Question: What can be served as an antipasto, a main dish or a snack; can be made using vegetables – from asparagus to zucchini – or almost any other savory ingredient on hand, including spaghetti or smoked salmon; and is equally good served freshly made and hot or leftover at room temperature?
Answer: Frittata, a Mediterranean dish made with eggs.
A frittata is one of the most budget-friendly and healthful dishes around. Even with today’s ever-increasing food prices, six eggs and some cheese provide four servings of good protein at a reasonable cost. Loading a frittata up with vegetables and herbs from the garden or the market makes it a nutritious one-dish meal, too.
Some may pass on making a frittata because they fear flipping it. Sliding it under the broiler will cook any soft egg left in the center and brown the frittata’s top, but you need a pan that fits and has a handle that can stand the heat. And in summer, the oven sure heats up the kitchen. I prefer the slide, cover and flip method described in the recipe.
If the frittata should stick or break, it will still taste great if it comes to the table looking more like super-scrambled eggs.
When using spinach, chard or squash, which all contain lots of water, avoid making a watery frittata by cooking the vegetables well to eliminate most of their moisture. In the following recipe, the squash (zucchini) is evenly browned, which adds flavor to the frittata. Mixing cheese into the eggs rather than sprinkling it over the frittata’s top also reduces water.
When fresh basil is not readily available, chopped scallions make a good alternative.
Zucchini and Onion Frittata
• Cooking spray, preferably olive oil
• 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
• 8 ounces zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch rounds
• 4 large eggs
• 2 large egg whites
• 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut cross-wise into thin slices
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coat pan heavily with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Sauté onion until golden, 3-4 minutes. Mix in garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, until onion is lightly browned. Transfer mixture to plate to cool.
Coat pan again with cooking spray and return to heat. Add zucchini and cook until slices look moist and translucent. Using tongs, spread and turn zucchini to brown slices on both sides, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to onion mixture when slices are brown. Wipe out the pan.
In mixing bowl, whisk eggs and whites until well combined. Mix in cheese, salt and pepper. Add vegetables and basil, and mix with fork to combine with eggs.
Add oil to pan and tilt pan to swirl oil around sides. Set pan over medium-high heat. Pour in egg mixture, spreading zucchini and onion in an even layer. As eggs start to set, use wide spatula to lift frittata around edges while tilting pan slightly so that liquid egg flows out and under edges. Cook until frittata is browned on bottom and set except in center, approximately 8 minutes.
Off heat, invert large plate over pan. Pressing it firmly in place against pan, invert the two so that frittata falls from pan onto plate. Slide frittata back into pan and cook until lightly brown on bottom, 1-2 minutes longer.
Slide frittata onto serving plate. Serve immediately, or cool frittata to room temperature before serving. Frittata also can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Cut into wedges and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 138 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 5 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 1 g fiber, 419 mg sodium.
Dana Jacobi is author of “12 Best Foods Cookbook” (Rodale Books, 2005) and contributor to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s “The New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life” (University of California Press, 2005). For more information, visit www.danajacobi.com.