Baked Cast Iron Skillet Frittata

I love breakfast food. I love cooking breakfast food. I had my first frittata years ago at Jine’s Restaurant on Park Avenue in Rochester, NY and I have been obsessed with creating my own variations ever since. I would like to think that a few of my creations measure up to what I enjoyed all those years ago.

I decided to look up the definition of “frittata” as part of my research and here is what I found:

~Frittatas are cooked in a cast iron pan or oven-safe skillet because they are started on the stovetop and then finished in the oven. And, unlike omelets, frittata fillings are mixed in with the eggs in the pan rather than folded in the center. Large frittatas are cut in slices and served.

Kelli Foster Kitchn

~an Italian dish made with fried beaten eggs, resembling a Spanish omelet.

Google

I breathed a huge sigh of relief that my cooking method fit the definition! Ha!

I have tinkered with this for years and I have finally found a method that works for me every time.

First, I put my cast iron skillet in the oven and heat it up to 380 degrees. While that is warming up, I do my prep work of chopping up and sauteeing all of the veggies before I put anything in the skillet. I use different vegetables depending on the season, and what is in my fridge. I almost always use a potato. I cut up the potato into small cubes, and then place in a microwave safe bowl with enough water to cover the potatoes. I cook them for about 4 minutes on high and then drain the water. Before transferring them to a frying pan, I usually lay them out on paper towels to absorb as much of the excess water as possible. I saute the veggies in a frying pan and do not use the cast iron skillet, which is still warming in the oven, ready to cook the entire frittata.

When all of the vegetables have been cooked, I set them aside on a paper towel for a few minutes to drain off some of the oil/grease.

The next step is to prep the eggs. The number of eggs depends on the number of people  I am serving. For two hungry people, I will use 4 to 5 eggs.

I usually add some milk fat (half & half, sour cream) to the eggs, and when I did some research to find out if there was any science behind that idea, I was left with nothing that definitively proved it helped with texture or taste. I found more articles and opinions that said to NOT add any additional moisture, at all.

I beat the eggs super well and add salt and pepper. After the eggs are whipped up, I then add the vegetables to the egg mixture. I don’t normally beat or mix this mixture. I just put it all in the same bowl.

Right after I add it all to the bowl, I get the hot skillet out of the oven and spray it with cooking spray. My skillet is really well seasoned (I probably don’t need to do this, but I have NEVER had anything stick when I add this step). I then dump the entire egg/veggie mixture into the hot skillet and use a wooden spoon to make sure everything spreads out somewhat evenly. Then, I put it all in the oven. I check it after about 5 to 10 minutes. Once the top feels somewhat firm, I will add some cheese. I check back in about 5 minutes or so to make sure the cheese is melting. Once it all looks melty and delicious I take it out of the oven and slide it out of the pan onto a large wooden cutting board.

I let it rest for a few minutes and then use a pizza cutter to slice it into pieces.

Mangia!!!

Ingredients: This will all vary based on what I have in the fridge and the time of year.

  • 4 – 5 cage free organic eggs
  • Sausage or bacon
  • ¼ of a medium onion – chopped
  • Grape tomatoes halved
  • Mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 medium-sized russet potato – cubed and microwaved (see directions above)
  • Baby spinach
  • Broccoli

Super Thick Pork Chops!

Being able to explore and find different places to buy and eat amazing foods is something I love to do. One of those places is McCann’s Local Meats in the Southwedge, in Rochester, NY. I can’t say enough good things about this place. Not only do they sell some amazing locally-raised meats and butcher everything in-house, but they also have an amazing cafe! I have eaten at the cafe a number of times and it is always AWESOME!

I decided to try some of their thick-cut pork chops. I had never cooked a thick-cut pork chop before. My experience cooking pork chops in the past has always left me wondering why they are so dry. This was very different. I used a cooking method that combined pan searing and oven roasting (full recipe linked here) as a guide and the results were awesome. I was able to cook a very different pork chop than I had in the past.

I did NOT brine the chops. Considering how good they tasted without the brine, I can’t wait to brine them next time. There are several variables that may have contributed to how different these chops turned out. The cut of meat was of high quality and the cooking method was also something I never had tried before. Whatever it was, it worked! Compared to my previous pork chop cooking experiences, the most noticeable difference was the texture of the meat. It had the consistency of a good, tender NY Strip steak. There was no chewiness or dried-out texture.

