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October 2, 2012
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Cracking the dinner code

Eggs for dinner. It's a routine I've had since college. Mac and cheese was never my thing, and it doesn't get a whole lot cheaper than a few eggs. Scrambled, over medium or in an omelet with whatever veggies were hanging around - I wasn't picky. It was a quick and, most importantly at the time, affordable supper that I opted for at least once a week.

Now, nearly a decade later and I still haven't kicked the weekly habit. I've just fancied them up a bit. I'll make a frittata - basically an egg pie without a crust - chock full of chopped onions, mushrooms, tomatoes or whatever I have. When there are stale corn chips or corn tortillas languishing on my counter, I turn them into chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican dish made with chopped onion, jalapenos, salsa, cheese, and again, whatever leftover veggies and meat that needs used up. I cook it in my cast-iron skillet on the stove to start, then make little indentations with the back of a spoon, crack four or five eggs in the nests, top with grated cheese, and pop it under the oven broiler until the whites are set and the centers are still runny. It's comfort food, with a kick.

Since New York Times food columnist Martha Rose Shulman started coming to Vail three years ago, I've made a habit of checking her column, called Recipes for Health, online each week, and I generally make one or two of her recipes a month. "This is food that is vibrant and light, full of nutrients but by no means ascetic, fun to cook and a pleasure to eat," the column description reads.

It's true. The recipes never fail, and best, they push me outside of my comfort zone. I've experimented with whole grains like bulgur wheat, farro, barley and more, thanks to her. Using one of her recipes, I recently made a fantastic steel cut oat and vegetable torta, which combined grains and eggs in one - jackpot! You can find it at nytimes.com.

Shulman returned to Terra Bistro last week for two cooking demos in conjunction with Vail Restaurant Month. I watched on Friday night as she made a trio of salads, a Mediterranean fish chowder and raspberry rose sorbet for dessert. We ran the fish chowder recipe last week (look for it online at www.vaildaily.com), and take my word for it, it makes for a lovely warm meal on a cool, fall night. My favorite salad of the evening was the wheat berry, herb and tomato salad topped with creamy feta cheese, the recipe for which we've included here.

On Saturday, she demonstrated how to make healthful, portable picnic fare, including this frittata with Swiss chard, which Shulman also was kind enough to share the recipe for. Serve it hot, room temperature or cold.

"It is easy to cut up and carry in a backpack," Shulman says.

Or, you could always make it for dinner.

Courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman

Makes one 10-inch frittata

This is a typical Provençal or Italian frittata, something that is quickly thrown together, especially if you make a point of washing and blanching greens when you get them home from the market.

1 pound Swiss chard, stemmed and washed thoroughly

Salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Freshly ground pepper

8 large or extra-large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

Heat a large pot of water over high heat while you stem and wash the chard in two changes of water. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water in the pot comes to a boil salt generously and add the chard. Blanch for 1 minute or until tender, and transfer to the ice water. Let sit for a minute, then drain, squeeze dry, and chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and stir in the chard. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until coated with oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper to taste, the milk, and the chard .

Clean and dry your pan and return to the stove. Heat over medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Hold your hand above it; it should feel hot. Drop a bit of egg into the pan and if it sizzles and cooks at once, the pan is ready. Pour in the egg mixture, scraping every last bit out of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with the spatula in your other hand, to let the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while, until the frittata is just about set. Meanwhile, light the broiler.

If the frittata is not quite set on the top, place under the broiler, about 3 inches from the heat, for 1 minute, watching closely, until just beginning to color on the top. Do not allow the eggs to brown too much or they'll taste bitter.

Remove from the heat, allow to sit in the pan for 5 minutes or longer, then carefully slide out onto a platter, or cut in wedges in the pan.

Advance preparation:

The greens can be prepared through several hours or even a day or two ahead. The frittata can be made a few hours or even a day ahead and served at room temperature. It does not reheat well. For a hike, chill overnight and wrap wedges or squares.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman

1 cup farro or wheat berries, rinsed, soaked for at least 1 hour, or for several hours in 1 quart water

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 cup diced celery or cucumber, or a combination

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (more to taste)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Place the wheat berries and their soaking water in a large saucepan, add salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the grains are tender and beginning to splay. Turn off the heat and allow the wheat berries to sit in the hot water for another 15 minutes. Drain.

While the wheat berries are cooking, dice the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add the sherry and balsamic vinegars. Toss together and let sit for 1 hour.

After you drain the wheat berries, toss with the tomatoes and juices. Allow to marinate together for 1 hour. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or serve at once.

Advance preparation: This salad keeps well for several hours in the refrigerator.

Yield: Serves 6.


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The VailDaily Updated Oct 2, 2012 03:33PM Published Oct 2, 2012 03:31PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.