Baked frittata celebrates fresh spring veggies

Chicago TribuneMay 28, 2014 

Potatoes and asparagus make the filling for this frittata.

BILL HOGAN/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Our spring entertaining often centers on brunch after an early morning bike ride or hike in the woods with friends. Hungry, we’re looking for strong coffee and an easy-to-assemble main course. Enter the oven-baked frittata. Fresh eggs, beaten with cream or milk, embrace tender vegetables and fresh herbs.

Easier than an omelet, Italian-inspired frittatas are cooked in a skillet with the vegetables stirred in rather than used as a filling for folded eggs. Frittatas can be cooked completely on the stove top. I prefer to cook them in a low oven where the steady heat prevents excess browning and overcooking.

As for the flavorings, fresh, tender spring vegetables, briefly cooked in advance, welcome the velvety texture of gently cooked eggs. Think asparagus, new potatoes, skinny tender carrots, baby spinach and sweet onions. The first shoots of garden fresh herbs work here, too.

In the first recipe, fresh mozzarella offers silken bits in between the eggs and vegetables. When the asparagus is very tender and fresh, I skip peeling the stalks. Fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch rounds, can stand in for round new potatoes. Green onions and fresh dill perfume the whole dish.

Bagged, peeled baby carrots work OK in a lunchbox. For a special brunch dish, I seek out the superslender carrots in various shades of orange and yellow sold at specialty markets. Two cups diced butternut squash or sweet potatoes can be subbed for the carrots. With the veggies roasted until tender, then mixed with baby spinach and fresh garlic, this frittata is then cooked in a baking pan for easy transport and serving.

Both dishes taste great served at room temperature or even chilled. Accompany the asparagus frittata with thickly sliced ripe tomatoes and crusty bread. Serve the carrot and spinach version with a mixed-berry fruit cup and toasted raisin bread. Brew fresh coffee, offer a mimosa of fresh grapefruit juice and sparkling wine and you’ll have happy friends.

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