Fast and Easy Frittata
Fast and easy, frittata makes a perfect quick meal for one or two people, when you don’t have time to cook.
Forty years ago, sometime this week, my father drove up to a dorm, we unpacked the car, and I moved in. This wasn’t anything new or remarkable. I was a junior, after all. I had the same roommate as the previous year, I knew where my friends were, where my classes would be and who would teach them, I could walk into the department offices for my major and minor and be greeted by name. I had this college thing down.
But there was a box I hadn’t had the year before – with a soup pot, and a frying pan, and a cutting board… And when the room was mostly set up, Mom and I got back in the car, and drove to a supermarket.
That began the journey that led me to this blog. Since that day, I am the person primarily responsible for my own food. Mind you, I did live with my parents again for a few months at a time, and I have shared cooking with roommates (I did not, that year, but I did the next.) In the end, though, it has been my job to feed myself and sometimes others.
I learned many things, starting that day at the supermarket, where I found that Ohio used different terms for cuts of meat than New York did. Mom told me “If you don’t know something, ask the person behind the counter, or another shopper, and they’ll be glad to help.” and they always have been. (She added “They’ll just think I didn’t raise you right, to not know that, and I don’t mind.” I love my Mom!) I still ask people sometimes – and I have in turn answered many questions, particularly at the farmer’s market! Always ask if you’re not sure about a food – I find people are very helpful.
I learned that, in the long run, it’s cheaper and easier to make, divide, and reheat a pot of stew or a pot roast than to make hamburgers every night. And the food tastes better, and is much more welcome on bitter cold nights (we had a record breaking cold winter, that year.) On the other hand, I learned that setting up ingredients for a single serving of stew in the saucepan, and cooking it more rapidly over high heat (because there’s less, it should cook faster, right?) gives you lumps of leather in a watery sauce. Back to the original recipe…
But, speaking of recipes, the best thing my mother gave me that Christmas was a book. Cooking Without Recipes, by Helen Worth. Mrs. Worth’s premise is that once you understand technique, which she explains, you can vary ingredients to your own taste, and by the end of that year I was already developing my own recipes, though I didn’t think of it in those terms. (Oh – high heat toughens meat. That’s why cooking stew more quickly didn’t work.)
Take eggs. Yes, on a day I was home studying, I’d cook that pot roast, let it simmer for hours in the kitchenette while I read two chapters for one history class and outlined a term paper for another. But there were days I’d dash in from the library and need to dash back out to rehearsal. Then I needed something quick to both fix and eat, and I found that a frittata worked well for either lunch or dinner. And even then I could easily figure out variations! (In those days I just ate cereal for breakfast – now, that’s when I most often eat eggs.)
I had a very small enameled cast iron frying pan – just right for one serving. And it went in the oven! The dorm provided an electric stove on each floor. I have hated electric ranges with a passion ever since – even after allowing that ours really needed to have one of the burners replaced – because the heat is so non-responsive. On the other hand, I loved the electric oven! Its heat was steadier than that of a gas stove. (Yes – heat should be steady in an oven and able to change rapidly on a range – different requirements.) And I could use the broiler! On a gas stove, the broiler is under the oven, and even at twenty I didn’t like to cook down around my ankles… so I’ve never used them. With the electric oven, I just had to set it to Broil and there I was! (Now I have a countertop oven, and can use it for small items. Luxury.)
I do not, now, remember how I learned to make this dish. I just called it an omelet, and learned the term frittata years later. But I loved being able to finish it under the broiler. (And don’t worry if you don’t have a broiler, I’ll give you options.)
And I loved to make it a full meal, vegetables included. I started cooking fresh vegetables in college. The supermarket had a much better fresh produce section than the one in the neighborhood where I grew up, and I had almost no freezer space, but a nice cool windowsill which turned out to be perfect for fresh vegetables. That’s when I discovered zucchini, scallions, bell peppers… The vegetable frittata and a few pieces of toast, and I was satisfied and ready to go.
Take a small but nice and heavy oven proof fry pan (the steady heat of the electric stove was actually an asset in this recipe!) and put it over medium heat for a few minutes to heat the pan. While it is heating, chop one or two scallions, and thinly slice some zucchini. (I used half a small one, here.) Add a little butter to the pan – less than a teaspoon should be enough. When it has melted, add the scallions, stir them around, and add the zucchini.
Note: these were the vegetables I most commonly used, because they cook quickly and I usually had them on hand, but you can easily vary them. Regular onions are fine, but take longer (unless you have frozen cooked ones.) I love mushrooms in this! And it’s a great way to use leftovers – a dab of cooked greens, for instance – or frozen peas or green beans, if that’s what you have. Just make sure that whatever you use cooks fully, and that any moisture is driven off, or the eggs won’t set right.
Anyhow, let your vegetables cook until they are pretty much cooked through – they won’t really cook much after you add the egg. While they cook, beat three eggs in a small bowl until frothy – you can just use a fork for this. Once the vegetables are tender cooked, pour the beaten egg over them, and let it all sit and cook undisturbed.
Now, this step is optional, but it does speed things up. Once you see that the bottom of the egg is completely set, and the edge is quite firm, you can use a spatula to loosen the edge and lift it in places. Then let the uncooked egg run under the cooked layer, so that it cooks faster. It’s not as pretty as letting it cook undisturbed, and it’s a bit more fuss, but it can save a few minutes, if you are in a rush.
While all that continues to cook, slice some cheese. You don’t need a lot – I used an ounce, here. This is cheddar, but I loved Muenster cheese in this, or Colby (another discovery in Ohio! I rarely see it here.)
When the egg is mostly cooked through, but the top is still moist, spread the cheese over it, turn on the broiler (you don’t need to preheat) and pop the pan under. Give it two or three minutes, until the cheese is melted and the egg is cooked to your liking. (Most people like them still a little moist – I prefer them cooked dry. You do want it fully cooked, even if moist.)
If you don’t have a convenient broiler, you can just put a lid on the pan, and the top will cook and the cheese will melt, though it won’t brown. You can also, as soon as the bottom of the eggs are set, put the whole thing in a 350° oven for twenty minutes, which many frittata recipes call for, but then it’s not as fast…
This is a single serving, but the recipe can be easily multiplied for two or more – just use a larger pan. And it’s a great dish to divide, as one of several small dishes at a meal, so this could serve two, with bean salad, for instance, alongside. Perfect for casual invitations, as we so often did in college – I planned soup, but if she’ll come study with me (and bring her notes from the day I was sick!) we can each have a cup of soup and a slice of frittata! Doesn’t that sound good?
Yields 1 serving
Fast and easy, frittata makes a perfect quick meal for one or two people, when you don't have time to cook.
10 minCook Time
10 minTotal Time
- 1 scallion
- 1/2 small zucchini
- 1 t butter
- 3 eggs
- 1 oz cheddar cheese
- Place a small ovenproof frying pan over medium heat, to start heating the pan.
- Trim and chop the scallion, and thinly slice the zucchini.
- Melt the butter in the pan. Add the scallion and stir. Add the zucchini, in an even layer.
- Beat eggs in a small bowl. When the zucchini is tender, pour the beaten egg over it in the pan. Let it cook undisturbed until the bottom is set.
- Optional step: Use a spatula to loosen the edges, and let the uncooked egg run under the cooked layer, to speed up the process. Let that cook until set.
- Slice the cheese. When the egg is mostly cooked, but the top is still runny, place the cheese over it and put the pan under the broiler. Let cook 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and egg is fully cooked to your liking.
- Frittata can be served hot, warm, or even room temperature.