Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta

 

Another recipe to celebrate the warm weather season, highlighting the deep and plentiful flavor of green asparagus which has popped up on almost every bistrot menu around Paris.  This year more than ever I’m learning to embrace the seasons, which bring along with them the adventure of learning to cook with what nature gives you.  Asparagus is a great ingredient to experiment with because it can be eaten in so many forms, whether puréed in a soup, tossed in a spring salad, or incorporated with eggs as is done here.  If you are left with extra asparagus spears while making this recipe, I suggest tossing the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting in a 220°C/400°F oven.  Once cooked you can top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar.

The pairing of green asparagus and eggs is effortless and harmonious, and by tossing pan-seared salmon into the frittata you include enough protein and energy to make this meal for a healthy lunch or dinner.  Fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, or parsley add brightness and a strong summer flavor.  If you decide to add a cheese such as feta, be prepared for a very particular tang with a slightly salty aftertaste.  Other cheeses that would work equally as well would be goat cheese, ricotta, or perhaps blue cheese for the strong-hearted.

I would definitely pair this frittata with a white wine with hints of spices, such as the Californian J Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.  For dessert, you could chop up two nectarines and slice a few ripe cherries, and toss them with 1 tablespoon honey, a drizzle of oil, and a handful of sliced fresh mint.  If you prefer to finish this frittata in the oven, instead of flipping it over and cooking the other side, place the (ovenproof) skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until set.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta – serves 1

1 salmon filet, about 6 ounces/185 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
3-4 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon

1. Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Rub all over with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
2. Heat a small 8-inch/20-cm skillet over medium heat. Add salmon filet, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides until cooked through. Remove salmon from heat, and with a fork gently break the fish apart into small, bite-size pieces.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, herbs, heavy cream, and a pinch each of salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper if you like things spicy). Whisk together with a fork. Add in the salmon bits and feta cheese, and combine gently.
4. Heat the teaspoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus bits to the pan and cook until tender but still crunchy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the egg mixture to the pan; swirl the pan around to coat evenly. Let eggs cook over medium heat, occasionally tilting the pan to one side and pushing the eggs to the center of the pan to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the skillet.
6. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back onto the skillet to heat the runny side. Cook until frittata is set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve on same large plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot Fish

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, since tomato season really isn’t here yet and the tomatoes coming from Morocco and Spain (the only ones available in Paris all winter long) pale in comparison to the locally grown summer tomatoes, bursting with so much flavor that they are good enough to eat plain, maybe with just a touch of coarse sea salt or a drizzle of olive oil.  But I couldn’t help trying out this dish because the big change in Paris has happened and I am officially in Spring/Summer mode.

When I say the “big change,” I am referring not only to the change in weather but more importantly to the change in personality of almost every one in Paris, myself included.  Paris is a different city once the weather turns, and in these warmer months even the typically frigid take on a softer side, and although I am sure this effect takes place in many cities I find that it is very marked here.

If I may, allow me to give you an example. Now you may or may not know that the Sorbonne (where I’m getting my masters in “Food Cultures” – I hope you’re not surprised), has every entrance door blocked by security guards, most of whom are rather serious, terse, and prefer to speak only when spoken to.  So I timidly walked to one of the entrances and dreaded having to tell the security guard that in fact, I lost my student ID card and need to enter in order to get a new one.  Please imagine my surprise when he responded to me in kind with, “Ne vous inquiétez pas mademoiselle, dans ce cas-là il ne me reste que de vous souhaiter une très bonne journée” – don’t worry miss, all that I need to do in that case is wish you a very pleasant day.  His reaction was shocking to me, but after thinking back I realize that every one I interacted with today was friendlier and more cheerful than normal, which is why I have come to the conclusion that Paris undergoes a drastic improvement once the clouds part and the sun graces us with her lovely presence.

Bref, that is why I made this Mediterranean dish.  Unfortunately these tomatoes from Morocco were underwhelming as predicted and I probably should have waited until summer to make this, when grape tomatoes are the perfect amount of sweet, salty, and tangy.  If you don’t have access to ripe tomatoes then perhaps you should wait to make this dish too. 

A few notes: firstly, you can certainly roast other vegetables along with the tomatoes: I think white onions, zucchini, or summer squash would all taste great with these flavors.  Additionally, what you add to the stuffing blend is up to you, feel free to do a pantry raid and add whatever you have in there that wouldn’t taste too funky (or let it taste funky, you’re only making it for yourself so you should do what makes you happy). 

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot – serves 1
7-8 grape tomatoes
dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
75g/2.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4-cup bread crumbs
3 large kalamata olives (or 4-5 small black olives), pitted and chopped
1 lemon
2 turbot fillets (150g/5.5oz)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
1. Cut all but one of the tomatoes in half, place on a lined baking dish, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Roast until softened, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining grape tomato, and combine in a bowl with the pine nuts, mint, feta, olives, and half of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, oregano, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
3. Rub the turbot fillets with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dredge in the remaining bread crumbs.
4. Remove tomatoes from oven, reduce oven heat to 160°C/360°F. and place one turbot fillet on the same baking sheet. Cover with stuffing and place remaining fillet on top. Drizzle with any remaining lemon juice and bake until fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes.