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springfritatta04

Thursday nights seem caught in perpetual dinnertime limbo. There are too many leftovers to make another elaborate meal, and the end of the work week is tantalizingly close. Thursdays require something simple and quick that makes use of the extras in the refrigerator, but still satisfying enough to fuel that last push toward the weekend. A little culinary immediate gratification is a welcome sight.

All of which makes Thursday nights the ideal time for a fritatta, a sort of hybrid omelette/crustless quiche. Golden, rich, and hearty, it is a dish that comes together quickly and allows for plenty of creative adaptation based on what’s available in the fridge and pantry. This one incorporates three of my seasonal favorites: the first fresh zucchini, bright green peas, and a few sprightly spring onions. Although I used parmesan, any cheese will do here, from mild, milky mozzarella to the nutty smokiness of Gruyere. I have to say, there is simple kitchen magic in topping a hot fritatta with a freshly grated flurry of parmesan snow, white and light, melting almost as soon as it touches the eggy surface.

This recipe is vegetarian, and for me, that healthy dose of nutritious green also feels like a good fit before the weekend begins. However, you could easily add a handful of cooked bacon or ham, if your carnivorous instincts demand satisfaction. The topping is a zingy, sweet-tart salad made of yellow heirloom tomatoes seasoned simply and generously with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic. It brings a much-needed acid punch to the party, balancing out the richness of so much egg, cream, and cheese.

Feel free to substitute your own vegetable choices: mushrooms or potatoes in place of the zucchini; chard or spinach rather than green peas; diced red onion and bell pepper instead of scallions. You can also adjust the herbs; rosemary, tarragon, and dill all play beautifully with eggs and cheese. That is the beauty of a fritatta, so friendly and accommodating, spontaneous and undemanding: the perfect Thursday night dinner guest.

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Spring Green Fritatta with Heirloom Tomato Salad
makes eight generous wedges

For fritatta:
5 scallions or one large green onion, white bulb finely chopped and green tops thinly sliced
3 zucchini, preferably organic, chopped into bite-size chunks
1 c. cooked green peas (fresh or frozen, whatever you have on hand)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. coarse sea or kosher salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. dried or 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. dried or 1 tsp. fresh thyme
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
10 large eggs
1/2 c. creme fraiche, all-natural sour cream, or heavy cream
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan (or other cheese of your choice) plus more for topping/serving

For tomato salad:
1 very large or two medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2-1 tsp. coarse sea or kosher salt (adjust amount to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
sliced top of one green scallion
1/4 c. olive oil, preferably extra virgin
3 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar (if using unseasoned rice vinegar, add 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar to salad to balance tartness of vinegar and highlight natural sweetness of tomatoes)

Oven 450F. In large, nonstick sauté pan with curved sides, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and cook until zucchini is tender but still crunchy in the center, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and drain off extra liquid released from zucchini. Stir in lemon juice, nutmeg, herbs, and cooked peas.

While veggies are cooking, beat together eggs, creme fraiche (or dairy product of your choice), remaining teaspoon of salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large mixing bowl. Whisk until mixture is creamy yellow and evenly combined. Stir in cheese.

Return pan of cooked veggies to medium-high heat and pour over egg mixture. Stir briefly, just enough to distribute veggies evenly in egg. Allow to cook on stovetop until edges are just set, a quick minute or two, then immediately transfer to oven. (Quick tip: if your pan has plastic handles, wrap them with a double layer of aluminum foil before baking.) Cook for 20-25 minutes, until center is set but not firm, and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and grate on more cheese as desired. Allow to cool 2-3 minutes, then gently slide fritatta out on to serving platter. (You may have to loosen the edges slightly before removing from pan — just arm yourself with a spatula and proceed confidently.)

While fritatta is baking, mix all tomato salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and toss well. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature until fritatta is ready. (Never purchase chilled tomatoes or store them in the refrigerator; refrigeration causes an immediate, permanent breakdown of the chemicals that give tomatoes flavor.) Taste once more for seasoning before serving.

To plate, slice warm fritatta into eighths and top each wedge with a generous spoonful of tomato salad. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread, preferably warmed and buttered, and enter Friday with a happy, full belly. :)

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