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Perfect frittatas need oven time

Our spring entertaining often centers on brunch. Hungry, we’re looking for strong coffee and an easy-to-assemble main course. Enter the oven-baked frittata. Fresh eggs, beaten with cream or milk, embrace tender vegetables and fresh herbs.

Easier than an omelet, Italian-inspired frittatas are cooked in a skillet with the vegetables stirred in rather than used as a filling for folded eggs. Frittatas can be cooked completely on the stove top. I prefer to cook them in a low oven where the steady heat prevents excess browning and overcooking.

Accompany the asparagus frittata with sliced ripe tomatoes and crusty bread. Serve the carrot and spinach version with a berry fruit cup and toasted raisin bread.

Potatoes and asparagus make a delicious filling in this baked frittata. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Potatoes and asparagus make a delicious filling in this baked frittata. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

ASPARAGUS, NEW POTATO AND FRESH MOZZARELLA FRITTATA

Serves 6

8 small (1-inch diameter) new potatoes (12 ounces total), quartered

1 bunch (12 ounces) asparagus, tough ends trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 green onions, trimmed, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

10 large eggs

½ cup whole milk or half-and-half

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup diced (4 ounces total) fresh mozzarella or brick cheese

Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put potatoes into a large microwave-safe bowl. Add water to barely cover potatoes. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap vented at one corner. Microwave on high (100 percent power), stirring once, until nearly fork-tender, 4-5 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, cut asparagus into 1 inch lengths and set tips aside. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus stalks; cook until nearly fork-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in asparagus tips and green onions; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in potatoes and dill. (Mixture can be made ahead up to 2 days; re-warm before continuing.)

Whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Place skillet with vegetables over medium heat. When hot, sprinkle cheese over vegetables. Reduce heat to low; gently pour egg mixture over vegetables. Cook until bottom is nearly set, about 3 minutes. Transfer to oven; cook until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Serve warm sprinkled with more dill.

PER SERVING: 279 calories, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 327 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 337 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

CHEESY SPINACH AND TRI-COLOR CARROT FRITTATA

Serves 6-8

4 cups 1-inch cubes bread

2 small bunches (1 pound total) skinny carrots, (such as tri-color carrots), ends trimmed, peeled

1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 cups (5 ounces) baby spinach or baby kale leaves

12 large eggs

1 cup half-and-half or milk

½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup shredded cheese, such as Parmesan or Gouda

Chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley and cilantro

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet. Bake until barely golden, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a well-buttered 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

Cut carrots into ½-inch wide rounds. Mix carrots, onions and oil on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Bake until fork-tender and golden, 20-30 minutes. Stir in garlic and spinach to coat spinach with oil. Return to oven to wilt spinach, 2-3 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Distribute carrot mixture over bread cubes in the baking dish.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, thyme, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Carefully pour into baking pan. Use the back of a spoon to immerse bread into egg mixture.

Bake 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Continue baking until a knife inserted comes out clean, 5-10 minutes more. Use a metal spatula to cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

PER SERVING (for 8 servings): 285 calories, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 294 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 634 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

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