Posts Tagged ‘picnic food’

Asparagus Frittata

May 28, 2019

Asparagus Frittata ready to wrap for lunch

Asparagus is up and running. Purple and green bundles stack across our farmer’s market tables; I’m thrilled to bring home several pounds each week. Fresh, local asparagus is worth waiting for. There’s no comparison with the empty flavor of shipped in asparagus found in supermarkets at other seasons. Sage advice: eat your fill now; indulge until you’re asparagused out, then wait until next year.

Frittata ingredients

Use a volley of cooking methods to keep the vegetable interesting— blanching in boiling salted water, gentle grilling, sautéing, roasting, quick braising, using for soup or tucked into a stew at the last minute. The key to asparagus deliciousness is light cooking, and light saucing. I love the classic hollandaise, aioli, vinaigrettes, fresh mint pesto, raita or a warm sorrel cream. Each day of its season invites a new asparagus adventure.

My asparagus of choice is the purple variety.  This culitvar imported from Italy is sweeter than the green, contains antioxidant  anthocyanin, and shimmers into a purplish green shade when cooked. It’s stunning on the plate and delectable to taste.

Cut Asparagus

The other day I was looking for an asparagus lunch I could make up the evening before, wrap in wax paper, tuck into a

bag and eat on the go or on a bench in the park. Ideas kept coming up frittata, frittata, but I found the suggestions too eggy. I was looking for a savory asparagus cake with just enough egg to hold it all together rather than a bland omelet with a hint of asparagus.  Most frittatas have you begin them in a skillet and finish in the oven. To crank up a whole oven for a 10 minute flash of the pan is a waste of energy in my book, so I’d cook mine totally in a frying pan—

the old world way before everyone had an oven.  As it turns out, my frittata is more of like a Spanish tortilla. It’s light, super tasty and a quick, handy trick to have up yoursleeve.  Time for picnic food.

Choose a frying pan

Asparagus Frittata

8 oz. trimmed asparagus, purple suggested, (2 scant cups sliced)

2 tablespoons olive oil

chopped veg

1 medium/small potato (6 oz)

½ medium onion (3-4 oz. peeled, heaping half cup chopped)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (thyme, mint, marjoram or parsley)

3 large farm fresh eggs

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)


Slice the asparagus into ½ inch pieces, leaving the tips

saute under butter papers

whole up to an inch. Cook the asparagus in 3 cups of boiling, well salted water for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Immediately pour into a colander and spread out to cool.

Meanwhile sauté the chopped onion, garlic and potato in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Use low heat to prevent browning. Cover with butter papers to encourage steaming. Cook until the potato and onion are tender. Stir in chopped herbs and season with salt.  Scrape the onion mixture out of the paninto a bowl and combine with the cooked asparagus. Taste for seasoning.

Wipe out the frying pan with a paper towel, making sure the surface is spotlessly smooth and return the pan to high/moderate heat.

Beat three eggs in a bowl and season with salt. Combine the

Frittata cooking

beaten eggs and the warm, cooked asparagus mixture.

When the frying pan is hot, swirl in 1 scant tablespoon olive oil.  Immediately pour in half of the egg mixture. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and top with the remaining veg/egg mix.

Shake the frying pan to prevent sticking, reduce heat to moderate and continue to cook shaking the pan from time to time for 4-5 minutes. Use a palate knife to loosen the edge of the frittata, shake to loosen and top the frying pan

with a wide plate. Place one hand on the bottom of the plate and holding the pan handle with the other hand, invert the frittata onto the plate.

Return frying pan to heat; wipe clean with paper towel; swirl

Ready to flip

in few more drops of olive oil and slide in the frittata, uncooked side down. Use the palate knife to tuck in any stray bits. Shake the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until browned on the other side Slip onto a plate. Cool and cut into pie shaped wedges. If at all possible, store out of the fridge for best flavor; fine to hold at room temperature for a full day. Serves 2-4

P S The cooking method may seem somewhat complex, but once you have a go at it, it’s quick and easy.




Flipped Frittata




French Potato Salad

July 18, 2013
French Potato Salad

French Potato Salad

When the haze lifts from the grass at daybreak and the heavy heat punches out the afternoon, even air conditioning doesn’t entice me toward a plate of steaming supper. In high summer I’ll always choose something room temperature. I want it simple and light, with a tart edge.

There’s seldom a dish more tempting than a good potato salad, and for my choice, the French style is the way to go. Here’s the essence of a creamy potato with the zest of good wine vinegar, gentle green onion, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. It’s best freshly prepared, cooled to room temperature. It can wait several hours but should never go in the refrigerator. Something happens to a potato when it goes in the fridge. A raw potato will take on unlikely sweetness if stored in the fridge and a cooked potato becomes stodgy. This salad is ideal for picnics even in hot weather since it can be made ahead and there’s nothing in it that can spoil during the day. Lift yourself away from the heavy deli yellow potato salad and try this method for a fresh take, better flavor, better for you.

French Potato Salad

1 lb. small red potatoes (6–7)

l clove garlic

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon white wine or water

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

2–3 green onions

fresh parsley or dill

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Place potatoes snugly in a heavy pot. Just cover with cold water; sprinkle with salt; top with lid and boil until tender when pierced with toothpick. Pour off water and return pot to low heat for 5 minutes to steam.

