Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things You Can Make in a Skillet

I'm talking about a 10-inch-diameter, oven-proof skillet. The one I end up using all the time is cast-iron, but a stainless steel or other oven-safe pan will do. They can be prepared ahead - during naptime, for example - and eaten at room temperature or re-warmed for supper. Leftovers are good the next day (keep them in the fridge overnight). These types of dishes are great for using up whatever bit of veggies you have on hand - perfect for the day before your next CSA pickup!

1. Frittata: You will need 8 eggs and about 1-1/2 cups of leftover cooked veggies. Chop the veggies and warm them in a little butter or oil in the 10" skillet. If you have some leftover cooked chicken, ham, bacon etc. add that too (about 1/2 cup).

Mix the eggs together in a large bowl and add a little salt and pepper. If you have some fresh herbs, mince a couple of tablespoons and add those, too. Pour the eggs over the veggies in the skillet and stir gently with a wooden spoon or heat-proof plastic spatula. If you want to add a little cheese, sprinkle that on top. Cook the frittata gently over low heat until the top is almost set, 10-15 minutes depending on the volume of ingredients in the skillet. Then transfer the skillet (carefully!) to a preheated oven and bake at 350 F for ~10 minutes, until the top is set and starting to brown. To serve, you can attempt to flip the fritatta out of the skillet and onto a plate, but I usually just cut wedges and serve from the skillet directly.

2. Quiche: Don't have enough eggs to make a frittata? Make a quiche instead. In "The Way To Cook," Julia Child says that you don't need to make a crust to have quiche - though you really ought to try her recipe, just once. (Note: you don't need the ovenproof skillet for the quiche with crust, but I'm including it anyway in case you only have 3 eggs and a crust in your freezer).

If you are making a 10" quiche with a crust, you will need 3 eggs and enough milk or cream to make a total of 1 1/2 cups liquid. If you are skipping the crust, use 4 eggs and enough milk to make 2 cups of liquid. (Get it? That's 1/2 cup liquid per egg, including the egg). Most of the time I use whole milk but you should try it just once with cream, on a special occasion.

Melt a little butter in the skillet and spread it around, or use olive oil. Add the chopped leftover veggies (1/2 cup for the crusted quiche; 2/3 to 1 cup for the crustless) and warm them up a little. Add some leftover cooked meat (see about; about 1/3 cup) if desired, to the skillet.

Whisk the eggs and milk or cream in a large bowl and pour over the veggies (or into a prebaked quiche crust). Stir gently; sprinkle on a little cheese if you like. Bake in a preheated oven for ~30 minutes at 375 F, until puffed and browned.

3. Gratin: I wish I could remember where I first saw this idea. The original might be hiding in a pile of recipes somewhere in my kitchen; if it ever surfaces, I'll give full credit.

You'll need some potatoes (the thin-skinned ones, like red-skinned or Yukon gold work best), a couple of zucchini and/or yellow squash, about 1 cup of shredded Swiss (Gruyere is great) or Parmesean cheese. Fresh thyme or other herb is nice to use, too.

Drizzle a little olive oil in the skillet and cover the bottom with a layer of thinly sliced potatoes - 1/8" thick, or as thin as you can get them. Season with salt and pepper. Place a layer of sliced zucchini or squash over the potatoes. Sprinkle on a small handful of shredded cheese and a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves (or shredded basil leaves, chopped parsley, etc). Drizzle a little more olive oil over everything.

Repeat this layering until (1) the pan is full, (2) you run out of some ingredient, or (3) you run out of patience. Ideally, you will end up with a layer of potatoes on top, but it's not essential. Sprinkle a final bit of cheese over everything and add a little splash of dry vermouth, if you like. (If you have some Parmesean cheese rinds in the fridge or freezer, place them on the top). Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are very tender. If you want a crispy top, remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top Five Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging Much

5. Too busy cooking up tasty veggies from CSA; recipes to come soon.

4. Actually working on a short-term project for pay; surprised at how hard it is to squeeze 10 hours out of my week.

3. Compulsive need to re-watch seasons 1 & 2 of Mad Men.

2. Fun activities with visiting family and friends who are out of school for the summer.

1. Compulsive need to be outdoors as much as possible, now that summer weather has finally arrived in New England.