May 1, 2016 Smoked Salmon and Spinach Frittata

DSC_6759aSpinach again, this time combined with eggs, cheese and smoked salmon to make a frittata. Quick to make, they are as good at breakfast as they are as an impromptu supper. Once again, I used the basic recipe of a frittata from Cooks Illustrated, for broccoli rabe and sun dried tomatoes. substituting the spinach and smoked salmon.

A large oven proof non stick skillet is a must for making this recipe, check first that it fits in your oven. Be sure to have a pot holder draped over the oven door so you are not tempted to touch the handle with your bare hands. I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago. Sauté the spinach just enough to wilt it down, then add garlic and Aleppo pepper, a favorite ingredient of mine. Small cubes of cheese are added to the eggs, for this recipe I like a Jarlsberg or a Havarti with dill.

The eggs are cooked for a short time on the stove top. Add the smoked salmon when the eggs are setting up on the bottom before they go in the oven. Once the frittata is spotty brown and puffed, remove it from the oven. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes, the residual heat will finish the cooking. Loosen the frittata from the pan with a spatula and move it to a platter or cutting board for serving.

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Smoked Salmon and Spinach Frittata

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 T half and half or heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 3-4 c spinach, large stems removed
  • 1 medium clove garlic minced
  • ¼ t Aleppo pepper or paprika
  • ¾ c cheese cut into small cubes, Jarlsberg or Havarti with dill
  • ½ c smoked salmon chopped into pieces

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Directions

  1. With oven rack in the upper middle position, heat broiler. Whisk eggs, half and half, a dash of salt and pepper in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
  2. In a non stick 12″ oven safe skillet heat oil until shimmering. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so.
  3. Stir cheese into the eggs; add egg mixture into the skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet. Large curds will form but the mixture will still seem somewhat wet, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly; cook without stirring for 30 seconds to set the bottom. Sprinkle smoked salmon pieces evenly over the surface of the frittata.
  4. Slide skillet under broiler and broil until the frittata has risen and the surface puffs and turns spotty brown, three to four minutes. Remove skillet from the oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking.
  5. Using a spatula, loosen frittata from the skillet and slide onto a platter or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

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March 17, 2016 Spinach Pie

DSC_6530aFor once it looks like the groundhog was right, winter is over. Last week’s tease of highs in the 80’s has now settled back into a mostly rainy week with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. Spring arrives this weekend and it’s time to head back to the garden. Our garden’s first offering is spinach. Planted as a fall crop, it wintered over nicely in the greenhouse . It’s not the delicate baby spinach that you would want in a salad, but larger, very crinkly spinach, perfect for cooked dishes. I will attest that is still sweet and flavorful, after nibbling on some stems when I picked a large colander full today.

I found this recipe for Spinach Pie on the Epicurious website from a book called Irish Country Cooking, quite appropriate since St. Patrick’s Day is today. My choice was further confirmed when I read the author’s comment that three generations of her family have enjoyed this dish and this recipe was often made to use up her father’s seasonal harvest of spinach.

It takes a lot of spinach to make a pound, twelve cups to be exact. When that spinach is cooked down it will yield about a cup. Wash spinach in a large sink in several exchanges of cold water, those crinkles can hide a lot of dirt and debris. Remove any large stems and trim away any discolored leaves. The recipe called for steaming the spinach, I chose to cook it down in batches in a non stick skillet, which was just as easy. Drain spinach in a colander or better yet squeeze in your hands to remove excess moisture. Roughly chop spinach and in a large bowl combine with onion, beaten eggs and the cheeses. Mix well to be certain the spinach is mixed thoroughly with the other ingredients. Transfer this mixture to a quiche dish or individual dishes. If you like it could even be made in a crust. Different cheeses could be substituted as long as they have the same texture, cheddar for the mozzarella, I substituted ricotta for the cottage cheese. The addition of some chopped smoked salmon or a little crumbled sausage would be nice too.  A 10 ounce container of frozen spinach, thawed and well drained can be substituted for the fresh spinach.

Spinach pie is appropriate at any meal, breakfast, a light luncheon entree, a side at dinner. You could also bake this in a rectangular baking dish and cut it into small squares as an hors d’oeuvre. I barely made a dent into the spinach that’s in the greenhouse so it looks like I will be making this again in the weeks to come.

