The delicious Italian frittata is easy to prepare and can be enjoyed at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Frittatas are a popular treat for Sunday brunches and Christmas mornings in many households.
Frittatas can be made with just plain eggs or can combine an assortment of ingredients to create a complex, decadent taste. Mixing potato slices, crumbled bacon and shredded Swiss cheese makes a wonderful yet humble family dinner. A frittata with shrimp, artichoke and Parmesan cheese makes a delightful, savory meal.
Other popular ingredients used in recipes are onions, bell peppers, spinach and asparagus. Cheeses like Asiago, Gruyere and cottage cheese are commonly found in the egg dish. Ham, turkey and salmon can also create a wonderful flavor.
Frittatas can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be made stovetop in a covered skillet, or in a pie plate or baking dish in the oven. Some recipes call for starting the dish on top of the stove and transferring the skillet into the oven to bake or broil. While frittatas were originally designed to be cut into wedges and shared with many people, spooning the raw ingredients into well-greased muffin cups is a fun way to make individual servings.
Making a frittata is also an easy way to use up leftovers. Virtually anything can go into the egg dish, including pasta and rice. Seasonings like hot sauce or chili powder can add a spicy flair, while milder herbs like parsley and basil will create a pleasant, light taste. Adding a splash of milk, cream or half-and-half while beating the eggs will help make the dish fluffier and create more room for a generous amount of ingredients.
For easy assembly, prepare vegetables, meats and cheeses ahead of time. Mix all ingredients except the eggs together and place them in a baking dish. The eggs will be poured over the top just before cooking. Another option is to cook the dish ahead of time and either serve it at room temperature or place it in the oven and heat through.
Frittatas travel easily, and wedges can either be carried in hand or placed between slices of bread and eaten as a sandwich. Another option is to cut the frittata into bite-size pieces and serve them as an appetizer. Their versatility and the wide variety of ingredients that can be combined when making a frittata make it the perfect food for any occasion.
Eggs are important in cooking and baking for many reasons including their binding, emulsifying and leavening properties. Eggs are a staple in everyday cooking. Knowing the types of eggs, their nutritional value, how the grading system works, and proper handling techniques will ensure success when working with eggs in the kitchen.
There are several types of eggs used in cooking. Chicken eggs are the easiest to find and the most commonly used in America. Gourmet recipes sometimes call for eggs from a quail, goose, duck or ostrich. In England and some Scandinavian countries gull eggs are considered a delightful treat, while guinea fowl eggs are popular and readily available in some African countries.
The color of the eggshell is dependent on the breed of the chicken. Most are usually in shades of brown or white, but some breeds of chickens will produce other colors like pink or blue and green speckled. People in the northeastern region of the United States prefer brown eggs, while the rest of the country generally prefers white. Regardless of the color, the flavor and nutritional value are the same.
Eggs are high in protein and many other vitamins and nutrients. Eggs are prominent on a very short list of foods that naturally supply the body with vitamin D which, among other things, helps promote healthy bones. Although the yolk contains all the fat and cholesterol in the egg, it is also where all the vitamin D is located, as well as most of the other important nutrients. One of these nutrients is choline, which is responsible for brain development, making it especially important for pregnant and nursing women to consume eggs.
The quality of eggs is rated by the United States Department of Agriculture. The rating is based on internal and external conditions. US Grade AA is the highest rating, and these eggs have high, round yolks, thick, firm whites, and unbroken, clean shells that are free from defects. US Grade A eggs are most commonly found in stores, and are similar to Grade AA only the whites are “reasonably” firm. The final rating is US Grade B. These eggs have wider, flatter yolks, thinner whites, and have unbroken shells that may have slight stains. Grade B eggs are not found in stores, but are used to make frozen and liquid egg products, dried egg products, and other products that contain eggs.
The grading system is concerned with the condition of the shell because the shell blocks harmful bacteria like Salmonella from contaminating the egg. Eating raw or undercooked eggs can also make a person sick. Proper handling of eggs can help protect against infection and illness. Eggs should be refrigerated and used within two weeks, and should never be consumed raw. During preparation and cooking, the counter tops and containers that come in contact with the raw eggs should be disinfected with an antibiotic to prevent contamination. Egg cartons should always be used during transport to protect the shells.
Frittatas make a terrific meal or snack any time of the day. The egg-based dish combines vegetables, cheeses and meats to tempt young and old taste buds alike. While an endless array of ingredient combinations and several different cooking techniques can be used when making the dish, there are a few tips that will help make the dish a success every time.
The first, most important tip when cooking is to use fresh ingredients. The fresher the ingredients, the better the taste. This is especially true when using dairy products like milk and eggs. Eggs should be used within two weeks of the date of purchase. If the eggshell is damaged in any way, discard the egg to avoid running the risk of Salmonella poisoning.
Cooking a frittata can be done on the stove top or in the oven. When cooking on the stove top, cover the skillet to let the heat penetrate the top as well as the bottom of the egg mixture. If the skillet is left uncovered, there is a high potential for the bottom of the frittata to get too dark before the top is thoroughly cooked. Another trick is to take the skillet from the stove and place it in the oven on broil to ensure the top is fully set and golden brown.
When cooking on top of the stove, frequently lift the edges of the frittata with a spatula to release them from the sides of the skillet. If the top is cooking unevenly, use the spatula to spread the wet portions outward. Food on the outer edges of the skillet cooks quicker than food in the middle. Remember not to leave the dish uncovered too long, though, or the top will have a hard time cooking.
If the dish is to be cooked in the oven, the vegetables, cheese and meat can be prepared ahead and placed in the pie plate or baking dish. When it is time to cook the dish, beat the egg and milk together and pour over the prepared ingredients. Stir the mixture slightly to make sure the egg coats the rest of the component before placing in the oven.
While frittatas are generally large dishes that are cut into smaller servings, individual frittatas can easily be made. Blended ingredients can be poured into muffin tins, topped with shredded cheese, and baked until golden brown. Children adore the individual servings, as do health-conscious adults concerned with portion control.
Whether you are planning a decadent feast with tempting dishes to savor and share with friends, or a quiet meal for a couple to relax and enjoy, select a delicious frittata recipe for creating a truly inspired dish.