Weekly Newsletter: Egg Tips

Dear Shoppers,

I saw something in the paper last week that you may have seen too, but only if you were looking for a 2-inch square in either The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal. An AP story that was picked up by both papers reported that a recent study by an Arizona nonprofit estimates that half of the meat and poultry sold in supermarkets could be tainted with staph bacteria.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute found that more than half of the samples collected from stores in five cities, including Washington, contained staph, and half of those contained a form that is resistant to at least three kinds of antibiotics. While “proper” cooking will kill the staff, no definition of “proper” cooking was provided. But the reader was warned to be very careful not to spread infection during food preparation. I am less worried about the peril to the home cook and family — though it obviously is something to concern us all — than I am about what we may end up eating on the road.

Unless you are buying meat at one of the high-end grocery stores, you will probably pay more at a farmers’ market for your meat, but then if you are already shopping at markets you can easily decide to drop meat at one or two more meals — even in winter — and make up the difference very easily that way.

I have finally reached the point of doing just that. We eat eggs one evening a week with some regularity now — you may remember my waxing eloquently recently about the lowly frittata — and we do have several recipes for frittatas in the Smart Markets collection. (Here are recipes for a baked potato frittata and a spinach, potato and fennel frittata.) Sometimes we just have breakfast for dinner and add a green vegetable to our eggs and market bacon or sausage. You can also make a dinner strata or souffle (easier than you think — especially if you aren’t trying to impress anyone with its beauty) and there is always an omelet with a really good sauce — even one of Gianni’s sauces could be used as the base for a fully balanced meal. And of course you could always go the latest-thing-in-restaurants route and just have a nice big salad with a poached or over-easy egg on top.

Maybe we will have Annie focus on some variations on the egg for her next demo. Just for your amusement as much as anything, here are some other bits about eggs:

  • Fresh eggs do have more flavor than older ones — and you don’t even want to know how old grocery store eggs are!
  • Eggs should be refrigerated to extend their shelf life, but bring them to room temperature before using them in any recipe.
  • Brown eggs are not healthier than white; the color of the eggs reflect the color of the hen’s plumage.
  • And to hardboil eggs so that they can be easily peeled, add salt to the water and immediately drain the boiling water from the eggs as soon as they are done to your liking. Then either plunge them into a ice-water bath or begin running very cold water over them until the water is cold and so are the eggs. You should be able to crack and peel them right away. I’ve been doing this for years and it has worked every time.

One other reminder is that older eggs will work better than fresh ones for hardboiling, but I really haven’t noticed much difference with the great country eggs I have been buying at the market. Maybe because their shells are so much thicker.

Here is a nice and easy egg recipe — plant yourself some herbs to add variety to this dish every time you make it this summer. You can buy the herbs at the market too!

Back to the beginning for a minute — I have been talking to our various meat vendors about grass-fed, grass-finished and grain-fed beef, and I have been reading lots of material from many sources — none of which offered nearly so much real information as the farmers themselves. I am working now on a guide for the average shopper and hope to have the brochure available at the markets in a couple of weeks. One thing: The bottom line is to decide what you want to eat and ask the farmer exactly what you want to know. If you are a purist about anything, you have every right to ask, and if you like to experiment or want to try a variety of meats, then you can learn what you like best also by asking. More on this later.

See you at the market!