Decorating eggs at Easter is a tradition most of us grew up with
and probably didn’t question. A bit of research tells us that in
many cultures the egg symbolizes the beginning of life or the
Decorating eggs at Easter is a tradition most of us grew up with and probably didn’t question. A bit of research tells us that in many cultures the egg symbolizes the beginning of life or the universe.
Eggs have been dyed and eaten during spring festivals since the ancient cultures of Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. But it wasn’t until we owned chickens that I really got it.
We have six chickens, and their egg production slows way down every year starting in about October. We get no eggs at all during November, December and January.
Then in February the hens start laying again. First one or two, then all six. They don’t all lay an egg every day … let’s say each hen averages five a week.
Do the math and you will see that we get more than two dozen a week.
It’s easy to see why ancient cultures incorporated this miracle of suddenly having more than enough into their springtime festivities.
Since tomorrow is Easter, you have probably already decorated the eggs for your Easter egg hunt. But what to do with them afterwards? Here are some ideas.
First, a reliable method for successfully hard-cooking eggs, just in case you still need to make some. Eggs shouldn’t be boiled. This makes the whites rubbery and the yolks hard and dry. Instead, try this:
Step 1: Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cool water by about an inch.
Step 2: Cover pan and bring water to a boil.
Step 3: Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and let the pan sit for 12 minutes for hard-cooked eggs.
Step 4: At the end of 12 minutes, pour out the hot water and run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking.
Step 5: If you are decorating, the eggs are now ready. If you are using the eggs in a recipe, roll them on a clean counter to crack the shells all over. The shells will peel off.
One irony of eggs is that hard-cooked very fresh eggs, such as we get from our chickens, do not peel as easily as store bought ones that are a couple of weeks old. I think it has to do with gases that form between the membrane and the shell. In any case, the shells of very fresh eggs tend to take chunks of white with them and the eggs look like they’ve been in a car wreck, but they’re still delicious.
(adapted from the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking and www.marthastewart.com.)
4 eggs, hard-cooked as above, cooled and shelled
2 Tbls. mayonnaise or to taste
2 tsp. minced fresh herbs such as chives, tarragon,
chervil, parsley or basil (optional)
1 to 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely minced shallots or scallions
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. pepper
pinch of curry powder
pinch of sugar
Step 1: Slice the eggs lengthwise in half.
Step 2: Carefully remove the yolks, leaving the whites intact. Place the yolks in a bowl and mash them with a fork.
Step 3: Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Let your taste and creativity guide you. For example, you can use more of an herb, such as basil, and omit the curry powder, for a pesto-like flavor, or leave out the herbs and use up to a teaspoon of curry powder. You can also finely chop almost any cooked meat, fish or vegetable and add it to the yolk mixture.
Step 4: Spoon or pipe the filling into the whites, mounding it slightly. Keep the eggs refrigerated until about 15 minutes before you want to serve.
Serves 4, but may be multiplied to use as many eggs as you have
2 eggs, hard-cooked as above, cooled and peeled
2 Tbls. mayonnaise or to taste
1 tsp. finely minced scallions
1 tsp. chopped celery
salt and ground pepper to taste
2 slices bread: I prefer whole wheat; my husband likes toasted sourdough.
lettuce leaves or watercress
Step 1: Chop the eggs finely into a bowl and mash with a fork.
Step 2: Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Step 3: Spread the mixture between the bread slices and add greens of your choice. Watercress adds a peppery contrast to the creamy eggs.
This salad, from Nice in the Provence region of France, should be served at room temperature. Crusty French bread or whole grain crackers make it a full meal.
6 small new red potatoes
1 lb. thin green beans, trimmed, or frozen haricots
3 Tbls. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
6 to 8 Tbls. olive oil
1 head Boston lettuce, washed, dried and separated
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges, or about 16
4 or 5 hard-cooked eggs, quartered lengthwise
1 6-oz. can white tuna
1/2 c. Greek or Provence style pitted olives
1/4 c. minced parsley
2 Tbls. drained capers
2 to 4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry and cut into small pieces (optional)
Step 1: Place the potatoes in salted water to cover, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
Step 2: Remove with a slotted spoon, run under cool water in a colander, cut into 1/2 inch slices and set aside in a large glass or ceramic bowl.
Step 3: Using the same water, cook the beans until just bright green and al dente (chewy but not too crisp).
Step 4: Drain the beans, rinse in cold water and drain again. Add to the potatoes.
Step 5: Make vinaigrette: whisk the vinegar, mustard and seasonings in a small bowl. Add the oil slowly while whisking constantly.
Step 6: Drizzle about 1/4 of the dressing over the potatoes and beans and mix carefully.
Step 7: Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter.
Step 8: Arrange the tomato wedges or halved cherry tomatoes, the egg wedges and drizzle another quarter
of the dressing on top.
Step 9: Arrange the beans and potatoes in equal portions around the platter.
Step 10: Place the tuna, flaked into large chunks, in a mound in the middle of the platter.
Step 11: Drizzle the remaining dressing over the top and scatter the olives, parsley, capers and anchovy pieces over everything.
Serves 4 to 6.