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12 May 2010

roasted asparagus frittata

roasted asparagus frittata III

It is finally spring around here.

This may have been the mildest winter in Seattle history, weather-wise, but it was a long one in this house. I've written about that here before. No need to repeat.

The sun is out now. It might have been cold these past few weeks (37° at night, Seattle? Really?), but the sun has been shining. We're funny in this area. As soon as the temperature rises above 58°, we throw off our sweaters and bare our skin to the sun. At the first hint of warmth, it's time for a picnic.

My new friend Tamiko came over last week, with her two darling daughters. When Lu saw them through the front window, as they were walking up our driveway, she threw her hands into the air, jittered them around in excitement, and started giggling. She loves these girls, who are in turns serious and silly, tickling each other and reading on our couch. Whenever they come over, she is clearly jazzed.

So am I.

it was a bubble magic day

After all, we hung out in the backyard, in the sunshine. There were floral print dresses, food-smeared faces, paper crowns, spins on the tricycle, baby plants to pat and try not to crush in the garden, giggles, stories, twirling around with arms straight out while looking up at the sky....

we had bubbles in the backyard

...and there were bubbles. Bubbles bouncing, floating, popping and toppling all over themselves.

"I don't know what it is," said Tamiko, "but when bubbles are around kids, it always seems like magic."

Yes, the magic of adults remembering to relax and allow themselves to be as mesmerized by that lone bubble rising toward the top of the trees as the almost-two-year-olds were.

I hope there are lots of bubbles this summer.

the lilac tree is in full bloom

Plus, the lilac tree was in bloom.

Last year, when this lilac tree was in full bloom, we were in the hospital with Lu for her surgery. By the time we came home, we had missed most of the blooms.

This year, we are here.

roasted asparagus fritatta

The food was simple. Tamiko brought over a big bunch of thick asparagus stalks, grown in Washington State. This time of year, we eat asparagus every single day: roasted, blanched, eaten raw in salads. I cannot get enough of this vegetable that tastes like verdant green. Tamiko suggested a frittata. We had eggs. I pulled out the cast iron skillet, some leftover Mizithra, the salt and pepper, the smoked paprika, and started cooking.

When the frittata was firm and golden, the roasted asparagus bursting out of the surface, I ran it out to the back deck to take photographs. It looked good. I liked the colors. Besides, I have learned — if you want to let hot food cool for little mouths, take a few rounds of photographs.

We divvied up the frittata and handed every child a hunk of it. They all stood, munching, not moving for the first time all afternoon.

"Hey!" I joked to Tamiko. "I think I have my next blog post."
She agreed.
On the way home, her oldest daughter said to Tamiko of me, "She makes good recipes."
I've rarely heard higher praise.

I thought I might just write this up, and leave it here. A sweet story of spring, a recipe for roasted asparagus frittata with smoked paprika. That's enough, right?

Except, that when I started to write this, I remembered: I have a frittata recipe on this site already. Mildly concerned that it might be an asparagus fritatta — I had a vague memory of spring vegetables — I went on the search. And found this.

I wrote this piece about a spring vegetable frittata in June of 2006. Almost four years ago, now. Really, about four lifetimes ago. I wrote about a picnic I had with my favorite senior writing class, a group of students so talented and hilarious that I wanted to say my own farewells before graduation.

Those students are about to graduate college now.

I wrote about teaching and shared stories and little moments in the classroom that would stay with me forever.

I haven't taught in a high school classroom since.

I wrote about the little secret I had been keeping: I had just been signed by a literary agent.

She and I talked yesterday about my third book, the one that was due at the end of August (ack!), the one she negotiated for me to be moved to next spring instead (whew). I don't know how many conversations I've had with that wonderful woman since I signed with her. Perhaps there will be hundreds more over the years, because I intend to keep writing books for the rest of my life.

I hinted at another secret, one I would tell soon after. I had just met Danny.

We talk nostalgically now about those early days, when we lost sleep because we just couldn't keep our hands off each other. Now, we lose sleep because of this darling daughter of ours, a being in our lives we hoped for but didn't dare to dream before we met. That's her up there, munching on her frittata. She eats with joy.

Reading that post again, one I honestly had almost forgotten, I was struck by the memory of that June 2006 frittata. I didn't make it. Danny made it for me. I stood by the stove and watched what he did and took notes in my little book. I wrote up the recipe on the site and called it mine.

Now, I'm sort of horrified by the way I wrote that recipe. (And the length of that post. My goodness I used to write really long entries here.) More than that, I'm struck by this: when I made that frittata last week, I didn't open up a book or call Danny for advice. I turned on the stove, roasted the asparagus, threw a bunch of eggs in a bowl and beat them, pinched in some salt and pepper, slapped the skillet around on the stove, threw it in the oven and called it done.

