Torta di Pomodoro

58 Comments

During the summer, I was showing a friend the four tomato pies I have on my blog, after discussing tomatoes growing profusely in her garden. Lucky her! I shared my recipe for Mimi’s Tomato Pie, and my Rustic Tomato Galette, and Chef JP’s Tomato Pie. I guess I love tomato pies!

But the fourth blog post, for torta di pomodoro, was missing. I’ve deleted many posts from the “early years” because of bad photography, but typically I’ll save the text. Interestingly enough, I found the photos only. So here I am again making this fabulous pie. It’s a great problem to have!

I discovered this recipe in a wonderful cookbook called The Best of Bugialli, by Giuliano Bugialli, published in 1994.

The tomato pie, shown on the cover, quickly became a family favorite. And instead of using garden-ripe tomatoes, it’s made with a rich sauce from canned tomatoes, so it can be made year round.

Chef Bugialli has been a favorite Italian cookbook author of mine for a long time. He’s quite passionate about regional Italian cooking, and will scold Americans for indiscriminately putting cheese on pasta! (Guilty.)

Torta di Pomodoro

For the crust:
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) cold sweet butter
5 tablespoons cold water
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the filling:
1 medium-sized celery stalk
1 carrot, scraped
1 medium-sized red onion, cleaned
1 small clove garlic, peeled
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 pounds drained canned tomatoes, preferably imported Italian (of course!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sweet butter
3 extra large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
Fresh basil leaves to serve

Sift the flour onto a board and arrange it in a mount. Cut the butter into pieces and place over the mound. Use a metal dough scraper to incorporate the butter into the flour, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time and seasoning with the salt and nutmeg. When all the water is used up, a ball of dough should be formed. Place the ball in a dampened cotton dish towel and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.

(I followed the crust recipe, but used a food processor. I remember watching a Julia Child show when Martha Stewart made a pie crust in a food processor for her, and Julia was hooked! So I feel justified in doing this.)

To make the filling, coarsely chop the celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley and basil all together on a board. Place the canned tomatoes in a non-reactive casserole, then arrange all the prepared vegetables over the tomatoes.

Pour the olive oil on top. Cover the casserole, set it over medium heat and cook for about 1 hour, without stirring, shaking the casserole often to be sure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom.

Pass the contents of the casserole through a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a second casserole. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Place the casserole over medium heat and let the mixture reduce for 15 minutes more, or until a rather thick sauce forms. (Seriously, it can’t be watery.)

Transfer the sauce to a crockery or glass bowl and let cool completely.

Butter a 9 1/2” tart pan with a removable bottom.

Flour a pastry board. Unwrap the pastry and knead it for about 30 seconds on the board, then use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to a 14” disc. Roll up the disc on the rolling pin and unroll it over the buttered pan. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cut off the dough around the rim of the pan by moving the rolling pin over it.

Using a fork, make several punctures in the pastry to keep it from puffing up. Fit a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the pastry, then put pie weights in the pan. Refrigerate the pastry for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the tart pan in the oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and lift out the foil and weights. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the eggs and Parmigiano-reggiano to the cooled tomato sauce. Taste for salt and pepper and mix very well with a wooden spoon.

Remove the tart pan from the oven after the last 10 minutes, leaving the oven on. Let the crust cool for 15 minutes, then pour in the prepared filling.

Bake the tart 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 15 minutes. In the past I’ve also let the pie sit in the turned-off oven for 10-15 minutes. The filling should not be jiggly.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the tart cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Slice the tart like a pie and serve it with the fresh basil leaves.

If I was serving this for company, it would be accompanied by a green salad.

But it was just for us!

by the way, this pie dough recipe is fantastic, and made a seriously flaky crust, although it shrunk, and I’d let it rest.

Warm Mediterranean Salad

53 Comments

There is a nice shopping mall about 2 hours away that I visit when I have to go to a mall. Well, truth be told, I probably only shop at Williams-Sonoma there, unless I’m Christmas shopping. Then I’m a bit more adventurous.

