in flour. Drizzle butter into batter and mix completely.

Place approximately one teaspoon of vegetable oil in skillet (non-stick works best) and heat over medium-high heat. Place one ladle (approximately 4 tablespoons) of batter in pan.  Let batter cook until it loses its sheen, then flip crepe and cook for a few seconds.

Fold in quarters and serve with fresh berries or jam; sprinkle lightly with sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Annette Nielsen is a writer and a cook who has been engaged in food, farming and sustainability issues for over 15 years.  A native of the Adirondacks, and a long-time resident of both NYC and DC, she lives in Southwest near the waterfront with her husband and son.  Follow her on twitter: @The_Kitchen_Cab; reach her by email: annettenielsen@mac.com.