April in Chicago has been almost unforgivably gray and rainy. The only consolation of consecutive days of sagging skies is the lovely budding and greening that’s happening all around the city. The chives on our porch are a perfect example, as their verdant leaves seemed to have burst out of the dirt overnight.
So when I woke up a few weeks ago to the familiar drum of rain on the roof, I decided I would spend the morning in the kitchen making a frittata. I headed to the supermarket for ingredients–feeling especially determined to incorporate Swiss chard, one of the hearty leafy greens I all too often neglect in my everyday cooking.
Every time I’m in the produce aisle, I can feel chard’s inky dark green leaves antagonizing me with their visible good nutrition. I sheepishly look away and shuffle on, reaching instead for the safer, more familiar green: baby spinach. One of these days, I tell myself, I will find ways to incorporate chard more regularly into my diet.
I have come to realize that my aversion to chard (and mustard greens, collards and kale, for that matter) stems partly from the fact that I have very little experience cooking with leafy greens, having grown up largely on the concept of greens as raw food. Aside from the occasional sautéed spinach side dish, I have mainly known greens in raw salads. That said, I have found that the best way to incorporate newer foods is to ease into them by adding them to familiar dishes. In this case, I thought I would take a basic vegetable frittata recipe and swap out my typical spinach with finely chopped chard.
A frittata is essentially the Italian version of an omelet, cooked until firm in a heavy skillet and served open-faced (not folded). So it makes sense to prepare it using simple Italian ingredients like sweet basil, yellow bell pepper and sharp, salty Parmesan–which also happen to make wonderful counterparts to the mildly bitter chard. A little smoky bacon doesn’t hurt, either.
As I methodically plucked the ingredients for my hearty Italian omelet from the shelves of the grocery store, my fears eased. I called my sister, Maddy, who promptly came over for a long lunch that also involved hunks of crusty bread and far too much coffee.
“Do you like it?” I cried, before she had barely swallowed her first bite. “Marge, it’s delicious,” she replied. “The dark green specks you see in there are Swiss chard,” I bragged. After two large slices apiece and half a baguette, we sunk down a little in our chairs and spent the afternoon talking in the warm kitchen, not minding the rain one bit.
Frittata with Swiss chard, bell pepper and bacon
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch lardons
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1 medium shallot, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups Swiss chard, stems removed and finely chopped (make sure you dry it thoroughly)
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Arrange an oven rack so it’s approximately six inches beneath the broiler; preheat the broiler on high. In a 10- to 12-inch, oven-safe, non-stick skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and brown. Remove, and set on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off most of the fat, and heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, bell pepper, salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft. Next, add the chard in batches, and cook another 3 minutes, until it’s slightly wilted.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, basil, chives, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and pour the eggs over the vegetables. Sprinkle the cooked bacon evenly over the eggs as well. Cook the frittata on the stovetop for about 5 minutes. While it cooks, tilt the pan slightly several times and move the egg around with a rubber spatula so every part gets exposed to the heat. Once the edges of the omelet have begun to set, sprinkle the top evenly with Parmesan cheese. Don’t worry if the omelet still looks very loose on top at this point; it will firm up in the oven.
Slide the pan into the oven, and broil for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until the frittata has puffed up to a lovely golden brown and the cheese has melted. (Make sure you keep an eye on it. This part happens fast.)
Remove, and let the frittata cool on the counter for about 5 minutes. Then, slide your spatula around the edge of the pan several times, and carefully slide the frittata out of the pan and onto a large platter. Cut into large wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.