Soft Scrambled Eggs with Chives

A plate of soft scrambled eggs is one of my hands-down favorite easy dinners, and can also be transformed into an easy appetizer by topping crostini (and if you’re feeling decadent, drizzling with truffle oil). Watch my video down below to see how easy it is to make these luscious scrambled eggs.



Eat Some Eggs

Eggs are one of those foods that got a very bad rap during the low-fat era, poor things. The yolk, especially, was banished from virtuous plates and in its stead appeared cartons of clear goo; essentially eggless eggs. Such a pity. As with many of the dietary mandates from that period, much of what we shunned eggs for–they’ll make us fat, they’ll clog our arteries–turned out to be a bunch of hooey.


Here’s what is true. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and essential nutrients. And guess where all that good stuff is found? That’s right, the yolk. The part we’ve been leaving out. Eggs won’t make you fat either; one large egg has just 75 calories, about the same as a small apple.

But perhaps the biggest shame of having relegated eggs to the no-no list is that we’ve deprived ourselves of so much pleasure. I cite a freshly-laid egg fried in extra virgin olive oil as my first major food epiphany–yes, it was THAT good. Egg pasta made with super-fresh eggs is an absolute revelation; golden-hued with the texture of silk. And a yolk added to a dressing (think Caesar) or a pasta sauce (like carbonara) adds unparalleled lusciousness.

So when you’re dyeing your eggs this week leave a few for the plate as well . . . all the better if you can talk a friend or a farmer into sharing a few fresh ones with you!

Eggs Got You Scared? Here’s the Scoop

What annoys me about the coverage of the current egg recall is that it almost always says, “traced to an Iowa farm.” But, proud as I am of my home state, it’s not misguided regionalism that makes me take offense at this statement. It’s the use of the word “farm.” Eggs from chickens raised on true farms are not the issue.

eggs got you scared?Wright County Egg and the rest of serial offender Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s operations linked to this recall are not farms, but factories. They’re the textbook example of everything that’s unhealthy and unsustainable about the industrial model that has hijacked American agriculture.

The conditions in which these chickens “live” are, to put it mildly, inhumane and unsanitary. The variety of salmonella involved in this recall, s. enteritidis, is present in these chickens and infects the eggs even before they form shells. It results from what they are fed and how they live.  Just as disease breaks out when thousands of humans are crammed into a very confined space, so it is for these birds.  Feed them contaminated food, which likely occurred here, and you only exacerbate the problem.

Add to this poor sanitation and handling of the eggs in transit all over the country, and you have the recipe for the thousands who were affected by this outbreak. It takes a large concentration of the bacteria to sicken all but the most seriously compromised immune systems. But if you allow raw fresh eggs to sit for extended periods of time at temperatures above 45 degrees F, a colony of bacteria can double its population roughly every 20 minutes. A single cell can become millions in just 24 hours.

So the Food and Drug Administration is once again scrambling to shut enormous barn doors after the proverbial horses have run off to a couple dozen other states prompting (again) the outcry for stricter government regulations over our food. But industry regulations don’t help much after the fact–just look to the Gulf, where “drill, baby, drill!” turned into “spill, baby, spill!”

The solution, however, is not simply stricter federal oversight, though clearly that’s needed. It’s also a stronger reliance on a smaller, more localized food system – one that doesn’t produce food the same way it produces microchips. This also has the bonus of being easier to regulate as the need arises. Shorter supply chains inside confined geographical regions are easier to oversee and investigate than national or international ones regulated (if at all) by bureaucrats thousands of miles away. They’re also harder for large agro-industrial conglomerates to dominate.

That’s not to say food-borne illnesses can’t occur with eggs from the small, sustainably minded family farmer down the road. They sometimes do, though when an outbreak does occur, it’s isolated and sickens dozens countywide, not thousands nationwide. But outbreaks are far less common because the birds are healthier and the farmers simply care more. They know that it’s not just their own livelihood that depends on the food they produce, but also the health and well-being of their family, friends and neighbors.

Until we achieve that idyllic world, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk from eggs:

  • Know the source. You should know where your eggs come from and how they were produced. Use our guide to egg labeling and health claims.
  • Keep eggs cool. Refrigerate all eggs immediately upon getting them home (at 45 degrees F or below, but not freezing), and keep them that way until moments before cooking them.
  • Cook eggs thoroughly. I still eat eggs over easy and make Hollandaise from raw yolks, but that’s because I know and trust the farmer who raises my eggs. If you don’t, make sure they’re cooked until the white and yolk are firm–or buy pasteurized eggs.
  • Keep it clean. It’s not just the particular tainted egg that can sicken you, but anything that touches that egg.  If you whisk a few eggs to scramble for breakfast, set the whisk on the cutting board and cut a melon on that cutting board, you can get sick even though your scrambled eggs were cooked until dry. It’s called cross-contamination and it’s is a common cause of food-borne illness.

