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Last Chance Foods: An Easy, Egg-centric Meal

Friday, May 09, 2014

The days are getting longer, and that’s welcome news for humans and chickens alike. More daylight means hens have more time to eat bugs. That additional protein makes for richer eggs with deeply orange yolks. Here’s a suggestion on what to do what all that springtime bounty of eggs: Make a frittata.

The egg dish is a favorite, fast weeknight meal in Martha Rose Shulman’s household.

“[Frittatas] are very forgiving, and they’re a great vehicle for vegetables,” said Shulman, the author of The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking and the "Recipes for Health" columnist for The New York Times.

She recommends frittatas as a great way to highlight seasonal vegetables or whatever is wilting in your crisper drawer. Even leftover risotto can take a starring role. Shulman does advise blanching greens before adding them into the egg mixture. Otherwise they’ll release water while being cooked and make the dish a watery mess.

The template recipe below sketches out the basics and is easily adaptable to whatever ingredients are on hand. Mix together eggs, vegetables, a little milk, and seasoning, and then pour the whole mixture in a hot oiled pan.

“You shake it a little bit so that it’s a little bit fluffy,” explained Shulman. “But what you want to be doing is cooking layers — just for the first minute or two. And then you’ve got a couple of layers of egg cooked. And then what I do is I turn the heat down very, very low, and I put a cover over the pan for 10 minutes and just let that cook through.”

At that point, she fires up the broiler. Once the frittata is mostly set and there’s still a little runny egg on top, Shulman runs it under the broiler to finish it off. “Usually it doesn’t take more than a minute to set that top layer,” she added.

Those who prefer runny eggs can even skip the broiler step. A fully set frittata has the advantage of being portable, though.

“Ideally, you will let it sit for at least 10 or 15 minutes before you either slide it out of the pan onto a platter or just cut it into wedges,” explained Shulman, who often slices the frittatas into diamond shapes to serve as appetizers.

Frittatas serve as a particularly versatile party food. Not only are they portable and pretty, they’re also best enjoyed at room temperature.

“It was a dish that farm workers would take out to the fields and have as their sort of late morning meal in the fields because it’s so portable,” Shulman said. “I do frittatas for entertaining all the time.”

Basic Frittata
by Martha Rose Shulman from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking 

MAKES ONE 2- TO 8-EGG FRITTATA

This template gives you instructions for making a range of serving sizes, from the 2-egg frittata for one to an 8-egg frittata for six--or for a crowd if you serve it as an appetizer. The technique for a frittata containing more than 4 eggs is a little different for a 2- or 4-egg frittata, because the smaller frittatas cook more quickly and don't require any slow, covered cooking. I finish larger frittatas under the broiler.

  • 2 to 8 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (2 percent or whole; I use 1 tablespoon for every 4 eggs)
  • The filling of your choice (see variation recipes, pages 73-77)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, the milk, and filling.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy 8-inch nonstick skillet. Hold your hand above it; it should feel hot. Drop a bit of egg into the pan and if it sizzles and seizes at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. During the first few minutes of cooking, shake the pan gently and tilt it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with a wooden or heatproof silicone spatula in your other hand, letting the eggs run underneath.

2- OR 4-EGG FRITTATA:
Use an 8-inch skillet. A 2-egg frittata will be done quickly, with just the tilting of the pan and letting the eggs run underneath until it is no longer or only slightly moist on the top (the way the French like them). Once it is set, slide it out of the pan onto a plate. If you do want to brown it on the other side you can flip it over, either with a spatula or by pushing the pan away from you, then with a quick jerk of the wrist quickly pulling it toward you and jerking the pan upward at the same time. Cook for only a few seconds on the other side, then reverse out of the pan. You will probably want to flip a 4-egg frittata and cook it on the other side. (Or you can run it under the broiler briefly, see Step 3). To flip it: Use a wide spatula or the jerking motion I just described. Or, slide it onto a dinner plate or a saucepan lid with a handle (this is handy; in Spain they have a special implement that looks like a lid, just for flipping tortillas), then place the pan--upside down--over the plate or lid. Being careful not to touch the pan, hold the plate (or lid) and pan together, flip the pan back to its upright position, and place on the stove. (I can do this with an 8-inch pan, but not with a larger one.) Cook on the top of the stove for another minute or two to set the eggs. Slide out of the pan onto a plate or platter. Continue with Step 4.

6- OR 8-EGG FRITTATA:
For larger frittatas, after the bottom has set, you will cover and cook the frittata over low heat before finishing under the broiler. Use a heavy 10-inch nonstick skillet. Begin cooking as directed in Step 2. Once a few layers of egg have cooked during the first couple of minutes on the stove, turn the heat down to low, cover (use a pizza pan if you don't have a lid that will fit your skillet), and cook for 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid and loosen the bottom of the frittata by sliding your spatula between the bottom of the frittata and the pan, tilting the pan and allowing egg on the top to run underneath, so that the bottom doesn't burn. It will, however, turn golden. The eggs should be just about set, with a thin wet layer on top; cook a few minutes longer if they're not.

3. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Uncover the pan and place the frittata under the broiler, not too close to the heat, for 1 to 3 minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn't burn (it can brown in spots and puff under the broiler, but burnt eggs taste bitter). Remove from the heat, shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn't sticking, and allow it to cool for at least 5 minutes or up to 15. Loosen the edges with your spatula and carefully slide from the pan onto a large round platter.

4. Allow to cool completely if desired. Cut into wedges or into smaller bite-size diamonds. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: In Mediterranean countries, frittatas are served at room temperature, which makes them perfect do-ahead dishes. They'll keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. They do not reheat well but they're good cold or at room temperature.

8-Egg Frittata with Asparagus, Fresh Peas, Tarragon, and Chives
by Martha Rose Shulman from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking 

MAKES ONE 10-INCH FRITTATA, SERVING 4 TO 6

You can get asparagus pretty much year-round in natural foods markets and supermarkets, and in California it's almost always available at farmers' markets. But it's a spring and early summer vegetable in temperate climates, as are peas.

Make the Basic Frittata template (above) with the following filling ingredients and specifications:

  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup shelled fresh peas (1 pound in the pod)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

1. Steam the asparagus until tender, about 5 minutes. Refresh with cold water, drain, and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch slices. Steam the peas for 5 minutes, until tender.

2. In Step 1, use 8 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the chives, tarragon, asparagus, peas, and Parmesan (if using).

3. Proceed with Step 2, using a 10-inch skillet, then follow the recipe instructions for a 6- to 8-egg frittata.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: The asparagus can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator. The frittata can be prepared several hours or even a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated until shortly before serving. It does not reheat well but it's good cold or at room temperature.

Guests:

Martha Rose Shulman

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings

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Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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