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Some eggcellent picnic fare. May 25, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. Memorial Day weekend kicks off picnic—or, at least, outdoor eating—season, and with a whole summer of outdoor fare ahead of us, it seemed only right to share a few picnic favorites from the Hawk’s Haven recipe archives.

Needless to say, with our six chickens laying eggs like no tomorrow (we give them a rest over winter so they can devote their energy to staying warm and healthy, and they always seem to try to make it up to us the rest of the year), we love recipes that use a lot of eggs. So I’ll kick off with one of my all-time faves, deviled eggs, and give you a few more egg-based treats as well. Just be sure to keep those egg- and mayo-rich dishes on ice in a cooler or in the fridge until it’s time to eat! In the case of the deviled eggs, I doubt you’ll have a problem, though—I can’t seem to keep them around long enough to even set out! (Ben and Richard, are you reading this?!!) So of course I call them…

           Silence’s Bedeviled Eggs 

6 hardboiled eggs (or as many as you need)

mayonnaise (Hellman’s—hmm, what an appropriate name!—or grapeseed, please)

mustard (we like Jim Beam bourbon-honey mustard)

horseradish

hot sauce (we like Pickapeppa) or seasoning (such as Trocamare)

salt

Hungarian paprika (sweet or hot)

Drain 1 teaspoon horseradish (the secret ingredient). Shell and halve hardboiled eggs, dropping yolks into a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, mustard, and horseradish, a teaspoon at a time, to bind yolks into a thick paste (you don’t want yolks that are either runny or crumbly). If yolk mix is too dry, add more mayonnaise first, then taste, and add more mustard and/or drained horseradish to adjust seasonings to taste. Once the yolks are the right consistency, add a dash of hot sauce or Trocamare and salt to taste, stirring well to blend. Mound yolk mix back into egg halves, top each with a sprinkling of paprika, and refrigerate to set up. You can dress these up with a bit of pimiento or a slice of black or green olive on top of each if you’d like (or if nobody, ahem, eats them first), but they’re luscious as is. Maybe my family and friends are more deviled-egg crazy than yours, but I count on two eggs (four halves) per person and never have leftovers.  

Your may recall our friend Delilah from her wonderful Crock-Pot mac’n’cheese recipe. (See my earlier post, “The ultimate mac’n’cheese,” if you missed this recipe; believe me, that’s one you don’t want to miss!) She’s a great cook and a great gardener, and she and Chaz have chickens as well as ducks, so using eggs is a priority at their house, too. Here’s another “eggcellent” egg recipe from Delilah:

           Delilah’s Egg Salad

6 hardboiled eggs

sweet pickle relish

mayonnaise

mustard, preferably stone-ground

salt and pepper to taste

Drain a tablespoon of the pickle relish. Shell the hardboiled eggs and chop them fine in a bowl. Mix relish, mayo, and mustard into the chopped eggs, starting slowly and adding more until you have the taste and consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to taste, then cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve on toast, Melba toast, or Ritz crackers, or on celery. Or eat it the way we love to here: on a sandwich of toasted multigrain or whole-wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Yum!!!!

Moving right along, let’s check out another favorite egg-based dish, quiche. An advantage of quiche as far as outdoor eating is concerned is that it tastes great at room temperature as well as hot (as long as you have enough salt!), so it’s fine picnic fare, especially when you make crustless quiche in muffin pans and serve everyone their own quiche “muffins”! This recipe, based on one from our CSA, Quiet Creek Farm, uses Swiss chard, which is coming in now here at Hawk’s Haven.

           Chard Quiche

1 pie crust (optional)

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk, cream, yogurt, or combo

1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)

1 bunch chard, chopped (preferably ‘Rainbow Lights’, ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Pink Passion’, or other colorful types)

1/2 large sweet onion (‘WallaWalla’ or ‘Vidalia’ type), diced

1 cup Swiss or Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

Steam chopped chard until tender; let cool. Place in colander and squeeze out excess liquid. Saute diced onion in butter until onion clarifies. Mix eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add onions, chard, and Swiss or Parmesan cheese. Fill crust or pour into greased muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes. (If using a muffin pan, the individual quiches may take less time to cook, so keep an eye on them.) Let stand for at least 15 minutes to set before serving.

