Our spring entertaining often centers on brunch after an early morning bike ride or hike in the woods with friends. Hungry, we’re looking for strong coffee and an easy to assemble main course. Enter the oven-baked frittata. Fresh eggs, beaten with cream or milk, embrace tender vegetables and fresh herbs.
Easier than an omelet, Italian-inspired frittatas are cooked in a skillet with the vegetables stirred in rather than used as a filling for folded eggs. Frittatas can be cooked completely on the stove top. I prefer to cook them in a low oven where the steady heat prevents excess browning and overcooking.
As for the flavorings, fresh, tender spring vegetables, briefly cooked in advance, welcome the velvety texture of gently cooked eggs. Think asparagus, new potatoes, skinny tender carrots, baby spinach and sweet onions. The first shoots of garden fresh herbs work here too.
In the first recipe, fresh mozzarella offers silken bits in between the eggs and vegetables. When the asparagus is very tender and fresh, I skip peeling the stalks. Fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch rounds, can stand in for round new potatoes. Green onions and fresh dill perfume the whole dish.
Bagged, peeled baby carrots work OK in a lunchbox. For a special brunch dish, I seek out the superslender carrots in various shades of orange and yellow sold at specialty markets. Two cups diced butternut squash or sweet potatoes can be subbed for the carrots. With the veggies roasted until tender, then mixed with baby spinach and fresh garlic, this frittata is then cooked in a baking pan for easy transport and serving.
Both dishes taste great served at room temperature or even chilled. Accompany the asparagus frittata with thickly sliced ripe tomatoes and crusty bread. Serve the carrot and spinach version with a mixed-berry fruit cup and toasted raisin bread. Brew fresh coffee, offer a mimosa of fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling wine and you’ll have happy friends.
ASPARAGUS, NEW POTATO AND FRESH MOZZARELLA FRITTATA
Prep: 25 minutes / Cook: 35 minutes / Makes: 6 servings
8 small (1-inch diameter) new potatoes (12 ounces total), scrubbed clean, quartered
1 bunch (12 ounces) asparagus, tough ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 green onions, trimmed, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
10 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup diced (4 ounces total) fresh mozzarella or brick cheese
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put potatoes into a large microwave-safe bowl. Add water to barely cover potatoes. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100 percent power), stirring once, until nearly fork-tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, cut asparagus into 1 inch lengths and set tips aside. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus stalks; cook until nearly fork-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in asparagus tips and green onions; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in potatoes and dill. (Mixture can be made ahead up to 2 days; re-warm before continuing.)
3. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
4. Place skillet with vegetables over medium heat. When hot, sprinkle cheese over vegetables. Reduce heat to low; gently pour egg mixture over vegetables. Cook until bottom is nearly set, about 3 minutes. Transfer to oven; cook until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve warm sprinkled with more dill.
Nutrition information per serving: 279 calories, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 327 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 337 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
CHEESY SPINACH AND TRI-COLOR CARROT FRITTATA
Prep: 30 minutes / Cook: 50 minutes / Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Use whole grain bread for a hearty dish; choose a fresh French baguette for a lighter texture.
4 cups 1-inch cubes bread
2 small bunches (1 pound total) skinny carrots, (such as tri-color carrots), ends trimmed, peeled
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups (5 ounces) baby spinach or baby kale leaves
12 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half or milk
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as Parmesan or Gouda
Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley and cilantro
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet. Bake until barely golden, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a well-buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
2. Cut carrots into 1/2-inch wide rounds. Mix carrots, onions and oil on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bake until fork-tender and golden, 20-30 minutes. Stir in garlic and spinach to coat spinach with oil. Return to oven to wilt spinach, 2-3 minutes.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Distribute carrot mixture over bread cubes in the baking dish.
4. Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, thyme, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Carefully pour into baking pan. Use the back of a spoon to immerse bread into egg mixture.
5. Bake 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Continue baking until a knife inserted comes out clean, 5-10 minutes more. Use a metal spatula to cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per serving (for 8 servings): 285 calories, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 294 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 634 mg sodium, 3 g fiber