Meanwhile look for a local source of eggs from a farmer you’ve met and can trust, rather than a factory foreman like Jack DeCoster.

Kurt Michael Friese is the founding leader of Slow Food Iowa, serves on the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors, and is editor and publisher of the local food magazine Edible Iowa River Valley. He’s also Chef and co-owner of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay, a freelance food writer and photographer, and author of A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland.

Label Lingo: A Guide to Eggs

Buying eggs used to be so simple: Grab a carton off the shelf, open it to check for any cracked shells and go on your merry way. These days, however, you need to interpret a myriad of claims on the label before deciding which carton goes into your cart. What do they all mean? Read on . . . we’ve got answers with this guide to eggs.


General Terms: There are a few terms that are found on the label of every carton:

  • Grade: Virtually all eggs sold in stores are graded for quality by the USDA. There are three grades: AA (firm, thick whites and high, round yolks with no defects); A (similar to AA, but whites are deemed “reasonably” firm); and B (thinner whites and wider, flatter yolks). Grade A is what’s typically found in stores.
  • Size: Size refers to the minimum weight per dozen eggs, as determined by the USDA, rather than the size of the individual eggs. Large (24 ounces per dozen) and extra large (27 ounces per dozen) are the most common.
  • Date: Most cartons include both pack and sell-by dates. The pack date (when the eggs were graded, washed and packed) appears as a three-digit code indicating the consecutive day of the year, while the sell-by date appears as an actual date. Eggs are good for three to five weeks past the sell-by date.
  • Color: Color is determined by the chicken’s breed, and eggs in stores are white or brown. Heritage-breed hens, like Araucana chickens, produce eggs in a rainbow of hues, from turquoise to coral. Color has little to do with flavor, which is determined by the hen’s diet.

Dietary Claims: When it comes to labels, sorting out a hen’s diet is almost as complex as defining our own:

  • Natural: “Natural,” according to the USDA, only means that a product may not contain any artificial ingredients or added coloring–essentially meaningless when it comes to eggs.
  • Organic: Eggs certified organic by the USDA means the hens’ feed is organic; in other words, free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and animal byproducts, as well as chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organically raised hens also are antibiotic-free.
  • Hormone Free: You’ll often see eggs labeled hormone-free, but since the USDA prohibits the use of hormones in all poultry products, this applies to all eggs.
  • Antibiotic-Free: You’ll also find eggs labeled antibiotic-free. The USDA prohibits the use of prophylactic antibiotics in poultry, but some producers still treat sick hens. However, hens generally don’t produce eggs when sick.
  • Vegetarian: It seems odd that some eggs are labeled vegetarian, since it would seem all chickens are vegetarian. But conventional feed may include animal byproducts to boost the protein level in eggs, whereas vegetarian hens are fed food with no animal by-products. This label also helps strict vegetarians avoid omega-3-fortified eggs from chickens fed fish oil or marine algae.
  • Omega-3: Hens’ feed may include flaxseed, marine algae, or fish oil to enhance the omega-3 fatty acids in their eggs. Similarly, some producers add marigold extract to the feed to boost the lutein (good for eye health) in the yolks.
  • Pastured: Pastured is an emerging, unregulated term that producers are adopting to indicate their chickens have unfettered access to the outdoors, where they forage in the grass and supplement their diet with nutritious grubs, worms, and other goodies.

Treatment: There are also a handful of labels that speak to how a hen—and her eggs—were treated both before laying and after:

  • Cage-free: Cage-free means hens live indoors–in a henhouse–but are not caged. They may or may not have access to the outdoors, and still may live in overcrowded conditions.
  • Free Range: While the USDA defines “free range” for some poultry products, it’s a loose term that merely means the chickens have unspecified access to the outdoors. Another popular, undefined term: free-roaming.
  • Trimming: Chickens raised in crowded conditions will peck at each other; so many producers trim their beaks to prevent injury. Producers who don’t engage in this practice will tout “no beak trimming” on the label.
  • Humane: Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified Humane program ensures hens have ample space to nest and perch. However, hens may be kept indoors and beak-trimming is allowed. The Animal Welfare Institute’s Animal Welfare Approved program is more generous with space and movement and prohibits beak-trimming.
  • Fertile: Fertile means there’s a rooster living amongst the hens, which some people prefer as more a more natural option. Some believe fertile eggs are more nutritious, which is not the case.
  • Pasteurized: Pasteurized eggs have been treated with heat to kill salmonella bacteria and are a good option for using raw eggs in uncooked applications like a salad dressing or if you’re fond of eating raw cookie dough.

By far our favorite choice for eggs though, and the least confusing of them all, is to find eggs from a local farmer (or, in Lia’s case, your own chicken coop). The taste and richness are unsurpassed.

A longtime editor, writer, and recipe developer, Alison Ashton is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She has worked as a features editor for a national wire service and as senior food editor for a top food magazine. Her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Vegetarian Times, and Natural Health as well as on her blog, Eat Cheap, Eat Well, Eat Up.