The mall has a nice restaurant that I go to because of the convenience. But it’s good! You’ll all probably be shocked that it’s a chain restaurant, called Pepperoni Grill.

The menu is nice, the restaurant is always clean, and the service great. Surprisingly great.

Oddly enough, I’ve always ordered the same thing, which is a warm Mediterranean Tortellini and Vegetable salad, served with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

I say this is odd, because typically, I would order something new on the menu. But, after 20+ years, I keep ordering this salad. It’s so good, so well prepared, and so satisfying.

Then I had the brilliant idea to replicate the salad at home. It doesn’t look exactly the same because the restaurant uses tricolor tortellini, but mine tasted just as good! Being that it’s not springtime, I opted for green beans instead of asparagus.

Warm Mediterranean Salad
inspired by Pepperoni Grill’s salad

Vinaigrette:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Salad:
2 pounds small, red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound trimmed green Beans
1 pound yellow squash, coarsely chopped
32 ounces cheese tortellini
10 uncles spring lettuces
Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, the kind stored in oil
Kalamata olives, drained, halved
Grated Parmesan

To prepare the vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients in a small blender jar. Blend until smooth. Taste for salt. Can be made a day ahead, but bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before making the salad.

The vegetables must be prepared separately for the salad, in order to have them all at the proper cook. It’s also best for all of the vegetables and the tortellini to be warm when served, so one must move quickly!

In a steamer basket, cook the potatoes just until tender. Place in a large bowl, toss with a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and set aside. If you don’t like a lot of dressing, use some olive oil instead.

Cook the green beans in the steamer basket and add them to the potatoes. Toss together gently, adding a little more vinaigrette to keep the vegetables moist.

Do the same with the yellow squash, making sure not to overcook. Add to the potatoes and beans.

Cook the cheese tortellini according to package directions. Drain and let cool slightly.

Add the still warm tortellini to the vegetables. Add the desired amount of vinaigrette and and toss gently.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives to taste.

Then sprinkle on a generous amount of Parmesan. No mixing necessary.


Serve warm.

I like a lot of vinaigrette on my salads, but I’m aware that not everyone does. So when I suggest to add the desired amount of vinaigrette, that’s exactly what I mean!

My mother’s secret to a good potato salad was to always add some olive oil to the warm, just-cooked potatoes. So that’s what I did in this salad, using the vinaigrette instead of just olive oil, as well as adding some vinaigrette to the cooked tortellini. This keeps them moist and prevents sticking.

In anticipation of making this salad, I googled it to see if I was making something fairly unique or not. Turns out, there are tortellini/pasta salads, and there are potato salads. This salad really combines the two – a pasta salad with a significant amount of veggies.

The vegetables are along the lines of “primavera” vegetables, and can definitely be changed depending on what’s in season. Zucchini, broccoli, baby carrots, asparagus… all would be good. They could be grilled as well.

And of course this salad would be wonderful with grilled meat, but I prefer it the way it is.

So would I visit Pepperoni Grill for a special night out? No. But the fact that I can expect quality with what I’m ordering and enjoy a leisurely lunch, with a decent glass of wine, during a day of shopping, is really nice.

Pesto Ranch Dip

44 Comments

I’ve written before about what a purist I am in the way that I make most everything from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it’s barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, you name it. I just can’t do it any other way.

Sure, a lot of those products are real time savers. But they’re also horrible. Or, should I say, that home-made is always better. Plus you don’t have to include the uncessary salt, sugar, fake colors and preservatives.

During the summer months especially, I eat a salad every day. I typically use a good vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil on them – that’s it. Or, I use a vinaigrette that I’ve made ahead of time.

A few years ago, we were at a local restaurant with our daughter and son-in-law. I ordered a Cobb salad for my meal, and with it Ranch dressing. If you haven’t heard of Ranch dressing, then you’ve probably never lived in the U.S.

