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.
Eggs are one of the best foods because you can eat them for any meal of the day. Scrambled eggs for breakfast, or an egg salad or spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs make a wonderful lunch. Dinner meals like quiche, soufflé, or omelets are perfect for a quick and easy supper. Eggs also make great appetizers. Who can resist mustardy or spicy deviled eggs? In fact, you could put an egg on almost anything and call it a meal. I believe eggs are perfect comfort food.
One outstanding egg dish, and perfect for all four meal categories, is the frittata. A frittata is an Italian omelet, like the Spanish tortilla. It is not folded over or rolled like a French or American omelet, but the principles are similar. Simply, whisked eggs cooked in a pan with cheese and fillings. Unlike the French omelet, Frittatas require a two-part cooking process. The first stage of cooking is on the stove, then it goes in the oven or under a broiler to finish cooking.
There are two standard ingredients in a frittata, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Add to this foundation, inspired combinations of cooked vegetables, herbs, more cheese, cured meats, or all of the above, and a frittata turns into a substantial meal. Frittatas are a light egg pancake of goodness. It’s also a great pantry meal to use up all the leftover vegetables or pasta hiding in your refrigerator.
I first discovered frittatas in the mid 1980’s from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place and Evan Kleinman. At the time, this cookbook was a novelty and showed how fresh ingredients, simply prepared, produces great tasting food. It is also a good cookbook for entertaining, because it is filled with recipes that taste great at room temperature.
Zucchini and basil frittata is one of their recipes. It is a light omelet, filled with garlic infused zucchini and the warm sunshine of basil. I enjoy eating it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. If I remember correctly, the first time I made it was for a bridal shower. It was so long ago. The specifics of that time have faded, but the general feeling remains: a bright sun lit room, a table full of friends, laughter, and everyone happily enjoying this new meal. This memory returns to me every time I make zucchini and basil frittata, and so I always associate celebrations, bright sunshine, and good friends whenever I make it.
It is an easy meal to make with your kids and won’t require too much thought before you drink your first cup of coffee. I know I need a cup of coffee before I start working with sharp knives, fire or follow new instructions. Getting the frittata out of the skillet requires the steady and large hand of an adult. But, your children will think you are a magician as you reveal the surprise frittata out from under your pan, voilà.
Making a Mother’s Day Meal try these recipes:
Tips for success making Zucchini and Basil Frittata
You will need a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet, or a non-stick skillet. The frittata will need to slide or flip out the pan and the non-stick surface and sloped sides of the skillet will make it easier to work with.
Mix the eggs thoroughly with a wire whisk. You do not want streaks of egg whites throughout your cooked frittata.
Plan ahead, salt the zucchini and let it drain for 30 minutes. This is important first step that gets rid of excess moisture in the vegetables.
Cook the frittata on medium heat to prevent excess browning on the bottom and cook the eggs too quickly.
To serve as an appetizer, cut the frittata into small diamonds, or 1 ½ inch squares and offer toothpicks for easy picking.
Frittatas are perfect cooked with tomatoes, leftover pasta made with red sauce, spinach, onions, herbs, or extra cheese.
Whether you want a to make a special breakfast, luncheon, or need an appetizer, Zucchini and Basil Frittata is an unexpected dish for all appetites. Serve this frittata at your next friendly gathering and create your own associations paired with fun, family and friendship. I like to serve frittata warm, but can be served at room temperature paired with fruit, like strawberries mixed with mint or basil, or a green salad, and a baked treat such as crusty bread, muffins or pastry.
Zucchini and Basil Frittata
- 1 lb / 453 g zucchini
- About 1 tsp/ 4g Kosher salt
- 4 TB / 36 g Olive oil- divided
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 6-8 eggs
- 1/4 cup / 29 g Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1/ 2 cup / 14 g coarsely chopped basil leaves
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
Wash dry and grate the zucchini with the large holes of a box grater or food processor. Place the grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with Kosher salt. You do not need a lot of salt, about 1 teaspoon (4g), just enough to season the zucchini and cause it to release the juices. Let stand for 30 minutes. Then press the zucchini with the back of a large spoon or clean hands to remove all the excess liquid.
Pre-heat the oven to 400˚F
Heat 2 TB (18 g) olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, Add the minced garlic and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook until the garlic is translucent and not browned. Add the zucchini and turn the heat up to medium-high heat. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally so the zucchini cooks evenly and the excess water has evaporated. .
Turn off heat and remove the zucchini from the skillet. Place it on a plate to briefly cool.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, making sure the whites and yolks are well combined. Add the Parmesan, zucchini and basil to the eggs and stir to combine.
Wipe out the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high, then add 2 TB (18 g) olive oil. Swirl the oil around so it coats the sides and bottom of the pan.
Pour the egg mixture directly into the center of the pan, so the oil and eggs are dispersed evenly from the center out. Allow the egg and zucchini mixture to settle then run your rubber spatula around the rim to loosen it up. With the spatula at 12 o’clock, move the outer edge of the eggs towards the center, like you are making an omelet. Let the loose liquid fill in the empty space. Repeat at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. This will help the middle of the eggs cook.
When the eggs are mostly congealed except for the center, place the frittata into the preheated oven. Cook until the eggs are set in the middle and lightly browned 2-4 minutes. (You could also cook it under broiler if you prefer. Watch so it does not burn).
Remove the skillet from the oven and let it rest on the counter for a minute. Run a rubber spatula around the perimeter of the pan to loosen the sides from the pan.
Place a plate upside down, over the top of the skillet. Place your hand centered on the bottom of the plate and hold the skillet handle in the other hand. Turn the skillet over, place the plate on the counter, then gently lift the pan up and away from the frittata.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.