#eggs

Dying Eggs with Natural Colors

t59nzEM5SgyLWcWlti313Q.jpg

I first started exploring natural food dyes when trying to decorate my son’s birthday cake without using artificial colors from a little squeeze bottle. I knew there had to be ways to get vibrant colors out of actual foods. After discovering how to make pink, blue, green and yellow frosting, I moved on to coloring pasta, which is by far the most forgiving medium for natural food coloring. One can easily adjust moisture levels in pasta dough, which absorbs colors from solids, pastes, liquids and powders. Eggs, which are dyed in a quick bath of a colorful liquid, posed a new set of challenges.

Since we dunk eggs into liquid dyes, the pigments from colorful foods need to be transferred as much as possible to the water they are cooked in before straining off solids like shredded beets or dried flowers. And ground spice powders, like turmeric and paprika would ideally dissolve into the liquid. Not the case. Many formulas for natural dyes will tell you to use powdered turmeric for yellow. I love spices and figured I’d try others too like paprika, sumac, & chili powder. Why not?

Left: Speckled orange egg created with ground turmeric, ground paprika and oil based dye. Right: Blue polka dot egg created with butterfly pea dye and stickers.

Left: Speckled orange egg created with ground turmeric, ground paprika and oil based dye. Right: Blue polka dot egg created with butterfly pea dye and stickers.

It’s challenging to get clear vibrant color from these ground spices. First, ground spices are fat soluble, which means they work better with oil to break down and disperse their colors. But dunking an egg in oil sounded unorthodox and messy. So I followed the advice and simply simmered ground spices in boiling water for 20 minutes & then strained. The color was there, but it required a multi-hour, if not an overnight soak to dye eggs, and it left a little grit on the eggs, no matter how fine the strainer. So I revisited spices 101 and decided to bloom them first (or sauté them in a little bit of oil) before adding some water to make the liquid dye. The colors were certainly more vibrant and adhered in under 20 minutes, but the oil left a splotched rather than smooth finish on the egg - check out the orange speckled egg made from a combination of paprika and turmeric. Up next, I will attempt a dye made 100% from the ground spices bloomed in oil.

Fresh turmeric root. Grated.

Fresh turmeric root. Grated.

So, how do you get the best clear liquid yellow dye? If you have it available, fresh grated turmeric root works best. I simmered it in water just like the other fresh vegetables, and then strained off the solids. While the turmeric root itself appears orange, the liquid it creates makes a beautiful soft and natural yellow. If fresh turmeric root is not available, shredded golden beets work as well.

Top left: blue butterfly pea dye; Top right: yellow turmeric root dye; Bottom: Green dye made from combining

Top left: blue butterfly pea dye; Top right: yellow turmeric root dye; Bottom: Green dye made from combining

I had such success adding greens of all shades and varieties — sautéed, steamed, juiced and blanched spinach, kale, parsley & chard — to pasta dough & frosting that I didn’t expect it to be so challenging to dye eggs green. And, green eggs & ham, right? Wrong. For egg dying, not only do the green colors become terribly diluted in liquid, but the key ingredient required for getting dye to adhere to eggs destroys the green pigments. We add vinegar to egg dyes to create an acidic mixture that reacts with the calcium in the egg shell, allowing colors to be absorbed. While this acid creates vivid blues and bright pinks, any acid (lemon juice, wine, tomato sauce) deteriorates green rapidly and transforms it to an unappetizing olive or brown. The answer? Create vibrant greens by combining yellow and blue dye immediately before dunking eggs.

28AD9733-A57F-411C-9A48-452CB32EB79F.jpg

How to Produce a Rainbow of Natural Dyes

To make most types of natural liquid dye:

  1. Boil or steep vegetables (1 cup), spices (1 tablespoon), or dried flowers or teas (1/2 cup) in water (1 1/2 - 2 cups) for 10-20 minutes.

  2. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Discard, compost or reuse the solids.

  3. Add vinegar and stir. Use ~1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup liquid dye. Use less for acidic mixtures like berries cooked in lemon juice.

Steep: to soak (food, tea, etc.) in hot water so as to extract its flavor or color or to soften or reconstitute it

Boil: to cook (food) in boiling water over a heat source


Recommended formulas

For a quick reference list of formulas for these and a full rainbow of dyes, click here.


