Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veggie Might: Best Laid Eggs—Winter Squash Frittata

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

As I shared with you last week, my everyday diet is about 90% vegan. My cereal swims in almond milk; nonhydrogenated vegan margarine graces my biscuits; and tofu, flax seeds, and powdered egg replacer bind my cookies and cakes.

When I do eat dairy and eggs, I make it count with good cheese and eggs from chickens that got to run around on some dirt and grass. I am an obsessive label reader, talk to farmers at the market, and, because I’m frugal in other ways, am willing to pay a little more for animal-friendly(er) cheese and eggs.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting a quaint little “farm” in semirural North Carolina, run by three generations of my family. Okay, “farm” is a stretch. My parents have been raising back-yard chickens for two years, with the assistance of my sister and her three boys; and I, finally, got to try the fruits of everyone’s labor.

HL, the middle boy, is the most enthusiastic caretaker of the brood. Within minutes of my arrival—and well after dark—he offered me a tour of the coop and reassured me to not “be embarrassed if you step in chicken poop in the back yard. It’s everywhere. I do it all the time.” He’s 11.

Gingerly but confidently holding Rooster Cogburn, the tiny bantam rooster, the next morning HL showed CB and I around the coop my dad and sister built for the 12 hens and single rooster. They live in a cozy, wood coop with nesting beds and high beams for roosting. The enclosed pen keeps them safe from the hawks that frequent the nearby wood.

For several hours a day, “the girls” are let out to roam the 1/2-acre backyard. My sister is vigilant about protecting them from predators: snakes, rodents, and those pesky hawks. She once caught two blacksnakes by hand, put them in a big plastic tub with a lid, and trucked them over to her place to “keep down the copperheads.” Apparently, after a mile, snakes lose their way and won’t be back to pester the girls.

The brood consists of white Leghorns, stripey Barred (Plymouth) Rocks, black Australorps and Jersey Giants, and bantam-sized Black Breasted Reds, including Rooster Cogburn. My dad makes no bones that these chickens are more pets than farm animals. He laughs, “They all have names; they’re pets.” Among the current brood are (Chicken) Noodle, Peep, and Annakin.

My family’s reward for their hard work and TLC is fresh eggs every day, even now that its getting colder and toward the end of the season. I’d never had eggs that fresh from the farm and they were delicious. Now, I won’t pretend they were the best eggs I’ve ever eaten; I can’t tell the difference between grocery store eggs and the organic, farm-fresh I normally buy (most people can’t).

But knowing these eggs had come straight from the chicken—chickens lovingly cared for and fed (organic seed and corn) by my family—was pretty special and made me feel good about taking home a dozen.

There are times when I get lazy and buy supermarket cheese or eat an omelet at the local diner* (who knows where they get their eggs), though I think I’ll be less likely do so after witnessing my parents’ backyard farm in action. Knowing where my food comes from is important to me, and I make my best effort to live my beliefs without making myself crazy.

Thanks family and adorable chickens; in so many ways, this is the best frittata I’ve ever eaten.

*Supporting groups like Farm Sanctuary helps ease my conscience, and adopting a turkey is one of favorite my Thanksgiving traditions.


If this tickled your fancy, direct your attention to:

Roasted Winter Squash Frittatta
Serves 2

Roasted Winter Squash
2 cups winter squash, peeled and cubed
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp almond or soy milk
salt and fresh black pepper to tasted
1 tsp olive oil
2–3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 – 1 1/2 cups roasted winter squash
3 cups arugula (or leafy green of your choice), torn into pieces

For the roasted squash
1) Preheat oven to 350°. Cut squash in half and scoop out guts and seeds. (Rinse and roast seeds separately for a tasty snack.) Carefully peel away skin and cut squash into 1/2-inch cubes.

2) In a medium mixing bowl, toss 2 cups of squash cubes with olive oil, fresh thyme, and salt. Pour into a baking pan and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Stir at the 10 minute mark. When squash is cooked through to desired consistency, remove from oven and set aside. Two cups of squash will cook down to about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.

For the frittata
3) Meanwhile...In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs with almond or soy milk. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper if desired. Set aside.

4) Set oven to broil. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet with an oven-proof handle. A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal for the job. Saute garlic for 2 minutes over medium heat, then add thyme. Cook together for 1 minute.

5) Add arugula to herbs, cooking until greens are wilted. Add squash and stir until heated through. Pour egg mixture over vegetables.

6) Allow the egg to set, about 10 seconds, then stir. Repeat: allow egg to set, stir. Let egg to cook for 2–3 minutes. Then carefully move pan to the top oven rack, under the broiler, for 2–3 more minutes until top of the egg is set. Be sure to use an oven mitt or pot holder when grabbing the skillet handle from the oven. (Learn from my absentmindedness!)

7) Slide frittata onto plate and serve with salad and crusty sourdough bread for a perfect fall brunch or supper. Be prepared for kisses.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
244 calories, 13.7g fat, 3g fiber, 13.9g protein, $.85

Note: My cost is lower because I got my eggs for free (weee)! If I’d spent the usual $4.00/dozen for fresh eggs from the farmers’ market, my cost would increase to $3.01 total and $1.51 per serving.

1 tsp olive oil: 39.6 calories, 4.6g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.03
3 cloves garlic: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
1 tbsp fresh thyme: 1 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.10
3 cups arugula: 12 calories, 0g fat, 1.5g fiber, 2.25g protein, $1.25
1 1/2 cups roasted winter squash: 134.6 calories, 2.3g fat, 4.5g fiber, 1.5g protein, $.21
4 eggs, beaten: 284 calories, 20g fat, 0g fiber, 24g protein, $0.00
2 tbsp almond or soy milk: 4.8 calories, 0.4g fat, 0.12g fiber, 0.12g protein, $0.06
TOTALS: 488 calories, 27.3g fat, 6g fiber, 27.75g protein, $1.69
PER SERVING (TOTALS/2): 244 calories, 13.7g fat, 3g fiber, 13.9g protein, $.85

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