Monday, May 8, 2017

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

They say opportunity will never come knocking at your door. I'm here to tell you- that is totally not the case. Sometimes, rare as it made be, that is exactly what happens. In my case, I was recently approached by the general manager of one of Des Moines' newest and trendiest restaurants and asked to help collaborate on a brunch menu for the new weekend brunch they were planning to add. Talk about thrilled! My brain immediately started kicking into overdrive. Ideas flooded my head, but I couldn't go with just any old brunch dish. This had to be really special, something I haven't seen in every other brunch spot in the city. I proposed a number of unique dishes, but this one was my favorite.

Many restaurants and chefs are embracing the "farm to table" ideal. Here in Des Moines that is also the case. In Iowa we have some of the most beautiful and varied produce you can find. We also have four seasons, so the availability of fresh fruits and vegetable is always changing. Farmers are going organic more and more often. There are a couple large well-known local farms that provide a good chunk of produce, especially salad greens, to some of the metro's best dining spots. Local chefs are developing relationships with local meat producers as well, which means the chef has an eye on their meat literally from birth to butcher- they can see how the animals are raised and fed, and if you think that doesn't make a difference, you need to have a side by side tasting and see for yourself. Iowa is home to several notable meat producers like Rustik Rooster Farms, owned by Carl Blake, who raises the amazing Swabian Hall hogs. Rustik Rooster has even been featured on Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods (I will spare you the details of what they were eating......). Beef and pork from the Niman Ranch make their appearances on many menus in the city.

And then........we have the market. Our farmers' market. Des Moines is home to one of the biggest and most visited and diverse farmers' markets in the country. It's even become a summer tourist destination- for real! What once was a line of stands along Court Avenue filled with your typical garden produce in downtown has grown into a huge market encompassing many blocks, several streets, sidewalk brunch in the many restaurants, live entertainment, ethnic food stands, produce of every kind imaginable, fresh flowers, baked goods, snacks, arts, crafts, jewelry, even farm fresh eggs and meats. It's crazy how much our market has grown over the years, and every year it just gets bigger and better. With the growing market, of course the variety of produce has grown and evolved. For me, this means a whole wide world of delicious things to play with.

Let's face it, I am a veggie nut. I'm definitely a meat eater, don't get me wrong, but I am perfectly happy with a few bites of steak and a whole plateful of something that grew in the soil. I'm sure I've told you that growing up my mom boiled the life out of every veggie my dad lovingly grew in their garden. Not so with me. I prefer to roast my veg. Roasting brings out the earthy flavors, creates crispy edges and caramelized goodness, retains texture and color and nutrients, and they're just so GOOD when they're roasted! Roasted veg get incorporated into a lot of dished at our house, even though they are just as amazing on their own. While we rarely have leftovers, they make great additions to salads and soups and pizzas and just about anything you can create.

Ewwwwwww !! Powdered cellulose! That's WOOD!
Today we're making a roasted veggie frittata, which, incidentally, was one of my suggested recipes for this restaurant's weekend brunch menu. It's just a fancy Italian word for a big fat omelet/quiche hybrid that you start in a skillet and bake in the oven. Mine is going to be loaded with roasted vegetables and not overloaded with cheese- just enough. Choose whatever cheese you like. I love so many cheeses it's nearly impossible to choose just one, and for this recipe I chose Jarlsberg and Asiago. Jarlsberg is one of my very favorites for cooking because it melts so perfectly and Asiago is so intense- it adds a lot of savory impact without a ton of cheese. If you can't find it, Parmesan is a great substitute. I highly recommend using FRESHLY SHREDDED Parmesan or Asiago in this dish, instead of the dry grated stuff in the plastic jar. You get a much better flavor and appearance using shredded, and for the very very best results, buy a hunk and shred it yourself right before using it. You will not regret the extra time or the extra little bit it costs to buy good cheese. The stuff in the bags and jars at the store- I know we all use it, even I do on occasion- is usually loaded with cornstarch and anti-caking agents and other fillers. It'll work, but it's not the best option. Also, I often lecture people on the butter vs. margarine debate. Please please please if you never listen to another word I say just please I beg you, use real butter. Butter melts into this lovely flavored liquid fat that's a real dairy product. It's real. Margarine melts into an amalgamation of horror that's mostly water. It will ALWAY affect the consistency of your finished dish and the fake butter flavor never is the same.

Sinful Food's amazing olive oils are key to adding flavor to this dish. In this dish, you can use the basil oil, garlic or Italian herb, whichever you like. You can buy yours HERE.

Roasted Vegetable Frittata

1 small bunch asparagus
1 small to medium zucchini*
1 or 2 bell peppers- choose red, orange or a purple variety
1 lb. baby potatoes- choose a colored variety
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped basil
salt and pepper
10 eggs
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup shredded Jarlsberg
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese, plus more
1/4 cup butter
Sinful Food olive oil- garlic, basil or Italian herb 

* I used baby zucchini and cut them into bite sized chunks.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the vegetables into one inch pieces. Chop the garlic. Toss together in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. I tossed the red pepper, asparagus and garlic in a separate bowl because they take less time to cook. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment, spread out into a single layer and roast for 15-25 minutes until just tender and some edges are beginning to brown, adding the reserved vegetables halfway through. You can also pop under the broiler for a quick minute to get some browning if needed. Set aside.

Beat together the eggs, half and half, herbs and cheeses.  

Heat a large heavy ovenproof skillet such as cast iron over high heat until hot. Add 1/4 cup of butter and melt, swirling to cover the bottom. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the vegetables to the skillet, spreading evenly. Pour the egg mixture over and cook for about 2 minutes without stirring. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until set. Sprinkle with additional Asiago cheese during the last 5 minutes of baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Talk about the perfect lunch, brunch or picnic dish- this is it! It's filled with good for you ingredients and lots of protein-rich eggs. You can make it ahead and warm it in the oven, covered tightly with foil, and it travels like a pro. The recipe is also super flexible so you can use up whatever bits and bobs of cooked veggies you have hanging out in the fridge, and you can add bacon, sausage, ham, seafood- whatever you like. Have extra taco meat? Use potatoes, bell peppers and onions and top with a little dollop of sour cream, guacamole or salsa. Go Italian with ham or sausage or ground beef, veggies and a little spoonful of marinara over each serving. Use your imagination and create the perfect brunch dish for you!

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