As I've said previously in this blog, I was raised a bit on the carnivorous side. My dad was definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy and as he did the grocery shopping, that's a good chunk of what we had in the house — carbs, beef, chicken, sometimes pork and there was usually some kind of cured meat like smoked sausage, pepperoni or hot dogs in the fridge. There was a time when he forayed into growing a variety of vegetables in the gardens in the backyard, but that didn't last too long and now it's mostly onions and sometimes bell peppers, from what I can tell. The onions are, of course, for sautéing and serving as a topping for steak.
Because I'm trying to eat healthier, and because meat is expensive, I've been looking into meatless protein options. I still like meat and I still eat it, but red meat is expensive and isn't known for being a heart-healthy option and, while chicken is versatile and pretty easy to work with, it can get a little old, despite my efforts to play with it, if all you've eaten all week is some variation of the same thign. Fish is great and I love it, but even during Lent, it can be a bit pricey if you don't want the cheap stuff (and, especially with fresh fish, you do not want the cheap stuff). Most widely-used, plant-based proteins that aren't also a source of, albeit healthy, fats are either foods that trigger my gag reflex (beans, tofu that hasn't been deep-fried, lentils) or are pricey and/or would require a trip to a specialty store (quinoa, spirulina, chia/hemp seeds).
That leaves eggs, which are reasonably cheap and very easily accessible. They're also easy to cook. I don't poach, fry or hard-boil eggs because of the yolks (gag reflex again — sorry if that's TMI), so that leaves scrambled eggs, omelets, quiches and frittatas.
I've known about frittatas for a while now, but I haven't really committed to making them until recently and I have no real idea why. They're versitile and delicious and can generally be made with whatever you already have, so no need for trips to the grocery store. Because they have no crusts, they're gluten-free (and less carby), and because, unlike quiches, they contain no dairy unless you actively want cheese in them, they're pretty allergy-friendly, too. Unless you're allergic to eggs. Then you're up a creek here.
Before I was really thinking frittatas, I was going through my refrigerator on Sunday morning and noticed some things I needed to use up — some asparagus that wasn't going to hold out much longer and what was left of some mushrooms I bought for another recipe I can't remember right now being the primary things, so I went to my Pinterest recipe board and went hunting. I found nothing that sounded appealing, so I searched for those ingredients in the general search bar to see if there was anything that both tickled my fancy and used ingredients I mostly had on hand. That's when I saw this Leek and Asparagus Frittata from Epicurious and my stomach started growling. You've got to listen to your body, right?
I had to make a quick stop at the office to post something to the website because my internet connection at home didn't want to cooperate with me and then dropped by the store for the leeks, cheese and more eggs (the recipe called for eight eggs and I didn't want to wipe myself out). The cheese of choice as far as the recipe's author went was Fontina, which the store did not have. I made the executive decision to just swap it out for gouda instead of trying to track Fontina down. In a pinch, you could also use a mild provalone or gruyere and get similar flavors and textures. I'm a fan of gouda, specifically smoked gouda — it's nutty and the texture has just enough bite if you eat it cold.
If you are familiar with the Italian language, you can probably guess the first thing that you do when making a frittata — you throw some butter in a cast iron skillet (you can make this without one, but the cooking instructions will be different). "Frittata" comes from the Italain for "fry." Preheat your boiler and chop your leeks, which are like huge green onions, while the butter melts. The three leeks that came in a bunch was enough for probably two of these frittatas if you stuck to the white and light green parts. Add them to your skillet and sauté them until they're tender (you don't want it browned or anything like that). Add in some chopped asparagus and mushrooms (I used baby bellas, not shitake like the recipe called for) and cook those until they're tender as well.
While they're cooking, beat some eggs and add in about 3/4 cup of diced cheese to the eggs, saving the last 1/4 cup to scatter over the top of the frittata (which will eventually be the bottom, as you flip it out of the skillet later to serve). Pour this over the top of the vegetables in the skillet. Because I underestimated the space in my skillet, I transferred the vegetables to a larger cast iron, so it turned out I didn't have enough eggs to cover everything because it was too scattered. I beat three more eggs and poured that in the skillet as well and it worked out fine. Epicurious said this serves four, but it was now going to serve eight (about 300 calories a serving). Stir the eggs a bit in the skillet to combine the ingredients and let the eggs cook and set up. When it's almost cooked through, scatter the top with the rest of your cheese and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese and pop the skillet into the heated oven to broil for about three minutes or so.
Take it out when it's golden brown and a bit bubbly. Let it cool a little and then flip it out onto a plate (I had to use a pizza pan because my skillet was too big), slice and serve.
This was delicious and Spartacus was very grumpy that he wasn't given any. Leeks and all other members of the onion family can be poisonous to dogs, plus he's allergic to gluten and possibly other human foods, so the vet pretty much told me just the gluten-free food I spend exorbitant money on and a limited number of varieties of treats. This is him pouting.
I was eventually forgiven for my thoughtless tasting of this food in front of him, but mainly because my lap is his favorite seat and his memory is not great. —>
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, simply dump the vegetables from a skillet into a buttered baking dish around the same size as a 10-inch skillet (eyeballing it is fine — remember, you can always add a beaten egg or two to make up any lack of volume) with sides that go more or less straight down and pour the egg and gouda/fontina/whatever cheese over it. Because you won’t be able to start the eggs on the stovetop, you should bake them for a few minutes and then once the egg mixture is mostly set, remove the frittata from the oven, switch on the broiler scatter the 1/4 cup of diced cheese over the top with parmesan cheese. Give the broiler a minute to heat up and return the dish to the oven, where it will get golden brown and bubbly. Let it cool a bit and then flip it out onto a plate (or baking sheet). Slice and serve.