Eggs and spring
Aylin ÖNEY TANWhen nature awakens, we all know that it is time for eggs. Eggs are the symbol of all spring celebrations, in all religions. The habit of cracking dyed boiled eggs at Nevruz in Central Asia and Iran is identical to that of Easter in Christian cultures. The Seder table for Pesah (Passover) is unimaginable without the boiled eggs, deeply colored in an earthy brownish tint with onion skins. In Assyrian belief, eggs symbolize the universe.
Once upon a time, eggs were, of course, not abundant year round. In the past there were strictly seasons for many foods that are now available the whole year. Chickens too had their seasons, freely wondering around, not fed in caged and closed environments. Unlike the battery chickens of today, they knew when it was day or night, whether it was winter or spring. They knew when it was time to lay an egg. After letting a few chicks survive during the Lenten period when all meat, dairy and animal products are not eaten, it was time to feast on many eggs collected during the fasting days. Abstaining from meat, dairy and eggs is a total spring cleaning program, wisely advised by religion, in a way, a perfect detox to get ready for the trials of the summer months. The Lenten detox really makes one fit and clean. After being fully energized one is ready for a final protein boost. Easter is the occasion with a full feast of protein-laden egg and roasted lamb dishes. Easter is also about milk, butter and cream, abundant in spring months. I sometimes feel like these religious festivals are actually wisely planned food programs, all meticulously crafted for public health. If you really follow the Eastern Orthodox Church, one needs to fast almost half the year, or again abstain from certain foods like meat, eggs and dairy on certain days. Such a careful planning can only serve to maintain good health, and makes one more appreciative of basic foods like eggs and milk. Nowadays, many people observe Lent to abstain from sweets or chocolate, but that misses the whole point about it, and shouldn’t be the case. It is all about a complete detox, including the alcohol. If one really adheres to the rules, the reward is definite. If not for detox, fasting surely makes one more thankful for the bounty of nature and enjoy a good feast!
Recipe of the Week: Turkish cookery has so many egg recipes. One favorite is “Çılbır,” poached eggs in a garlicky yogurt sauce with a bright red spicy warm butter drizzling. This recipe will be ideal for two. Crush a garlic clove with half a teaspoon of salt. Add to one cup of full-fat yogurt and mix until creamy. Take care for the yogurt be in room temperature. Toast two slices of bread or pide chunks and place in two plates. Divide half of the yogurt on to the bread. Heat water in a small pot (about 5 cm. deep) with a tablespoon of vinegar. When just simmering, crack four eggs gently into the water. Poach the eggs for three minutes until the egg whites are set but the yellows are runny. Remove with a slotted spoon, holding a paper napkin under the spoon to avoid dripping water. Place two eggs on each plate, nestling the eggs on yogurt. Spoon the remaining yogurt over the eggs. Heat two tablespoons of butter with a generous pinch of paprika and chili flakes. When it starts to foam up, drizzle the warm butter over the whole plate. Serve immediately while still warm.
Bite of the week
Fork of the Week: I had my most memorable eggs recently at a brunch at the Mexican restaurant Fonda in NYC. Huevos con Nopales were two perfectly poached eggs tossed in roasted tomato sauce with nopales, the cactus! It was fresh and clean with the green spring flavor of cactus, creamily dotted with fresh cheese queso fresco, cilantro and spiked with crispy pasilla peppers. I know it is far away but the local substitute will be a “menemen” all perfectly done in the new breakfast spots in Beşiktaş. Fresh green peppers are reminiscent of nopales and fresh white cheese is exactly like queso fresco.
Cork of the Week: Dutch egg liquor Advocaat is practically impossible to find in Turkey, but why not make your own. Make sure to have very fresh eggs. Beat eight egg yolks with 200 g sugar with an electric whisk until pale and thick for about 3-5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and seeds from one vanilla pod and continue to whisk to blend, and gradually add 400 ml of brandy. Place the bowl over simmering water and heat the egg-brandy mix whisking continually until it thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and store in the fridge. Serve chilled or on the rocks.