Every single part of my life has changed in the past four years. Truly. This may be a small part, but it feels important: I cook now. I cook like I'm breathing, like I'm picking up Lu when she falls down and cries, like I kiss Danny when he walks through the door at night, like I write. Cooking has become part of me, part of my muscle memory.

I love cooking far more than I did four years ago.

My friend Tamiko is a writer. She hasn't known that clearly for many years. She has been dwelling in academia (she teaches at the same university I attended, the same university where my father teaches), teaching literature and language, and raising her daughters. However, just this year, she has discovered something beating in her that needs to be heard.

As she and I have talked, over Twitter and on my couch, it seems that she has grown more clear that she wants to write. I've watched her happiness grow wider these past few months. She doesn't know where it's going yet, but she just started a blog, which she calls Kiku Girl. (She gave me permission to share this fledgling with you.) She's a phenomenal writer. She's finding her way through her words, through assignments to herself and pointed memories.

I'd like to invite you to meet Tamiko. But I'd also like to urge you to find that something beating in you that needs to be heard. It's in there, whatever it is.

When I started writing here, five years ago this month, I wrote out of urgency, a pulse that pushed me toward stories and sentences. I didn't know how to write recipes. I wrote too much. I had no idea who was reading. I certainly never expected to meet my husband, my agent, my writing career, my daughter, and my life because of this site.

You just never know. I certainly don't. And when life feels narrow and too strictured, like it did at times this winter, I'll remind myself of how much can change from one frittata to another.

the edge of the frittata

Roasted Asparagus Frittata

1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
7 eggs
1/2 cup grated Mizithra (or a milder cheese like Parmesan works fine too)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preparing to cook. Preheat the oven to 400°. Pull out your largest cast-iron skillet (or sauté pan).
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper until they are frothy. Be ready. This goes fast.

Pan-roasting the asparagus. Snap each stalk of asparagus at the point on the woody stem where the stalk wants to break. (Trust me. It will feel obvious.) Set aside the woody bits for an asparagus stock, if you want. Cut each stalk into large slices, about 1-inch long.

Set the cast-iron skillet over high heat. Pour in the oil. Add the asparagus stalks to the hot oil. As the asparagus heats, it might spit a bit. Wait and let it cook for a minute. Push the skillet around on the burner to toss the asparagus and force it to change positions. (If the thought of this scares you, it's also perfectly fine to use a spatula in the skillet.) When the asparagus has turned bright green, it's time to beat the eggs.

Making the frittata. Pour the beaten eggs over the roasted asparagus into the pan. Tilt the pan around on the burner to allow the runny eggs to run around the pan and fill in the empty spaces.
When it looks as though the eggs have started to set, lift the edge closest to you, gently, up from its place, with a thin rubber spatula. Lift up the skillet to tilt it toward you and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Place the skillet on the burner again and swirl it gently to distribute the egg. Cook the eggs for forty seconds or so, continuing to lift and tilt until the egg on top is no longer runny.

Sprinkle the Mizithra cheese and smoked paprika over the surface of the frittata. Slide it into the oven. Bake the frittata until it is firm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Watch it closely.

Gently, guide the rubber spatula around the outside edges of the frittata to loosen it. If you want, you can now flip over the frittata onto a waiting plate for a lovely presentation. Or, if you're at a picnic like we were, put the cast-iron skillet on the deck when it has cooled, bring a knife and some small plates, and dig in.

Feeds 8.


At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spring indeed! I've gotten in the habit of polling people I deem wiser and more grounded than myself about how they got to the point they are at in their lives. The common link between everyone seems to be that they never imagined the directions their lives would take them and where they would end up, but they are so happy to be there. This seems like yet another example of that. Enjoy the wonder of bubbles under the warm sun! Thanks for a little piece of wisdom and frittata.

At 6:08 AM, Anonymous Diane said...

I make frittatas every week or two and I never use a recipe - just wing it. It's the perfect way to use up whatever is lying around in the fridge. Even leftover pasta. Last week I made leftover choy sum, with garlic and pancetta.

At 6:16 AM, Anonymous SMITH BITES said...

Another beautiful post Shauna ~ I hope you have the chance to write until you're 100 yrs old - and I'd still be reading!! Love frittatas, love asparagus and love smoked paprika so will be making this as soon as I'm back home in Indiana this weekend! hugs from a former Seattle girl!

At 6:33 AM, Anonymous Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks said...

Wow, that looks wonderful! I've been making lots of frittatas for breakfast lately -- they're so easy and delicious with the gorgeous veggies this time of year. My last one had a pile of sauteed leeks and mushrooms.

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous erika edith said...

I love how your blog is not just food, and not just life - its both and how they so perfectly mesh together. Thank you for sharing your friendship with us today, and even more so, thank you for all you have shared over the last 5 years.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger jeanette from everton terrace said...

