If I said EASTER followed by a blank and you had to fill it in, I bet you would say EGGS! It’s the quintessential symbol associated with the holiday since ancient times, when eggs were a symbol of re-birth. During the Spring Equinox (Wednesday, March 20 in 2013) they were even colored just like we still do today – except they used natural dyes from plant leaves and flowers.
Intrigued by that idea, I decided to go natural this year to keep my eggs healthier and chemical free, plus make a more interesting Easter brunch item besides. I discovered that there were a ton of things at my fingertips to use to accomplish this. Some could be cooked right along with the eggs and other added after the eggs were cooked. Here are some examples of how to make some fun colors:
Yellow and earth tones: Onion skins: Cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook, then refrigerate with the skins left in the water to darken to the color you want. Drain and let the cooked, peeled eggs sit in the colored water for at least 3 hours or overnight. You can also use red onion skins with the same method and the color will be a reddish brown.
Other ways to get yellow are Chamomile tea and lemon peels. Brew and cool the tea, leaving the bags in for 15 minutes. Then add the eggs. For the lemon peels, you will have to cool the water and leave the peels in while you refrigerate them for 3 hours. Then remove the peels and add the eggs.
Brown: Let the cooked and peeled eggs sit in coffee for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.
Bright pink: Cook red beets as you normally would. Remove the beets and eat them! Then cool and add the cooked, peeled eggs for 3 hours in the fridge.
Green: Cook spinach and save the water. Remove and eat the spinach. Cool and add the cooked, peeled eggs for 3 hours in the fridge.
Light blue to gray: Cover cranberries with water and simmer them for 30 minutes. Cook and then add the cooked, peeled eggs for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.
Gold: Add turmeric to the water. Heat just enough to make sure the spice dissolves. Then add the cooked, peeled eggs and refrigerate.
Orange: Use leftover carrot peels. These take a long time to color. After you cook and cool them, leave the peels in overnight. Then add your eggs for at least 3 hours.
Follow these instructions and use any fresh, frozen or canned produce. Careful with flowers not to use poisonous ones! The amazing thing is that the dyes add only a slight taste to the egg. Coffee is probably the strongest, but you would not even be able to identify it if I didn’t tell you. It just blends beautifully with the filling. PS… I don’t like coffee and I ate them, so that should tell you something!
To all of these concoctions, add a teaspoon of vinegar (just like with your color kits) to deepen the color.
You can also crush berries against cooked eggs! For blue, use canned blueberries. This doesn’t give as deep a color as the method above though and sort of wastes the berries.
Now take your buffet dish one step further and make your fillings fun! Instead of simply making a mixture of egg yolk and mayonnaise, liven it up with lot of different fillings and even crunchy toppings. Here are four fillings that work really well with eggs and that I’ve found people enjoy:
Smoked Whitefish Mousse: Mix it in your food processor:
¼ Cup Shallots, Minced
1 Pound Smoked Whitefish, Boned and Flaked
½ Cup Sour Cream
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, Softened
½ cup Cream Cheese
3 Tablespoons lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Vodka
½ Cup Whipping Cream, Whipped to Soft Peaks
White Pepper and Salt, to taste
Cayenne Pepper, to taste
Rich Egg Yolk Mix: Mix in mixer adding one at a time:
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/8 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Generous 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
Yolks from 12 eggs
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Tuna Fish Salad Mix:
Celery chopped very small
Shallot chopped very small
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Smoked Fish Mix:
Celery, chopped very small
Red pepper, chopped very small
Cream cheese or mayonnaise or a combination
Garnishes should be functional. They should add taste, interest and texture to what is being served. Ideas would be sieved egg yolk, finely chopped shallot or green onion, tiny bits of red pepper, etc. You can also add baked tortillas for crunch! That makes them more delicious and satisfying. Just chop 3 tortillas into 1/8″ squares or little strips. Mix with 3 Tablespoons melted butter and bake at 350 F for 12 to 15 minutes, until crispy and slightly golden brown.