Recipe: Ricotta, Leek & Tomato Frittata. Or, When in Rome …
One of the joys of traveling is exploring new foods, new recipes and locally grown ingredients. Mufidah and I have noticed increasingly over the course of our two years of slow travels how the foods we eat change as we move from one country to another.
In Spain we learned to cook an authentic Spanish tortilla, with the aid of two of my adult English students. One was a diehard Castilian, specifically a burgalés, or gentleman from Burgos. The other a Basque woman from San Sebastián. Both gave me step by step instructions, hints and suggestions as to how to lovingly prepare a perfect tortilla.
In France we found ourselves making French tarts, or dining al fresco with succulent melons, fresh salads and local white wines and the occasional rosé. We also made a bunch of omelettes, experimenting with different French cheeses, Cantal being our favorite.
In Italy we made lasagne (plural in Italian) with Bolognese made from Chianti. And we learned to eat Parmigiano-Reggiano as a cheese in and of itself, rather than always grated over the top of pasta dishes.
Even back home in England we find ourselves returning to traditional British foods that we tend not to eat when elsewhere. Meat pies with boiled new potatoes and green beans, for instance.
Two Greedy Italians
Well, despite having the past couple of weeks been making such things as the above, or a batch of homemade blueberry muffins, say, we’ve also continued to explore authentic Italian cooking by way of various cookbooks, recipes on the web, and YouTube videos. The latter have included Two Greedy Italians — Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo — and various videos from Jamie Oliver, whose first professional cooking gig was working for Gennaro Contaldo who was, in turn, Antonio Carluccio’s assistant.
And having recently watched a video by Antonio on how to prepare a frittata, a dish I used to cook a long time ago but which fell out of favor somewhere along the way, I decided today to prepare one for Mufidah’s and my elevenses-lunch. I didn’t follow Antonio’s recipe, but was inspired by the way he prepared his frittata much as the Spanish prepare their tortillas. In the U.S. and England, the frittatas I’ve made or eaten at restaurants have usually been partially cooked in a frying pan and then finished off under the broiler (or grill in British English). But Antonio flips his frittatas exactly as we flip our tortillas, and much else besides is either the same or quite similar.
Ricotta, Leek & Tomato Frittata
So today, on our day of departure from our house-sit in Surrey, rather than to cook a traditional Spanish tortilla, I decided to prepare a frittata given the partially used ingredients which we had on hand, and which would be better to use up, here, than to carry with us to our next house-sit in Sussex. These included 200 grams of ricotta, a beautiful leek, four new potatoes, a half-dozen cherry tomatoes, eggs, and a handful of fresh Greek basil.
There’s no need to go into a ton of detail, recipe-wise, and it was all cooked up on the fly, intuitively. But essentially, I sliced up the potatoes, sautéed these in olive oil (with a dash or two of garlic-infused olive oil as well), and set them aside, while I likewise sautéed the relatively finely chopped leeks in bit of the oil leftover from the potatoes. The rest of the oil I set aside in a bowl to return to the frying pan before cooking each side of the frittata.
While the leeks were being sautéed, I lightly folded a handful of the roughly chopped basil, the cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters), and the sautéed potatoes into the ricotta, then did likewise with a half-dozen whisked eggs, and the leeks, once cooked, along with a few twists of Jamie Oliver’s lemon and thyme sea salt (which happened to be in the cupboard here), and a dash of dried red chili pepper, to spice things up a wee bit given the subtlety of the other ingredients.
This was all poured into the same hot (but not too hot) frying pan from which the leeks had just emerged, and, again, lightly folded within the pan as a means to quickly begin to cook the egg mixture. Don’t overdo this. Just a few, casual folds around all the edges of the pan, then give the pan a few shakes to make sure the frittata’s not sticking and to roughly level out the egg mixture. When cooked to a lightly golden glow on the underside, use a large pan lid to carefully, yet confidently!, flip the frittata onto, quickly add a smidgen more of the aforementioned oil into the pan, swirl around, and then slide the frittata, uncooked side down into the frying pan.
Cook this for about 30 seconds to a minute, max, and then do with a warmed plate what you previously did with the large lid as a means to serve up the frittata.
I think we Anglo-American folk tend to way overcook our frittatas as well as our tortillas. They should be cooked quickly, longer on the first side, much more quickly on the reverse side. Practice makes perfect as it informs an intuitive sense that works much better than relying on timers.
We didn’t think to photograph the frittata when we served it up, but I plated up the leftover piece, pictured above, after we ate our meal as a means to give you some visual representation of what the frittata looked like.
Because of having folded in the ricotta, the texture was much lighter than a tortilla, much more soufflé-like. And it was nice and moist inside, while still well-cooked — this, again, aided by the addition of the ricotta as well as the tomatoes.
Mufidah gives it two thumbs up, and was so enthused that she went straight to her Mac to record the recipe. I thought it was quite scrumptious as well, a welcome change from the usual tortilla and omelette, and chockablock with the tastes of Italy.
Sean M. Madden is a writer, photographer and slow-traveling digital nomad. He’s also Co-Founder & CEO of CreativeThunder.co, working with businesses and individuals, worldwide, to build tribes of loyal customers via strategic websites and visual storytelling. Interested? Click here.