Don’t know ‘bout you, but here in lovely Brooklyn we’re snowed in. It started around 11:30 this morning and it’s been quietly blanketing us all day—they say we might get as much as two feet by the time it stops tomorrow. I love New York in the snow. My ceaselessly vibrant, beautifully gritty city becomes the most romantic place on earth, I think, but that might be because my second date with S was transformed by the Blizzard of 2003. Now when I look out the window and see the drifts piling up, all I think about is a stunning kiss on a deserted street corner, with silence and whiteness enveloping us.
Times like this call for cocooning, and to me this means cooking. (Cookooning?) Since we didn’t have time for a trip to the market before the storm hit, pantry items were my only option. I wanted something homey, and filling, and not at all challenging. I wanted safety through food. A frittata and a very simple tomato-rice soup fit the bill. The frittata (an Italian baked omelette) is beautifully versatile—you can use almost any vegetables you have on hand, as long as you end up with about two cups cooked. It’s mostly egg whites—just two whole eggs in the whole dish—and a handful of grated parmesan gives it a deep, sophisticated saltiness. As for the soup, it’s another recipe I grew up on, from The Gourmet’s Guide to Jewish Cooking, source of my beloved mushroom-barley soup. My mom usually made it with tiny veal meatballs, which was heavenly and substantial. Since I don’t have any ground veal lying around, I made it plain. She and I have tinkered with the tomato ratio, since the recipe as written always tasted too weak to us, but the simplicity of it is ideal—and so’s the fact that it’s ready in under twenty minutes.
Seriously, when the snow’s swirling outside your window, what’s more comforting than a grown-up omelette and a bowl of tomato-rice soup?
Mushroom, Zucchini, and Escarole Frittata
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8-10 button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped roughly
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 T. fresh thyme, or ½ T. dried
1 small head escarole
Salt & pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
6 egg whites
2 whole eggs
2 T. water
2 T. grated parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and thyme, and increase heat to medium-high. Sauté until vegetables have released most of their water and pan is nearly dry, 5-8 minutes, and remove from heat to cool. Put escarole in a separate pot with only the water clinging to it from cleaning, and cook, covered, over medium heat until escarole is nearly cooked and most of the water has cooked away. Put in a colander and let it cool, then push as much liquid out as possible. Combine cooled mushroom-zucchini mixture and cooled escarole in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. You should have about two cups of almost-cooked vegetables. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325. Liberally spray a glass baking dish with olive oil spray and set aside. Put egg whites, eggs, water, parmesan, and more salt & pepper into the blender and whir for 10 seconds, until foamy. Pour egg mixture into the bowl with the vegetables and fold together. Pour into the prepared baking dish and disperse the solids evenly. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the dish and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until top is firm and lightly golden.
Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.
Quick Tomato-Rice Soup
Adapted from The Gourmet’s Guide to Jewish Cooking
10 cups chicken both, or 10 cups water and 3 bouillon cubes [I use Telma brand, just like my mom]
2 cups tomato puree
2 t. sugar
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. dried basil
¼ t. ground mace
2 bay leaves
½ cup long-grain white rice
Put all ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until rice is soft. Remove the bay leaf and adjust the seasoning.