Summertime cooking is generally a lighter, easier to prepare, style of food preparation. Barbecue usually is the star of the show. Other highlights include strawberry shortcake and salads of all kinds. Most notably is the beautiful array of produce coming to market, such as fresh berries, real tomatoes, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and sweet corn, all in their successive turns.
Summer gardening is at its best now, with tomato plants growing, and I have cucumbers grudgingly trying to become cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers. The tomatoes and peppers already have flowers on them, eggplants aren’t quite there yet. There’s also a planter filled with herbs, like basil, stevia, sage, dill, garlic, rosemary, and Italian parsley. The various mints ran rampant long ago. This is the time of year where you can expect much tastier versions of veggies from your own garden, rather than the pale simulacrums you see in most supermarkets. It’s not the markets fault, the stark reality is, it’s the only thing available in winter. Here in Canada for example, the pickings would be pretty slim if we only relied on what was in cold storage, but that’s another whole story. In short, summer is all about the beauty and fresh taste of what our food is all about. Think eye candy and flavor explosions.
Picnics, ball games, and family get-togethers become weekend events, and one of those essential finger foods at times like this are deviled eggs, sometimes known as stuffed eggs. These can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood and the occasion. Around here, they can disappear in great quantities. The deviled egg may be an old-fashioned menu item, but they endure, sort of like lemon bars and s’mores (I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of s’mores. More of an ice cream fan.). We all love these foods, and keep on eating them. Sort of like an enduring fad.
You can decorate the eggs any way you like, with a sprinkling of paprika or dill, or both. Tiny dill sprigs look feathery and festive. Lily gilding can certainly play a part too. Small rosettes of smoked salmon, with a single caper perched inside the salmon looks very beautiful on the platter, and they will go in a flash. I’m speaking from experience here, after a Slow Food gathering I went to a couple of years ago. So, now that you’re armed with some ideas for the perfect egg, how about the basic egg? Here’s the recipe:
1/3 cup mayonnaise, more or less according to the consistency you like
1 tbsp green sweet relish
1 tsp very finely minced onion, or about the same of dried onion, optional
1 tsp dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings, such as paprika, finely chopped ham, dill, smoked salmon, capers; you can also omit the onion in the filling and put very finely minced red onion on top.
Hard boil the eggs, rinse, cool and peel. I’ve been known to use one of those little egg cookers. The advantage here is that the yolk with then stay in the middle of the egg when cooked. They’re also easier to peel. Mine is by Cuisinart, but there are others out there. One of those frivolous little appliances, that after you start using it, you find out it is worth cabinet space. Once the eggs are cooled and peeled, slice in half longitudinally, or lengthwise. Keep in mind, no matter how hard you try, one or two will tear. Keep calm and carry on. Also, rolling gently on the counter helps in peeling as well. Anyway, hold the half in one hand, bending the half ever so slightly. With the tip of a knife, pop the yolk out into a small bowl. Do this with all the eggs.
The next step is to mash the yolks well using a fork, add the mayonnaise, seasoning, relish, mustard and onion, if you wish. Mix until completely smooth (except for little chunks of relish and onion). Fill each half until well mounded with filling. You can use a spoon or small rubber spatula, which works well, or if you’re so equipped, a pastry bag and star tip if you really want to impress. Decorate in whatever manner suits your fancy. Voila!
You can also follow Sue Van Slooten at svanslooten.com for courses, blogs, photos and the occasional recipe.