by Tara Davis

I am spoiled, having grown up in a passionately food-centric part of the country, where nothing can happen that isn’t culinarily associative. Weddings, funerals, holidays, sure.  New neighbors? Make them a pie.  Fifth Sunday?  Potluck. Quitting your job? Let’s hit the local BBQ joint.  Your kid is potty trained?  I’ll drink to that!  And when we’re all stuffed to the gills, we’ll STILL be talking about food.

Furthermore, I am fortunate to have well represented farmer’s markets all around me, offering beautiful seasonal produce and fare.  My love for all things local is nothing new, if you have read almost anything I’ve ever written. But there’s one thing I have trouble sourcing reliably on the local level.   Eggs.

Why does it matter?

Admittedly, I wasn’t always on board with, or aware of the cage free egg as an important ingredient.  Several years ago, I had the opportunity – the privilege – to work on an organic, free range egg farm in Texas.   But these had open coops situated on a couple of acres per 30 chickens, fresh water sprinklers, soy free, organic food, plenty of shade, and their own guard llama.  (You read that right – she kept the coyotes away).  Their every need was met, and their housing was moved every few weeks, so as not to deplete the land.  As a result, they laid more eggs, regularly, and oh, what eggs they were.  Bright orange yolks, richer texture and flavor.  Magic.

The egg has long been revered in cooking, most specifically in classic French cuisine. The French say the egg is both the simplest and the most difficult ingredient to cook appropriately.  The stereotypical pleated chef’s hat (called a toque) is said to have been crafted so each pleat represents a different way to cook an egg, and a chef may only wear it after mastering them all. Today, I celebrate the egg with some of my favorite accessible recipes, to get you started on that toque for yourself.

The recipes:

Frittata – Dice 2 small Yukon gold potatoes, and boil in salted water about 15 minutes, or until tender. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in an oven safe pan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the potatoes and cook 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk 8 large eggs with 1 cup milk, salt and pepper lightly. Pour over vegetable mixture, in the same pan. Allow to cook 5 minutes on stove with stirring. Dollop your favorite cheese on top and put in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until eggs are set.  Cut into wedges to serve.

Curried Egg Salad – Boil 1 dozen large eggs. Cool completely in ice water and peel. Smash with a fork until fairly smooth. Mix  with ½ tsp orange zest, 1 tsp curry powder, 1/3 tsp dry mustard, ½ cup mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on your favorite bread, cut into small triangle or squares, or in mini sweet peppers or celery sticks.

Spinach Egg Drop Soup – Bring 2 quarts chicken stock to a boil in a sauce pan. Simmer garlic in stock 3 minutes. Add 10 ounces fresh, chopped spinach, season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in 4 large eggs, beaten, breaking them into large strands in the stock.  Gently simmer until eggs are just firm, about 1-2 minutes. Stir ½ cup cheese if desired.  Ladle soup into serving bowls, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges to finish.