Dressings-Original-lbox-373x400-FFFFFF

My son-in-law kidded me about ordering such an “American” dressing. So I threatened him. Nicely. Something like, “If you tell anyone I ordered Ranch dressing I’ll have you killed.”

But to this day, at most restaurants, and for basic salads, I ask for Ranch dressing. I’ll tell you why. (And I still threaten folks if they tease me about it.)

1. Italian dressing, which is supposed to be oil and vinegar, is disgusting at restaurants. It’s not typically made in the restaurant kitchen. It’s a Kraft product, somewhat gloppy, overly sweet, with little unidentifiable bits in it.

159

2. If you ask for oil and vinegar for your salad you will simply get stared at by nincompoop waiters.

3. If a “specialty” salad, say an Asian salad, is offered with a dressing, it is usually so disgustingly sweet that I can hardly eat the salad. I’ve learned that if the menu states “sweet chili lime dressing,” it basically means simple syrup. I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

So, that’s why I order Ranch dressing. At least I know what I’m getting. It’s not healthy, but it has its merits in the taste department.

Last week while grocery shopping, I happened to spot Ranch dressing. I quickly checked to see if I knew anyone near me, then I stuck the bottle of dressing under bags of produce. I actually purchased Ranch dressing for the first time in my life.

Flash forward to a recent impromptu evening with friends. I got out my usual hors d’oeuvres – cheeses, crackers and fruit.

Then I spotted a slab of bread cheese that I hadn’t needed for salad I’d made the week before and decided to grill the bread cheese at the last minute for a fun change.

_MG_0562

For a quick dip, I used freshly-made pesto, along with, yes, some Ranch dressing. The dip turned out so good I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s what I did.

_MG_0584

Pesto Ranch Dip

2 heaping tablespoons prepared basil pesto
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/3 cup Ranch dressing
Olive oil
Approximately 10 ounces Halloumi or bread cheese, cut into 16 or so pieces
Fresh pepper

Place the pesto and lime juice in a small blender and process until smooth. Then add the Ranch dressing; set aside.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the pieces of cheese and cook until browned on both sides. Place them on a serving platter and sprinkle them with pepper. Continue with the remaining pieces.

Pour the pesto ranch dip into a small bowl and serve with the warm cheese.

_MG_0575

Dip away!

_MG_0588

I realize that this isn’t much of a recipe, nor is it that creative, but this dip is so good with the bread cheese. See what you think!

And if you’re even more stubborn than I am, substitute sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche for the Ranch dressing!

_MG_0585

Scallops and Veggies

49 Comments

This dish is easy and healthy, and a nice change from all of the heavy meals typically served during the holidays. It’s simply seared sea scallops on top of layers of vegetables. What could be better!! So, here’s the recipe.

Scallops and Veggies
Serves 2 hearty eaters, or 4

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash, baked
1 pound sea scallops, of uniform size
2 leeks, white part only
Olive oil
1 large purple onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Butter, for the scallops
Cayenne pepper flakes

Bake the squash using this recipe. Then, after it’s cooled down, use a fork and scrape out all of the strands of spaghetti squash onto a serving platter; keep it warm.

scal

Rinse the scallops, and place them on paper towels to dry off; set aside.

scall1

The next step is to clean the leeks. Leeks grow in soil, so they always contain dirt and silt that you need to avoid.

scall2

Slice the white ends cross-wise. Place them in a medium bowl and fill the bowl with water. Separate the rings of leeks so that any silt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Then remove the leeks from the water and place them on paper towels to dry.

Using a large skillet or work, heat the oil over high heat, and add the red peppers and onion when it’s hot. Allow some caramelization, then reduce the heat slightly to cook the vegetables through. Add a little salt and pepper, then place them over the cooked spaghetti squash. Keep warm.