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Spinach Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 4 oz spinach, washed or a 10 ounce container of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained of excess liquid
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 10 oz ricotta or cottage cheese (regular or low fat)
  • 10 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, 325°F if using convection heat
  2. Wilt the spinach in a large non stick saute pan with the water that is still clinging to the leaves, drain well and roughly chop.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the cooked spinach with the onion, beaten eggs and cheeses. Be sure that the spinach is thoroughly combined with the other ingredients. Season the mixture with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Transfer mixture to one or several smaller baking dishes that have been coated with non stick spray. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

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July 23, 2015 Zucchini Pesto Frittata

DSC_3760aIf you’re like me and not always in the mood to cook something when you get up in the morning for breakfast, but still want a little something to eat, a frittata is a great choice. Made the day before, they warm up quickly and also taste good at room temperature.  But frittatas aren’t just for breakfast, they make a nice lunch, light supper, sliced thin as an hors d’oeurve or anytime you just want a little nibble. This time of year they are a great way to showcase farm fresh eggs and produce.

For this recipe I chose the smallest zucchini I could find in the garden. Since their seed pods are still underdeveloped, they have a sweet nutty quality to them. I wanted very thin slices rather than shreds which is the usual method of preparation. Slice by hand, or for real uniformity, I used the 2mm slicing disk on the food processor. Larger zucchini should be shredded and salted then squeezed dry before adding to the frittata. If you skip that step, when you cook the zucchini you essentially will be steaming, not sauteing it. A couple of tablespoons of a chopped fresh herb is a welcome addition to a frittata, but since I had just made some, I opted for pesto, a delcious addition to this dish.

A 10″ non stick skillet with an oven safe handle is essential for this recipe. Begin by cooking the zucchini until it releases some liquid and the slices start to brown and become tender, this should take about 5-6 minutes. Set the pan aside.

Preheat your oven’s broiler and place a rack in the upper middle position. Beat the eggs and Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl.  Stir in pesto and the cooked zucchini. Add the rest of the oil to the empty skillet and heat to medium. Add zucchini-egg mixture and cook for 4-5 minutes, frittata will look set around the edges. Move the skillet to the broiler and leave a potholder on the oven door, that handle will get hot. I set a timer now for 90 second intervals. It took about 2 intervals for the frittata to get brown, which translates to about 4 minutes.

Using the potholder, remove frittata from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.Run spatula around the edge of the skillet to loosen the frittata. You can serve the frittata warm right from the skillet, or slide unto a platter for a prettier presentation.

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Zucchini Pesto Frittata

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2T olive oil
  • 1 1/3 lbs. of very small zucchini, washed and ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2T pesto or freezer pesto, thawed with cheese added
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3T grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2t olive oil

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Directions

  1. Heat broiler.
  2. Slice trimmed zucchini by hand or with the thinnest slicing blade of the food processor.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Beat six large eggs with 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Stir in pesto and cooked zucchini into beaten eggs.
  5. Heat additional 2 teaspoons oil in the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, pesto and egg mixture; cook until frittata is almost set, 4-5 minutes.
  6. Slide skillet until the broiler and cook until frittata is set and the top is browned.
  7. Serve directly from the skillet or flip unto serving plate. Serve hot or at room temperature.
The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.
The seed pods are not developed yet in baby zucchini.

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June 14, 2015 Crustless Spinach, Mushroom and Canadian Bacon Quiche

DSC_3155aConsider a humble little package of frozen chopped spinach, a convenience and a staple in many kitchens, including mine. You might be quite surprised how many cups of fresh spinach it takes to make that 10 ounce brick of frozen. That was the information I was looking for this week.

Our spinach plants are going to seed and it was time to do one last serious pick before pulling them out and getting the space ready for another planting. When picking spinach, especially in the extreme hot weather (95°F) it is important to not use a metal bowl or colander, they will put your freshly picked leaves into immediate wilt that will be hard to revive from.  I prefer using a clear plastic “pebble” bowl, sturdy hard plastic bowls I used in my catering business. I snip off the best leaves with scissors, leaving the plant and damaged leaves behind for the mulch pile. Next, I soak the spinach in a clean sink of cold water. I start the process by swishing the leaves around in the sink. I let them sit for a few minutes, the spinach will float to the top, and the dirt and debris will sink to the bottom.  Then I gently lift out the leaves and transfer them to a colander. I will repeat the process again to be sure all the dirt is removed. I refrigerated the spinach in the large bowls with some plastic wrap draped over the top.

