Tag Archives: eggs

Chakchouka

In most fields of study, one finds that a standard has been established or recognized, something against which other things are measured. In the world of food, when it comes to judging and classifying substances as complete and assimilable, the standard is the egg. It possesses all the amino acids needed for growth, and is rated as having the highest biological value of all common foods (96 on a scale of 100). A hen’s egg also supplies all the essential vitamins except vitamin C, and most of the essential minerals in sufficient amounts to affect metabolism. Consume two eggs, and you have met half of your daily requirement for proteins and vitamins. Toss in a piece of fruit and some whole-grain bread, and you pretty much have a perfect meal.

Of course, eggs are by no means limited to breakfast. Most cultures have numerous recipes that employ these dandy little nutrient bundles. In the egg recipe below, tomatoes and peppers offer that bit of vitamin C that completes the nutritional profile of an egg meal. This recipe is actually old enough to predate some of North Africa’s current political boundaries. It is indigenous to a region called the Maghreb (or Magrib). This Arabic word means the West, and refers to the region of North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Once known to the ancients as “Africa Minor,” and long including Moorish holdings in Spain, the Maghreb now comprises essentially the Atlas Massif and coastal plain of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Chakchouka

4 large onions, sliced
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 large sweet green pepper, cut in strips
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbs. vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
6 eggs

Sauté onions in oil in a large frying pan until golden brown. Add pepper strips and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato, spices, vinegar, and salt and blend well with onions and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are quite soft, about 30 minutes.

Make six indentations (the back of a ladle may make this easier) in the vegetables. Carefully break an egg into each indentation. Cover the frying pan and cook over low heat until eggs are well set, about 10 minutes. Serves 6.

Notes: When I cook this for myself, I just break one or two eggs in a corner of the simmering vegetable base. Then I refrigerate the rest of the veggies and simply reheat a portion of them when I’m hungry, adding the eggs as veggies begin to bubble.

In the Maghreb, this might be served with spicy sausage on the side, and bread or rice would certainly be a reasonable accompaniment.

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This Chick Can Help With Your Chickens

Jen-Pullet-web

As a food writer who researches the sources of what we eat, I frequently encounter both purveyors and buyers who bemoan the disconnect between source and consumer that is so common today. Not only are we no longer a rural society, we hardly even know what rural means anymore. Plus, with food brought in from Chile or China as often as from a nearby farm, that disconnect with the food source grows.

There are, of course, many who are fighting this trend–and, in fact, fighting this trend is becoming a trend itself. Farmers offer tours of their facilities. Community Supported Agriculture offers an opportunity for city slickers to dig in the dirt. At farmers’ markets, people can actually talk to the people who grew the food they’re about to buy. And now, people are beginning to consider ways they can become part of the supply chain.

Urban farmers are digging up small backyards to create lush vegetable gardens. Rooftops sprout greenery and greenhouses. And now, in some places, cities are beginning to allow people to have a few chickens in the back yard. Nice to think of actually having a really fresh egg from time to time. And, unlike a dog, you don’t have to walk a chicken. But what do you have to do, and where do you go, if you do want to learn more about raising chickens?

Of course, researching it on your own is a possibility. The information is out there. But if you’re pressed for time and want to take advantage of the accumulated expertise of someone who has been thinking about all these things for many years, you could hire someone like Jennifer Murtoff. Jennifer is an Urban Chicken Consultant. Based in the metro-Chicago area, she has a wide range of neighborhoods and cityscapes that have benefited from her expertise. From presentations to groups to private guidance in how to establish your own coop full of chicks, Jennifer makes it her business to share the ins and outs of raising, feeding, and benefiting from your own hens.

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer’s business, along with a wealth of information and tips for those already involved in raising chickens, you can check out her blog, Home To Roost.

It’s fun and encouraging to see people taking an interest in learning about food production. As Jennifer notes, a few chickens in the backyard won’t be enough to keep you from ever going to the store for eggs again, but there’s something about having your own eggs from your own hens that makes those eggs just a little more special.

Oh — and if chickens are just a bit too ambitious for you, ask Jennifer about quail. They can make a nice addition to the family, as well.

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Welsh Eggs

If you say “Welsh” when speaking of food, probably the first thing to come to mind is Welsh rabbit, a tasty treat that usually consists of toast topped with a cheddar sauce flavored with Worcestershire sauce and dried mustard. Of course, a few of you will have thought “Welsh rarebit.” But interestingly, “rabbit” is the older name of the dish. There are also Scottish, English, and Irish rabbits, all featuring in some way cheese on toast.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the emergence of the term “rabbit” in this connection to 1725. It places “rarebit” 60 years later. So even though “rabbit” is older, “rarebit” is certainly well established.

There is some debate as to why the name “rabbit” was used for this dish, as well as why “rarebit” was later introduced. The most likely explanations, according to historians, are that “rabbit” was introduced in the same way we might use “steak” when speaking of something not made of meat, such as a “tofu steak.” However, it is unknown whether this was used as a slur against the Welsh, who might have been too poor to get a rabbit for dinner, or a stiff upper lip among the Welsh, making light of adversity during a time of want. As for “rarebit,” that was apparently just a way that the Brits could make it sound more upper crust once the dish became widely popular. (And how could cheese and toast not become popular—cheap enough for the poor and flavorful enough for the gourmets—unbeatable combination.) Continue reading

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All-Purpose Soufflé

I’ve done histories on cheese and eggs, so I thought it might be time for a recipe that combined the two —cheese soufflé. The soufflé is pretty much the pinnacle of egg-dom, the coolest possible thing to do with these versatile little protein parcels. And (here’s the surprise) it’s actually pretty easy to make a soufflé. In fact, this is an almost fool-proof recipe. Soufflés are fun, yummy, and a relatively easy way to impress the heck out of people. (The instructions may look ponderous, but don’t let that put you off—a lot of it is just technique, to help ensure your success.)

For soufflé making, in addition to the usual pots, cups, and measuring spoons, you must have a metal or ceramic bowl (never plastic), a rubber spatula, and a whisk. An electric mixer is pretty much a requirement, as well (I’ve actually beaten egg whites by hand before—so I know it works, but I also know it’s a daunting amount of work). A soufflé dish is nice, but not required; you just need an oven-proof dish of some sort, 1 quart capacity for this recipe, or double the recipe, if all you have is a 2-quart baking dish.

Cheese Soufflé
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs, separated, plus 1 extra egg white
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce Continue reading

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