From the food editor: Mastering the frittata, with help from a lot of mozzarella cheese

Published January 22

Letís talk about frittatas. Specifically, how I can never seem to make one that actually tastes good.

They are described in blogs and cookbooks as an easy, breezy dish suitable for using up leftovers lingering in your fridge. Like a quiche, but low-carb!

Sure, the process seems easy: cook some veggies or other fillings in a skillet, add cheese, cover with eggs, bake. I have attempted it a handful of times at home. But it wasnít until just a few days ago that I made one I wanted to keep eating. Do you have dishes like that? Things that you never really bothered to learn how to make properly, so you shy away from it? One of my cooking goals this year is to cook 10 things I never have before. Much could go on that list. But I am also trying to embrace those things that seem just out of reach, things I have dabbled in but know I could do better. I think finally got there with the frittata.

To be fair, I think I was expecting too much from the frittata, which will never stack up to a quiche, a similar egg dish that sits on buttery pie crust. There is just no contest. It is its own thing, an eggy one-pan wonder that really is a great vehicle for a wide variety of ingredients: diced potatoes, roasted red peppers, chicken or steak, asparagus, mushrooms ó I could go on.

The real problem is that I was overcooking them.

Until a couple years ago, I was unreasonably squeamish about a runny egg. I still donít like yolks oozing entirely over my meal, but I have come to embrace a softer egg; I adore a hardboiled one with a still-jammy yellow center. So my tendency has always been to cook a frittata until there is no sign of wiggliness. Again, this goes back to the quiche: Itís hard to overcook a quiche, which typically needs at least 30 minutes in a hot oven to come close to setting. Not so with the frittata. This thing goes from not ready to overcooked in the amount of time it takes to wash the raw egg off your hands.

So this time, I kept a very close eye. The frittata starts cooking in the skillet, then goes into the oven. So I set the oven timer for a mere 5 minutes, and worked my way up. I landed on 7 minutes until my eggs were mostly set, then took the skillet out of the oven and let it sit, while the piping-hot skillet continued the cooking process a bit more.

I cut a big wedge out of the skillet and placed it on a small plate, grated some Parmesan cheese on top and sprinkled some fresh basil. The bottom was a light brown, with a nice crust from the cast iron skillet. The rest was light and fluffy, dotted with spinach (which helped keep things moist) and mozzarella cheese that pulled into a long strand when I took a bite. It was the heartiest breakfast I had in weeks, and also one of the tastiest.

Mozzarella Frittata

For this recipe, youíll need a skillet that can go in the oven. I would recommend cast iron or nonstick, but make sure the nonstick is oven-friendly. Not all are. I used a 6.5-inch cast iron skillet. For larger skillets, anything more than 9 inches across, double the amount of ingredients listed below.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic



2 cups baby spinach

4 eggs

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh

ľ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Red pepper flakes

Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe skillet set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add shallot and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more, until both are softened. Season with salt and pepper.

While shallot and garlic are cooking, place spinach in a bowl and add enough water to mostly cover the spinach. Heat in microwave for 3 minutes, or until spinach is wilted. Drain, then squeeze spinach with your hand to drain even further, making sure to get rid of excess water. Add spinach to skillet with shallots and garlic and cook for a minute or so, breaking up spinach into smaller pieces with a spoon.

Add mozzarella to skillet, and cook until it starts to melt slightly. Add Parmesan cheese, then pour the eggs into the skillet. Swirl eggs around to make sure they cover the contents of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste, and let cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the edges of the egg are just starting to set.

Place skillet in oven and cook for about 7 minutes. At this point, check frittata by cutting out a tiny slice. If eggs pour into the spot where the slice used to be, they are not quite done. If the eggs hold firm, take frittata out of the oven.

Let it sit for a few minutes in the skillet, then cut into wedges and serve with fresh basil and more Parmesan cheese on top on each wedge.

Serves 2.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times