I served the pork chop with some roasted, local, organic beets, and a homemade pasta salad. DE-LI-CIOUS!

Please feel free to share any thoughts, ideas or inspiration.

The Big Salad

I know this is a little out of season and I started writing this in September, but here it is.

Summer and Fall are great times to play with awesome seasonal veggies and to create some amazing salads. I will call this a “lighter” meal, but when I get done adding things, “light” is probably not the best adjective to use. I have enjoyed making variations of this meal for years!

I like to start with a combination of romaine lettuce and some type of organic leafy mix. Next is to decide on what you want to add to your salad. This is where the real fun is!  There is no such thing as too many things to add into this salad! Here is my typical list (Warning, this can turn into a prep nightmare if you aren’t careful. Here are few suggestions to help get a handle on the prep. Plan out what you want to add in advance. Boil the eggs way before you need them so they have time to chill. Make sure you have a good-quality, sharp knife, and if possible get a prep helper. I would also suggest you watch some Youtube videos on knife skills). of add-ins: artichoke hearts, tomatoes, onions, olives, cucumber, carrots, hard-boiled eggs, sweet peppers, chickpeas, avocados, etc. I also grill and thinly slice chicken, steak or pork to add to the salad, though it is entirely NOT necessary. Feel free to add or subtract to this list.

For a dressing, I like to make my own. I use a combination of organic balsamic and red wine vinegar, organic olive oil and a little water. I season the dressing with dried oregano, dried? basil, salt, pepper, parmesan/romano cheese, and garlic powder. I use fresh herbs and garlic when I have them on hand. I usually let the dressing sit for about an hour before I use it. The dressing is based on my Grandma Rose’s recipe, so good!

Dressing Ratios:

  • ⅓ cup Olive Oil
  • ⅓ cup Vinegar
  • ⅓ cup Water

The last thing I usually include is a nice piece of crusty toasted bread that I drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

Serve and enjoy!

I would love to hear any suggestions or variations to this salad!

Roasted Tomato and Onion Pasta

I previously mentioned in the Truffle Butter Pasta post, that I love to tinker and play with pasta recipes and basically make them up from whatever I can find in the fridge. This recipe is a variation on something I made years ago when I was stuck on vacation in a lake house and there was very little in the fridge. Essentially, all I had to work with was some fresh tomatoes and onions. It turned out pretty well, and I have been messing with it ever since.

For this particular recipe I used the following ingredients:

  • Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Flavorful Medley Snacking Tomatoes, FAMILY PACK – cut them all in half – 24 oz.
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion – sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1.5 pounds of pasta (your choice) I used pappardelle
  • 8 oz of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 cup black olives from the olive bar – not canned -, sliced in half
  • ½ cup olive oil – I usually use good organic olive oil
  • ½ cup of parmesan/romano cheese

I always start with the important parts first, good music and a little wine, then I preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, I cut the tomatoes, onions, and olives. I put the tomatoes and onions in a bowl with the olive oil and toss it all together so that all of the veggies are evenly coated in oil. I place the oiled up veggies in a glass 9 x 14 pan and put it in the oven to roast. While that is going on, I cut up the mozzarella into small cubes and I put the pasta water on medium to high to get started.

I don’t have a specific cooking time for the tomatoes and onions. I check after about 20 minutes to see if the skin is falling off of the tomatoes. The basic goal is to get the tomatoes and onions soft and juicy and for the skins to be falling off the tomatoes. I do my best to finish the pasta slightly after the tomatoes and onions are done roasting.

When the tomatoes and onions are done, I take them out of the oven and put the butter and olives in and mix it all together. When the butter has melted, I toss the mixture in with the pasta and do my best to mix it all evenly. After it’s all mixed together, I put the fresh mozzarella and parmesan/romano on top and mix that all in, but I don’t need that to be evenly distributed. I usually mix everything together right in the pasta pot.

Then, I serve it all right away! Done and delicious!

I have made several variations of this with different tomatoes and it almost always comes out great. Let me know if you try it or if you try something similar!

