Throughout time the egg has been a symbol of fertility, creation and new life.
The Pagan cultures celebrated spring equinox with the gift of red-dyed eggs and after eating them they crushed the shells to drive away winter weather.
The ninth century Catholic church put a ban on eating eggs during the 46 days of Lent followed by a distribution of collected eggs to servants and children who would serve up a huge Easter omelette.
The 19th Century Russian Czar sequestered Carl Fabergé to make coloured and bejeweled eggs of fine porcelain, crystal or gold. Today hand-decorated eggs are exchanged as spring time gifts in different cultures for many reasons as symbols of promised marriage, suggestion of affection or as a symbol of the new life given to us by Christ.
For culinary purposes, the egg is an inexpensive and fully self-contained source of nourishment. Designed to be a perfect total life support system for a chick, eggs contain almost every nutrient known to be essential to humans.
Eggs are low in saturated fats and provide B vitamins, especially B12, vitamins A and D, iron, choline and phosphorus. Organic free range eggs are an excellent source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
They are a good source of protein and will boost your immune system. The good news is that cooking does not alter the nutritional value of these eggs-ceptional little nuggets of health.
Buying organic free range eggs ensures you they are from hens that actually see sunlight, are fed a natural diet grazing on grasses and bugs and have not been given hormones or antibiotics.
Free range labelling does not always ensure you they are organic and vice versa, so reading labels or knowing your grower is important.
Several factors influence the size of an egg, the main factor being the size and age of the hen. As the hen ages, her eggs increase in size. How recently an egg was laid has a bearing on its freshness, but the temperature at which it is held, the humidity and handling also play their part.
A one-week-old egg stored under ideal conditions can be fresher than an egg left at room temperature for a day. Most eggs are dates stamped but you can easily check the freshness by placing the egg in a bowl of cold water; if the egg sinks and lays flat it is fresh. However, if the egg is old it will stand on its end and a really old egg will float and should not be eaten.
Hen eggs offer the cook a wide scope served solo or as part of a dish. Explore the world of quiches, savoury tarts or using eggs as filling for pies. From crêpes, meringues, soufflés and all kinds of desserts from custards to ice cream the only question remaining is "How would you like your eggs?"
Individual frittatas, baked in muffin cups, are packed with colorful vegetables and Cheddar cheese. Serve for breakfast or as an appetizer.
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup chopped zucchini
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
Heat oven to 350 F. Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper in medium bowl until blended. Add cheese, zucchini, bell pepper and onion; mix well. Spoon evenly into 12 greased muffin cups, about 1/4 cup each.
Bake in 350 F oven until just set, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Remove from cups; serve warm.
For a Mediterranean version sub feta cheese, use sun dried tomatoes and roasted peppers, and chopped cooked chorizo sausage.