- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Having a carton of eggs in the refrigerator means you can always make a simple and pleasurable meal in minutes — a fine alternative to breakfast cereal at dinnertime.

Unfortunately, egg cooking can be intimidating. Eggs can curdle, get tough or turn an unsightly shade that puts Dr. Seuss, author of “Green Eggs and Ham,” to shame. You may also be worried about the potential for food-borne illness when you eat eggs.

None of these concerns should make you egg-phobic. The more often you include eggs in your meals, the more comfortable you’ll be. Here are some tips to help.

When shopping, pick up eggs along with other perishables just before you get to the checkout. Eggs should be kept refrigerated at home.

If you buy eggs from a company inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is most likely, you’ll see the date when the eggs were packed (which starts with 001 for Jan. 1 of any year to 365 for Dec. 31). The pack date is often accompanied by a “sell by,” “expiration” or “use by” date.

For best quality, the USDA recommends using eggs within three to five weeks of purchase.

Cooking eggs, especially for dinner omelets, may also be challenging, especially when you’re trying for picture-perfect results. Choose a heavy-bottomed skillet, about 10 inches in diameter, for an omelet for two.

Some recipes call for adding a little water to an omelet to make the cooked eggs lighter. I prefer cream for a rich flavor and custardlike consistency. Avoid overheating or the eggs become rubbery, but don’t be afraid of using enough heat to cook the eggs quickly. Add a drop of water to a skillet; if it evaporates instantly, turn the heat down a bit.

If you’re wondering about green, eggs sometimes change color when they’re cooked in an iron skillet at a high temperature. Lower the heat and use stainless steel.

Here’s the recipe for an asparagus, egg and cheese omelet that has the consistency of custard.

Asparagus and cheese omelet

½ pound asparagus spears

Salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 eggs

1/4 cup half-and-half

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Snap off tough asparagus ends. Place in a 10-inch skillet and add 1-inch water and a generous dash of salt. Bring to boil and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces and set aside. Wipe skillet dry.

Melt butter in the skillet over medium heat. Beat the eggs, half-and-half, 1/4 cup cheese and the pepper together in a bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt. Pour into skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until eggs are just set.

Sprinkle on remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover skillet and cook eggs on lowest heat for 2 minutes or until firm. Remove from heat. Immediately cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

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