Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ham, Zucchini & Gruyere Frittata, Potato & Red-Pepper Frittata, and French Vinaigrette

Hello! After a long hiatus during a remodel that lasted longer than expected, I am finally back in business! I am over the moon about my new kitchen; the end result is beyond my wildest dreams. I promise to share photos and a description soon but for now, I am just thrilled to get back to cooking and writing.

Today was the perfect day. I hosted a birthday brunch for one of my dearest friends, Heidi. This was  exciting on several fronts. First of all, I was able to get back to one of my favorite pastimes; cooking for friends and family. Next, three friends and I were able to celebrate Heidi and spend uninterrupted time together (with a combined eight kids that are six years old and under, uninterrupted time is hard to come by). And finally, watching my friends enjoy our new beautiful kitchen, dining and living space was a long awaited event. I have spent much of the past two years working with architects, contractors and designers to plan and execute our remodel. The reason Brad and I decided to embark on such a big transformation was to create a place to gather with the people we love. Today, I felt the relief and satisfaction of seeing our plan come to fruition.

For today's meal, I decided to make frittatas as main dishes and green salad, fruit and muffins as side dishes.

I chose a Ham, Zucchini and Gruyere Frittata for the first recipe and a Potato and Red-Pepper Frittata for the second recipe. I also prepared a homemade French style vinaigrette to dress the green salad. My plan was to prepare all ingredients the evening prior to hosting the brunch in order to make the morning easy and enjoyable. As you can see in the photo below, this plan worked great. I had everything chopped, sliced and separated in containers. This made assembling and cooking a breeze.

Ham, Zucchini and Gruyere Recipe:

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped sliced deli ham (5 ounces)
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" half moons (2 cups)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (1 1/2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In 10-inch nonstick oven proof skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add ham and zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes.

Add eggs and cheese, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Cook, undisturbed, until edges are set, about 2 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until top of frittata is set, about 10 to 13 minutes. The frittata will appear to be mostly liquid on top when you transfer it to the oven but as long as the edges are set, the eggs will finish cooking evenly. Invert or slide frittata onto a plate and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: I prefer to serve frittatas in the skillet, directly from the oven. I do not transfer them to a plate before serving.

Potato and Red-Pepper Frittata recipe:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (I used three small shallots instead of onion)
1 red pepper with stems, ribs and seeds removed, sliced into thin strips
2 rusett potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices (about 1 pound)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (I used ground rosemary from a Seattle market called Local 360 and Herbs de Provence from Savenor's in Cambridge, MA which was Julia Child's favorite cooking store)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an 8-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, heat one teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly browned, about five minutes. Transfer to bowl; set aside.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in skillet. Add potatoes; season generously with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, tossing often, until potatoes are tender and lightly browned; about 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with onion and peppers and mix together. Transfer back to skillet; flatten with spatula.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour over potato mixture and tilt pan to distribute evenly. Bake until set, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Both frittatas were delicious! I am not sure which one I preferred because they were both so tasty. I highly recommend either type for brunch or dinner. As a matter of fact, frittatas are so easy to make, that you can literally open the refrigerator, see what you have hanging around, and add it all together with eggs to create your own version. Add fruit or a side salad and dinner is done.

From my experiences eating at French-inspired bistros in Seattle and from eating at a few bistros in Paris, I learned that I truly enjoy a simply dressed green salad with brunch. There is something about salad greens lightly dressed with vinaigrette that add freshness to a meal. This served as my inspiration for choosing the following recipe for French Vinaigrette.

French Vinaigrette recipe:

1 Tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 1 Tbsp)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 to 4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (optional but I chose to use fresh parsley)

In a small bowl, mix together salt, shallot and vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Mix in Dijon mustard and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. If flavor is too sharp, add fourth tablespoon olive oil and/or more salt. Add fresh herbs if desired. Chop and mix in herbs shortly before serving to keep them fresh.

This dressing just might possibly be my new favorite. The proportion of ingredients was spot-on and the addition of fresh parsley was perfect. I will be preparing it repeatedly in the future and using it as my go-to dressing. My guests and I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up for sure.

I purchased dessert at Metropolitan Market because they offer such beautiful options. I chose four mini-desserts; Brown Butter and Pear Tart, Lemon-Meringue Tart, Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake and Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart. All were delectable and were the perfect ending to a gratifying meal. Don't they look delicious?

I have one final tidbit of information to share. I mentioned that I prepared muffins as one of my side dishes. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I decided to use an organic Oatmeal Muffin mix by Dr. Oetker that I have used before. The recipe calls for one egg but due to the 16 eggs I needed for the frittatas, I had zero eggs left when it was time to make the muffins. I googled "egg-substitutes for baking" and found out that 1/4 cup oatmeal with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder mixed together can be used in place of an egg. The muffins turned out great and no one would ever suspect the egg was missing. What a great solution that  is easy to remember.

Cheers to a memorable day with treasured friends and delicious food!

Recipe sources:
Ham, Zucchini and Gruyere Frittata: marthastewart.com
Potato and Red-Pepper Frittata: marthastweart.com
French Vinaigrette: davidlebovitz.com

All Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy