Today’s harvest: Spinach, Cress, Eggs, Walnuts
“It was my favorite sandwich ever,” says my mom, layering curdles of egg on a piece of toasted bread and topping them with another slice. “As the kids of not-so-wealthy farmers, we only had a handful of options for our school lunches: Bread with oil and vinegar, bread with tomatoes and cucumber, and if we were lucky bread with ricotta and sugar. But the frittata sandwich – oh, it felt like a feast to me.”
My mom’s words sound so anachronistic in a world in which, if we stop and think about it, we have way more than we need and want.
There she is, a woman who, during her childhood, only had clementines and walnuts wrapped in aluminum foil to make them resemble chocolates for Christmas. There we are, kids of the all-you-can-eat generation.
You see people overeating all over the place, no matter where you go. People holding insanely large frappuccinos in the streets of New York. That extra packet of Snickers munched on out of restlessness. The people who, at the table, have that extra helping jut because ‘well, it’s there anyways’.
Whenever I see these things, I am reminded of the reason why I love vegetable gardens so much. Those patches of land, heavily trodden on and sweated on by many farmers’ feet, always bear plenty of produce to sate our need for fresh food.
In that patch of land, enough is always plenty, and plenty is more than enough.
We have hens scampering about the garden, and I love the fact that we can have fresh eggs daily.
I wanted to share this stupidly easy recipe because it’s a weekday winner, because it can be made out of the cheap bare essentials that are likely to be rpesent in any kitchen, and because I want to pay a little tribute to my mom, who still enjoys a slice of bread with frittata on top.
Let the avocado be a representation of that little extra that represents modern Italy, where new ingredients are finally starting to gain their own spotlight in most supermarkets. And, well – avocados are awesome.
I am sure frittata often saved many a person from lunch or dinnertime dismay. After all, it’s only eggs whisked up with whatever-I-have-in-the-fridge ingredients.
Still, for many italians a Frittata can be both the oven-baked version, or a simple scramble. It’s all frittata, for ‘uova strapazzate’ (scrambled eggs) is too time consuming to say. So I am describing various methods for this recipe, which is infinitely flexible: pick veggies that you like and add them to the eggs. We are starting to get spinach in the garden, and spinach and ricotta are always a great couple. I am also adding a recipe for regular frittata and for baked mushrooms with Parmigiano and nuts, which go great with this sandwich.
IMPORTANT: It is very important that you whisk the eggs right before you cook them, or they will get watery.
How to Make an Oven-Baked Frittata
4 Eggs, fresh
2 tbsp Grated Parmesan (Parmigiano), Grana, or Pecorino
A splash of milk (about half a cup)
Herbs to your liking
Extras: Vegetables (onions are a must!), Other cheeses like Mozzarella or Ricotta, savory ingredients of choice.
- Pre-cook your vegetables: if using onions, you can sauté them in olive oil until translucent, or caramelize them. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc. will need to be steamed first. For leafy greens like kale, spinach, radicchio etc. just lightly wilt in some olive oil, salt and seasonings, and garlic if you like. If you have an oven proof skillet, sauté everything right there.
- Prepare the broiler.
- Whisk the eggs with the milk, cheeses, herbs and seasonings. There’s no need to over mix them, or the frittata might get rubbery. Add the cooked extra ingredients to the eggs, or, if you cooked them in an oven proof skillet, pour the egg mixture over them.
- Cook the eggs until the bottom and edges are set, without touching them. Leave them be! We only want to broil the runny center.
- Transfer the skillet to a broiler, and cook until golden and puffed up. Check with a knife to see if the frittata is set.
- Transfer to a serving plate or eat from the skillet, because it’s FUN. If it sticks, whatever!
Baked Mushrooms with Parmigiano and Nut Crumble
4 Portobello Mushrooms
A handful pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts or a mixture, finely chopped
2 tbsps Grated Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
– 1 tbsp Olive Oil
– 1 tbsp Garlic infused olive oil
– 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
– 1 tsp Honey
– A pinch of salt and pepper
- Clean the mushrooms: Remove the gills with a teaspoon if you find their flavor overwhelming, and lightly clean them with a cloth or a brush. Arrange them on a baking tray with some baking paper.
- Mix the ingredients for the marinade and brush over both sides of the mushrooms. Leave them be for some 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C˚ / 390 F˚. Add the mushrooms to the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Mix the nuts and Parmesan, and sprinkle over the mushrooms. Return to the oven and leave them long enough for the cheese to melt and the nuts to toast, 3-5 minutes.The mushrooms will shrink! But it’s allright as you can (and should) add the juices in the tray to the frittata mixture. You can also cook the mushrooms in an oven proof skillet and add the eggs on top, and bake everything like that.
If not serving with frittata, they are a great side on their own.
Panino con la Frittata (Sandwich with Spinach Ricotta Frittata)
For the Ricotta Frittata Scramble:
2 Eggs, fresh
1 scant tablespoon grated Parmigiano, or cheese of choice
About a tablespoon creamy ricotta
(optional) Herbs to your liking
Olive oil, for the pan (about 1 teaspoon per egg, more or less)
- Make the scramble: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and whisk with a fork. Do not overmix, a frittata is supposed to be clumpy. Still, if you prefer it more blended, whisk away some more.
- Heat some olive oil in the pan. The olive oil is there for flavor, so use a good quality, we always use extra virgin. Once the olive oil gets warm, but not too hot, add the eggs.
- Wait for the eggs to set on the bottom, then, using a spatula, drag the outer edges inward. Once the egg is set, take off the pan – leaving it there a minute more will overcook the eggs. Done!
- Assemble your sandwich: lightly toast the bread, add the frittata, pile with your favorite toppings and pack for lunch, or enjoy for breakfast or brunch.
To sum it up:
WHY FRITTATAS ARE AWESOME
- THEY ARE CHEAP: Eggs and whatever veggies. Great for college.
- THEY ARE QUICK: It takes, what, 15-20 mins total?
- THEY ARE PORTABLE: They can withstand hours outside the fridge and won’t change taste or shape.
- THEY ARE CUSTOMIZABLE: Add whatever ingredients. Like, whatever. For non vegetarians, great classics are bacon and sausage. change the cheeses, or don’t use any at all – yes, do whatever you want with your frittata and yur frittata sandwich.
And drop the Snickers. This lunch is more than enough.