Monday, September 6, 2010

BIG SCARY EGGS

The headlines in the papers this past week about the egg recall stretching to over 17 states, should give us all pause to consider a little more seriously where our food comes from.

Reading the articles about the source of the current salmonella scare, we’re finding that a huge amount of America’s eggs are coming from one or two sources. With millions of possibly contaminated eggs being shipped all across the country, FDA officials are finding it difficult to even track where all of the eggs may be. As of today they’re recalling A HALF A BILLION EGGS – that’s B for Billion! Read this article and tell me that you’re not at all concerned about our egg supply. http://www.ohio.com/news/nation/101280284.html

We all take our food supply for granted. A quick stop at the local grocery to pick up a dozen eggs, we probably don’t bother to check their expiration date (yes…eggs have an expiration date on the carton), we take them home and feed them to our families without another thought. With the possibility of HALF A BILLION eggs being recalled, we should be thinking about who the people are in our food chain.  Do they care about feeding us healthy food from healthy poultry or do they care about squeezing more hens in a tiny pen to get more eggs per square foot so that they can ship millions of eggs all over the country?

More and more, we are losing touch with the people that provide food to our table. Rather than going down the street to the local grocer, our eggs come from huge poultry farms scattered across the country and passes through huge distribution plants then travels hundreds of miles to reach our local megastore where we pick up a dozen along with our mushy white sandwich bread and frozen pizzas.

I used to buy my eggs like that too. I bake a lot so eggs are a weekly purchase, sometimes two dozen at a time. I learned to check for cracks, remembered (sometimes) to check the expiration date, took them home and felt safe using them – after all, these places are checked for illness, right? Well, as we’re learning, not so much.

Lately, I’ve taken to buying my eggs locally from people that I meet at the farm markets. Guess what? I actually get to talk to the person that owns the chickens. They tell me how they raise their chickens, what they eat, where they live and even invite me to their farm to meet the chickens for myself. These local farmers are proud of their product and are anxious to let you know they raise healthy poultry not only enhancing the quality of my eggs, but providing fodder for our local economy as well.

Generally these eggs are not all the same color, nor all the same size. My last batch ranged from pretty little blue eggs to big brown and white ones. Given their diversity on the outside, the biggest difference I find with local eggs is on the inside. The yolks are a bright, vibrant yellow-gold and, when cooked on their own, these eggs have a distinctive fresh flavor.  And although I cannot taste a difference in a baked product, I still have the knowledge that I've used fresh ingredients in my kitchen.

Fox 8 did a nice story on one of the farms I purchase eggs from - Brunty Farm and this quote was in the article about their hens: "They go in there, they lay their eggs and once they lay it they go back out and you know they eat, look for bugs, or just kind of hang out for the day."  Not a bad life for a chicken, certainly not cooped up in a pen (that by USDA guidelines must be at least 70 square inches) and from the article, it's obvious that the Brunty's care about their hens as well as their customers.  Read the whole article here:  http://www.fox8.com/news/wjw-farm-fresh-eggs-txt,0,3037654.story

I’m going to invoke the 3/50 Project here too. Buying from local sources also supports local businesses – in this case the local farm economy.  Please take some time to track down a local egg supplier.  It's easy to do in the summer time when you can find them at most farm markets.  I realize it's more difficult in the winter when the markets dissappear, but if you make the effort it will pay off in many ways.

And if you're thinking that the dozen eggs I don't buy from the mega egg farm will dent their bottom line - don't worry about them.  McDonalds buys 1.2 million eggs a day from the egg giants.  I don't think they'll miss my business anytime soon.

EGG "SALAD" ON TOAST
It's a given that I love eggs.  Omelets, sunny side up over hash, soft boiled with toast or deviled hard boiled - their individual serving size is perfect for cooking for one person.  And they're not just for breakfast - eggs make a terrific after work supper or weekend quick lunch. 

It's also a given that I watch a lot of Food TV.  Sometimes something I see there strikes me so good I have to figure out how to do it at home which is generally not to tricky since they have a web site that lists several thousand recipes from their programs.  However, a few weeks ago there was a show about a place in California that serves a warm egg salad open-faced sandwich that looked so wonderful I could almost taste it.  Bummer that they're not sharing the recipe. 

To make matters more interesting, I hadn't recorded the program and saved it, so I've had to do some real memory work to think over what they did.  After a few days consideration, I think I've created something closely resembling their dish and maybe good enough to share.  Not your typical cold egg salad dripping with mayo smooshed between soggy white bread, this is a warm, oozing eggy topping for a really nice piece of lightly toasted whole grain bread.  Hearty and filling you don't really need anything else with it for lunch or a light dinner but if you feel the need a nice crisp green salad would go nicely.  I happen to have (suprise) some more little tomatoes from the garden hanging around, so I sliced these for my side dish. 

1 egg - soft boiled (4 minutes) - cooled slightly and peeled
1 slice hearty whole grain bread, lightly toasted
1 slice bacon, cooked and crumbled - optional
1 Tbls. mayonaisse
1 tsp. pesto
chives for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Place the toasted bread on your serving plate. 

In a small bowl, chop the soft boiled egg into bite-sized pieces.  Add the remaining ingredients except the chives and stir gently to combine.  Put this mixture over the bread, sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.

Remember that fresh eggs are far more difficult to peel that older ones, so if you're getting your eggs fresh, make this recipe after they've been around a week or so.

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