Frittata

A frittata plate from Soups On (May 4, 2012)

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis says that her mother would make frittatas, the Italian egg dish, with whatever leftovers she had in the refrigerator. "

That was the joke," she tells viewers in segment of her cooking show. "What's in the frittata today, Mama?"

What better dish to serve Mom on Mother's Day?

A frittata is quick and easy, and the kids can help. As a bonus, Mom wakes to a clean fridge.

An omelet without the fold and a quiche without the crust, the frittata has its own selling points: It can be sliced and eaten, hot or cold, with a fork or fingers.

It can contain a single ingredient in addition to the eggs — meat, cheese, a vegetable or an herb — or any of those foods in any pleasing combination.

"Marylanders sure love their corn," said Kevin Mullaney of Soup's On on Preston Street in Baltimore. His Southwestern frittata, with Anaheim chilies, roasted peppers and roasted corn, tomatillo and pepper jack cheese, is the most popular on his menu.

"I wanted something that was going to be high protein and warm and good for brunch, lunch or dinner," said the Baltimore native, who operates this restaurant and two more in Florida with his twin brother, Keith.

"They are so easy to make" says Mullaney, whose customers are most often college students from the neighborhood. "The prep time is, like, 5 minutes and the cooking time is 20 to 25 minutes. A frittata can be vegetarian ... and because it has no crust, it is perfect for a gluten-free diet."

Frittata is an Italian word that comes from the verb "to fry," but in truth it can be baked or finished under the broiler, too.

And recipes reflect the bounty of the seasons. Asparagus, arugula, shallots and green onions, with fontina cheese, say spring. Mullaney makes a butternut squash, sage, ricotta and pancetta frittata in the fall. And one with portabello mushrooms and smoked mozzarella or Jarlsberg in winter.

His creations are as deep as a lemon meringue pie, with layers of vegetable, cheese and meat that demand a fork. But frittatas can also be as thin as a cracker and cut into squares and eaten like one, too.

If there is a challenge to the frittata, Mullaney admits, it is making sure that it is cooked through — it is made with raw eggs, after all — but not over-browned.

"Use organic ingredients," urges Mullaney, who makes a list of organic soups for his menu, too. And he likes to use eggs from free-range, hormone-free, grain-fed hens.

"A frittata is about eggs, after all," he said. "And you will taste the difference."

Asparagus, arugula, fontina and prosciutto frittata

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons shallots, chopped