The Mind of a Chef

Call me a creature of habit, but it seems that about once a month I make a frittata of some sort.  It’s usually on the weekend, but more important, it is the reassurance of knowing I’ve got my buddy in the fridge for back up during the week.

One of the most versatile of dishes ever, the frittata is equally welcome hot, warm, room temperature, and even cold.  Designed for portability, a wedge makes a convenient hand-held lunch on the run, or a simple dinner with salad.  Little mouth-sized portions make flavorful bites with drinks.

So, it’s no surprise that my mind tends to wander in terms of would that work in a frittata?  With a little manipulation, the answer is usually yes.  Here’s my latest frittata creation, and the answer is yes, absolutely, to all of the above mentioned applications.

This all began when a friend brought over beautiful sprigs of soft sage from their garden. I set them aside to dry, knowing they would come in handy very soon. When I spotted a small pristine head of cauliflower at the farmers’ market, I paused over it quizzically. My mind slipped into frittata mode.  With sage and what else?

Let’s face it, much like a white canvas, cauliflower needs help. My mind kept going… there were a couple types of blue cheese rumbling in the cheese bin and I probably had a little ham in the freezer.

Back at home I sliced the cauliflower and broke it into smaller pieces.  The idea here is to give the cauliflower more flat surfaces to brown and intensify flavor. The cauliflower was briefly blanched in boiling water,   quickly cooled to stop the cooking, and well drained—to avoid any mushy/sogginess later.

When I was ready to prepare the frittata it was a mere matter of browning onion and cauliflower, then adding the sage and ham. A combination of bleu cheese and creamy gorgonzola was scattered over the cauliflower and ham for a brief melt into the action below.

The eggs, milk, and seasoning were poured over the cauliflower mixture and allowed to set up in the pan and lock everything in place.  A quick run under the broiler puffs the frittata and browns the top. This is one serious frittata, she grins.

Cauliflower-Ham Frittata with Sage-Gorgonzola Cheese

Ingredients
1 small head cauliflower, ½” slices, broken in florets and blanched @ 3 minutes, drained
1 tablespoon combination evoo and butter
½ onion, chop
¾ teaspoon dried sage, crumble
½ Anaheim pepper, seed and chop
¼ lb. smoked ham, ¾ cup cubes
½ cup combo gorgonzola and bleu cheese, in pieces
6 eggs
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

  1. Heat 9” or 10” oven-proof skillet over medium heat with olive oil and butter. Sauté the onion until soft, add the sage and continue until onion begins to color.
  2. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking, gently tossing until it begins to brown.  Add the Anaheim pepper and the ham, and cook a couple of minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, add the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour over the eggs.
  5. Tilt the pan, loosen the eggs from the bottom with a spatula and let eggs run into the bottom of the pan.  Continue to turn the pan and allow the eggs to flow to bottom of the pan and the egg mixture begins to set.
  6. Run the frittata under the broiler until it begins to puff and the top begins to brown in places. Release frittata with from pan with a spatula and slide onto a plate. Cut into portions and serve hot or room temperature.  Serves 6.
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To Waffle, or not to Waffle?

This week I have been completely distracted by Daniel Shumski’s very entertaining cookbook, Will it Waffle?  He sets out to prove that given enough determination, just about anything can be cooked in a waffle iron including meatballs, kale and pierogi.

Cheese QuesadillaWhen it comes to playing with food, I love nothing more than a good challenge, too.  But first I had to locate a loaner waffle iron, since I had given up mine long ago.

Once that was accomplished, I started out with Cheese Quesadillas and was immediately impressed.  So easy, so fast, so many possibilities!

I should have taken a breather and regained my senses, but I was ready to tackle some sort of cookie.  Daniel shows off brilliantly with his Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and based on the photo, even with odd waffle marks they look pretty amazing.

I decided to try an old standby, Peanut Butter Cookies.  As I laid four rounds of cookie dough onto the hot bottom grid, I wondered if I might have a Belgian waffle iron—with very big indentations.  Not so good for 2” cookies.  The first batch cooked uneven, with some under cooked and some burnt.  I decided to cut my losses.  I quickly fired up the oven, marked the remaining rounds with their traditional hatch marks, and called it good.  Note self:  for any real work-out, forget the Oster Belgian Waffle Maker; it has its limitations.

With that learning curve behind me, thoughts of waffling continued to percolate.  No question, when you introduce sugar, the direct heat causes fast browning; even with medium heat, three minutes is about tops for cooking time.  Further, incorporating a batter base into the mix binds ingredients and also helps slow the browning process.

That’s when the Waffled Frittata began to make complete sense…waffled frittata

Start with a small amount of batter, whisk in a couple of eggs, add some sautéed vegetables, and in no time you’ve got two nicely cooked, puffy vegetable frittatas.  They are even tasty as a sandwich filling.   Frittata sandWhat’s next?

Waffled Frittata

Ingredients
Egg Batter
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup milk
1/4 tsp salt and pepper, each
2 eggs, beaten

Vegetables
1 tsp butter
2 Tbsp onion, chopped
2 Tbsp pepper of choice, chopped
1 cup baby Portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ tsp dried mixed herbs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp red pepper flakes or black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley

Non-stick spray for waffle iron

Directions 

  1. Prepare egg batter by combining the milk with the flour, salt, and pepper with a whisk until smooth. Beat the eggs well and whisk them into the batter until well blended.  Allow to stand while preparing the vegetable for the frittata.
  2. For the vegetables, in a medium non-stick pan, melt the butter, when bubbly add the onions and cook to soften; add the pepper and cook an additional minute. Stir in the mushrooms, then the garlic and herbs, toss well.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until the liquid is released from the mushrooms.  Cool briefly and stir in the parsley.  Combine the cooled vegetables with the egg-batter mixture.
  3. Heat a waffle iron to medium and spray well with non-stick spray. Sit the vegetable-egg mixture again; with a ½ cup measure or ladle, pour in enough to evenly distribute and cover the grids.  Close the cover and cook about 3 minutes, until the frittata is golden brown.  Remove and repeat.  Yield:  2 – 6 to 7” round waffled frittatas.