Meanwhile crush garlic with salt using the back of a spoon in a bowl or use a small mortar. Add vinegar, wine or water and mustard. As soon as the potatoes can be handled (they should still be quite warm), cut potatoes in quarters or eighths and place in shallow bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar mixture and chopped green onions. Fold over to mix using a rubber spatula. Cover with tea towel and cool to room temp. Add olive oil and chopped fresh herbs; gently fold again using rubber spatula and turn into serving dish. Garnish with lettuce, nasturtium leaves or diced fresh tomato. Serve immediately for 2–4 or hold at room temperature for a few hours. Flavor will be drastically altered if refrigerated.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

Potato and Kale Tortilla

June 30, 2012

Rabbits bite off my pea vines; deer jump the fence to chomp the Swiss chard; black voles lay waste in the bean hills; beetles swarm the cucumbers. But no critter touches the kale. Dense rows of blue-green kale thrive in bad soil, dry weather and stand pest-free. While I pamper, water, weed and feed every other plant in my garden, the kale soldiers on with gusto and gets no attention at all.

Kale is hearty, cheap and good for us, but often we don’t know what to do with it: young, tender kale is nice in salads; mature kale can be boiled, braised or stir-fried, and, even though it’s one of the most nutritious green vegetables we can find, it has never quite had the cachet of snow peas, asparagus or even green beans. With a major row now across my garden, I’m intent on bumping up my vegetable calcium and making this a super kale summer.

The Spanish potato and egg tortilla is one of the most delicious cheap foods on the planet. A few spuds, a bit of onion, a couple of eggs and some olive oil come together in a terrific tapa. Add some wilted chopped kale and you have a great summer supper, picnic food, snack food or brunch idea and it’s almost free.

Kale and Potato Tortilla

3-4 tablespoons olive or a vegetable oil

½ large onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium potatoes (10 oz.) peeled and sliced

a few slices green Serrano chili with seeds (optional)

1 medium bunch kale (10-12 oz.)

2 extra large eggs or 3 smaller eggs

salt to taste

Swirl 2 tablespoons oil in an 8-inch cast iron or no-stick heavy frying pan. Gently sauté onion, garlic, potato and optional chili with salt (loosely covered) until potato and onion are tender but not brown.

Meanwhile bring 2 quarts salted water to the boil; strip green leafy part from the kale stems. Discard tough stems and cook green kale in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until fork-tender. Pour kale into a colander, drain water, and as soon as kale is cool enough to handle, squeeze away water and chop coarsely. You should have a generous cup of chopped kale.

Beat eggs in mixing bowl, add hot tender potatoes and onion, stir in chopped kale, and salt. Rub out any debris left in the skillet with paper towel and heat 2 teaspoons oil in the still hot skillet. Pour in the egg mixture, flatten evenly, shake pan and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes. Shake pan from time to time to prevent sticking. Once the tortilla is 2/3 cooked, cover with a plate and upend the skillet so the tortilla drops out. (If a little sticks on the bottom of the pan, scoop it up with a spatula and place it on top of the potato cake.) Re-wipe the pan and film with 2-3 teaspoons more oil. Heat and slide the cake back in the skillet with the uncooked top on the bottom of the skillet. Shake and cook for another 5 minutes. Loosen edges with a palate knife; shake  pan to insure tortilla is loose and again upend the fully cooked cake onto a plate. Cool slightly and serve warm, room temperature or cold. Makes 4-6 wedges.

Beet Tzatziki

July 14, 2011

It was mid summer on a small island in the Cyclades. Evening fairy lights twinkled in the plane trees around a village square. There, in an open air taverna, I first laid eyes on a bowl of beet tsatziki. Ravishingly purplish pink, I had to have it. Creamy, tangy, sweet, it turned out to be the taste highlight of a journey to the place of the “wine dark sea” where that “rosy fingered dawn” breaks through the night. It’s as ancient as  yogurt, beetroot, garlic and walnuts that come together in this traditional salad perhaps Socrates or even Homer may have eaten.

Today we return to these nourishing Mediterranean foods that have held on through centuries and sing of good health. Yogurt to stimulate beneficial flora, beets to cleanse and strengthen the blood and garlic to boost immunities.

When I presented this dish to a group of vegetable-curious cooks, even those who shied away from beets were swayed with this amazing flavor combo. Here the humble beet lifts to Elysian heights as a perfect picnic side dish. Beet Tsatziki may be a dip for pita or vegetables, a sauce for grilled fish or chicken, part of a composed salad plate or a lunch in itself, nestled in a bowl of butter lettuce leaves with crusty toast on the side.

Greek Beet Tzatziki

 1 or 2 small beets, baked, steamed or raw

1 clove garlic


1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or wine vinegar

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt, preferably homemade

freshly ground pepper

chopped fresh dill, mint and/or chopped green onion

olive oil

chopped roasted walnuts (optional)

Mash garlic with salt and mix with lemon juice or vinegar, let stand few minutes. Peel and grate beets on wide holes of a box grater (use small holes for raw beets); you should have a scant half cup. Combine beets with yogurt, macerated garlic; season with little chopped dill or mint and green onion. Taste for salt and acid. Garnish with olive oil drizzle, freshly ground pepper and chopped walnuts. Makes generous l ½ cups.

                                                                         Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at