Enjoy!!

Roasted Beet Salad

Being able to cook for friends and family is a way of sharing part of myself and one of the ways I show love. It is one of my favorite things to do.  So, when I was invited to a dinner party recently, and I asked my friend what I could bring. He said, “make something delicious.” Game on!

I love a good beet salad. There is something so satisfying about the way all of the different flavors and textures come together. The arugula adds some subtle spice, the goat cheese is mellow and smooth, the nuts add some crunch and salt, the vinaigrette some zest and the beets complete everything in such a unique way. If you haven’t had a beet salad, I suggest you try this recipe. It is excellent!

I searched for a while before settling on this specific recipe from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa. It was super fun to make. Especially when my fingers looked like I butchered an animal as I was peeling the roasted beets. I shopped around for some good locally sourced organic beets. I found them at the food co-op in Rochester called Abundance. They were awesome! I roasted them exactly the way the recipe suggested and they came out great!

I bought organic arugula at Wegmans and used all organic products to make the dressing. I would say it came out pretty damn good!

Click here for the complete recipe.

Another great thing about using fresh beets is that you can cook and serve the greens as a delicious side dish. I used the recipe linked here.

Let me know what you think!

 

 

Truffle Butter Pasta

Pasta is one of my favorite foods to tinker with in the kitchen. There are so many img_5431variations and options. The idea for this was inspired by a car ride conversation with my friend Martha. We frequently talk food, and she is an excellent cook! She told me how she used Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter on pasta and it was super simple and delicious. So, I have been tinkering with different ways to prepare pasta using truffle butter as the main flavor component. The recipe I am going to share is the latest version I have come up with.  

Ingredients:

  • 2 Shallots – thinly sliced
  • 5 – 6 Mushrooms – sliced
  • ½ container of Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter
  • ½ of 8oz. Wegmans Fresh Mozzarella – cut into ½ inch squares
  • ½ pound of Pappardelle Pasta
  • 1 slice of Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon
  • Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesan and Romano Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

I start out with the usual important steps first, music and a little wine. The next thing I do is prep and cut everything I need to complete this dish. This includes the shallots, mushrooms and the fresh mozzarella. I also start the pasta water. All of this will finish quickly and the biggest mistake I make is overcooking the veggies while waiting for the pasta to cook.

Then, I get a pan warming for a few minutes before I drop in the slice of bacon. The bacon is the perfect way to add some great smoky flavor to the base of this dish. Once the bacon has crisped up, I remove it and set it aside on a paper towel.

I will add a touch of olive oil to the bacon fat depending on how much fat renders out of the bacon and then drop in the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, just enough to soften them. This will all cook super fast.

Once everything is done, I put the strained pasta into the pan with the sauteed shallots and mushrooms. I spoon in about ½ of the container of truffle butter. At this point, I do not have any heat going in the pan. The residual heat of the pasta melts the butter. I use a pasta cooking utensil to mix up the butter, shallots, and mushrooms. Next, I add the fresh mozzarella and crumble in the bacon. I keep mixing it all the best I can to get everything evenly spread throughout the pasta. Most of the time the veggies hang out on the sides of the pan, so pay attention as you mix.

The last few ingredients, parmesan and romano cheese, salt and pepper, I add to taste. Then, I plate and serve usually with some good crusty bread. I have served this as a stand-alone dish or as a side to accompany a protein of some kind. Either way, it’s simple and delicious!

Thai By Night

I love to try new restaurants especially to places that serve cultural cuisines that I don’t often eat, or that I am not well versed in cooking. This past year, Thai By Night opened in Canandaigua, and it has taken me has too long to visit. The excuse to go there was for my daughter Gabi’s 16th birthday. She also enjoys trying new foods.

The space is relatively small, the tables are close together, and the decorating is simple and tasteful. The food and the service were both was outstanding. All of the food came out quickly and hot, and our water glasses were constantly being refilled by the very attentive wait staff.  

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We had the Crispy Spring Rolls as our appetizer. They were crispy, hot and full of flavor. The dipping sauce complimented the rolls and added some spice. We decided to get two entrees and share them. We ordered Pad Kee Mao with chicken a noodle dish served with flat rice noodles, onions, tomatoes, scallions, and Thai basil and chili garlic stir-fry sauce. We also ordered Mom’s Nam Tak a dish of grilled strip steak, red onion, cilantro, scallion, Thai basil, jaew, and toasted rice powder. Both of the meals were outstanding.

