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Growing Up Gourmet: Nadda Frittata: a culinary road map for leftovers

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nadda Frittata: a culinary road map for leftovers

I'm not quite sure what it was I made for dinner the night before we left for Christmas vacation. In the past, clean-out-the-fridge night, as my family knows it, usually features pasta or pizza dough on the main stage. But not this night. No, this particular night I very much wanted our 1-dish supper to be something egg-straordinary. To use up some leftover potatoes, a piece of pork, some languishing spinach, I was craving the creamy, rich, protein-dense platform of eggs. The problem, however, was the discovery --- half-way through my creative cookery, and with a successfully emptied fridge --- that we had just 3 eggs. Thus, dinner was not quite quiche, certainly no tart, and only vaguely frittata-esque. It was, however, amazingly and surprisingly, delicious.

I told the story -- and offered the "recipe" -- to my friend Beth. She's a fine cook, when cooking means following clearly defined steps and utilizing explicitly listed ingredients. (Which, you will soon see, neither of which my recipe provides.) "WHATever did you do? Go to the store for more eggs? Get take-out?" wondered Beth. She was horrified by the idea of cooking without a recipe, of cooking without all the integral ingredients pre-accounted for in a grocery cart days beforehand, and most of all, of beginning to cook without -gasp- having any idea what the outcome might be. Truth be told, I rarely follow recipes. And while I don't always know exactly what I'm making when I enter the kitchen, I usually have a pretty good idea by the time a pan is heated. But this "Nadda Frittata" as my family dubbed it, was truly a case of some destiny-deprived leftovers quickly tossed together in a desperate attempt for reincarnation. Until that is, it was presented on a plate. And eaten. Every. Last. Bite.

While I don't recommended cooking by the seat of your apron every night, I think we all have a lot to learn from such renegade methods. Discovery. Trial and error. Mistakes from which to learn. Curiosity. Surprises. Risks. These are the kind of experiences we encourage our children to have when they are at school, when they are making friends, when they are finding themselves in the real world. Yet so often parents describe their own kitchen experiences with precisely the kind of anxiety we don't want our children to confront. Stressed. Ruined. Boring. Same-old, same-old. Fear of failure. Lack of trust. Self-consciousness.

Sure, I could have gone to the corner store and gotten a dozen eggs. Or decided that spinach, pork, a mere 3 eggs, heavy cream, cheese, and potatoes might not exactly comprise a family dinner. In fact, I could have given up all together and picked up for the phone and dialed Thai take-out.

But I believe in kitchen adventures. Like any adventure, there are good times and bad, twists and turns, unknowns and uncertains. But the spirit of the adventure is what cooking -- and eating -- is all about. A while back in Food and Wine, famed chef and cookbook author Daniel Patterson wondered, "Do recipes make you a better cook?" Though I read the article nearly 3 years ago, his metaphor of recipes as culinary road maps still resonantes with me daily, and I implore you to read the article in its entirety.

"Good cooks rely on recipes – to a point… [they] make mistakes all the time. They take wrong turns and end up in strange places. Their attention sharpens as they try to figure out where they are and how they got there. Eventually they either reach their original destination, or discover that wherever they stumbled into is really the best place to be. Sometimes it’s important to get lost…. The journey is what a recipe is all about."
Anyhow, on this particular journey, I got lucky. The nadda frittata was light, airy, comforting, and delicious. So delicious, in fact, I suggest you try it the next time you're faced with some stray leftovers and a little need for culinary adventure.
Nadda Frittata
Of course, in attempts to clean out our entire fridge, these are the ingredients I used. I'm sure the next time I make nadda frittata a whole new set of ingredients will fill our plates. So please use this recipe as a culinary road map and adjust for your fridge's leftovers. One further note: the airy but rich flavor of this recipe no doubt came from the heavy cream. I would have probably used milk -- had we any -- but can say the addition of cream was worth every calorie and certainly worth keeping.
1. 2. 3.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, saute a few cups of fresh baby spinach with a little olive oil. Remove as it begins to wilt and set aside. Heat leftover (pre-cooked) potatoes and onions in pan. Top with sauteed spinach. Add additional leftovers, such as sliced pork tenderloin. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, some heavy cream, a dash of nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over pan mixture. Top with cheese. I honestly can't remember what I used. Mozzarella maybe? Get in frittata mode: stir lightly with a spatula until the eggs begin to set on top. Transfer pan to broiler... in full disclosure I think mine just went into a very hot oven. When eggs are just still fluffy and just set, and the top is ever so lightly browned, remove from oven. Slice and serve straight away.

This nadda frittata would sure be good with some peasant bread, or a cup of tomato soup. Or even, if you're lucky, a salad of crisp greens. But assuming you enter this kitchen adventure on leftover night, as I did, you'll be perfectly content letting nadda frittata fly solo on your plate.

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At January 7, 2009 at 8:33 AM , Blogger Lunchbox Obsessed said...

Great idea for using up leftovers! Plus it can make for a healthier alternative to quiche. Will give it a try, thanks :)

At January 7, 2009 at 10:20 PM , Blogger Kitchen Kid said...

Thanks Lunchbox Obsessed! It reminds me of that jingle -- and the poster from my home-ec class -- "the incredible, edible egg!"


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