Add a couple more tablespoons of oil and using the same technique, caramelize and then cook the leeks. Add a little salt and pepper, then place the leeks over the red bell pepper and onions.

Switch to a clean, flat skillet to cook the scallops, which should be completely dry. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of butter and heat over high heat. The butter will brown, which only adds flavor.

Sear half of the scallops in the oil and butter mixture, for at least one minute. Then turn them over using tongs and sear the other side. Make sure to also season them with salt and pepper, and even garlic pepper if you so desire.

Turn down the heat a little if you feel they’re not completely cook through. Place them on a plate, and continue with the remaining scallops.

When you’re ready to serve, make sure your vegetables are still warm, then top them with the scallops.
scallos

Serve from the platter, making sure every serving includes squash, peppers, onions, leeks, and scallops.

scal22

I love cayenne pepper flakes on this dish, and you can also offer Sriracha for extra spiciness!

scal222

I have also smothered the cooked scallops in chile paste before, and you could always create a sauce with a Thai curry paste for an alternative flavor profile.

scal111

But even straight forward, with salt and pepper, the scallop on the vegetables, all cooked to perfection, creates a fabulous dish!

I served this dish with an Albariño, and it was a lovely combination.

note: I could imagine this dish with also lovely sausages or grilled shrimp!

Pot au Feu

33 Comments

Pot au Feu is a hearty vegetable dish that I grew up eating. In spite of its simplicity and peasant origins, I loved the smell of the bacon-rich broth, and the flavor of the tender-cooked vegetables.

Pot au feu, simply translated to “caldron of fire,” was a way to use what you raised, and what grew locally. For my mother, with her French upbringing, it meant a little meat and seasonal vegetables.

My mother recently sent me some Black Forest bacon amongst cheese and other gourmet goodies for my birthday. She knows what I love! And I just knew that I was going to use the bacon in a Pot au Feu. It’s the best way to honor it.

pot77
So here’s what I did, but you can switch up the vegetables however you like, depending on what you like, and the season. Enjoy!

Pot au Feu

Olive oil
Bacon
Onion, coarsely chopped
Potatoes, cleaned
Carrots, cleaned
Cabbage, in chunks
Frozen peas, thawed
Parsley or fresh thyme

Begin by dicing the strips of bacon.
pot88
Place it in a braising pan with raised sides, large enough to accommodate the vegetables. I added a little olive oil in the braising pan because this bacon wasn’t fatty.
pot9
Cook the bacon over medium-high heat. Then stir in the onions, and lower the heat a little.


Cook the bacon and onions for about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes.
pot6
Add enough chicken broth just to partially cover the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan slightly, and cook them for about ten minutes.

Add the carrots, and cook for about five minutes, depending on their size.
pot2
Tuck the cabbage into the broth, and add a little more broth as necessary.
pot1
Braise the vegetables, with the lid partially covered, turning them occasionally. Add the peas towards the end of the cooking time.
pot
The pot au feu is done when all the vegetables are cooked though.
pot678
You can remove the bulk of the vegetables and bacon to a serving bowl, and then reduce the broth in the braising pan.
pot234
Then pour the remaining broth over the vegetables and serve. I forgot to do this, even though I did reduce the broth, so the vegetables aren’t “glistening” as they should be! Ah, food blogging!
pot456
As you can imagine, these simply braised vegetables are delicious as a side to just about every protein. Even though this vegetable dish is hearty, I think it works in the spring as well as in the fall or winter.

Sprinkle them with chopped parsley, if desired, or with fresh thyme leaves.
pot123
note: Like I mentioned, the vegetables can definitely be varied depending on the season, or what’s available. Butternut squash, leeks, sweet potatoes, turnips, green beans, even spinach or spring onions can be used. Just cook the densest vegetables first, so that in the end every element is perfectly cooked!

