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Breakfast & beyond: reinventing the egg.

Science has solved the mother of all riddles: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? According to an article in USA Today, chickens may be genetic descendants of the Jurassic era, linked not to prehistoric birds but to Tyrannosaurus rex. If you believe the geneticists (there are many who remain doubtful), Tyrannosaurus Rex came first, followed by the chicken and then chicken egg. Of course, we are assuming that the question being posed is focused on a chicken egg. If an egg-laying Tyrannosaurus Rex came first, then it is safe to assume that the dinosaur egg came before the chicken, and the chicken egg was the last to arrive on the scene.

Latecomer on the evolutionary time line or not, the egg is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. In the 21st century, eggs are being served up in trendy dishes at upscale urban restaurants. Move over fillet mignon; take a hike truffles and cherries flambe; there's a new dish in town.

The latest, most socially interactive way to serve eggs is at the omelet bar. It's all the rage in the most fashionable areas. Well-heeled people of every sort can be seen milling around the omelet bar, especially during Sunday brunch.

So what is an omelet bar? Basically, it's nothing more than a salad bar for eggs. Diners watch with wonder as their omelet is prepared from scratch. When the chef slides the perfectly cooked, but hopelessly empty, omelet onto the waiting plate, hungry diners build their omelet from a bevy of succulent offerings at the bar. Upscale omelet bars feature smoked salmon, imported cheeses, cooked shrimp, capers and other equally exotic and expensive fillings.

We have omelet night at our house every couple of weeks; it's always interesting and inexpensive. We don't have linen tablecloths or any imported cheese, but we often have hand-crafted cheese given to us by friends. It's the same story with meats, but diced hotdogs and reheated taco meat make great omelet fillings. Sauteed greens like chard and collards add depth and texture to omelets. When we're having guests over for omelet night, I add some raw baby spinach and shiitake mushrooms to our country-style omelet bar, just to class it up a bit.

While not as socially interactive as the omelet bar, the frittata is gaining in popularity as a mainstream egg dish. If you roll the word off of your tongue just right, it sounds quite urbane. A frittata is a broiled, open-faced omelet. It's quick; it doesn't require flipping, and like the omelet, it's easy to gussy up.

To make a frittata, you need a pan with an oven-proof handle; we use a cast iron skillet. My favorite frittata recipe comes from the American Egg Board. Chop and cook any raw ingredients. Combine half of the ingredients with well-beaten eggs and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until the eggs are almost set. Add the remaining ingredients, sprinkle with shredded cheese, buttered bread crumbs, crushed corn flakes or tortillas. Place under the broiler until the cheese melts or the toppings brown. There you have it--a frittata.

Strata is another egg dish making inroads at trendy restaurants. Considering that strata is nothing more than egg and stale bread casserole, it's hard to understand why affluent restaurant goers would pay top dollar for it. Nevertheless, this metro-chic egg dish is a hit with the hip crowd.

Since we tend to have plenty of eggs and stale bread around my house, strata is a popular lunch and dinner dish. I pass it off as a main course a couple of times a month, and it always gets rave reviews. Of course, I leave out the part about the stale bread when serving it to invited guests.

Even old-fashioned egg salad, once regulated to white bread and working-class lunch boxes, has been reinvented in 21st century. Egg salad has escaped the clutches of the sandwich and made the leap to the highfalutin world of hors d'oeuvres. Today's updated versions of the classic egg salad can be found sitting atop Ritz crackers and artisan mini-breads. In some of the newer recipes, available at www.incredibleegg.org, mayonnaise, a longtime ingredient in egg salad, has been replaced by cottage cheese, low fat dressing, and in one case, peanut butter.

While archeologists and biologists dig through the sands of time to find its genetic origins, the old-fashioned egg is being reinvented. A new generation is discovering how versatile, economic and healthy eggs are. So in the end, it really doesn't matter which came first, the chicken or the egg, as long as chickens and other laying fowl keep the eggs coming.

The following updated egg recipes are reprinted with the permission of the American Egg Board. For more interesting recipes, visit their website at www.aeb.org.
Ham and Asparagus Strata

(Makes 6 servings)

The savory bread pudding called
strata has become one of America's
favorite egg casseroles. Strata means
layers and layering is almost all
you have to do to make one. Once
you've poured on the custard, bake
or microwave the strata right away
or cover and refrigerate it for several
hours or even overnight. With a cold
mixture, allow a little more cooking
time to serve up a quick meal whenever
you need it the next day.