I just recently listened to that something inside me that needed to be heard - great advice and, as always, so well put. I now have a jewelry business and a blog and six months ago, I would have never ever guessed that would be the case.
I discovered you because of my new gluten-free life but I stayed because of your spirit, your light and your wonderful way with words. I've never added paprika to my frittata so that's an exciting new discovery for me too!

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

Life is an amazing journey, and I like the way you put it that so much can change "from one frittata to another".


At 7:44 AM, Blogger Megan said...

I miss eggs. The simplicity of eggs. The way throwing an egg on top turns most anything into a meal. Unfortunately eggs make my youngest's face double in size and become patchy. I certainly hope she outgrows it because GF baking has been more and more difficult with our families restrictions. I still fight and try new recipes every day to give my children an idyllic childhood filled with oatmeal cookies and jelly sandwiches.
Your beautiful blog is quite inspiring though. Thank you for your work.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger sk said...

You just kill me with these amazing posts, one after another! Wow. Thanks again for the inspiration, and the yummy recipes. I do so look forward to uncovering that beating inside myself.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

I've been up to my eyeballs in asparagus too. Last night I made an asparagus, morel mushroom (first of the season!) and leek stir fry and served it over linguini Carbonara made with pork cheek chunks. It was incredible. I have some leftover stir fry so I'm making that into a quiche today. Asparagus and eggs are the perfect combo- with some Locatelli Romano, too.

It's wonderful that you can mark your mileposts from meal to meal- and from rough cut to polished diamond in your prose. Write on... thanks for sharing, as always.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Kristy said...

I was lucky to be directed to your blog by Tamiko's FB. I've known Tamiko since HS - over 20 years now. I lost her, but found her recently. She continues to astound me as she did so long ago. I literally love everything about Tamiko, just as I did then. And you two finding each other is wonderful. Enjoy her - and I'll make your fabulous frittata soon!

At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

I just happened across your blog today. I love your photos and your latest throw together recipe has me wanting to go buy a cast iron skillet. I look forward to reading more of your posts. It's almost as if I entered your living room, sat down with some tea and talked. Thank you for sharing.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger The New Girl said...

Oh how I love frittata. And with asparagus? My favorite. My mother would make thinner ones all the time when we were growing up, that she would flip with the aid of a plate and cook on the stove top. Add a piece of crusty bread and you have one of my favorite meals to this day.

Your friend's daughter has the most amazing color hair. And I love seeing Lu in glimpses as she grows. So happy for you guys.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Shuku said...

I haven't made a frittata in five years, I just realised! My last one was more of a Spanish tortilla with potatoes and eggs when I got hold of a tiny little gem of a booklet by Elizabeth David called 'I'll be with you in the Squeezing of a Lemon'.

From one frittata to another. Yeah. It's definitely the way to go. And thank you for sharing Tamiko's story too. It touched a necessary part of me that's been buried for a long, long time.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Josh of Magic Bean Farm said...

Delicious! Can't wait for my sweet purple asparagus to start producing next year!

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Lisa said...

I think there ought to be a movie made about your life Shauna and you need to write the screenplay. I have been a reader for about a year and had never read your post about when you met Danny. Sounds like a movie to me....a real love story! Thanks for letting your guard down sharing your life with us.

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) said...

Yay! It's asparagus time again. And love your photo of the lilacs. I cam back from my walk this morning with handfuls I had.. um... borrowed off neighbours trees.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Jenn Sutherland said...

I love this post (okay, I love every post)...but this one, so wonderful in sharing the broad strokes of the journey you've taken in the last four years. Maybe because it feels so familiar to me...I've always been a cook, but after the celiac diagnosis 8 years ago, I became a COOK, and fell in love with the kitchen all over again. And sharing my love with friends and family is just about the the best thing ever...and sharing it with kids who tell you that you're a good cook - well, that just beats all!

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Northern Snippet said...

Frittatas are fantastic for coeliacs delicious hot or cold,just found your site recently and love it

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for the playdate, the post, the link, and so much more, Shauna! I'm grateful to have you in my life.You help remind me how to live abundantly.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Megan re: eggs. You have probably already discovered this, but soaked flax seeds (they create a lovely gelatinous goo similar to an egg) can be used as an egg substitute in baking. It wouldn't help with an egg-based recipe such as a frittata of course, but I've found flax is an excellent binder in baked goods. And bonus- extra Omega-3s and fiber :)

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Tracy Chastain said...

wonderful words, as always Shauna. And great to remember the wonderful life you have created for you, Danny, and Lucy. You have all done it together. You are a fantastic team.

I understand exactly what you mean about cooking being a part of your muscle memory. Very rarely do we look for a recipe these days. We stand in the kitchen, looking into the fridge and pantry and decide what to make. Then we just go for it. It's so nice to have that freedom.

Thanks for the encouragement to keep doing that.

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous grace said...

I love the idea of roasting the asparagus. Delicious!


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