 

 

The Pad Kee Ma noodle dish has an interesting combination of flavors. You have the option to order this dish with three levels of spiciness, mild, medium and spicy. We went with the mild option. I really enjoyed all aspects of this particular dish and how the subtle spicy kick balanced out the rest of the flavors.

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The steak dish was equally as good, and it was cooked perfectly. The meat was tender, flavorful, sliced thin, and served with cilantro and sticky rice. The cilantro seemed to make a perfect compliment to the steak, and I tried to eat a little in every bite.

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I am really bad using chopsticks but I worked hard to eat with them for the entire meal. Gabi is a natural at using them and she enjoyed watching me struggle. Personally, I love that Canandaigua has a restaurant with a true an urban feel. I felt like I was in New York City or San Francisco and the food was great! I also think it’s great that the owners are sourcing the foods and beverages from local farms, wineries, and breweries.

I am linking a few news stories below so you can learn more about the story behind Thai By Night.

Democrat and Chronicle – Thai by Night in Canandaigua blends authentic and creative approaches

The Daily Messenger – Thai food coming to downtown Canandaigua

You can also find Thai By Night on Facebook and Instagram

Overall it was a great experience and I would highly suggest you get in there ASAP!

Naan Pizza

I love all kinds of pizza! When I have time, I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of dough and trying different sauces, toppings, spices, crust thickness…I could go on and on. But, sometimes I just want something simple, quick and tasty. That’s when I go to the naan pizza. Naan is a simple flatbread that is served with Indian food.  I purchased naan bread at Wegmans, Aldi and Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s naan (available in frozen or fresh, and garlic or plain) is the most similar to what I had at an Indian restaurant.

Another reason why I love making naan pizza is that they are family-friendly and party-friendly. Make your own pizza parties get super easy using naan bread as the crust. I usually keep it pretty simple in terms of toppings. I use jarred sauce or tomatoes, fresh veggies that I have on hand. If you are using fresh vegetables, it might be worth a little extra time to do a quick saute before putting them on your pizza. Depending on the vegetables you use, they excrete moisture and make your pizza wet and soggy. The texture of the vegetables can remain crunchy if they don’t have a chance to pre-cook. I will cook and drain them on a paper towel to remove some of the oil. I like to use fresh mozzarella cheese when I have it as well as regular shredded mozzarella. I always top the pizza with some a combo of parmesan and romano cheese. You can use the naan bread to make breakfast pizza (this will be another post). For this pizza, I am using a simple strained tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, dried oregano, olives, grape tomatoes and mushrooms with a sprinkle of parmesan and romano cheese on top.

I start off preheating the oven to 425℉. If you are using a pizza stone, it’s always good to let the stone get hot before using it. I like the crust to be somewhat crispy, so I use a pizza stone and I put the naan on the stone for a 3 – 4 minutes to pre-cook.

I construct the pizza on a large wooden cutting board. This allows me to easily slide the pizza into the oven and onto the hot stone. You may find it helps to use a spatula to slide the pizza around on the stone if you want to cook more than one at a time.

I am not a “time specific” person. The cooking time will vary based on how I want the pizza cooked. Sometimes I like it well done and crispy, sometimes I want it softer. I check the pizza frequently after about 5 – 6 minutes or so. The cheese can get burned quickly if you don’t pay attention.

All told, it takes about 30 – 40 minutes from preheat to table. This is a tasty, customizable, simple, quick meal that I have really enjoyed making and eating!

Do you have any simple pizza recipes or ideas? Share away!

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Faro’s Eggplant Parm Sub

I stumbled onto this sub a few years ago and I tell anyone who will listen to me about it. Faro’s Pizzeria is a locally owned pizza shop on South Main St. in Canandaigua. The owner, Faro, makes an excellent thin crust NYC style pie and he is a super nice guy. I love the small town feel when I am greeted by name as I walk in. When he isn’t too busy we talk shop and I share stories from when I managed my cousin’s shop in college. He also serves one of my favorite subs EVER!

