Growing up, I ate a lot of stewed squash. Textureless, tasting mostly of butter and salt, stewed squash barely belies its origins as a smooth, crisp summer vegetable. And it was only...
Few of my journeys in life have evoked such hunger as that to the sea.
The hunger after rising early to walk in the sand, against the wind. The hunger after a strong swim in cold water. The hunger a bright, hot fire on the beach instills.
As a child, it seemed we mostly frequented well-populated beaches. Thanks to the resort hotels and bad pancake restaurants, you could hardly see the sand for the gaudy umbrellas and sunburned skin, and over time, I grew to crave nothing more than solitude for my vacations.
The first time I went to an Oregon beach, I found that solitude. It was too cold to swim, and the rain drove us indoors the first night. We built a fire in the old iron stove, cooked dinner, and went to sleep listening to the rain. It was perhaps not what most beachcombers look forward to, but it was a tremendous relief to me and my pale, pale skin. There were books to read, coffee to drink, and in the moments between rain showers, there was a grey, windswept shore to walk upon.
Let's just say it was my kind of beach, and it made me remarkably hungry.
The best beach fare should mirror what a good beach trip should be: simple. Bare-bones, even. Corn roasted in the husk. Potatoes plunged into the coals of a beach fire. Cheap beer, grilled sausages, steamed mussels. The best cure for primal hunger is simple food.
However, unadorned roasted corn and bareback baked potatoes do not an interesting blog make. Simple food, though, is quite capable of inducing a growl in the pit of your stomach. And so, in that spirit, I will share what we did with our odds and ends towards the end of our beach trip.
You'll forgive me for writing, so soon after my strata post, about frittata, but it can't be helped. Of all the eggy dishes out there--the quiches and custards, the scrambles and stratas--frittata is still my absolute favorite. There is a certain casual elegance about it, and for sure an impressive artfulness to it, that never fails to impress hungry breakfast-seekers. If they are suffering the repercussions of excess from the evening prior, so much the better.
Frittata is also the ideal vehicle for leftovers. With leftover potatoes, sliced in thin rounds, sautéed onions, and perhaps a couple errant chipotles en adobo, you have tortilla española. With greens, shallots, and parmesan, you have pseudo-eggs florentine. In short, eggs can easily take on a nearly infinite variety of flavorings and be the better for it.
In this case, my task was to take leftovers--the flotsam and jetsam of our seaside feasting--and transform them into breakfast. We were left with a few pieces of well-smoked bacon, a handful of garlic scapes, and some lonely knobs of cheese from a cheese plate.
The point of this post is not to give you a recipe that you have to follow by the book. The point is that, whatever you have on hand, frittata can take. The important point to take away is that, whatever you add to your frittata should be pre-cooked. Make sure to sauté or sweat veggies before adding them, and meats like bacon or sausage should be rendered before inclusion. Otherwise, you will have a soupy frittata that is reluctant to brown.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add:
3 to 5 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips (or, use sausage, ham, Canadian bacon, etc.--with cured meats such as ham, there is no need to sauté)
Sauté until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat and add to the skillet:
1 small onion, finely chopped (or a few minced shallots, or green onions, etc.)
Sauté until translucent. Add and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine:
3/4 cup whole milk, buttermilk, or half-and-half
Cheese, in some form, in whatever quantity you prefer (I used leftover cheese bits to equal about 1/2 cup)
For this frittata, I used garlic scapes to decorate the top. I essentially just sliced them lengthwise, steamed them for about 5 minutes, and arranged them on top of the frittata before baking. You could also do this with asparagus or even thin tomato slices (seeded to remove some of the water), but this is a purely optional step.
Combine the vegetable mixture and the egg mixture and pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake until set, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until nicely browned and slightly puffy on top, about 5 minutes.