Cooking spray

 12 to 16 (1/2-inch thick) slices French
or Italian bread (about 4 oz.)
 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded low-moisture,
part-skim mozzarella or Italian blend
cheese, divided
 1 cup (4 oz.) chopped cooked lean
ham, divided
 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, cut
into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
 6 eggs
 1 cup skim or low-fat milk
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Evenly coat 8-inch square baking
dish with spray. Layer half of
the bread slices on bottom of dish.
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese,
1/2 cup of the ham and I cup of the
asparagus pieces. Cover with the
remaining bread slices, laying them
flat or in a shingled pattern. Sprinkle
with the remaining cheese, ham and
asparagus spears. In medium bowl,
beat together eggs, milk, lemon juice
and garlic powder. Pour evenly over
layers. Cover with plastic wrap.

Microwave on full power 5 minutes.
Rotate dish 1/4 turn. Microwave
on 50% power, rotating dish
1/4 turn each 3 to 5 minutes, until
thermometer inserted near center
reads 160[degrees]F and/or knife inserted
near center comes out clean, about
10 to 12 minutes.

Conventional oven: Prepare strata
as above. Cover dish with aluminum
foil. Bake in preheated 350[degrees]F
oven until thermometer inserted
near center reads 160[degrees]F and/or knife
inserted near center comes out clean,
about 40 to 45 minutes.

Harvest Frittata

 (2 to 4 servings)
 1-1/2 cups sliced zucchini
 I cup fresh corn kernels, or 18-ounce
can whole kernel corn, well-drained
 1/2 cup chopped sweet red peppers
 1/4 cup chopped onion
 1/4 teaspoon oregano leaves,
crushed
 1 tablespoon water
 4 eggs
 1/4 cup skim milk
 1/4 cup (1 oz.) low-fat shredded cheddar
cheese

In 10-inch non-stick skillet, combine
vegetables, oregano and water.
Cover and cook over medium heat,
stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender.

Thoroughly blend eggs and milk.
Pour over vegetables. Cook over low
heat until eggs are almost set. Sprinkle
with cheese. Broil about 6 inches
from heat until cheese is melted.

Cut into wedges and serve from
pan or slide from pan onto serving
platter.

Warm Mimosa Salad

 (6 servings)
 6 cups loosely packed, torn mixed
greens (about 9 oz.)
 6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
 2 small or 1 medium zucchini, cut
into julienne strips (about 2 to 2 1/2
cups)
 1 cup thinly sliced onion (about 1
medium)
 2 tablespoons cooking oil
 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning,
crushed
 I teaspoon sugar
 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
 1 large tomato, wedged (about 7 to
8 oz.)

Tear greens into large bowl. Add
eggs. Set aside.

In 10-inch skillet or large saucepan
over medium heat, cook zucchini
and onion in hot oil, stirring occasionally,
until crisp-tender, about
4 to 5 minutes.

In small bowl, stir together vinegar,
mustard, seasoning, sugar and
garlic powder.

Pour over vegetables in skillet.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Stir in tomato and cook until
heated through, about 1 minute
more.

Pour over reserved greens.

Gently toss until evenly coated
with dressing. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Pie

 (Makes 6 to 8 servings)
 1-1/4 cups sugar
 1/2 cup all-purpose four
 2 cups diced fresh rhubarb
 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
 1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie
shell
 4 eggs
 1/4 cup skim or low-fat milk
 1 teaspoon almond extract
 Fresh strawberries, optional

Preheat oven to 425[degrees]F. In medium
bowl, stir together sugar and
flour. Add rhubarb and strawberries.
Gently toss until evenly coated.
Spoon rhubarb mixture evenly into
pie shell. In same bowl, beat together
remaining ingredients until well
blended. Pour over rhubarb mixture.

Bake at 425[degrees]F for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350[degrees]F and bake until
knife inserted near center comes
out clean, an additional 25 to 30
minutes. Cool on wire rack. Garnish
with fresh strawberries, if desired.


BY JERRI COOK

COUNTRYSIDE STAFF
COPYRIGHT 2008 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:The homestead kitchen
Author:Cook, Jerri
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:1544
Previous Article:Keep pests away from your hens.
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