Now it was time to find ways to use up this bounty.  Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrition, low in calories, a rich source of iron, vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, calcium and magnesium. End of the season spinach is still very good, but not necessarily something you would want to use in a salad. So I was on the hunt for recipes with cooked spinach. Frittata, quiche, spanakopita, all good choices but many recipes just call for that ubiquitous ten ounce package of frozen spinach. I needed to find the conversions to take that very large bowl to the amount of cooked spinach I needed.

Spinach is 90% water in composition and when cooked, 1 pound of fresh spinach is equivalent to 10 to 12 cups and will cook down to 1 cup. One 10-ounce package of frozen spinach is the equivalent of 1 1/2 pounds of fresh spinach or about 15-18 cups of spinach. In my pictures you will see a before and after of the spinach. To reduce it, I cooked the spinach in a 10″ sauté pan using just the water that clung to the leaves. Then I drained it thoroughly in a fine mesh colander, squeezed it dry and chopped it roughly.

My efforts paid off. With the spinach I picked, I was able to make all three, frittata, quiche and spanakopita. This quiche can be put together in minutes since the most time consuming part is eliminated, making the crust.  I added some sauteed sliced mushrooms and Canadian bacon. In case you didn’t know, American bacon comes from the fatty belly of the pig and Canadian bacon is cut from the loin.  Of course a 10 ounce package of frozen spinach can be substituted in this recipe. It makes a nice breakfast or light lunch and reheats well the next day.

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Fifteen to eighteen cups of fresh spinach.
Cooks down to this!
Cooks down to this!

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Crustless Spinach and Canadian Bacon Quiche

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1c finely chopped onion
  • 1c sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1T vegetable oil
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach or 1½c cooked and chopped fresh spinach
  • 2/3c finely chopped Canadian bacon
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3c shredded swiss cheese (other cheeses will work too like cheddar or Monterey Jack)
  • 1/8t freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, sauté onion and mushrooms in oil until tender.
  2. Add spinach and ham, cook and stir until the excess moisture is evaporated.  Cool slightly.
  3. Beat eggs, add cheese and mix well. Stir in spinach mixture and season with pepper; blend well.
  4. Spread evenly into a greased 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

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June 2, 2015 Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Frittata

DSC_2848aI was looking for a different way to use some of our abundance of spinach and decided a frittata would be a good choice. Frittata is the Italian name for a flat open faced omelet. They are quick to make and can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature, not only just for breakfast, but at lunch and dinner as well.  In the late Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook, she delineates three distinctions between the omelet and the frittata.

  • An omelet is cooked briefly over high heat, a frittata is cooked slowly over low heat.
  • An omelet is creamy and moist, just short of runny. A frittata is formed and set, although by no means, stiff and dry.
  • An omelet is rolled or folded over into an oval tapered shape. Frittatas are flat and perfectly round.

This recipe’s framework came from a recipe on the Cooks Illustrated website. It called for a dozen eggs and just a few tablespoons of half and half to add some creaminess. The original recipe was for a frittata with broccoli rabe, sun dried tomatoes and fontina cheese. I substituted four cups of lightly packed spinach with the large stems and ribs removed for the rabe. The spinach was just picked and washed so I was able to cook it down quickly with just the water that clung to the leaves, so very little oil was needed in the pan. I substituted my favorite French feta for the fontina, since spinach and feta are such a good combination. The sun dried tomatoes called for in the original recipe were oil packed. The sun dried tomatoes I used were ones I made last summer with Sun Gold tomatoes from the garden. They just needed to be reconstituted in some warm water for about ten minutes to bring them back to life. I was surprised (and pleased) that the skin came off in the process. I chopped them roughly before adding them to the frittata.

A heavy bottomed oven safe non stick skillet is absolutely necessary to make the frittata. Before you proceed with the recipe be sure the skillet fits comfortably under the broiler without a great deal of maneuvering. The handle on my skillet was a bit high and made getting it in and out of the oven quite challenging. Have thick potholders at the ready so you don’t burn your fingers pulling the pan out of the oven. Once out, leave the potholder over the handle to remind yourself the pan is still hot. Use a spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan and transfer to a platter or cutting board. Of course, there are countless variations of the frittata and as the season moves on my add-ins will change.  Whatever you put in yours, it’s a great quick weeknight supper to serve alongside a simple green salad.