Sugar Snap peas and new potatoes are more of our springtime favorites. Here’s a potato salad that uses both, from our friends at Pheasant Hill Farm in nearby Emmaus, Pennsylvania:

          Potato and Sugar Snap Salad

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size chunks

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely minced onion

juice and grated zest from 1 lemon

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

12 ounces Sugar Snap peas, blanched for 30 seconds in boiling water, then refreshed by plunging into very cold water

1/4 cup minced fresh chives

salt and pepper

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cold water. Salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to large bowl. While potatoes are still warm, sprinkle vinegar over them, toss, and set aside to cool to room temperature. In a small bowl, whisk onion, lemon juice and zest, oil, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add snap peas and chives to potatoes. Pour dressing over and toss.  

           Veggies and Dips

Finally, let’s talk about veggies and dips. Here at Hawk’s Haven, we love varying the veggies we use for dipping by what’s ready to harvest. That way, we never get tired of crudites. Right now, we’re enjoying sliced radishes, rolled lettuce leaves, scallions, Sugar Snap (aka edible-podded) peas, and steamed asparagus. Of course, you can use sweet pepper slices, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and carrot sticks or chips if you’d like. We say, what’s important is to eat your veggies!

Let’s not forget those all-important dips. We love dips as much as anybody, but we hate the idea of turning healthful raw veggies into an artery-clogging calorie fest. So rather than using mayonnaise or cream cheese as a base for dips, we use cottage cheese or (our favorite) yogurt cheese.

What’s yogurt cheese, you ask? It’s nothing but plain yogurt that’s been drained to form a thick, cream-cheese like paste. It is so easy to make at home, you simply must try it! And if you can’t stand the acidic tang of plain yogurt, rest assured, it seems to drain out with the yogurt whey (which our dog, cats, and chickens all love, and it’s so good for them, though you can also add it to soup stock). We really can’t tell the yogurt cheese from cream cheese.

Here’s all you do: Pour a large container of plain yogurt into a fine-meshed sieve and set it over a bowl or pan to drain. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight (or longer, for even thicker yogurt cheese). Give the watery whey to your pets or use it in soup or pour it over your compost. Spoon out the yummy yogurt cheese and you’re ready to make your dip! (Taste it first to see for yourself how good it is. You’ll be amazed!) Confession: Since we really love yogurt cheese, I actually bought a special yogurt cheesemaker called The Wave, and that’s what I use to make mine. It’s nothing more than a Tupperware-like rectangular plastic container with an insert containing a fine mesh in a “M” pattern (thus the name “Wave”). I got it from Lehman’s Non-Electric Catalog; there’s a link on our blogroll at right to their blog, and you can get to the online store from there. But the sieve-and-bowl option will work just fine, as long as the sieve mesh is really fine. 

For a cottage cheese-based dip, I like to start with a drier cottage cheese and whisk it into a creamy mass, breaking up the curds (you could use a blender or food processor for this as well). Then I add shredded Swiss, white Cheddar, or Parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and a splash of hot sauce. Finely chopped black olives are great in this, too. (Our heat-loving friend Richard Saunders likes to add minced, drained jalapenos to his, but if you go that route, skip the black olives and go for a bolder cheese like Cheddar rather than Swiss.)

For a yogurt cheese dip, you can add anything you’d normally add to cream cheese and/or mayo, from ranch or other dressing mix to a fiery blend of Southwestern spices. But our all-time favorite yogurt-cheese dip mix is simply yogurt cheese with a bunch of very finely minced veggies (with salt or a blend like Herbamare or Trocamare to taste) blended in. We like to add scallions, carrots, radishes, and sweet red pepper, then refrigerate, covered, to give it time to “set” before serving with raw veggies and/or tortilla chips. Try it, you’ll love it! And please, enjoy this beautiful late spring, summer, and fall by sitting and eating outdoors as often as you can.

