Summertime and the hens are happy – living on farms with names like Spring Rain, Wildwood, Solstice, or Maple Grove (where “occasional danger from raccoons, love and gratitude” are listed as part of the ingredients). In an enterprise resembling lemonade stands, kids here raise chickens and provide eggs to neighbors. A young garden writer/blogger came to stay and offered as a hostess gift six pale blue eggs, carried in a carton in her stylish purse.
My bookbinder friends have a small farm in the courtyard of their bindery with orderly healthy beds of vegetables and corn(!), teepees over planted beans with a ring of radishes underneath for now, berries and flowers – it’s all there. They also have beautiful chickens: Doris, Dahlia, Esperanza, and Lila. They live in an apple-green chicken coop with laying box and little run – but the delight of their days is the work they do for the bookbinder-farmers.
When offered an out-of-the-coop break, these eager chickens cluck and murmur their way into a “chicken tractor” without wheels. It gets carried or dragged to a new area to work – garden beds in the making or garden bed before planting. The ladies scratch and dig, sometimes shaping a hole to settle into, but most often searching for edibles – undesirables by our standards – and making fertility deposits.
The cadmium yellow yolks of fresh, free-range happy chicken eggs bear no resemblance to the pale lemon yolks of commercial eggs. With so many eggs available, we eat a lot.
Deborah’s Chard and Onion Omelet (Trouchia) is a beauty, it rewards the time to make it. Full of sweet onions and puffed to a golden brown, the chard and onions melt in your mouth after slow, slow cooking. But Mark Bittman’s frittata is a good compromise in a Saturday night pinch. You can make it with other vegetables, but with chard it respectably mimics trouchia.
Wash the chard and cut out the stem and chop, putting stem pieces to cook with the onions in a non-stick pan. Meanwhile steam the chard leaves and then add them to the pan. Beat five or six eggs, adding a little Parmesan or other cheese, salt and pepper. Pour into the onions and chard, push around with a spoon, and cook over low heat till firm on the bottom. A few minutes in the oven finishes it off.
A frittata is skinnier than a trouchia – but very delicious – and also good as leftovers. Chard keeps its red and green color in and amongst the rich egg yellow. Ease out onto a colorful plate and serve with a salad and bread.