Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Match Made in Heaven

It happens without fail: as soon as a long-anticipated trip draws near, I become obsessed with my own kitchen and home-cooked meals.  I start flipping through my food magazines, reading recipes and planning all the delicious things I will cook upon my return.  I look forward to my regular airport treat, an issue of Bon Appetit, and I savor each picture, each idea, each meal, imagining myself at a cook-out in Northern California or a hippie restaurant in Portland.  I tag along to farmers’ markets, ethnic grocery stores, pick-your-own berry farms.  It is food fantasizing at its best, performed without dirtying a single dish.

The actual cooking I do before a big trip is usually far less exciting.  For one thing, the refrigerator demands that I empty it so that those last bits and bobs don’t disintegrate into oblivion while I’m gone.  The refrigerator also protests if I bring home something new, even though the bare shelves make me sad.  I’m like Goldilocks when it comes to refrigerators: This one is too full!  That one is too empty!  But this one, stashed but not stuffed with goodies, is just right.  I love a well-stocked fridge.

In addition to the cooking dilemmas before I leave town, there is a looming question that must be addressed before I can close up shop: what will I eat while I’m in transit?  Frugality and personal taste compel me to bring as much of my own food with me as I can.  All my experience eating airport food has confirmed that yes, my home-packed meals really do taste better.  And can you blame me for grasping at the comforts of home before I surrender my food fate to the whims of the road?

So on a Thursday night before leaving town, armed with a head of broccoli, an onion, some eggs, and a palmful of Parmesan cheese, I made my new favorite egg dish, a frittata for two, studded with roasted broccoli and laced with strands of caramelized onion.  It was a hot Texas evening, and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my temples, but I had to have frittata.  I found my inspiration on Eat, Live, Run (a nomenclature cousin to Life, Love, and Food, perhaps?) in an adorable, step-by-step frittata tutorial.  I also fell in love with Jenna’s gorgeous red skillet—what a beauty!

This frittata recipe has a lot going for it.  It’s delicious, of course, and it’s more involved than making scrambled eggs, which is nice for those nights when you want to be a little fancier in the kitchen.  Eggs and broccoli are a match made in heaven, in my opinion—the green crunch of the broccoli is sprightly and vibrant against the soft creaminess of the eggs.  Before I tried this recipe, I didn’t think it was possible to make frittata for such a small crowd.  At my table set for one, I didn’t think frittata would ever make an appearance, but I’m so happy to be wrong on this matter.  Who knew you could make frittata in a ten-inch skillet and not be forced to eat the leftovers for three days straight?  Happy news indeed! 

Hi Beautiful

The way it works is this: four beaten eggs that bake into a thin-but-not-too-thin frittata strewn with vegetables and topped with salty Parmesan.  As you can see above, I used my cast-iron skillet and I worried about getting the frittata out of it.  But with a knife, a pancake flipper, and a little effort, they come out fairly easily, though probably not as easily as an enamel-clad skillet like Jenna’s.  I’m of the use-what-you-got school of thought, so straight-up cast-iron it is in my kitchen.  I’m old-fashioned that way!

I ate half of this frittata Thursday night, less than twelve hours before beginning my big trip north.  The leftovers accompanied me to Houston, and I ate them somewhere over middle America at cruising altitude.  Warm from the oven or heated briefly in a microwave, this dish is everything eggs should be: savory and comforting, with a nice helping of green vegetables to make you feel good and healthy all around.  At room temperature, I’m afraid I don’t like it quite as much—the flavors are muted and the texture isn’t as soft and lovely.  But none of that is the recipe’s fault, so let’s not cast blame where it doesn’t belong.  Instead, let’s keep a head of broccoli, an onion, some eggs, and a palmful of Parmesan cheese at the ready for the next frittata craving.

Dinner in Shades of Green and Gold

Frittata for Two with Roasted Broccoli and Caramelized Onions

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 2 (or 4 as an appetizer or component of a larger meal)

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

1 head of broccoli florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Cooking spray

4 eggs

Pinch of salt

Several grinds of black pepper

Pinch of paprika

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

2)  While the oven is preheating, begin caramelizing the onion.  In a large skillet (I used my ten-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion slices and let them cook for a minute or two to soften.  Then turn the head down to medium and let the onions continue cooking while you get the broccoli roasting.  Stir the onions frequently to keep any hot spots from burning.

3)  Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Spread the broccoli on this sheet in a single layer.  Roast in the oven for 15-16 minutes, stirring once about halfway through the roasting time.  The broccoli should be browned a little bit, but it will retain most of its texture.

4)  While the broccoli is going, whisk together the four eggs in a large measuring cup or a bowl.  Season the eggs with salt and pepper.  Set them aside until the broccoli is done.

5)  When the broccoli is done, turn the oven head down to 350 degrees F.  Add the broccoli to the pan with the onions, which will by this time have turned brown and sweet.  Spread everything into one layer in the skillet.  Pour the beaten eggs into the skillet, moving things around as necessary to let the eggs spread into all the open spaces.  Sprinkle the eggs with the paprika and the cheese.

6)  Let the eggs cook over medium heat on the stovetop for 3-4 minutes.  At this point, the edges should be set but the center will still be gooey.

7)  Transfer the skillet from stovetop to the preheated oven.  Bake the frittata for four minutes.  Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then use a butter knife and a pancake flipper to serve slices of frittata.  I find it easiest to serve this in quarters.

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