I am a sucker for good eggplant. I am also a sucker for a good hot sub. This is both! There are so many things I love about this sub. It’s served open face and it’s so big they have to put it in a medium pizza box. The cost is so ridiculously reasonable. With tax, it’s $8 and change and I can eat this thing for 3 days, no joke!

It’s always cooked to perfection. It’s hard to make a hot sub and get it just right. There are lots of variables that can impact the overall quality and taste. Too much sauce and it’s mushy, too much cheese and you can’t taste the eggplant, overcooked and it you get that charred flavor. I have yet to get a sub that has any of those issues.

If you are in Canandaigua and you are looking for a great hot sub to share with a friend or to eat for a few days, I would highly recommend this sub. And, while I am recommending things, Faro’s also has calzones that are delicious, huge and reasonably priced!

Side note: I stopped in to grab a pizza the other day. Faro knows I love the eggplant parm sub, so he offered to make me a pizza with eggplant on it. Looks like my next pizza will be an eggplant parm special!!

 

My Go To Dinner

I have been making a variation of this dinner for years. I love salmon, and I like to buy the wild caught but it’s not always in the budget. I have cooked salmon so many different ways over the years, but I usually come back to this method. It’s a combination of searing and roasting in a cast iron skillet. This NY Times Cooking post does a great job of explaining the many ways you can cook salmon. As with all cooking, finding the best way to do something is entirely up to you. I was taught a long time ago that all recipes are guides and not a set in stone list of linear instructions. Do what feels right or good to you.

I am paring the salmon with a simple pasta dish. This also varies depending on what is in the fridge. Today, I have mushrooms, shallots, and some canned organic tomatoes in juice. I will be using Wegmans Italian Classics Linguine (Wegmans will be its own post at some point, I LOVE Wegmans!) and I have some amazing crusty bread Torpedo Italian Bread from Martusciello’s Bakery in Rochester, NY. I buy the bread from a local Italian deli called Casa Italiana (This will also be its own post at some point, great subs!) in Canandaigua, NY.

 

First, I take the fish out to sit for about 15 minutes or so to let it get to room temperature. When I am ready to start cooking, I make sure I have a Spotify playlist playing. I can’t be messing with music while my hands are dirty and wet! Then, I turn on the oven to 400 to preheat. While that is going on, I prep my veggies and set them aside. I also start the pasta water on a lower heat and turn the heat on the cast iron skillet to med. I like to give the cast iron skillet about 5 minutes to get nice and hot. Next, I prep the fish. I put a light coating of olive oil on first and then season the fish with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin. The spices vary sometimes too. I have used chili powder or even a BBQ rub. IMG_5220

Next, I start the pasta sauce. I saute olive oil, shallots, and mushrooms until they get soft and then I put in the can of diced tomatoes and I add some sea salt. I lower the heat and let that all simmer for a 5 minutes or so. I then add some butter and a splash of red wine. I will vary the butter depending on what I have in the fridge. I love the Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter, it has great flavor (I make another pasta with this – future post 😊). I like to add in garlic at different times depending on my mood. Sometimes I will add it with the shallots, sometimes I will toss it near the end to poach in the sauce. It’s fun to play with those flavors. 

img_5221.jpgOnce the skillet is hot, I place the fish on the skillet skin side up. I want to sear the top of the fish first. I do this for about 3 – 4 minutes. Once I flip the fish over (skin side down), I put it right in the oven for about 8 – 10 minutes.

While the fish is cooking I finish the pasta. The pasta only takes about 3 minutes in boiling water and I strain it and stir it in with the sauce and let that all simmer together. I add a good amount of parmesan/romano cheese for some good salty flavor.

 

Plate it and serve. My guilty pleasure is to include a little BBQ sauce on the side to img_5233.jpgaccompany the salmon. Serve with a little red wine, crusty bread and enjoy!

Let me know what you think.

Tony

Pasta Ingredients

  • Wegmans Linguine
  • Wegmans Organic Canned Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Wegmans Truffle Finishing Butter
  • Red Wine

Fish Preparation

  • Farm Raised Salmon – Wild Caught is preferred

Spices

  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Olive Oil
  • BBQ Sauce

 

 

 

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