A Spring Meal
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Those of you in milder climes may find it hard to believe, but here in our Cochrane yard, approaching the end of April, just about the only things I can find poking through the newly-thawed ground are chives and perennial onions. It has been One. Long. Winter.
But let's work with what we've got, right? Hungry for a sprig of anything fresh and alive from soil that has been asleep for so long, I'm ready, scissors in hand, to reap a wee harvest from those tiny allium tufts. And then, what to do with a clutch of aromatic green shoots? Fortunately you can't go wrong chopping them finely and sprinkling them on any savoury edible you can think of - goat cheese, smoked salmon, dips, leafy green or grain-based salads, soups, stir-fries, potatoes.
Eggs, being literally and figuratively a vessel of new life, are a natural spring partner for the first green onions and chives. If I was looking for a way to turn a substantial pile of alliums into a meal, I would instinctively turn to the dependably easy, endlessly adaptable, humble yet lovely frittata. A regular on my B&B menu, frittata is a perfect vehicle for improvisation and whatever ingredients are seasonally abundant. Squash, kale, and feta; tomato, zucchini, and basil; potato, asparagus, and chives - all are equally at home embedded in a pan of beaten eggs.
I'll share with you here how I make frittata (more a template than a recipe). As I write this, no doubt dandelions and chickweed, followed by nettles and fireweed will be stretching to join those onions and chives on the warming soil surface. Grab some scissors, a knife, and see what you can find outside your door that might make it into tonight's supper (or breakfast, or lunch), waking your body and your tastebuds up to spring where you live.
Eggs (preferably local farm-sourced, or free range and organic) - roughly 2 per person
Fillings - raw veggies, cooked veggies, cooked meat, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives...
Cheese (optional) - aged cheddar, parmesan, feta, soft goat cheese, Swiss, gouda...
Seasonings - fresh or dried herbs, chile flakes, garlic, dash of nutmeg...
Salt & Pepper
Crack your eggs into a mixing bowl and add a dash of cold water (eg. a tablespoon or so for 4 eggs), a small pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper for each egg. Think about the saltiness of your other ingredients and adjust accordingly - for example, olives, sundried tomatoes, feta, and prosciutto are all salty items and you may want to salt your eggs less to account for this. This is also where a dash of nutmeg can be added. Whisk or beat well.
Prepare your fillings. Some veggies can go in raw (eg. tomatoes, green onions, very young greens), while some will need to be steamed/roasted (asparagus, potatoes, squash) or sauteed (mushrooms, kale, chard, peppers) first. Definitely feel free to use any leftovers here! Or scrounge your yard for anything edible. The amount of filling is up to you - really pack the frittata or leave it lightly embellished.
Stir your fillings into your eggs, coating everything. Add fresh herbs, if using, and/or any other seasonings if they weren't already incorporated during filling prep.
Heat a heavy pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat until fairly hot. Melt enough butter to spread and coat the bottom and sides of pan well (I have found nothing other than butter really keeps eggs from sticking). Pour your egg & filling mixture into the pan, gently redistributing the filling if necessary. Sprinkle evenly with cheese (if using), turn heat down to medium-low and cover the pan. Check and rotate the pan occasionally for the next 10-20 minutes or so. Allow to cook in this way until the frittata is cooked through on the bottom and sides, with the top still somewhat runny. Transfer pan to a preheated broiler and broil, rotating at least once, until the top is cooked and lightly browned (check frequently as this doesn't take long!).
Enjoy hot, warm, or cold.