Just cut up some onions, leeks or shallots–anything in that onion family–and fry it gently in oil or butter, and, no matter what else you do, you’ll make the best smells and create happy anticipation about what is to come.
That’s how I got started on Sunday for my culinary demonstration at the Harvest Festival in Bangor where I saw quite a few of you, and it is also how I assembled out of bits and pieces bunch yesterday for Toby and me. On Sunday I had planned to start that way because I made Pumpkin Thai soup from my cookbook, Maine Home Cooking, but yesterday the assemblage was a bit more accidental, calculated to use up stray ingredients.
The more I travel around with my book, talking with you readers, the more I realize that lots of you are diehard recipe tinkerers, too. In Machias on Saturday at Porter Library I met up with a wonderful bunch of you, including my hostess Ruth Thurston, whose quick French bread has become famous in Eastport where it is called “The Bread,” but has also undergone considerable alteration involving rye, pumpernickel flour, and caraway. I heard about canning salsa, frosting lemon bars, and will soon post a query here about an apple pudding one of you wants a recipe for. I had the best time, and am so grateful for the good souls who turned out.
Ruth is a wonderful hostess, and we had a terrific baked haddock dish for supper, good conversation, and a restful night’s sleep. Then off to Bangor next day where a goodly bunch of you patiently watched me whirl together some soup and stuff a Delicata squash with onions, sausage, and bread crumbs. Again, more wonderful conversations about food and cooking, including the suggestion that the Thai seasoned pumpkin soup benefits from the addition of cilantro! Here I am back at my desk, but now I can envision your faces and recall happily our discussions about food. For goodness sakes, keep in touch. I don’t know where I would be without you.
Back to the frittata. As I observed aloud on Sunday, a lot of my cooking depends on using up bits and pieces, whatever is in the fridge or lying around the kitchen. Yesterday morning I chopped up a little apple to go with my granola, and did the same for Toby who can somehow ignore his howling stomach and work through a mealtime. I assure you, I never do. So at 11:00 a.m. I scooped up his uneaten chopped apple and tossed it into the fry pan along with the leftover sausage from Sunday’s demonstration, some shallots this time which I grew myself, and when the apples had softened, I strewed some baby spinach over it, added the eggs, and topped it with the rest of the cheese that had traveled to Bangor with me. It was really tasty.
Toby said, “Why don’t you put this in your column?” So here it is.
A couple of observations are in order. This is a freewheeling little recipe, so if you want you can substitute ham or bacon for sausage, or you can leave it out. Any onion family member will do. Use spinach, chard, a bit of shredded kale, or any other bit of green you like, or none. Too much apple will make it mushy, so use half an apple for two people, and just eat the other half while the frittata is cooking. For the eggs, figure on one per person, then add one more to the whole. Any shreddable cheese on the top: cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, jack, etc.
P.S. On Saturday, November 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I will be at the Maine Coast Book Shop and Café in Damariscotta, to promote good old Maine Home Cooking. I am taking Sue Hess’s Cheese Ball (page 104), and Nicole at Maine Coast books is making Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies (page 184). Stop by, say hello. I’ll say a few words at 11:30, and would love to see you if you haven’t been able to make it to any of my other appearances.
P.P.S. If you listen to public radio in Maine, I will be on Maine Calling at 12:15 on Tuesday, November 20. Call up and say, “Hi.” We’ll be talking about food, probably Thanksgiving, too. And if you are in the Ellsworth area on December 1, consider stopping by Rooster Brothers at noon, where I’ll be on hand with the book and more samples.
A Variable Frittata
A couple ounces of bulk sausage per person , or a slice of bacon, or small piece of ham, chopped
1 small onion, a shallot, or one leek chopped
Quarter of an apple per person, chopped small
Handful of spinach, or chard, shredded
1 egg per person plus one for the pan
Salt and pepper to taste
Start by frying the sausage or bacon or ham ‘til it is crisp. Add oil if there is not enough grease in the pan to cook the onion in. Add the onion, and cook it until it is softened, then add the apple, and cook it until it is soft, then add the spinach or chard. While the greens wilt, beat the eggs. Add a little salt and pepper to them, and pour them over the top of the ingredients in the pan, set the heat to a medium-low and put a lid on the pan. When the eggs are barely set, in about five minutes, sprinkle the cheese on top, replace the lid, and allow the cheese to melt and the eggs to finish cooking for another three to five minutes or longer, depending on how many eggs you use.
Serves a variable number of people.