Wednesday, August 02, 2006

a tiny, unexpected feast: part 2 — in which Tiny Banquet rassles with unfamiliar greens

With the plum tart and marinated summer squash complete, it was time to figure out what to do with the puntarelle.


I had been thinking I would simply chop it up and add it to a fritatta, but I tasted a leaf after I washed it and wow, it was really bitter. Was it supposed to be cooked?

I looked in The Silver Spoon but there was no mention of puntarelle under "greens" or "chicory." (I later noticed that it is briefly mentioned in the section on dandelion greens, but there is no recipe specifically for puntarelle and I'm still not clear on its relationship to dandelion greens). I then went to the Food Network, hoping that there would be a Mario Batali recipe explaining how to use it. There are three, and each one calls for soaking the puntarelle in ice water for ten to fifteen minutes. Grazie, Mario! After its immersion the puntarelle was still bitter but now quite edible.

While my greens were soaking I tried some Manouri cheese, a Greek sheep and goats' milk cheese. It's a bit salty, but less so than feta, and the texture is similar to chèvre. It's delicious and fresh-tasting and would be excellent for breakfast or dessert too, drizzled with honey.

Manouri cheese

Manouri cheese + bread

Now that the puntarelle was presentable I got started on the fritatta. (Frittata?) I am hoping that having a food blog will give me a bit more perspective on what works and what doesn't when it comes to fritattas, because at this point I make them often and each one is my new favorite, my new this-one's-the-best-one. They're a great way to use up small portions of vegetables, herbs, and cheeses that otherwise might go bad before they can be eaten, and they taste as good at room temperature as they do warm.

The particular combination of ingredients listed below worked really well together: The bitterness of the greens was well balanced by creamy ricotta cheese and spicy turkey sausage from DiPaola Turkey Farms (available at the Tompkins Square greenmarket on Sundays; I'm not sure of their Union Square schedule), and mint and summer savory are both superb with eggs.

this week's BFF (best fritatta forever)

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus an additional 2 tablespoons or so for cooking the egg mixture

6 to 8 ounces turkey sausage (not in casing)

6 to 8 eggs

salt, freshly ground pepper, freshly ground nutmeg

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped puntarelle (arugula, watercress, baby spinach or just about any green that doesn't need cooking would be a fine substitute)

chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used about 1/2 cup of spearmint — loosely packed — and two teaspoons of summer savory)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese (crumbled fresh goat cheese would be a nice substitute)

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat in a 9- or 10-inch skillet with an oven-safe handle and cook the sausage, stirring to break up the meat, until it is lightly browned (2 to 3 minutes). Remove the cooked sausage from the pan and set aside.

While the sausage is cooking, beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl and season with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg.

Remove the cooked sausage from the pan and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove. Add the eggs and cook over medium heat until they just begin to set on the bottom (less than a minute). Using a fork or silicon spatula, pull the edges toward the center of the pan, tilting the pan to distribute the runny parts evenly. Sprinkle the greens, the herbs, the sausage and the ricotta over the eggs and stir lightly. Continue stirring as needed until the mixture is nearly firm (3 to 4 minutes).

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the top is set and lightly browned (about 4 to 5 minutes). Serve immediately or at room temperature.

fresh savory

Fresh summer savory.

nutmeg and grater

If you store your nutmeg with a tiny grater
it is no less convenient than the pre-grated kind.

frittata with herbs, greens, sausage and ricotta

The finished fritatta.

With the marinated summer squash and startlingly good plum part for dessert, this unplanned meal turned out to be a memorable one.

I am not going to show a picture of the finished tart in its entirety because the grated almond paste became, um, less than photogenic while it cooked. Viewed by the slice, its not so bad. The taste, however, was extraordinarily good. The plums remained very tart because I'd used so little sugar; I haven't got much of a sweet tooth at all so feel free to double the quantity of sugar to 1/4 cup should any of you decide to try it, but for me the tartness was perfect. The plums melted into the consistency of preserves, and the almond paste and lavender enhanced their flavor without stealing the show.

a slice of plum tart


  1. mmmmm... anything using any of DiPaolo's sausages is alright in my book!
    my mom made us greenbeans with summer savory while we were up in the mountains
    she said back in "the day" (1800s) summer savory was called Bean Herb due to its proclivity to taste yummy with beans
    and it does... and now i know it tastes good with sausage too... might just have to pick up some of both today!
    see ya at the market!

  2. Amitabh5:35 PM

    Having the great good fortune to be invited to the tiny banquet sumptuous feasts I can attest to the following.
    Everything is quite delicious.
    The hostess is very cute and adorable.
    And her little dog loves her very much!

  3. Ann, that's interesting about savory - I added some to our yellow wax beans yesterday and it was delicious! - I'll have to remember this when I get around to cooking the rest of the dried beans I ordered from Rancho Gordo, too.
    Ami, you are too much. You are going to have to add that I didn't put any drugs in your food!

  4. Luisa4:20 PM

    What a gorgeous-looking frittata! I love puntarelle but admittedly have only ever eaten them in Rome, where farmers and cooks are born with the DNA to make them incredibly tasty. ;)

  5. Thanks Luisa! Hmmm, Cooking Puntarelle in Rome sounds like the name of a short documentary I'd like to see . . . .

  6. The frittata looks good! I have been trying to learn the ways of cooking with chicory - it's one of the greens that loves the foggy clime here. Summer savory is a mystery to be unveiled as well...