For Brunch on a Budget, Try Frittata

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Photo by kevinmarsh/Flickr CC


Waking up on Sunday morning can be brutal. It's particularly rough after a night of dancing, and when you have guests coming over for 11:00 a.m. brunch. And when you haven't done your shopping yet.

Having faced this dilemma myself last Sunday, I thought I'd share a tip for others who've made similarly foolish decisions: frittata. It's quick, it's easy, and you can modify it for every season. Every farmers' market has the ingredients, and you can impress on a budget.

We stumbled out of bed sometime close to 9:30 a.m. and arrived at the DuPont Farmers Market still groggy. Then, the bounty of market hit our senses and trumped my anxiety about time. (Guests? Heck! There were strawberries!)

Throwing restraint to the wind, we set the menu: market bread with cheese & jam; asparagus frittata topped with roasted mushrooms; mixed greens from the Farm at Sunnyside; Blue Ridge Dairy Ricotta, strawberries, and honey for desert. Over the top, I know. But I am crazy for ricotta.

You can vary the filling by season: cheese and potatoes in winter. Nettles or spinach in spring. Basil and tomatoes in summer. Greens and caramelized onions in the fall.

Enough. Back to the frittata. Here's how you do it: chop a shallot fine. Sautee it in a pan with some butter until it's golden. As this is happening, break a pound of asparagus into 2-inch spears.

Check on the shallots. Crack 10 eggs into a bowl (we were four for brunch, and 10 eggs ensured generous portions as well as the leftovers I wanted) and whisk them so they are smooth. Stir in a generous ½ teaspoon or so of salt.

At this point, you have a critical choice. This is the fork in the road for all frittata makers. Stove-top or oven?

The oven route is easiest, and it's the way to go if you are cooking for hordes of people, or impatient for your first mimosa. Butter a 8" x 12" Pyrex pan. Stir the asparagus and shallots into the eggs, then pour the mixture into the pan. Place it in a 350-degree oven. You are worry-free for the next 30 minutes. Make salad dressing. Serve up mimosas. As you near the 30-minute mark, check on the frittata, and if it is close to done, turn on the broiler for a few minutes. That will get you a lovely lightly browned top.

But if you can, go the stove-top route. This is what purists, and my good friend Amy, recommend. The frittata is moist; the texture closer to an omelet; the eggs puffy; and the edges brown more nicely.

For this method, shallots, asparagus, salt, and eggs all go into an oven-proof skillet (cast iron works very nicely.) Slide the pan back and forth for a few minutes. Cook on medium-low heat until the eggs are pale gold on the bottom and the edges are set. Once this happens, pop the frittata under the broiler and cook until the top is lightly browned. You're set.

Let it cool slightly, and serve it up. On hot days, serve at room temperature. You can vary the filling by season: cheese and maybe even potatoes in the cold of winter. Nettles or spinach in early spring. Basil and tomatoes (paste tomatoes, so they are less juicy) in high summer. All sorts of yummy greens and caramelized onions in the fall.

Last Sunday, our guests arrived early. But we plied them with mimosas, and soon enough I pulled out the frittata.

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Melina Shannon-DiPietro is the director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which oversees sustainable dining at Yale, manages an organic farm on campus, and runs programs that support academic inquiry related to food and agriculture. More

Melina Shannon-DiPietro is an organic farmer turned executive director. In 2003 she traded in her stirrup hoe for a laptop and joined Yale to help found the Sustainable Food Project. For the past seven years, she has worked with colleagues, faculty, and students to create meaningful opportunities for college students in food, agriculture, and sustainability. Her biggest compliment came last year, when a student called her Yale's Dean of Food.
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