Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spinach and Cheese Frittata

I had a busy day yesterday. Usually I’m pretty good about staying on top of my to-do list and getting things done before a crisis arises, but during the summer I’m inclined to let things slide a little. That long break between semesters always seems so vast and accommodating when the spring term ends in May; plenty of time to get things done. So I say yes to everything that’s asked of me. Sure, I’ll write a letter for your promotion file. Sure, I’ll write that article. Sure, I’ll write that article too. And so on, and so on.

But yesterday, I realized that one of things I’d been pushing off toward the far end of vacation absolutely had to get done. There was no room for negotiation. And, of course, my computer chose that moment to go fritzy on me. And then my son reminded me of a “We’ll do that tomorrow” promise I’d made on Sunday, after our long day at the beach. Before I knew it, I was facing 5:30 with no plan for dinner. What’s a Foodie to do?

Breakfast for dinner is always an easy option. Sadly, though, we were almost out of several essential ingredients for making pancakes. We were also out of bread, so that crossed French Toast off the list. (Don’t worry, I did the grocery shopping this morning. No one’s going to starve on my watch.) What I did have were eggs, and lots of cheese, and onions, and garlic, and half a bag of spinach.  And thus I decided upon that most flexible of dinner options, the frittata. 

Oh my, you’re thinking. Frittata. That sounds fancy. It’s a fancy word (an Italian word, if you want to impress your friends) for what is, essentially, one big omelet. And like an omelet, a frittata can pretty much include anything you’d like to throw in. This is a meatless recipe, but there’s no law against adding some bacon or ham while you’re cooking the onions and garlic. Some recipes call for the frittata to be cooked on the stovetop; my version starts there, then finishes in the oven. It bakes for only 15 minutes, so you can have it on the table quickly. And a frittata is tasty when reheated in the microwave, which means you won’t have to worry about breakfast or lunch the next day.

What makes a frittata different from quiche? First of all, no crust is involved. Secondly, a frittata uses very little milk to loosen the eggs; quiche typically uses upwards of a cup of milk, to create a more custard-like filling. If you’re not a fan of quiche, but you can get on board with scrambled eggs, I’d encourage you to give the humble frittata a try.

To make this recipe, you’ll need a pan that works both on the stovetop and in the oven. My husband bought me this Cuisinart Everyday Pan several years ago, and I literally do use it almost every day—it’s great for so many different purposes. But any oven-safe skillet will do. The stovetop portion of the frittata-making process is a little tricky, what with the lifting and tipping and flowing, but you’ll get the hang of it.  Just keep the heat turned down low and you’ll be fine.  Hakuna frittata.


Spinach and Cheese Frittata


1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about a cup)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
6 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
9 eggs, beaten
¼ cup milk
2 T. Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped parsley


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Over medium heat, add olive oil to an oven-safe pan. After a few minutes, add the onion and stir to coat with the olive oil; let the onion soften for 4 or 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Now, add the spinach. (If, like me, you discover that you're out of spinach, just skip this next part. A cheese frittata is quite tasty all on its own.) The spinach is going to wilt down quickly in the hot pan, which is what you want. Push it around to combine with the onions and garlic. Let these guys get to know each other while you're taking care of the eggs.

In a large bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs and milk. Add the Parmesan and whisk again. After making sure the spinach/onion/garlic mixture is distributed more or less evenly throughout the pan, turn the heat down a notch and slowly pour the eggs over the top. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the Monterrey Jack cheese over the eggs. Sprinkle the parsley over that. Let everything sit for a few minutes, just until the sides of the frittata start to look like they're getting cooked.

Here's the slightly tricky part: using a spatula, gently lift up the cooked edge of the frittata and let some of the uncooked egg mixture flow underneath it. You may need to tip the pan to make this happen, but probably not at first. Do this all around the sides of the pan and, once again, let it sit for a minute. You're not aiming for perfectly even distribution of eggs here; the point is just to let the eggs start to set. Repeat the process, tipping the pan to move the uncooked egg out to the sides. When your frittata appears to be about ¾ of the way done—cooked edges with a loose puddle of eggyness in the middle—sprinkle the remainder of the Monterrey Jack cheese over everything.

Now we head for the oven. Place the frittata, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. It will puff up and brown slightly on top. Let it cool for five minutes before slicing it into wedges.

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