The sunny side of frittatas
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Elevate eggs from so-so scrambled to a fantastic frittata in minutes for a nutritious, delicious meal for the family.
Faster than a quiche and more highbrow than scrambled eggs, a frittata can be the perfect solution for harried weeknights when your stomach is grumbling but your energy to cook an elaborate meal is flagging.
As long as you have some eggs and a few vegetables in your crisper to throw in a skillet, you can put a frittata on the table in about 30 minutes. Beyond their ease of preparation, what’s great about frittatas is that they are highly customizable: the possible ingredient combinations are seemingly endless. And if that weren’t enough, whether for dinner, brunch, or lunch, the leftovers are nearly as good as straight from the oven.
Good news for frittata lovers: the latest science shows there is no reason to be chicken about eating eggs. While eggs are a source of cholesterol, the human body actually makes more cholesterol internally than what it takes in from food. So, with the exception of individuals who are highly sensitive to dietary cholesterol, the connection between egg intake and coronary woes has been largely overblown.
In fact, eggs provide a wide range of vital nutrients, including protein, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. What’s more, researchers at the University of Alberta found that egg yolks contain important heart-healthy antioxidants. So get cracking on making these easy yet sophisticated frittatas.
When it comes to frittatas, there is one pan to rule them all: a well-loved cast iron skillet. A seasoned cast iron pan is virtually nonstick, important considering that egg is like nature’s cement. It also makes frittatas with nicely browned edges (read: yum!). Just be sure to have potholders at the ready as the handle gets especially hot.
Even if using cast iron, it’s still a good idea to make sure that the bottom and sides of the pan are greased for easier extraction of the frittata. Other oven-safe skillets such as stainless steel can get the job done, but you’ll probably need some extra oil to help make sure the frittata doesn’t adhere to the pan.
Home on the range
If possible, crack open free-range eggs for your frittatas. Studies indicate that eggs laid by hens allowed consistent access to the outdoors are more nutrient dense. Case in point: a 2014 study discovered hens that were provided outdoor access produced eggs with significantly higher vitamin D levels than the eggs produced by birds that were kept indoors. Exposure to sunlight was believed to be the reason why the hens dropped eggs that were pumped up with vitamin D.
Unscrambling egg labels can be tricky: “free range” eggs are supposed to come from hens allowed outdoor access. “Free run” means the birds are allowed to move freely in an indoor facility but likely don’t spend any time basking in sunshine.
However, neither label is tightly regulated, so to be certain your white orbs come from birds that see the light of day, it’s best to befriend a local egg producer and query them about their egg producing methods.
Frittatas are a perfect way to clear out the crisper, and the formula for making one is generally the same and blissfully simple.
Step one: Sauté vegetables such as onion, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, or cauliflower with some oil until tender.
Step two: Whisk together 8 eggs and 1/3 cup (80 mL) milk. Stir in any cheese and seasonings such as herbs and spices.
Step three: Carefully pour egg mixture over contents of pan and cook on stovetop for a couple of minutes until eggs at the edges of the pan begin to set.
Step four: Place the entire pan in the oven and bake until eggs are set. Cool for a few minutes before slicing into wedges.
Top it off
Batman and Robin. Thelma and Louise. Some pairs are just meant to be. And the same goes for frittatas and salsa. But why settle for store-bought when whipping up this salsa assures a punch of fresh, smoky flavour?
4 cups (1 L) grape tomatoes
2 tsp (10 mL) grapeseed oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) diced white onion
1/3 cup (80 mL) cilantro
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (plus 1 tsp/5 ml adobo sauce)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
Preheat oven broiler. Toss tomatoes with oil and spread out on baking sheet. Broil until tomatoes soften and start to burst open, about 4 minutes. Place tomatoes and any juices in blender or food processor container along with diced onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, chipotle chili, adobo sauce, salt, and pepper. Pulse until well combined but still slightly chunky. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Each serving contains: 37 calories; 1 g protein; 2 g total fat (0 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 6 g total carbohydrates (3 g sugars, 2 g fibre); 362 mg sodium