Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vegetable Frittata

Eggs are so much more than a breakfast dish. They are a long-time, reliable friend in my galley, a versatile ingredient with almost limitless possibilities. Remember the platters of deviled eggs served as appetizers at oh so many cocktail parties in the '60s?  or James Beard's egg foo yung pancake recipe from the '70s? or the cute little mini muffins or quiche squares with artichokes, spinach or canned green peppers that appeared at every appetizer buffet in the '80s? Somewhere along the way crustless quiche and puffy omelets took over breakfast, brunch and late-supper offerings and became my go-to favorites for a dish in a hurry. Add a green salad and you had a complete meal... 

(Sound the trumpets, hit the drums) ... and then I found frittatas. They are delicious, take little time and no work to prepare, and are equally tasty warm or cooled, with or without accompanying sauces or salsa. What's the difference between omelets and frittatas you ask? French omelets are cooked in a pan and then folded or rolled around fillings, but Italian frittatas begin with a mixture of cooked fillings and raw eggs which set up in a pan and are finished under a hot broiler or by flipping and finishing the uncooked side in the pan on the stovetop. Sources disagree on the authenticity of a broiler vs a pan finish for the second side (link and link), but I find frittatas work well either way. 

Hilary and I prepared frittatas both ways this week. She preferred a flipped pasta frittata, warm for lunch on day one when we cooked and cold for a quick supper snack later on. I'm especially fond of the puffier, broiler-finished frittata, especially on mornings when flipping seems too daunting a challenge for a sleepy cook. (Don't ask.)

Frittata ingredients vary every time I prepare one, sometimes using pre-roasted vegetables and meats, other times beginning with fresh produce and/or meats. Change the herbs and spices to complement the other ingredients and you will marvel at the versatility of this simple dish. This week's Southwestern creation featured sweet peppers, poblano pepper, Mexican chorizo sausage and onions with fresh cilantro and mixed cheeses. OK, I mixed cultures because it  certainly wasn't Italian, but it was delicious.

The recipe below is for a vegetable frittata, a base recipe to adapt and adjust to fit available ingredients and your own preferences. Change it up with different vegetables, add some braised greens or chopped or slivered meat, omit the cheese or substitute a different one, try it with Italian herbs or Indian spices. Slice after slice, it's a winner. 

Vegetable Frittata
serves 3-4

3 large eggs (use 4 for a 10-inch fry pan)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
2 cups vegetables, chopped or sliced to bite size (onions, peppers, broccoli, kale asparagus, etc)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mixed dried Italian herbs or sliced fresh basil or Italian parsley
1/2 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan, jack, cheddar, or your favorite)
  1. Crack the eggs into a medium sized bowl, add the water and whisk well. Set aside.
  2. In an 8 or 10 inch ovenproof nonstick skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, but not brown. Add the other vegetables and cook for a few more minutes to soften - you don't want to fry anything crispy, just soften them up a bit.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and your choice of herbs. Stir briefly to incorporate.
  4. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the vegetables, using a fork to move them around as necessary for even distribution.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let cook until the egg mixture begins to set around the edges. Gently push away from the edge and tilt the pan to let the uncooked flow into the gap. Repeat around the other sections of edge. 
  6. When the edges are set and the middle is still somewhat liquid, sprinkle the top with the cheese.
  7. Place the skillet in a preheated broiler, about 2-4 inches below the heat, and cook until the top is set and begins to brown, usually just a minute or two. Don't overcook the eggs or the frittata will become leathery and tough.
  8. Cut into 6 to 8 wedges and serve. Offer toppings of sour cream, salsa, sliced tomato or avocado, etc. if desired.

Updated: 9 Sept 2012
Talk about timely! Punchfork posted a page today with links to 270+ frittata recipes. Check out these variations, with photos, for frittata inspiration at

Updated: 22 June 2013
Pinterest acquired Punchfork, and the previous link no longer works. Use the following link for frittata photos and recipes:

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