Introduction: Tomato Frittata

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…

Another entry in the roasted tomato saga: the effortless breakfast. A close relative of the Corn and Onion Frittata.

Step 1: Theory

Why a frittata and not a regular omelet or scrambled eggs? And what's the difference, anyway?

An open-faced omelet with other ingredients, such as cheese or vegetables, mixed into the eggs rather than used as a filling. (Thank you, American Heritage Dictionary.)

I am NOT a morning person, but really like to eat a good breakfast. To qualify, said breakfast must contain lean protein, some veggies, not much fat, and lots of flavor; it must also keep me mostly full and occupied until lunch. Managing to hit all of these things was rather hard until Eric figured out a system. We prefer different things in our frittatas, but the basic technique remains the same.

Pan Selection: first, find yourself a nice stainless steel omelet pan. Nonstick pans contain teflon, and you've probably heard lots of reallyscarythings about teflon; while the jury is still out on exactly how bad teflon is for you, I'm avoiding it when there are other nice easy options. Additionally, nonstick pans shouldn't be put under the broiler, so you're still better of going with the stainless pan. You can usually find an 8" All Clad stainless omelet/fry pan for sale for $19.99 somewhere on the internet, and it will last forever. The low-heat slow cooking we use here prevents the eggs from sticking to the stainless pan, otherwise a common problem when cooking eggs.

Timing: we're going to start everything cooking on VERY LOW, then run off for a shower. This gives you a large window; you can leave the eggs for anything between 15-30 minutes. This should be plenty of time for a leisurely shower, whatever primping you require, and even some clothes before returning to give breakfast a 2-minute hit under the broiler. This translates to ~3 minutes of chopping and/or dumping on the front end, and another quick transfer just before eating. Even in my sleep-deprived pre-shower state I can usually manage this, though I will thoroughly recommend hooking up with a nice morning person who is willing to start breakfast for you.

Alternatively, just add a scoop of whatever leftovers you've got in the fridge. I've used chopped up bits of leftover meat, veggies, stews, curries, whatever - most anything tastes good with eggs.

Step 2: Prepare Frittata Ingredients

Assemble the following ingredients:

stainless omelet pan
canola oil (regular or spray)

roasted tomatoes
chopped garlic (fresh or roasted with the tomatoes)
optional: red onion, thinly sliced
egg whites (in a carton or freshly separated)

optional toppings: parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper

Set the empty pan on the stove, turned on as low as it goes, and leave it alone for a minute while you chop your tomatoes, basil, and garlic. A couple of whacks will do; this isn't the French Laundry or anything nearly so fancy or complicated. Think fresh, rustic food, and give the bits a few machete-like whacks with your big chef's knife. If you fear for your fingers in your sleep-deprived state, prep your ingredients the night before or earlier in the week and stay away from the knives until you've had your shower/coffee/etc.

Step 3: Start Cooking

By now the pan should be getting warm. Spray it with the canola oil, and drop the tomatoes, basil, onions, and garlic in. Spread them evenly around the bottom of the pan. If there's loud sizzling you'll need to turn the heat down farther. Really, I mean it: turn it as low as it will go.

Pour in the egg whites, at least enough to fully cover the bottom. The more you add the thicker your frittata will be; experiment a bit to see what you like. (Note that the "Real Egg Product- 99% Egg" sounds a bit scary; the other 1% is vegetable gums for consistency, and beta carotene to mimic the color of whole eggs. We prefer to get the 100% pure egg whites, but not all stores carry them and they may be more expensive. Stay the heck away from Egg Beaters; read the label.)

Grind pepper over the top, and sprinkle with parmesan if you're using it.

Walk away for a while. Take a shower, check your email, make your coffee; do whatever you need to become a functional human being again. After you've seen this cook once, you'll believe me and go have your shower without fear of burned breakfast. Come back somewhere between 15-30 minutes later. Note that the thicker you make your frittata the more time you'll have to mess with.

Step 4: Broil

Now that you're properly awake, come back and check the frittata. Rotate the pan around to test. Is the middle cooked through? Are there still runny bits on top, or is the top solid? If the middle is cooked through, you're good to go. Solid or runny tops will both finish just fine under the broiler.

So: put your oven rack on the highest shelf, and turn the broiler on. Remember to turn the stove off. (Not that I've ever forgotten...)

Stick the pan directly under the broiler. Keep an eye on it, because this goes fast and you can easily end up with a blackened frittata.

Remove the pan when the top looks properly golden-brown.

Step 5: Serve and Eat

Grab a spatula (one of those silicone ones works nicely) and scoot the frittata out onto a plate. If the heat was low enough, you shouldn't see anything sticking to the bottom of the pan. The smeary stuff you see here rinses off easily.

Arrange your frittata more artfully than I have. Bits of basil would make it look far classier.

If you've got a balsamic reduction around, squirt some over/around the frittata to provide a sweet/savory counterpoint to the flavor of juxtaposition of essence...blahblahblah. Balsamic, particularly reduced balsamic, makes everything taste good. It's particularly effective if there are tomatoes involved. I'll put up an instructable on this when Trader Joe's gets their cheap balsamic back in stock. Done!

The balsamic didn't make it into this picture because I was too hungry to get the camera again.