The last of three posts for my friend Peter, an American chef who's running a beautiful inn and restaurant in the mountains of Minas Gerais, in southeastern Brazil. I'm revisiting some favorite posts this week on The Perfect Pantry, featuring recipes that he might adapt to local ingredients.
A few years ago, while working on a magazine article (never finished) about "designer eggs" (never found them), I interviewed a woman in our town who's both a licensed veterinarian and a holistic practitioner. I needed a chicken refresher course, and she invited me to her farm for a lesson in which-came-first.
Of all the things she told me, the one I remember is this: you can tell what color an egg will be by checking the ear lobes of the chicken.
I'm not kidding.
White ear lobes, white eggs. Brown-ish ear lobes, brown eggs.
Anyone who's lived in New England knows the famous advertising jingle: "Brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!" But if, as they say, you're not from here, you might not know that brown eggs are the norm in this part of the country, thanks primarily to our very own state bird, the Rhode Island Red — a brown hen, with brown ear lobes.
Eggs have been called a "perfect" food. According to the Egg Nutrition Center, eggs contain almost every essential vitamin and mineral needed by humans except Vitamin C. Eggs have a biological value (efficacy with which protein is used for growth) of 93.7%, compared with 84.5% for milk, 76% for fish, and 74.3% for beef, and they are especially rich in the antioxidant lutein.
Nutrition claims aside, for cooks eggs are a perfect food. Without them, we'd have no frittata, no torta espanol, no soufflé. No brunch, come to think of it, without omelets, eggs Benedict, French toast. No egg salad sandwiches. No Spit in the Ocean (my dad's specialty).
My favorite Country Hen eggs, from nearby Massachusetts, are laid by chickens fed an organic diet high in Omega-3. These chickens have a very happy life, housed in barns with natural sunlight, no cages, and porches. When you crack the eggs, the deep yellow yolks sit up straight and tall. Yes, they are twice the price of supermarket eggs that have been refrigerated for days or weeks and trucked in from who-knows-where, but I can see and taste the difference.
And, they have a beautiful, irresistible, George Hamilton tan.
Albornia de chayote
Chayote, also known as mirliton, is a pale green, almost pear-shaped squash, with a dimple on the bottom. It's available in my local grocery store, and in markets serving Latino communities. Popular in the southern US and the Caribbean, chayote has a mild flavor and good texture. If this vegetable is new to you, try it in scrambled eggs. Serves 6.
2 green chayote squash, quartered, pith removed, and diced (do not peel)
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp sofrito (storebought or homemade)
Bring 2 cups of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the chayote, and boil uncovered for 30 minutes until the chayote is cooked through. Drain and set aside. In a large frying pan, heat sofrito, and stir in peppers and onion. Sauté, stirring often, 3-4 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the chayote, and cook 1 minute. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir into the vegetable mixture. Reduce heat to low, and stir constantly until the eggs are cooked, approximately 4-5 minutes.
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.