Easy Creamy Vegetable Soup

28 Comments

So many people I know don’t make soups because they think it’s difficult. Hopefully after reading this post, many of you will run to the kitchen, with the most minimum of ingredients, and try out this recipe. All you need is a favorite vegetable that you want to turn into a luscious, creamy soup.

Back when I was feeding my young children, it seemed that they would always eat soup over a vegetable. Even if it was the same vegetable! So I made a lot of soups.

soup2

You don’t have to limit yourself to the soup as is. You can always sprinkle on different cheeses, add a dollop of sour cream, add grilled chicken, Polish or Italian sausage, or ham. Then it becomes a meal!

What I love is that there are so many different ways of making a basic soup like the one I’m making today.

The vegetable choices:
Butternut Squash
Pumpkin
Acorn Squash
Carrot
Parsnip
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Zucchini
Sweet potato
And so forth.

Next, the aromatics:
Onion
Garlic
Ginger
Leeks
Shallots
Celery
Bell peppers

The creaminess:
Heavy cream
1/2 and 1/2
evaporated milk
sour cream
creme fraiche
goat’s milk
almond milk
soy milk
hemp milk
coconut milk
and so forth.

There are many seasonings that can be added to home-made soups as well, but I want to keep this vegetable soup simple. Once you figure out how easy it is, you’ll be excited and motivated to get creative with flavors from your refrigerator and pantry! (I’m talking curry powder, pesto, chipotle peppers, Thai curry paste, etc.)

So here’s my basic recipe, and I hope you make it your own!

Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 heads broccoli, approximately 2 pounds after trimming
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
Chicken or vegetable broth
6 ounces evaporated milk, or less
Butter, optional
Salt
White pepper, optional
Cheese, optional

Rinse the broccoli, then coarsely chop it. Place it in a stock pot. Add the onion and garlic.

soup77

Pour in your broth until it comes about halfway up the layer of vegetables.

soup66

Bring the broth to a boil, then cover the pot and let things simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you’re worried you have a lot of extra broth, leave off the lid, or have it offset to allow steam to escape.

Let the mixture cool.

soup33

This is also the time I had a tab of butter, about 1 or 2 tablespoons, a little salt, and a little white pepper. The butter adds a richness to the soup, but it can be omitted, of course.

soup22

Place the vegetables in the jar of your blender using a slotted spoon. Pour a little bit of broth into the blender, just to get it blending.

Then add the evaporated milk until you have the consistency you like.

I do it this way, because if you add all of the broth first, the soup might end up to watery, On the other hand, if soup is too thick, then you still have broth to add. Of course, it all depends how thick you like your soups.

I like my vegetable soups thick and creamy. Thin, watery soups are not my thing.

soup3

At this point, if you’d like to make a cheesy cream to top the soup, mix together a good goat or sheep’s cheese with a tablespoon or so of evaporated milk or cream, and blend until smooth.

If you make a cheesy cream, I hope you’re more creative than I am at making an appealing-looking presentation!

soup4

Alternatively, just crumble the cheese on top of the soup; I used Valbreso. Children would love grated cheddar on this soup.

soup

You could also top the soup with a few croutons.

soup1

There! Now you’ve made a creamy vegetable soup! See how easy it is?

note: Any vegetable can be made into a soup, however, some won’t work quite as well. For example, a cucumber is a very watery vegetable and it’s typically not served warm. It is good in a gazpacho, however, which is a cold soup of sorts. Eggplant would work as a soup, but the color wouldn’t be very pretty. if that doesn’t bother you, then use eggplant. Also, I wouldn’t mix a green vegetable with an orange vegetable. If you’ve ever played with paints, you know that orange and green do not make a pretty color! Soup making is a lot about common sense!

Zucchini Risotto

36 Comments

If you have an overabundance of zucchini from your garden right now, this recipe is for you. It’s easy, healthy, and delicious. Plus, it helps use up your zucchini in a creative way.

