In her recent TEDxMontclair talk entitled, “Who Is a Clever Chef?”, Tamar Adler suggests that what we need more of in the kitchen is not a handful of tricks, so much as the ability to improvise. This, she says, is the cornerstone of a clever cook: the ability to “make much of little,” to work with what is on hand. “If you’re a clever cook,” she says, “you already have what you need.” It is there in your pantry, your fridge, your backyard, or perhaps it’s already been thrown in the trash.
A frittata epitomizes improvisation. It is so much about what is on hand: that old bit of cheese that has been waiting for its final hurrah, those last two slices of bacon or ham, the handful of spring herbs from last night’s dinner, the leftover vegetables, or even those weedy nettles that have overtaken your garden. A frittata welcomes all of this and is never demanding in the specifics of an ingredient, so long as there is enough. Enough cheese and herbs to flavor, enough vegetables for depth and texture, enough eggs to bring it together.
If you don’t have the feta or the parmesan called for here, use cheddar, fontina or ricotta instead. If you don’t have pancetta, use bacon, turkey or smoked salmon, or omit the meat altogether. And there are few vegetables I can think of that wouldn’t be welcome in a frittata. (I have incorporated everything from brussels sprouts to sweet potatoes.) Like Adler says, go on and be a clever cook.
Asparagus, Spring Onion and Pancetta Frittata
Yield: 8 slices
8 large, pastured eggs
2.5 ounces pancetta (about 3 round slices, or 4 slices bacon)
3 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced (or one small onion)
8 asparagus spears, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Warm a 10″ cast iron or similar oven-safe skillet over a medium low flame. Place the pancetta in the pan and cook until crisp, turning occasionally, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
Drain excess fat from pan, leaving just enough to form a thin layer. Add the sliced spring onions and asparagus and saute until tender, about four to five minutes.
While the asparagus and onions cook, whisk together the eggs. Add both cheeses and the half teaspoon salt. Roughly chop the pancetta and add that to the egg and cheese mixture.
Pour the egg mixture over the asparagus and spring onions. Stir quickly to combine everything.
Let frittata set on the stove over medium low heat until nearly firm, about 12-15 minutes.
Once the surface is nearly set, place under broiler for one or two more minutes, just enough to brown.
Remove from heat and serve warm.
Kimberley Hasselbrink is a food photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. She is the author of the blog The Year in Food, which is framed around a monthly seasonal food guide. Kimberley enjoys unusual produce, strong coffee, road trips and summer nights.