Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.
Spinach Frittata Inspiration
My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, In My Kitchen. She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.
The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.
It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.
Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons. It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.
To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm). Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.
Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.
Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.
Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.
Ricotta Spinach Frittata
An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.
- 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
- 6 eggs
- ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 TB olive oil
- 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
- 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
- ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese
Prepare your ingredients
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.
In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.
Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration.
In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside.
Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.
Make the Frittata
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.
Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata.
Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.
Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata on to a serving plate.
Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Recipe for Braised Baby Artichokes bathed in a sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers.
The birds outside are particularly chirpy today and it just might mean sprinter, spring that feels and acts like winter, is moving out. The light sing-song of robins is so cheerful and upbeat, it is hard to imagine anymore sprinter surprises. As I gaze outside my window, I can see all the animals in my yard scampering about like preschoolers on a play-date. “Olly Olly all come free,” it is safe to come out of hiding.
What does all this wildlife activity have to do with food? It is a reminder and affirmation of good things to come. Something which I appreciate after the long winter hibernation. The first of the local spring vegetables are ramps, spring mushrooms, and asparagus. Yet, these local harvests are not yet available, and I must look westward and south for fresh produce. I am so envious of the produce I see displayed all over Instagram from California farmers markets. California food bloggers and chefs spill their bounty on the kitchen counter and photograph their treasures for all of us to see, making me want to transport myself into their photo. Our day will come, at least the ground is no longer frozen.
Recipes with Spring Produce
California Baby Artichokes
In the meantime, we can enjoy produce, like baby artichokes, from California and pretend we are in full spring bloom. Baby artichokes are spilling over the produce baskets at grocery stores across the country. They are more tender than full size artichokes, but no less flavorful. At this stage the baby artichoke bud has yet to develop the choke, making them slightly easier to prepare and eat. I believe them to be the perfect size and an ideal first course meal or appetizer.
Seeing artichokes always brings me back to my childhood in Northern California, where artichoke plants grew wild in the hills around my neighborhood. I thought they were the strangest looking plants around and I never touched them. To me they were like the dinosaurs of the plant kingdom, with their prickly and ancient looking buds and jagged leaves.
I’ll never forget the first time I ate an artichoke when I was a young girl. I gladly tried them being ever so eager to appear older and more sophisticated than I was. As I sat staring at my steamed artichoke, I studiously watched and listened to Dad’s instruction as he peeled off each leaf, dip the bottom fleshy part in warm melted butter then scrape off the meat between his teeth. With each step, Dad would explain and demonstrate how to get to the heart of the artichoke, what he referred as the “prize” and purpose for all that work. He spoke so ominously about the choke, saying we would choke if we ate the choke, hence the name. This terrified me, but his safe and loving expression in his fatherly eyes told another story, so I proceeded cautiously but without hesitation.
Braised Baby Artichokes
Up front there is more prep work when you braise baby artichoke hearts, as opposed to steaming them whole, but the hearts get nicely flavored from the braising liquid and become so tender. Fortunately, because they are small it does not take that much time to trim off all the outer leaves. Braised artichokes are delicious eaten straight from the braising liquid, but I like serving them with a warm sauce made with the braising liquid and anchovies and capers. The anchovies and capers add extra body which compliments the mild artichoke flavor but does not overwhelm it. I purposely kept the anchovies on the light side for that reason.
If you are not a fan of anchovies, reduce the braising liquid as mentioned but omit the anchovies. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference then drizzle the sauce over the baby artichokes. This cooking method is also delicious with full-grown artichoke hearts.
Braised Baby Artichokes with Anchovy Caper Sauce
Baby Artichokes are braised in a stock seasoned with lemon, garlic, white wine and herbs. The artichokes are finished with a sauce made with a reduction of the braising liquid, anchovies and capers. There is just enough of the anchovy flavor to compliment the artichokes.
Delicious first course meal, appetizer or vegetable side dish.
- 16 baby artichokes about 1 lb. 9 oz (729 g)
- bowl full of water
- 1 lemon
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sage leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and green germ removed
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 5 black pepper corns
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Anchovy Caper Sauce
- Braising Liquid
- 2 T TB extra virgin olive oil Or butter
- 4 anchovy fillets
- 1 tsp capers drained and rinsed
- 1 TB white wine or vermouth (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- garnish with chopped parsley or chives
Peel off three strips of lemon peel with a vegetable peeler. Set them aside. Thinly slice the garlic cloves and set aside.
Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of one lemon. You want just enough water to cover the artichokes.
Trim the artichokes. Pull off the tough outer leaves by pulling them straight down and off. Continue until all the tough leaves are off until you get to the tender light green leaves.
With a sharp paring knife, trim a sliver off the end of each stem and clean around the edge where you pulled off the leaves. You do not want to cut away any of the artichoke meat, just trim the base to clean off any fibrous parts. Trim off about a 1/4 inch off the top of the baby artichoke.
Cut the artichoke lengthwise into quarters. As soon as you are finished prepping each artichoke, add the sliced wedges into the bowl filled with lemon water. The lemon water will prevent the artichokes from discoloring.
In a sauté pan add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and heat up over medium heat. Add the slices of garlic, lemon peels, sage, bay leaf, black peppercorns, fennel seeds to the olive oil and sauté for about a minute. Add the artichokes, 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) of the lemon water and Kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down the heat. Simmer the artichokes until they are tender when pierced with a fork or to taste, about 20 minutes.
Once the artichokes are tender remove them using a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to keep warm. Taste the braising liquid and add wine or vermouth if needed. Boil the braising liquid and reduce to a 1/2 cup (125 ml). Add the anchovies and break them up in the sauce. Add the capers. Simmer briefly to meld the flavors and taste. Adjust the sauce with more wine or other seasoning if needed.
Arrange the artichokes on a platter or shallow bowl, drizzled with the anchovy caper sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon zest.
Braised baby artichokes are best eaten warm or at room temperature. The braised artichokes can be chilled, but the sauce should be warm.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.