Sauntering Through the Market with a Basket of Rapini, Potatoes and Chives

A Frittata for Dinner

As usual, I was running late. Nothing new there but my tardiness was extra awkward (even for me) considering that I was trying to slip, unnoticed, into a pew in the hushed room of The Old Church for the monthly Willamette Writers meeting. This month’s speaker had already begun her talk as I tried to make myself invisible. Once seated it took me a minute to calm my thoughts enough to focus on the speaker, Naseem Rakha, but once I did, she had my complete concentration as she discussed her newly released book, The Crying Tree. And while I took away so many nuggets of wisdom from this clearly talented woman, I really seemed to take hold of what would appear to be a seemingly insignificant story that she shared. She had recently been on vacation in Florida with her son and she admitted to us that while she believed the “correct” thing to say would be that her favorite part of the trip was playing in the ocean with her son…that wasn’t the case. No. Her favorite part of the trip was the time she was alone in Ernest Hemingway’s garden. Alone with her thoughts. Alone enough to focus and to remember what it was she wanted to focus her life on.

Portland Farmer's Market
The Portland Farmer’s Market opened a few weeks ago. I didn’t make it to Opening Day, although I hear it was quite the success. Jam-packed with people even with the extra block added this year for more space. Vendors selling out of that day’s produce. I did, however, make it a few weekends later. As usual, I invited the family to come but, as was oftentimes the case, they kindly declined. I probably should say I was disappointed but I wasn’t. I like going there by myself. I love to lose myself in the crowd under that great canopy of trees. To saunter up to my favorite coffee bar. To then make the circle once, coffee in hand, browsing and making mental notes. To pick up a cookie along the way….this time from The Tart Lady. To enjoy the festive music in the background. To take in just what was being offered. What was in season. And, then to go back and circle again.

Portland Farmer's Market #2
Recently someone asked of me, “Where do you get your ideas for cooking? Where do you get your inspiration?” I replied that due to my strong love affair with food, I, of course, read a lot of cookbooks and food blogs. I call friends and ask them what they’re cooking that night. I occasionally tune into cooking shows. However, my biggest source of inspiration is my farmer’s market or those grocery stores that cater to local produce. While I used to find the recipe I liked and then go hunt for the ingredients, now I let the natural rhythms of the growing season be my guide. I buy what’s in season and then, I go find the recipe. This method also helps narrow down the choices of recipes making the whole process of cooking and feeding my family a lot less overwhelming.

