Monday, August 28, 2006

The Frittata: Variations on a Brunch

A frittata is one of those dishes that looks quite challenging and impressive, but is actually simple to make. Other foods that fall into this category are risottos and fruit tarts. With dishes like these, all you have to do is learn one basic technique. From there, you can create endless variations to complement your mood or the ingredients you happen to have on hand. Occasionally, I’ll make a frittata for dinner to eat with a green salad and white wine. However, brunch is where the frittata shines most.

This Saturday, Mike and I went scuba diving near our home in Fort Lauderdale. We got certified in early 2005 so we could take advantage of the diver's paradise right here in our own backyard. Once you get comfortable with the mechanics of diving, all that’s left is relaxing on the boat, looking at tropical fish and enjoying the view. It is a very nice way to spend a Saturday morning. This weekend the water was calmer than we have ever seen it, but even under the best conditions, diving is a physically demanding activity. This might have to do with the fact that we had to get up at 6:30am on a Saturday, but that is beside the point. When you get home after a morning of diving, all you want to do is wash the salt water out of your hair, pop open a cold beer and have a delicious, fortifying lunch.

That is where the frittata comes in. Unlike an omelet, it can serve several people and can even be considered a one-pot meal. I have made frittatas with thinly sliced potatoes (as in a Spanish tortilla) or cooked spaghetti when I wanted something a little more substantial. For a simple and healthy version, all you need to add to the eggs are a variety of vegetables and a generous sprinkling of cheese. You could also add a protein like proscuitto, smoked salmon or thinly sliced chicken sausage. You sauté the vegetables in a nonstick skillet and pour the eggs right over them. Let the eggs set part of the way in the skillet, then put the skillet 10 inches under a preheated broiler to finish cooking and brown on top.

Below, I've illustrated how to make a frittata with red peppers, green onions, yellow corn and feta. Mike likes to call this one the "Lucky Charms Frittata." At the bottom of the post, I included a few more ideas for variations to get your creativity flowing. You will need:

6 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
olive oil and/or cooking spray
salt and pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper--thinly slice, then cut the slices in half crosswise
1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced
fresh corn from two cobs
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Saute the red onion in a little oil until very soft. Add the green onions and the fresh corn. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the beaten eggs over the vegetables. Use your spoon to push the egg away from the sides to let the liquid flow to the bottom. Constantly keep things moving.

After you have worked most of the liquid to the bottom of the pan and the sides have started to set, sprinkle the cheese on top and put your skillet under the broiler. The center of the frittata will still be mostly liquid at this point.

It will take about 5 to 10 minutes to finish the frittata under the broiler, but watch it carefully! A minute too long under the scorching heat and the eggs will lose their tender texture. Mine is done when the cheese starts to brown.

Here are some tips for making a successful frittata:

1) Choose two to three vegetables with varying flavors and textures, some sweet, like sautéed bell peppers or red onions; some crisp, like fresh corn or green onions.

2) Use flavorful, full-fat cheeses and add them after you pour the eggs evenly over the vegetables. Good choices are feta, goat cheese, or fontina. Once, I used ricotta, placing small spoonfuls of the soft cheese all over the egg; it browned beautifully.

3) As the egg sets, constantly use your spatula or wooden spoon to push the eggs away from the sides of the skillet as you tilt the pan so that the liquid resting on top can flow to the bottom of the pan. This prevents the bottom from browning too quickly and ensures even cooking.

4) If you are using potatoes, slice them very thinly and blanch them. Then lightly brown them in the skillet. Finally, arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of the skillet and add any additional vegetables, followed by the eggs.

More Frittata Ideas:

1) spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, carmelized red onions, feta

2) sliced potatoes, sauteed onions and red peppers, grated manchego

3) mushrooms, green onions, fresh thyme, grated fontina

4) smoked salmon and dill

5) sliced artichoke hearts, sliced tomatoes, crumbled goat cheese


Karima Bondi said...

Thanks for the inspiring frittata ideas. Can't wait to try.

Julie said...

I am a frittata fan. It's such an easy dish and the payback is big. In addition to being a great brunch choice, a frittata also make a wonderful fast dinner.

All of your suggested combinations of vegetables and cheese sound delicious.

Garrett said...

Ohh! Yayness! I've been looking for some interesting fritatta recipes! So glad to have stumbled onto your blog!
Thanks for the info, and I'll be sure to drop by again soon!

AnnieKNodes said...

Great tips and ideas. Thanks for the visual of how to cook the friatta on the stovetop. I'm never sure how "done" it should be, and your pics helped. I may try this tomorrow!

Ivonne said...

Very little satisfies as much as a frittata does. Its versatility is pretty incredible when you think you can have it for lunch, dinner or even snack.

Great post and great visuals!

christine said...

We're big, big frittata fans here in our house. My boys grew up loving it. Mostly I used up leftover veggies, meat and cheese. As they grew older and their palates improved, I would venture out to more exotic ingredients.
I love how you showed the making of this dish, step by step. Beautiful photos and wonderful suggestions for pairing different ingredients.

lobstersquad said...

thanks for the frittata tips. mine do dry out a little, but I think now I´m set. real tortilla is such an undertaking, but this is perfect.

Harry said...

Just found your great blog today. The frittata article is very well written, and the photos go perfectly with the text. I'll be visiting again soon to see what the newlyweds are cooking! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

What will be your recommended vessel of cooking for Fritata? Cast iron pan? non stick pan? or le creuset?


Julie said...

Thanks for commenting everyone! As for the question in the last comment: I would definitely recommend cooking a frittata in a nonstick pan. It just makes it so much easier to work with eggs, and you don't have to use much fat. The pan in the pictures is 10 inches. If you have a 12 inch skillet, just use 7 or 8 eggs instead of 6. Also, in order to finish the frittata under the broiler, the skillet you choose must be oven-proof. Most cookware with stainless steel handles (like mine) are. Be very careful not to touch the handle without oven mitts once it goes in the oven. I have burned myself more than once this way!

Tanna said...

That is beautiful and looks wonderfully good to eat. I really enjoy fritaattas and am always looking for great combo - haven't tried the corn yet.

Anonymous said...

Best pan to use is WELL seasoned cast iron, but non stick works very well, the higher end heavy bottom preferably. Also, technically a fritatta must include a potato, but no fear, simply par cook your potatoes for a few minutes in the oven, fryer or boiling water before adding them. Also sweet potatoes are delicious. You could bend the rules and try turnips or rutabagas for a nifty twist.