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Spinach, just a few weeks ago.
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That same spinach a few days ago.

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Spinach, Sun Dried Tomato and Feta Frittata

Makes one 12″ frittata

Ingredients

  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 T half and half
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 c loosely packed spinach, large ribs and stems removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/8t red pepper flakes
  • 3/4c lightly crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4c coarsely chopped sun dried tomatoes

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Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position, about 5 inches away from the heating element. Heat broiler.
  2. Whisk eggs, half and half, ½t salt and ¼t freshly ground pepper in a medium bowl until well combined, about 30 seconds. Set eggs aside.
  3. Heat oil in a 12-inch non stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering; add spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1 minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir crumbled Feta and sun dried tomatoes into eggs; add egg mixture to skillet and cook, using spatula to stir and scrape bottom of skillet, until large curds form and spatula begins to leave wake but eggs are still very wet, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet to distribute eggs evenly, cook without stirring for 30 seconds to allow the bottom to set.
  4. Slide skillet under broiler and broil until frittata has risen and surface is puffed and spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes; when cut into with a paring knife the eggs should still be slightly wet. Remove skillet from oven and let stand 5 minutes to finish cooking; using spatula, loosen frittata from skillet and slide onto platter or cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

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June 18, 2014 Spinach and Mushroom Crustless Quiche

DSC_7849aAs the old song goes “see you in September”. It was time to say good bye to the spinach in our garden. Spinach does not like warm weather and temperatures have soared into the 90+ vicinity the last several days. So before it all bolted or went to seed I picked the remaining spinach.Then the plants could be pulled out of the ground and the space could be used to plant something else.
Most of the time we enjoy fresh garden spinach with dinner just sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic. It cooks down so quickly that a large bowl full of uncooked spinach soon becomes a very small plate of cooked spinach.  I decided for the last hurrah to make a crustless spinach and mushroom quiche. It would make a nice light lunch and breakfast for the next day.

A quiche essentially is a savory custard that is baked in a piecrust. A custard mixture is a liquid, usually milk or cream and combined with eggs and baked until it sets. I used fresh spinach but frozen spinach or bagged spinach would work as well. Just remember to squeeze out all the water or the custard will be too wet. Eliminating the crust saves time and calories too. Spinach and feta are a natural combination, but any cheese with good melting qualities will work, mozzerella, cheddar and parmesan to name a few.

A minor disaster occurred about fifteen minutes into baking my quiche, the power went out. We weren’t having a storm or bad weather at all, it just went out long enough (five minutes) that I had to reset all the clocks in the house and the oven, though still warm, had to be brought back to temperature. I didn’t take the quiche out of the oven, I just adjusted my baking time to make certain the custard was cooked. The top was a little too brown but still tasted good.
A delicious way to say good bye for the summer!

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Spinach and Mushroom Crustless Quiche

Serves six

Ingredients

  • I cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (white, cremini etc.)
  • 8 cups of fresh spinach or 1 box frozen chopped spinach
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1t chopped garlic
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk, cream or half and half
  • 1/2c feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. If using fresh spinach, cook it down in a large sauté pan and drain in a colander. Squeeze out the rest of the moisture in a clean dish towel. I cooked whole leaves so at this point I chopped it. If using frozen chopped spinach, thaw in microwave and drain well.
  2. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped garlic. Sauté garlic until it starts to brown slightly then add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle a little salt and a grind of pepper over the mushrooms and sauté until they have released all of their moisture and no more water remains on the bottom of the skillet. This should take about five minutes.
  3. Lightly grease or spray with nonstick spray a 9 inch pie pan or quiche dish. Evenly spread the spinach over the dish, scatter the mushrooms over the top, then sprinkle the feta over.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs. Add the milk, parmesan and a grind of fresh pepper. Pour the liquid over the ingredients in the dish.
  5. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over top. Place the dish on a baking sheet, this will make it easier to transfer the dish in and out of the oven.  Place dish in the oven and bake until the quiche is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. This will take between 45 minutes to an hour, starting checking at 45 minutes.
  6. Allow quiche to cool a bit, cut into slices and serve. It’s also good cold!

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