Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shiitake, Asparagus, Goat Cheese, Dill Frittata: Beating eggs and parking structures

Parking structures.

Just hearing the words out loud is enough to make me break out in hives. I hate them. Despise them. Curse the day they were born (in 1918, according to Wikipedia).

While I understand the practicality of having a multi-story structure as opposed to a lot that only allows for a single layer of cars, I'm always slightly terrified when forced to enter one. Like I'm being sucked into a cement vortex where only bad things can happen.

I mean I could lose my car. My goldfish could die while I'm looking for it. And I could get caught peeing in the corner by a police officer. (Thank you, Seinfeld.)

So I avoid them. I walk (yes, walking does exist in LA) to the malls that are in my general vicinity -- the Grove and the Beverly Center. And, when I'm actually forced to park at the Grove (my preferred shopping venue), I always opt to use the open-air, single level Farmers Market lot -- even when I have no business to do there.

Parking in said lot does, however, require validation from the Farmers Market, which I usually have no trouble securing. I'll buy an apple from the Farm Boy stand, maybe a couple medjool dates if I'm feeling extravagant, and be on my merry little way. I always feel impossibly pleased with myself that I cheated the system. That I championed over the evil parking structure and its neverending circles and nonsensical arrows.

A few months ago during one such trip to the Grove, I opted to swing into Sur La Table at the market to pick up my validation. I figured I'd buy a spatula or something else inexpensive, but completely functional, and call it a day. Yet as I held the $14.95 spatula in my hand, I was suddenly struck by the ridiculousness of what I was about to do.

"Really, Diana, you are going to spend $15 on a spatula just so you don't have to pay $4 for parking in a lot without validation?"

"It's the principle," I argued back. "I WILL NOT PAY FOR PARKING!"

And that's when I spotted it. The small cast iron pan that was also $14.95 -- obviously a much better buy than the spatula that would have been the fourth member of my multi-colored spatula family.

I leapt on it. Clasped the handle tightly in my hand and nearly thrusted it into the air like it was a sword and I was Mel Gibson in Braveheart.

"I will make loads of frittatas!" I reasoned as I strode forward to the counter, again completely tuning out all rational thought. Clearly, it was completely sane that I would rather spend $15 on a pan I was designating for something I'd never ever made before than, A.) Pay for parking, B.) Venture into a parking structure like a normal human being, and C.) Buy a brother for Suzy the spatula (she's hot pink and sparkly).

In my mind what I was doing was totally sensible. I was going to be the frittata queen, after all.

Of course the pan didn't even make it out of the bag for the first month. Then, when I finally managed to move it to the cabinet, it continued to sit untouched with the label affixed for the next two months.

It wasn't until last weekend that I finally decided to attempt the frittata I had been so excited to make three months ago.

I was a little nervous as I cracked my eggs into a bowl and whisked them about with a touch of milk, salt and pepper. I carefully added my sauteed (and slightly cooled) shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and shallots, and then stared into the cast iron pan, still a bit unsure about what I was about to do. My head was filled with images of the egg shellacking itself to the pan -- burning into an unrecognizable state and destroying the pristine finish of my newest nonsensical kitchen acquisition.

I turned the heat on, drizzled in enough olive oil to coat the base of the skillet, then carefully eased my egg mixture in. I started at the sound of the sizzle. Cursed myself again for not buying Bob the blue spatula, for being afraid of the parking structure and for my unwillingness to ever pay for parking. Ever.

But then something extraordinary began to happen. The egg mixture started to look frittata-ish. I jammed the hot pan into the oven and waited, breathless, for the top to set. In less than three minutes it was done -- ready to be clobbered with goat cheese and slid onto my plate.

"I beat the structure," I thought as I stared at my creation.

And three months later, I beat some tasty eggs too.

Shiitake, Asparagus, Goat Cheese, Dill Frittata
Serves 1

2 eggs
1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 shallot, finely minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced asparagus
2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
Goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon milk
Olive oil
Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat 8'' cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add splash of olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pan. Add the shallots and saute 2-3 minutes before adding the asparagus and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and continue sauteing over medium heat until vegetables are tender, approximately 3 additional minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Allow to cool slightly.

Crack two eggs into a bowl. Add the milk, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk together. Gently stir in the vegetables and dill.

Wash and dry cast iron pan completely. Return to medium high heat and then add enough olive oil to lightly coat the base of the pan. Pour in the egg mixture and let settle for one minute before nudging the edges in with a spatula so that the uncooked center runs out to the sides. Cook for another minute or so or until the center starts to set.

Remove the pan from the stove and transfer to the oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes or until the top is completely jiggle-free. Top with crumbled goat cheese then slide out from the pan onto a plate.

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