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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Frittata: Where Have You Been All My Life?

There was a whole bunch of excitement here yesterday...over a box of produce! (Ok, that's overstating it a bit. There was eager anticipation on my part, and puzzled amusement on Steve's...) The arrival of our first delivery from Home Grown Wisconsin , our weekly "share" of organic vegetables and fruit, which will continue through the end of October. The e-mailed newsletter arrived that morning, telling us what was in that week's box: spinach, arugula, scallions, kale (yikes!), lettuce, chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sunflower sprouts (?!). I thought it was a great selection, and immediately started plotting our dinner.

First stop had to be one of my favorite specialty markets anywhere...Paulina Meat Market. Paulina is a Chicago institution. I can't begin to describe the wonderful feeling of well-being that comes over me the moment I walk in the door there (could it be the delectable aroma of in-house smoked pork butts...?). The butchers have all been there forever and will offer sage advice on any recipe you may be planning to prepare. My friend, Susan, once described the comical professional frenzy she created at Paulina by bringing in a cookbook with diagrams of the roast she wanted to serve. These guys are pros and they take meat seriously. They also take sausage seriously, which brings me back to why I made plans to go...the Italian sausage levels in our freezer had dropped precipitously and had to be replenished...and I will state here, for the record, that Paulina makes the finest Italian sausage anywhere. I buy both types, 'mild/sweet' as well as 'hot', and keep them in the freezer. As one of the wonderful, classic-Chicago-guy butchers there told me..."It freezes beautifully!"
My belief is that there are not many recipes that are not elevated by the presence of great Italian sausage!

So, originally, I was thinking some sort of orcchiette with the sausage and maybe the spinach...but then I brought everything home and laid it out on the counter..., yes, of course, the strawberries and the rhubarb. I'd make cobbler. That was easy.

But, was the kale that spoke to me. The silvery-green leaves beckoned...challenging me. I have never cooked with kale before so there was no time like the present.

I had great success with a potato-frittata-like tortilla a few months ago for a Spanish-themed dinner party. So I thought, why not combine the kale with the sausage (practically guaranteed winner!) and some sauteed onions, folded into a cheese/egg mixture in a kind of heartier version of the spanish tortilla? You basically sautee the elements you'll be folding into the eggs then cook, undisturbed on the stove until the bottom sets, and then finish in the oven. I crumbled and browned the sausage first, then added sliced onions to soften and turn golden and afer that the kale, since I figured I still wanted the leaves to be vibrant and green. The results were, in all modesty, superb! I've read everywhere that frittatas are genius for entertaining since you can serve them hot, room-temperature, or cold, and I'm pleased to report success with all options. (Breakfast this morning was a tasty wedge of cold frittata.)

My next plan is to try this as a batch of hors d'oeuvres. Why not pour tiny amounts of the frittata mixture into a mini-muffin pan for a perfect golden, eggy bite to go with a glass of wine before dinner?!

Next question was "why did it take me so long to discover the frittata?!" I have no answer really...but, regardless! I am ready to embrace this lovely new addition to my repertoire and promise to continue experimenting with whatever the week's veg box brings. Here's to frittatas...and to finding something new.

Kale Sausage Onion Frittata

2-3 large leaves of kale
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
1/2 lb. sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
5-6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt/pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a non-stick omelette pan, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, crumbling with a fork. When sausage is beginning to brown, add sliced onion and olive oil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until onion is soft and golden. Add kale and sautee until wilted, but still green.

Meanwhile beat the eggs with the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the kale-onion-sausage mixture and spread on a plate or pan to cool slightly.

Fold into the egg mixture. Melt butter in now-empty pan over medium heat. Add frittata mixture and turn down to medium-low. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the bottom is set. Move pan to oven to finish cooking, another 10 minutes or so, until top is set.

Serves 4, or two...with leftovers.

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