Summer dining made easy

Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer is really here. Temperatures are hitting above 90 on a regular basis, school is out and people have headed to pools.

We have many of firsts this summer at the Hall house. Holly is still in Atlanta and grad school will mean summer courses. Matthew is working as a counselor at a camp Laney until the first part of July. Emily not only has her driver’s license but she also has a job life guarding at the Stanton Hall pool. And me, I am off this summer, something I haven’t had since I started working when I was 16.

So far I have spent my first week and a half off trying to unpack the myriad of boxes that seem to continue to multiply no matter how many I unpack. I did find the time to get my herb garden and tomato plants in the ground before it gets too hot. My friend Ricky Smith who planted his tomatoes in his green house and doesn’t mind sharing. So with help from his tomatoes here is a quick and easy summertime dinner.

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First up is a simple basil and tomato salad. First take two large washed ripe tomatoes and slice them into rounds, do not peel. Then take a large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (it has to be fresh) and slice the same number of rounds as tomato slices. Alternate the tomato and mozzarella slices in a circle on a plate. Now take fresh basil leaves, wash them, dry them and stack the leaves together. Roll them tightly together long ways and slice across them. Sprinkle the basil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper over the tomatoes and mozzarella.

Now make a frittata. A frittata is sort of a baked omelet and like an omelet you can use just about anything in it.

Pancetta, broccoli and onion frittata

3 1/4 inch thick slices of pancetta or 3 slices of thick-cut bacon cut into 1/4 inch dice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup thin lengthwise slices white or Vidalia onion

2 cups cooked broccoli, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces

Freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine the pancetta or bacon and oil in a large nonstick skillet and cook over medium heat until the meat begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and a little pepper and cook, stirring until heated through, about one minute.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs, salt and a little pepper until blended. Add the eggs to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the eggs are set on the bottom and around the edges, about 4 minutes. With a spatula, lift one side of the frittata and tilt the pan so the raw eggs flow under the set eggs. Repeat at least twice at different places around the edge until the egg is no longer runny.

Sprinkle the frittata with the cheese if using, cover and cook over low heat until set, 10 to 15 minutes. If you prefer the top browned, preheat your broiler, then set the skillet under the heat just until the top is lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. To serve, loosen the edges with a spatula and slide the frittata onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Christina Hall is a columnist for the Natchez Democrat. She can be reached by e-mail at