Each year as January draws to a close I eagerly await the first signs of spring. I realize it will be a while before spring arrives. However, within the next six weeks I am drawn out into the fields and hills of Piedmont in search of green growth.
As soon as the temperatures became more spring-like, I often met women on our hilly property. They stooped and often discussed with each other looking for new spring growth. Actually, it bothered me that these women were moving around our property in a way like it was the most natural thing in the world. But then I got used to it and also learned that this is so common in Italy. Apart from that, the women quickly convinced me of their innocence with their smiles and their willingness to pass on their knowledge to me. The women searched for wild spinach, wild leeks, borage and baby dandelion to cook their favorite and also very traditional spring dish: Frittata Piemontese.
Frittata is a traditional egg-based dish cooked all over Italy. You could compare it to an omelet or a crustless quiche. The difference in preparation between a frittata and an omelette is this: in the frittata, the eggs are added last, after all the other ingredients have already been fried in a pan. You can enjoy the frittata for both lunch and dinner. Very often it is also served cold and cut into small pieces for an aperitif!
The friendly ladies I met on my property gave me their recipe for the perfect Piedmontese frittata.
6 fresh eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
A good handful of freshly picked wild spinach (or other spring field vegetables)
Salt and pepper
Boil the spinach in hot water for one minute, then place in water filled with ice cubes.
Drain the water and dry the spinach carefully with a kitchen towel so that no liquid remains.
Roughly chop the spinach.
Using a medium-sized skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic. Fry the onions until transparent. Then add the spinach with some salt and pepper.
Stir slowly for about 5 minutes. Allow the spinach to absorb the garlic and onion flavors.
While the spinach is simmering, place the eggs in a bowl and whisk vigorously. Add the cheese with some salt and pepper. Stir well.
Add the eggs and cheese to the pan with the simmering spinach. Stir slowly for a few seconds and cover the pan with a lid.
Let the whole thing boil well and check everything regularly. When all the liquid has evaporated, the frittata is done. Then immediately remove them from the heat and serve them with a green salad, a crusty bread and a dry Piedmontese white wine.