General Tips and Hacks for Dying Eggs

Chili Maple Glazed Squash with Runny Eggs

In my classes and conversations with many home cooks and those eager to become home cooks, I hear the same repeated request: Healthy. Easy. Meals. So here’s one of my favorites that meets this criteria and then some. As a sheet pan supper, you’ll only be washing one pan after you stuff your face with wholesome goodness. And since the incredible edible egg is the star protein, equally acceptable for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and of course BRUNCH), it’s easy on the wallet. The chili maple glaze turns the squash into crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, candy that even squash resisters can’t stop eating.

You can use any type of squash, but I find delicata or acorn work best in this dish, since the roasted skin is deliciously edible, upping the convenience and health factors (thank you, fiber). If butternut or another variety of squash is more readily available to you, go for it. Whichever you use, cut the squash into symmetrical crescent-shaped slices that can be ingeniously arranged to contain a cracked egg.

Make this for dinner on a weeknight. Make it for brunch and impress your friends. Make extra and put the leftovers inside a taco.

CHILI MAPLE GLAZED SQUASH AND RUNNY EGGS

Serves: 4 as a main dish

Acorn squash cut into crescent shaped slices and tossed in chili maple glaze before roasting.

Acorn squash cut into crescent shaped slices and tossed in chili maple glaze before roasting.

What you need:

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or canola)

  • 1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon tamari (or shoyu or soy sauce)

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced or grated

  • 1 inch piece ginger root, peeled, minced or grated

  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon chipotle chili flakes, optional

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 acorn or 2 delicata squash, about 2 pounds

  • 8 eggs

  • 2-3 scallions, sliced at an angle

  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Delicata squash after roasting, ready to get brushed with more glaze, and arranged for the eggs to get cracked on top.

Delicata squash after roasting, ready to get brushed with more glaze, and arranged for the eggs to get cracked on top.

Garnish with sesame seeds, sliced scallions and more glaze.

Garnish with sesame seeds, sliced scallions and more glaze.

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice into ½ inch-thick crescent shaped slices. (Peeling delicata or acorn squash is optional.)

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar, tamari, garlic, ginger, and chipotle chili flakes.

  4. Season the squash pieces with salt and add to the maple syrup mixture. Toss to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.

  5. Spread the squash in a single layer on the parchment lined sheet tray, reserving the extra glaze. Bake 25-30 minutes or until it is golden brown on the underside.

  6. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the squash, brush with additional glaze and return the pan to the oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until squash is browned on both sides.

  7. Arrange the squash so that two half moons create a circle with a well in the middle. Drop one egg into each well. Season with salt. Return the pan to the oven and bake 7-8 minutes or until whites are solid and yolks are cooked to your preference.

  8. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallion slices and more chili maple glaze. Serve immediately.

Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs

There's no mistake. Poached eggs are heavenly. Who doesn't love lazily rolling out of bed on a Sunday and strolling to brunch for a hash or hollandaise-smothered dish with a perfectly runny, bright yellow poached egg on top? But soft boiled eggs are so much more... practical. And I appreciate the practical. While poached eggs are cooked one at time in a carefully watched barely simmering pot of water, soft boiled eggs can be made by the dozen, left bubbling away on the stove, monitored by a timer, cooled, and stored for a week's worth of breakfasts on the go. If you're hosting brunch, this is a smarter option for advanced preparation. And those soft boiled eggs are easily transported as compared to their delicate poached cousins.

What you do:

For soft boiled perfection every time, follow these 6 simple steps. All you need to remember is 6 minutes. Do this just once a week for daily enjoyment.

IMG_4881.JPG

Peel and enjoy soft boiled eggs immediately on your favorite benedict, with a toasted bagel or over a hash like my Spicy Root Vegetable and Sausage Hash (pictured below). Store any remaining soft boiled eggs in their shells in the fridge (this makes them sturdier and prevents breaking when transporting in your lunch box). Make at least a half dozen at once so you have soft boiled eggs to add to kale salad, caesar dressing, roasted veggies, and avocado toast throughout the week.