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Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 12:01 am

Giving eggs their due

Food

 

 Eggs have had a tumultuous history in American cuisine. Much maligned in years past by well-meaning health professionals due to their high cholesterol content, eggs are now making a comeback.

For years, we were warned against eating foods like eggs that are rich in cholesterol. Now, a large body of research is showing that dietary cholesterol does not have as much impact on blood cholesterol as was once thought. An individual’s cholesterol level has more to do with their genetics than whether or not they eat eggs versus oatmeal for breakfast. Cholesterol is actually an important nutrient, essential for cell growth, brain development in both infants and adults and the regulation of hormone production.

Fresh, locally raised eggs from the farmers market still will set you back less than 50 cents per egg, making them an incredibly cost-effective delivery system for protein and a myriad of crucial nutrients, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, choline (essential for brain function), the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, thiamin, folate and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and E.

Often, the culprits that have the most negative impact on health are the “fixins” that come with eggs, rather than the eggs themselves. A breakfast of scrambled eggs with multigrain toast and fruit has a vastly different impact on your cardiovascular health than a sausage, bacon and cheese omelet alongside home fries and white toast slathered with margarine and jelly.

Eggs over roasted vegetables has been a breakfast and lunch staple in my home for some time now, and was one of the most popular dishes we served for brunch at my restaurant. On the weekends I make a large pan of roasted vegetable hash, usually a combination of sweet potatoes, peppers, onions and whatever else I have lying around. During the week, the leftover roasted veggies get reheated quickly in a skillet while an egg poaches in the microwave: In a small bowl, combine ½ cup water and one tablespoon vinegar. Crack an egg into the bowl and microwave on high power for about one minute for a no-fuss, perfectly poached egg.

Eggs aren’t just for breakfast either. Often on a busy weeknight I’ll prepare omelets for dinner, a perfect vehicle for using up bits of leftover vegetables or ends of cheese that may be hiding in the refrigerator. One of my favorite meals is fried egg pasta, a delicious and cheap meal that sustained me throughout my college years. Tortilla Espanola, essentially a caramelized onion frittata, is a classic tapas dish and excellent addition to an appetizer spread or picnic.

Almost without fail, every sensationalistic food fad is eventually debunked. Eggs were demonized during the fat-free craze of the 70s and 80s, and now with the advent of low-carb and paleo diets, they seem to be all the rage yet again. Hopefully, one day society will realize that there are no “bad” foods, just badly imbalanced diets and lifestyles. Even the healthiest foods can have negative repercussions when consumed in excess. Luckily, the path towards a vibrant, healthful lifestyle is deliciously simple. Eat a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods (including eggs!), move your body, get a good night’s sleep and enjoy the ride.

Fried Egg Pasta

• 10 ounces pasta (long thick strands of pasta work well, such as linguini or bucatini)
• 1 head of broccoli, chopped  
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 large eggs
• Salt and crushed red pepper to taste
• ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
• ¼ cup chopped parsley

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When the pasta has two minutes left to cook, add the broccoli.

Meanwhile, prepare the eggs. It is important that the pasta and eggs finish cooking at the same time, so that the eggs are not overcooked in the skillet and the pasta is still hot enough to finish cooking them.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for two minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Add the eggs and cook, sunny side up, basting with the butter-olive oil mixture, until the whites of the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle the eggs with salt.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and add it to the skillet with the eggs. Toss the pasta with the eggs, along with the Parmesan and parsley, and serve immediately.

Fritatta

• 6 eggs, beaten
• 1-2 ounces grated cheese, such as Swiss, cheddar or Parmesan
• ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
• Pinch salt
• 1 teaspoon butter
• 1 cup chopped cooked meats and chopped cooked vegetables
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves, (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8-inch baking pan with pan spray. Scatter cooked meats, veggies, parsley and cheese in the pan. In a medium-sized bowl, using a fork, blend together eggs, breadcrumbs, pepper and salt. Pour over mixture in pan and top with more cheese, if desired.

Place pan in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes. Open the oven and turn the pan so it will cook evenly, and bake another 10-15 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Leftovers are great cold!

Contact Ashley Meyer at Ashley@realcuisine.net.

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