Risotto, and polenta as well, are two dishes that I love to play with. Purists of Italian cuisine wouldn’t appreciate my culinary playtime, changing up recipes just for fun. But if you think of it, risotto is simply rice. Think of it as a vehicle, into which you can load lots of different flavors and ingredients.

Take vegetables, for example. You can add grated carrots to risotto, or even use carrot juice. You can add fresh tomatoes, or a little tomato paste. Sweet potato and pumpkin certainly work, as do roasted red bell peppers. Maybe I wouldn’t try a risotto with cucumbers….

If you would like a tutorial on making risotto, check out my Thai-inspired risotto. But even if you’ve never made a risotto before – trust me. It’s easy. I’ve even taught little kids to make them.

So the following recipe is more of a guide for you to make a fabulous zucchini risotto, using the ingredients you choose. Enjoy!

Zucchini Risotto

Butter or oil (I chose about 3 tablespoons butter)
Some kind of aromatic (I chose 1/4 finely chopped yellow onion)
Risotto rice (I chose arborio, about 1 1/4 cups)
White wine, about 1/3 cup*
1 medium zucchini, grated
Chicken broth, approximately 2 1/2 cups
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated cheese (I chose romano)

Have all of your ingredients handy, and be prepared to devote most all of your attention to the pot on the stove. That’s the only pre-requisite for making risotto.

zz

Begin by melting the butter in a saucepan or risotto pan. I let my butter brown a little because I love that extra flavor. Add the onion and cook them for a few minutes, turning down the heat a little if necessary.

Add the rice to the butter-onion mixture and stir it well for about 1 minute. All of the grains of rice should be coated with the butter and look shiny. If they don’t, you haven’t started with a sufficient amount of butter or oil. This step is the most critical in making a successful risotto.

zz5

At this point, add the wine in one or two batches, stirring until it’s absorbed by the rice. If you prefer, you can use solely chicken broth instead.

I just noticed that this pinot blanc, from the Trimbach winery, is made in Ribeauvillé . I’ve actually been there, and it’s a gorgeous little town. Today I just saw on Facebook that it’s Hubert Keller’s home town.

Once you’ve used the wine, add the zucchini and stir well. Then gradually add chicken broth, a little at a time. Just stir until the rice absorbs the liquid, then add a little more liquid. Repeat. Also at some point add the salt.

The rice will get thicker as time goes on. The total risotto-making process takes about 30 minutes.

Towards the end, which you will be able to predict is close because the rice is much slower to absorb liquid, you can add cheese. Alternatively, wait and serve the cheese at the table.

Taste. Then serve.

Some people add cream instead of some of the broth, and sometimes also add a little more butter, and both are good options.

Today I served the zucchini risotto as a side dish, along side paprika-crusted pork tenderloin, but the risotto would satisfy vegetarians as well.

For seasoning, there are so many choices. I could have used fresh basil, but I opted for a little sprinkling of fresh thyme. I find that white pepper goes really well in vegetable risottos. Use what you like.

* You don’t have to include wine with the liquid in a risotto recipe. Just use more of your choice of liquid, like chicken broth. When I taught kids to make risotto, we didn’t include wine, just so you know!

note: Typically when you use zucchini in a recipe, there is a necessary procedure to attend to in order to rid the zucchini or extra water. However, this isn’t a necessary step in a risotto, since the zucchini’s liquid plays a role along with the wine and chicken broth. Another reason why this is such an easy recipe!!!

Frittata

35 Comments

Not too many people hear these words from one their little kids…

“Mom, can you please not make any more frittatas?”

Seriously. I guess I got a little carried away for a while making them. I was very creative with frittatas, but still, I guess at least one of my daughters wasn’t fooled. I also remember thinking how funny her request was at the same time. I mean, it’s like a kid asking the mom to quit serving foie gras or oysters on the half shell. Which is exactly why I remember her question to me so vividly.

And yet, I must have overdone it. And I think I know why.