rapini
Before arriving at the farmer’s market that day, I had in my mind a bit of an idea of what would be good for dinner that night. I was hoping to find the ingredients for a delicious and light, pasta primavera I enjoy making this time of year. I thought for sure there would be spring asparagus on display everywhere. But alas, there was not. What was on display, and what is clearly still in season here in Oregon, were winter greens. Winter greens, leeks, potatoes, baby carrots, chives and rapini (broccoli rabe.) I had to chuckle that back here when I was trying to make this dish that called for rapini, I couldn’t find a single stalk, and now here it was aplenty. So, without anyone asking me when were we leaving or needing a bathroom or what could they have to eat or getting lost in the crowd and sending me into panic mode, I sat down. I sat down, alone with my coffee and my “breakfast” cookie (nevermind that it was chocolate chip) and readjusted my thoughts. What was I going to make with leeks, potates, chives and rapini? And then, the ideas started flowing. I raced around and grabbed my produce, throwing in a baguette, some pesto and a couple bunches of daffodils to round it all out and headed home. While driving home, I pulled out my cell phone and called my parents I responsibly pulled over to the side of the road and called my parents from my cell phone. They were passing through town that evening and I wanted to encourage them to stop by for dinner. To stop by for dinner and the result of my inspiration. The result of my solitary trip to the farmer’s market.
The Recipes
So, today, you’re going to get two recipes for the price of one blog post. (Corny…I know.) From time to time, I pop into the blog, Simply Breakfast. Her photographs are always so beautiful and although, I’m not much of a breakfast gal, I keep thinking maybe her simple meals will inspire me and recently she had posted that she couldn’t get enough of garlicky greens with scrambled eggs. Well, I could do without the scrambled eggs but the garlicky greens struck a bell and that’s how I arrived at the following recipe that I served up for dinner to my parents and my family along with some chicken sausages I grilled on the barbecue. (Note: If you happen to be a patron of the Portland Farmer’s Market, I purchased my rapini at DeNoble’s Family Farm booth. So tender and delicious.)
Sauteed Rapini (Broccoli Rabe) with Spaghetti and Grilled Sausages
Inspired by fresh air
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced lengthwise
2 large bunches of rapini, coarsely chopped, discarding any tough ends
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 black pepper
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti, cooked as directed on the package
Heat your olive oil in a non-stick saute pan. Add your garlic and saute just about one minute then, immediately add your rapini. It will seem like a lot, but like spinach, it will reduce in size by at least half once it is cooked. Saute about 4 to 5 minutes, until just tender. Scrape all of the contents from the pan (including the now garlic infused olive oil) over the spaghetti and toss gently to combine. Check to see if it needs additional salt and pepper. Serve alongside grilled sausages. Doesn’t get much easier or quicker than this. This recipe can easily be doubled.
A Dinner Frittata Complete with Potatoes, Bacon and Chives
I was looking for a way to use my potatoes and chives so I pulled from the shelf one of my favorite cookbooks of all times, “How to Cook Without a Book” by Pam Anderson. This is the perfect book for those of us who feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of recipe options when all we really want to do is get a quick, healthy and delicious dinner on the table for our families. I bought it when my two eldest were leaving the baby food stage and I realized that fish sticks and peas every night just wasn’t going to cut it any longer. I have been intrigued by her dinner frittata section for quite some time (despite the fact that I’m not always that intrigued with egg dishes.) I flipped to that section, made a few of my own changes and came up with this recipe. I served it with a simple salad of baby greens and vinaigrette and a bowl of “cuties”…those delicious little sweet clementines in season right now. Those same cuties with the sticker that my daughter and her friends would feel compelled to pull off the rind and stick on their foreheads last year when they were much younger.
2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
3 slices, thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 small, Yukon gold potatoes (or other thin-skinned spring potatoes), unpeeled and 1/2 inch diced
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
8 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
Adjust your rack to the upper-middle position and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add your bacon and cook for about 5 minutes until the bacon is browned but not too crisp. Drain your bacon on a paper towel and set aside. Wipe the pan clean with another paper towel and heat your second tablespoon of olive oil, unless you like to cook with bacon grease, in which case, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, do not add the second tablespoon of olive oil and continue with the recipe.

Add your potatoes to the skillet along with the olive oil (bacon grease), 3 tbsp water, the garlic and then, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set your heat to medium-high, cover and let the potatoes steam for about 3 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the water evaporates and the potatoes are lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes more. Toss occasionally to ensure even browning.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl beat the eggs, milk, parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper together with a fork. Once the potatoes are done, shake the skillet to evenly distribute them. Evenly sprinkle your bacon on the potatoes and then, pour in your egg mixture. Sprinkle the chives over the top and then, let the egg mixture cook just until the edges start to set around the edges about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set about 8 minutes. Serve hot, sliced like a pizza and enjoy.

One word of caution: Do not under any circumstances forget that once your skillet is out of the oven, the handle is still registering at about 350 degrees and grabbing it bare-handed will result in second degree burns. Not that I know that from personal experience or anything, but if I did know that from personal experience, I will tell you that expletives that a young child should never hear will come spewing out over and over from the mouth of his injured parent creating a bit of awkwardness once the moment has passed.

Variation: I did make this frittata one evening, substituting sauteed rapini for the bacon. For the sake of honesty, I will tell you that my daughter and I quite enjoyed it but the boys…young and old…they just couldn’t get past the greenery in their eggs, although they greedily ate the greenery just fine the week before when it was tossed with the pasta. So, there you have it.

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010

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  1. [...] know that I’ve talked about Pam Anderson before, here and here, because she is the author of one of my all time favorite cookbooks, “How to Cook [...]

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