By late summer, most of us are eager to make supper a simple affair. Kids are heading back to school, but it’s still hot outside. I’m thinking about this when I arrive home after a day spent teaching kids to cook, closely resembling a damp rag. The last thing I want is to spend more time hovering over a stove.
Enter this easy, savory zucchini frittata, from Russ Parsons’ How to Pick a Peach, one of my favorite cookbooks devoted to using seasonal produce. The recipe asks very little of me, so I’ve been making it every couple of weeks ever since. A quick, thrifty working person’s dish, a frittata is basically an omelet that’s finished in the oven. It can be eaten hot or at room temperature, and a leftover wedge is a welcome change from a sandwich in the lunchbox.
After doing the first step — shredding and salting the zucchini — I head upstairs for a shower. By the time I get back to the kitchen, the squash is ready for a quick squeeze and a stint in the frying pan. Though they say they don’t like zucchini, my kids devour this frittata.
In August, summer squash — zucchini, crookneck, and yellow squash in all shapes and sizes — are ubiquitous and affordable. You can braise them down to crispy golden discs in olive oil with garlic and herbs, but that takes time. Shredded, they add body and nutrition to turkey burgers or meatloaf, especially with some kicky feta cheese. There are wonderful squash casseroles in the Southern repertoire, but I see them more as special-occasion dishes than weeknight workhorses. In contrast, this frittata anchors a supper I can get to the table within about 45 minutes of walking in the door.
That first night, I worked the breakfast-for-dinner angle, serving the frittata with whole-grain toast and the blackberry jam I’d made with my cooking class. But it’s also terrific with couscous or quinoa, a side salad, or roasted sweet potatoes. You can substitute other vegetables, too, such as steamed greens like spinach or kale, sauteed or roasted peppers, or steamed broccoli. Parsons’ technique takes most of the guesswork out of getting this baked omelet out of the pan intact, but don’t fret if it comes apart. This is all about making the end of your long day feel like the beginning of a relaxing summer evening.
Packing a Lunch? Cool It for Safety Sake
Keeping food cool is an important way to prevent bacteria from growing and making kids sick. When packing a lunch: • Use soft, insulated lunch bags. • Include small, frozen gel packs in bags. Keep extras in the freezer. • Freeze a juicebox or water bottle and place in a baggy for a cool lunchtime drink. • Leftovers such as cold cuts, tuna, chicken, and egg salads must be kept cold to avoid bacterial growth. • Don’t re-use wrappers. Foil or plastic wraps are meant to be tossed, even if it seems environmentally friendly to recycle. After a day in a lunch bag, they become incubators for bacteria. Throw away after use. • If you have reusable containers, wash them thoroughly with soap and hot water each day.
adapted from How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons
Serves 4-6 people
1 lb zucchini (2-3 small-medium) or other summer squash 2-3 teaspoons salt 1 small onion, sliced a handful of fresh parsley or basil leaves, washed & minced 2 tablespoons olive oil 6 large eggs 2 oz. Parmesan, grated
Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater (older kids can do this) or in a food processor. Stir in 2-3 teaspoons salt, and place in a colander over a large bowl to drain for 30 minutes while you get the rest of the meal organized (or take a shower).
Preheat the broiler, placing rack one level below the closest to the heat. In a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet, saute onion and herbs in olive oil over medium heat, until the onion is softened but not yet browning.
Squeeze the zucchini over the colander to release excess moisture. Add to skillet and stir to mix with onion and herbs, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Beat eggs in a bowl till uniformly yellow. Add to skillet and stir to combine with vegetables. Cook undisturbed till the surface has just begun to set, around 10 minutes. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the top, then place under broiler till top is set and cheese is browning, about 3-5 minutes. (Check early, as broilers are notoriously unpredictable.)
Let frittata sit at room temperature around 5 minutes. The edges should pull away from the sides. Use a thin spatula to loosen the frittata, shaking the pan to loosen it. Slide it onto a plate and cut into wedges to serve.