I’d always made omelets and the like for my kiddos because I was passionate about preparing breakfast for them, even though it involved getting up earlier than most other moms. It was worth it to me.

But then I was introduced to this cookbook – The Villa Table, by Lorenza de Medici – and I was smitten.

41ZN1FnTE5L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

If you aren’t already loving the foods of Tuscany, this book will win you over. In the book Ms. Medici has a recipe for a frittata, to which she adds leftover spaghetti. Seriously! And I mean, why not?

You can really put just about anything in an omelet or a frittata, so why not leftovers like a pasta dish! I had so much respect for her for including such a mundane, yet perfectly practical recipe, or idea, if you will, that I think I got a little crazy then, throwing just about everything left over from the previous night’s dinner into the next morning frittatas for my girls. That is, until I was asked to stop.

So I hadn’t made a frittata in years, thanks to that daughter. And I was really kicking myself. When I have some folks visiting, it’s the perfect thing to make in the morning, but I had completely blocked it out! It’s especially handy if you have company because, unlike an omelet, you can slice it up and serve 6-8 people.

There’s nothing mysterious to a frittata. It contains the same ingredients as an omelet, primarily beaten eggs, of course, cheese, and often accessory ingredients as well. These can include something as simple as asparagus, or as involved as leftover pasta bolognese, like I mentioned above.

A frittata is essentially an open-faced omelet – made in the same way as an omelet, except the last step is to place the cheese-topped omelet in the oven for some browning. You do have to take some care with the frittata, however, just like an omelet, to not overcook it. Otherwise, it would be a big rubbery awful mess.

So I’m going to offer up my version of a basic cheese frittata. What else you do to yours is completely up to you. Trust me, once you start adding your leftover pastas or stews or vegetables to yours, you’re going to be making them quite often, just like I used to!

Basic Frittata

6 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 purple onion, diced
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, or to taste

Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk them well with the cream and salt. My eggs were close to room temperature, but this isn’t necessary. Set aside.

frit4

In the skillet in which you will be making your frittata, which much be able to withstand broiler temperatures, heat up the butter over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, and purple onion.

frit5

Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

frit3

At this point, turn on your broiler, and have your shelf on the top of your oven, directly underneath the broiler.

Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet over the vegetables.

frit2

Make sure the hear is at its lowest point. Just like with making an omelet, this process will take some time. Place a lid on the skillet.

After about 4-5 minutes, you’ll see that the eggs are starting to cook.

frit6

I added some leftover goat cheese that I happened to discover. Now, this isn’t in the recipe, but I wanted to show how many different things you can do with a frittata. Before you add the cheese, make sure that the frittata is about 75% cooked; there will still be liquid in the skillet at this point.

frit7

Then I covered the goat cheese with the generous amount of Parmesan. I was in a cheesy mood that day.

frit8

Place the skillet under the broiler. After a minute or two it will look like this, and there will be no liquid left in the skillet.

frit9

I cut this frittata into four wedges, which seems like quite generous servings, but there are only 6 eggs in the whole frittata. You can remove the frittata easily from the skillet if you wish, but I just served them from the skillet.

tat4

Frittatas are fabulous for both breakfast and brunch.

tat1

I’ve also seen in another Lorenza de Medici cookbook that sometimes a wedge of frittata is served between two slices of bread for lunch!

tat3

Personally I will take my frittata without bread.

But now you get an idea of how many different things can be used in a frittata. I could have sautéed any vegetables and aromatics. Spinach and mushrooms can be used as well, but I would prepare both of them much earlier, and drain them of excess liquid. No one wants a watery frittata.

tat2

And I could have used 8-10 eggs in the same skillet for a much thicker frittata, which of course would take a little more cooking time. It’s just what you want in the end. But the key is to cook the eggs slowly, then let them finish off in the oven while the broiler is taking care of melting and browning the cheese. It’s a lovely egg dish!