Monday, June 30, 2008

Asparagus, olive and cheese frittata

I must conduct an experiment sometime to test the truth of the frequent assertion that green vegetables, if they are to retain their colour, should be cooked in plenty of boiling water in an uncovered pan. The theory is good: acidity is what turns asparagus, broccoli and the rest an unappetising khaki, and acidity increases in a covered pan. Chefs also advise you to plunge the cooked vegetables into iced water, to "fix" the colour. But both these procedures -- boiling in a copious quantity of water, and refreshing the vegetables -- lose more nutrients than would steaming. Maybe it is better to put up with grey-green vegetables. We are trying to feed ourselves, not win Michelin stars.

For this frittata, for three, I used six eggs. But I think it would have been better to follow my previous advice and use five. The longer the frittata cooks, the tougher it will be. I also threw on the cheese towards the end -- and that was an improvement. It needs only to melt, rather than to cook with the egg.

5 eggs, lightly beaten
Knob of butter
60g hard cheese (I used Cheddar)
Bunch of asparagus
Handful of pitted black olives (I like the Crespo Greek-style ones)

Melt the butter over a very gentle heat to coat a heavy, 28cm frying pan. Pour in the eggs.

Meanwhile, bring a pan with an inch or so of water to the boil. Cut off and discard the tough ends of the asparagus, throw the stalks into the pan, and simmer for a couple of minutes, until tender when pierced by a knife. Drain, and cut into fork-sized pieces. Stone the olives, if necessary.

When the bottom of the omelette is set, but with a runny surface, scatter over the cheese, asparagus, and olives. Finish cooking for a minute or so under a low grill.

Cut into wedges, and serve hot or cold.


The Phantom Chef said...

Sounds like the perfect light bite.

I always boil my greens in an uncovered pan, but through habit tend to undercook them slightly, retaining much of the colour. I have also heard of the iced-water approach, though I can't say I've tested either method. If you find a way to stop red cabbage losing nearly all its colour after a few minutes in the water, I'm all ears!

Nicholas Clee said...

While acidity leeches the green chlorophyll from greens, it fixes the colour in red cabbage. Cooking the cabbage with lemon juice or vinegar, and/or with apples, should help.

The Phantom Chef said...

So simple! *slaps head*

Thanks for that Nicholas, very helpful!

Joe Horn said...

Hey Nicolas, love the blog. I just made frittata for breakfast a few days ago. Come by and check it out and let me know what you think.


Nicholas Clee said...

Thanks, Joe. Most of the spinach I buy throws off a lot of water, and would leave me with a pan full of liquid before I poured in the eggs. So I would probably cook it apart and squeeze out the moisture before adding it to my frying pan. But different conditions prevail in different kitchens; and different techniques work for different cooks. All we can tell people is: "This worked for me -- I hope it works for you."

Nicholas Clee said...

P.s. Joe, sorry not to leave a message on your blog. I'm a bit wary of leaving my email, even if it is confidential. Silly, no doubt.

Rika said...

Try a pinch of bicarbonate of soda in the greens. It will be perfectly green.

Nicholas Clee said...

Yes, that does work. You have to be careful, though. As Harold McGee points out: "excessively alkaline conditions can turn vegetable texture to mush, speed the destruction of vitamins, and leave a soapy off-taste".