Monday, November 22, 2010

Curried Frittata with Mustard Greens

As I was making this curried frittata with mustard greens, I got to thinking about how easy it is to create new dishes once you have learned the basics of the original. I have actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately, because I seem to have crossed some threshold over the past year or so where I am using fewer recipes and creating my own dishes as I go. It's not that I am memorizing the recipes - it's more that I am using all of the information and techniques I have accumulated while following recipes in the past. If you are paying attention as you cook, you start to see the patterns of how a particular dish is constructed, and you can start constructing your own versions, rather than just exchanging ingredients.

That's what happened with this frittata. Once I mastered the original recipe, I quickly realized that virtually any vegetable and any cheese would work. At first I trod lightly - I used zucchini instead of spinach, and gruyere cheese instead of parmesan. Then I added thinly sliced potatoes, which added another dimension. Following that, adding sweet potato seemed like a logical conclusion. After that, anything seemed possible.
Last Tuesday I was gifted with two beautiful bunches of mustard greens. I was not in a position to cook them right away, so I rinsed them, trimmed the ends, wrapped them in paper towels, put them in the refrigerator and prayed that they would hold up until I could use them.

Which, as it turns out, was Saturday. I checked them for the last time on Friday and they were still ok, so I figured they could go one more day. They were locally grown, and organic, so I think that helped them stay sturdy enough to go the distance (as opposed to the conventional produce you usually find in the grocery store).

Saturday morning I decided they would be lovely in a frittata. As I was gathering the ingredients, I started thinking about what would happen if I added mustard seeds, a technique I learned when making Lentil Soup with Spicy Mustard Greens. I have used that technique often when cooking greens, either with the mustard seeds themselves, or a dijon mustard that has whole seeds in it. It adds a lovely little crunch and spice to the greens that I just love.

And as soon as I thought about adding mustard seeds, my mind switched to Indian mode, and I decided that if you can curry eggs, then surely you can curry a frittata.

Which is what I did. I consider this to be a new recipe, rather than an adaptation of a previous recipe. The techniques may be the same, and the basic ingredients, but I think the method and the flavor profile have changed enough for it to be considered new. What do you think?

Whatever you think, the end result was amazing, and succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. There are some adjustments that can be made; as I was writing about the potatoes I added to the original recipe, I was thinking they would be outstanding added to the curried version. And I might play around more with the spices. A tikka or garam masala might replace the curry powder. Maybe some coriander or cardamom would enhance the flavor.

Now that I know the process, the possibilities are endless.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


Makes 4 servings

2 bunches mustard greens, rinsed, trimmed, and cut into 2-inch strips (or any greens - spinach, chard, or kale would work just as well)
1/4 cup ghee, or 3 Tbsp oil and 1 Tbsp butter
1Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
6 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
7 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, or any other desired cheese

Place mustard greens in a pre-heated large pot over medium heat. You do not need to add any water; they will cook in the rinse liquid. Turn the heat down as low as it will go, cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes. Shock in ice-cold water, then drain the greems and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Put the squeezed greens on a cutting board and chop them about 1/2-inch apart in one direction, then 1/2-inch apart in the other.

Heat the ghee in a non-stick or cast-iron medium-sized (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, cover the skillet. Leave it covered until the popping slows down. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they are translucent.

Add the spices and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the greens, stir everything together, and turn the heat to low.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk thoroughly and pour into the skillet with the onions, garlic and greens. Lower the heat and cook until the eggs are set. If
necessary, run a spatula around the sides of the pan once it was started to set and lift up an edge to allow some of the unset egg mixture to flow to the bottom of the pan. You may have to do this more than once.

With an oven-proof skillet: Once the frittata has almost completely set but has just a little bit of unset egg on top, sprinkle the grated cheese over it and put it under the broiler for a minute or two, until the top sets and the cheese has melted and is golden brown. Remove from the oven and take out of the pan. Let sit for five minutes befrore slicing.

With a non-stick skillet: Once the frittata has almost completely set, either slide it into an oven-proof dish and continue as instructed above, or slide it onto a plate then invert it back into the non-stick
skillet so the top is now on the bottom and the egg can set. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, cover, and cook another minute or two until the cheese melts.

inspired by my Basic Frittata recipe, which in turn was adapted from James Beard's American Cookery, by James Beard (Little, Brown and Company, 1972).

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

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