Egg salad makes a filling meal that doesn't cost a fortune. Even though the price of eggs has risen, they're still about the most economical protein around. One egg provides 6 grams of protein, or 12 percent of the average person's daily requirement.

On the good-news front, farm-commodities forecasters are predicting that wholesale egg prices will drop during the remainder of 2008. That might translate to lower costs at the checkout, but fuel and feed prices also will factor in.

As desperate cooks, one of the reasons we like egg salad is its flexibility. There are lots of ways to make it wonderful, and today's basic recipe can serve as a foundation for most any addition you like. Most children tend to prefer egg salad with mayo only, but the more adventurous will probably tolerate a little mustard. Adults' tastes vary from strictly plain to "all the way."

Since our basic version makes 3 1/2 cups from a dozen eggs, you'll have enough to allow for varying preferences. Just reserve some of the salad for those who like it plain before adding extra ingredients. Any way you fix it, egg salad makes a quick, satisfying dinner, lunch or snack that easily fits into the family budget.

Menu suggestion: Egg Salad Sandwiches

Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes

Grape clusters


Start to finish: 30 minutes

1 dozen large eggs

3/4 cup mayonnaise

Salt and black pepper to taste

Sandwich bread, optional for serving

Other optional additions:

1 tablespoon mustard (yellow, brown or Dijon)

2 tablespoons sweet-pickle relish or chopped capers

2 ribs celery (for about 1 cup finely chopped)

2 tablespoons watercress leaves, fresh basil or parsley, finely chopped

Place the eggs in a large saucepan that has a lid, and fill the pan with enough cold water to just cover the tops of the eggs. Place the pan over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, cook the eggs for 3 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and cover it. Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 20 minutes.

Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel the eggs, and place them in a 1 1/2-quart or larger mixing bowl. Add the mayonnaise. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the eggs together with the mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on hearty sandwich bread or mix in any other ingredients as desired. (You can also serve it on toast or crackers.)

Makes about 3 1/2 cups. Refrigerate any leftover egg salad in an airtight container for up to three days.

Approximate values per tablespoon (without bread): 38 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated), 47 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, trace amount carbohydrates, 0 g dietary fiber, 29 mg sodium.

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at © United Feature Syndicate, Inc.