As always, if you have picnic or outdoor eating favorites you’d like to share, we would love to hear them!

           ‘Til next time,

                         Silence              

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Comments»

1. deb - May 25, 2008

Yeah, one more thing to do with all that chard. All of it sounds good. I think I am going to boil some eggs.

Debbi.

Me, too!!!

2. patientgardener - May 25, 2008

How do you stop chickens lay eggs or do you feed them something to make them lay eggs???

Hi Patient Gardener! If you give your hens a natural cycle, you don’t have to do anything to get them to stop laying in cold weather and start again come spring. It’s all a matter of daylength. As the days get shorter and temperatures drop in fall, the hens begin to moult their spring/summer plumage and grow in their winter feathers. That’s when they typically stop laying for the year, so they can conserve their energy and get through the cold months. Once spring arrives with its longer days and warmer weather, it cues the hens in that it’s time to moult those winter feathers and start laying again. Many people “trick” their hens into laying year-round by keeping lights and a heater on in their coop, but we think ours deserve a break after producing so many beautiful, healthy eggs all season.

3. Cinj - May 26, 2008

Wow. I never knew you could do that. A break is always nice for everyone, I’m sure that’s why your chickens give you so many eggs the rest of the year. I’ve always loved potato salad made with eggs.

I think I’ll have to have the kids and I try some of these recipes. Cheesehead claims he hates eggs even though I’ve never seen him eat one.

Cheesehead may just be texture-sensitive, Cinj. I couldn’t eat eggs as a child, either–the slippery texture, or worse, that scrambled-egg texture, made me sick just thinking about it. My mother had to make pancakes or French toast for breakfast just so I’d get some eggs! Eventually, I learned to enjoy hard-fried eggs, then expanded from there, but I still can’t eat scrambled eggs, and the sight of a runny yolk still makes me want to… well, never mind! I feel the same way about peas and liver, and it’s definitely the texture, not the taste. So I guess I’d have to give Cheesehead a break on this one!

4. ceecee - May 26, 2008

Your deviled eggs sound FAR more interesting than any I’ve ever eaten. I may give them another try. I’m used to dry, unappetizing centers. I’ve disliked them so much that I’ve never made them at home. Things might change???
I’ve always let my hens have a break in the winter. Seems only fair, as they work so hard during the other seasons for me.

Give ‘em a try, CeeCee! Consistency and piquancy are everything; work with them until they’re perfect for you, and then they’re a treat. And of course, it’s always great to hear of someone else who treats their chickens right!

5. David Goldbeck - May 26, 2008

Dear PR,
Wonderful to see you writing about yogurt cheese. We like it so much we wrote a cookbook and guide to expand its uses. We even paid to have yogurt cheese analyzed in a lab for nutritional content. Yogurt cheese (or YoChee as we call it) is a wonderful versatile ingredient you can make at home to improve your own yogurt. It has substantial health and taste benefits (a creamy food which is low or no fat plus high protein and calcium). I hope you will take a look at,” Eat Well the YoChee Way” our guide and cookbook to this important food. It really increases the use of yogurt cheese to main courses, soups, sauces, desserts, and much more. (Nutritional content included). Our website YoChee.com contains a free yogurt cheese how – to slide show, nutrition information and free recipes.

Hi David! Thanks so much for checking in and sharing your website. You and Nikki have written many great cookbooks, and I have several and have really enjoyed them. But I didn’t know you’d done one on yogurt cheese! It really is wonderful stuff, and I hope Poor Richard’s readers will check YoChee.com out for themselves and give it a try.

6. Cinj - May 27, 2008

I guess that makes sense. He also refuses to eat mashed potatoes, cream corn, peas, oatmeal, cream of wheat,… I could go on and on, but I won’t. That must be where Peanut gets it from.

Yeah, those all sound like texture issues to me (though admittedly, I love mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and creamed corn!).


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