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The Sunny Side of Cooking With the Nutritious, Versatile Egg

April 26, 1999|SHELDON MARGEN and DALE A. OGAR

Considering what an inexpensive, nutritious and versatile food the egg is, it's a shame that it's constantly the subject of bad news--too much cholesterol, too susceptible to salmonella.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to eliminate eggs from your diet, and even if you never ate another sunny-side-up breakfast, you would probably be astonished at the number of eggs you consume in processed foods.

Eggs serve a number of important functions in prepared food. The yolks enrich, thicken and emulsify other food mixtures. They also add color and texture. The whites take in air and provide a lightness, while also serving as a binder and thickener. The combined protein in eggs comes together when heated and helps baked products rise.

Here are some tips for cooking with eggs.

* Eggs cook more evenly if they are at room temperature. If you have the time, it's a good idea to leave them out for about 30 minutes. Just don't forget about them because, in general, eggs must always be refrigerated.

If you don't have 30 minutes to wait, put the eggs in a bowl of very warm (but not hot) water for five or 10 minutes. If you are separating the eggs in the recipe, put the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another one and then put the bowls into a pan of warm water. Just make sure that you don't get any water in the eggs.

* Don't worry about blood spots in eggs. These occur naturally and do not affect the flavor or the quality. If the spot bothers you, remove it before you use the eggs.

* When adding egg yolks to a hot mixture, first stir a small amount of the hot material into the yolks and then slowly stir the heated yolks into the rest of the mixture. This will keep you from ending up with scrambled eggs.

* If you need to separate eggs, do so when they are cold, but to get more volume out of them, don't whip up the egg whites until they've come to room temperature.

* If you are whipping egg whites, the fat in even a small amount of yolk can keep them from getting as fluffy as you want. If a drop or two of yolk does accidentally get in your egg whites, try using the corner of a paper towel or a cotton swab to get it out.

If your recipe calls for both beaten yolks and whites, whip up the whites first and then you can use the same beater for the yolks, since transfer in that direction doesn't matter.

* Meringue (stiffly beaten egg whites) is a terrific low-fat way to dress up a dessert. Use a deep bowl with a rounded bottom and add some cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice (one-eighth teaspoon per two egg whites). Never use aluminum or wooden bowls because it is hard to get them clean enough to be completely fat-free. Copper or stainless steel bowls work the best. Adding sugar will make the meringue stiffer. Follow your favorite recipe and use to top pies, make cookies or other treats.

* Do not over-beat egg whites, or they will become liquefied again. If this should happen, gently stir in another egg white that you have beaten by hand until it is frothy. Then, once the mixture is the texture you want it to be, remove about one-fourth cup to restore it to the original volume.

Here's a dish for a summer picnic from the "Wellness Low Fat Cookbook" (Rebus, 1993).

STUFFED EGGS

1 pound new potatoes

8 large eggs

1 small apple, peeled and cored

1 large celery stalk

3 tablespoons chutney

2 tablespoons low-fat

sour cream

2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped

Fresh chives

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Hot pepper sauce to taste

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Place the potatoes and eggs in a medium-size saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook 12 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and cool them under cold running water. Cook the potatoes for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, shell the eggs, cut them in half lengthwise and remove the yolks; set aside the whites.

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Place them in a medium-size bowl and mash them until smooth. Finely chop the apples and celery in a food processor or by hand and add to the mashed potatoes.

Add the chutney, sour cream, bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons of chives, the curry powder, salt and hot pepper sauce. Stir until well blended.

Spoon the mixture into the egg whites and place them on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Just before serving, garnish with remaining chives and paprika.

Makes 8 servings, each of which has 102 calories, 1 gram of fat, 1 milligram of cholesterol and 170 milligrams of sodium.

Note: In case you don't want to waste the discarded yolks, feed them to your cat or dog. It does wonders for their coats.

Dr. Sheldon Margen is professor of public health at UC Berkeley; Dale A. Ogar is managing editor of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. They are the authors of several books, including "The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition."

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