For a different brunch or breakfast, try the famous Italian egg dish called a frittata.
It’s similar to an omelet, with a base of beaten eggs and such garnishes as cheese, vegetables and meats. The difference is that, in a frittata, the garnishes are added to the eggs, cooked and then served flat in the round, while in an omelet the eggs are cooked, then folded over the filling.
Although I love a traditional cheese omelet, as you add more vegetables and meat, the filling tends to separate from the eggs while you’re eating it. In a frittata, the eggs are cooked with the filling, so you get a taste of the filling with every bite.
You can use any of your favorite omelet fillings for a frittata. Cheeses are best grated fine and added into the eggs to cook.
Vegetables are best sauteed first until softened and the flavors develop, then add the eggs. Larger vegetables such as broccoli may be blanched in boiling water to soften first, then added to the pan while the eggs are still loose.
Meats should be cooked, then cut into a small dice that will be dispersed evenly.
Fresh fish must be cooked first, then added. Smoked fish can be added to the pan after the eggs are introduced. The best seafoods to my taste are shrimp, scallops, mussels or a julienne of smoked salmon.
Herbs and seasonings are best dispersed evenly by adding them to the eggs before cooking.
Start by sauteing in a little butter or olive oil any of the vegetables that need to be softened. Pour the prepared eggs with seasonings, cheese and herbs you have selected over the vegetable garnish in the skillet, then add any blanched garnishes, prepared meats or fish.
Cook the eggs slowly, to prevent burning on the bottom, until they begin to firm up. When cooking a large frittata on the burner, it is difficult to get all the eggs on top cooked before the eggs on the bottom are well done. To solve this problem, you can flip the eggs over in the pan by positioning a large plate over the pan and turning the pan over, then sliding the eggs back into the pan to finish cooking. Or you can slide the skillet under a preheated broiler to cook the top.
For the best texture, don’t overcook. A little browning of the eggs is all right, but too much can result in tough, rubbery eggs. Cook the eggs gently and evenly.
As a final touch you can sprinkle the top with some finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan or Romano, along with a few herbs for a fresh presentation.
Peppers, Asparagus and Cheese Frittata
1 cup asparagus, lower 1/2 trimmed, peeled if necessary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced mushrooms, regular or wild
3/4 cup diced red pepper
8 whole eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup snipped fresh chives or green onions, divided
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the broiler.
Blanch the asparagus in boiling water until al dente (firm to the bite), then cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias. Set aside.
In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cooking until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and continue cooking until tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the eggs, salt, pepper and all but 1 tablespoon of the chives or green onions. Pour the eggs over the vegetables in the skillet. Add the asparagus pieces and Cheddar cheese over the eggs and shake the pan slightly to combine with the eggs.
Turn the heat to medium and cook until the eggs start to thicken and firm, about 4 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the lower rack of the broiler and cook until the top is firm and slightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Carefully remove the pan from the broiler and gently slide the frittata out of the pan onto a warm serving platter. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining tablespoon of reserved chives or green onions.
Yield: 8 side-dish servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 196 calories, 14 grams fat (64 percent fat calories), 337 milligrams cholesterol, 264 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams protein.
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