Parsnip frittata with chives and pecorino

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This time of year, when parsnip season is in full swing, I'm constantly asked for Meatless Monday recipes incorporating this vegetable. My Parsnip Frittata with Chives and Pecorino exudes everything that a meatless meal should be. There's protein packed in the eggs, nutrients from the parsnips and, most importantly, a bold punch of flavor from the chives and cheese.

A frittata is simply an Italian version of an omelet and is incredibly useful to have in your repertoire when in need of a speedy vegetarian meal. I've always been an advocate of eggs in all their forms: boiled, poached, scrambled ... the possibilities are endless. Combine them with almost any vegetable or cheese that you have on hand and you've got a delicious and balanced meal. Once your eggs hit the heat, it's essential to let them work their own magic without touching them too much. Thus my secret to the perfect frittata, and a quick and healthy vegetarian dish, is to bake it off in a piping hot oven (425 F) until the eggs are just cooked through.

Closely related to the carrot, the parsnip is a root vegetable that becomes sweeter after winter frosts in the ground. March is the perfect time to buy parsnips from your local market. The parsnip is native to the Eurasian continent and was first cultivated by the Romans as a sweetener before the arrival of cane sugar. Although sometimes still mistaken for the carrot, the parsnip flourished when introduced to the United States in the 19th century. They are usually served cooked, but can also be eaten raw like a carrot, which I find delicious when paired with homemade hummus or baba ghanoush (another meatless snack). But for these chilly March mornings, a warm and satisfying frittata is the way to go.

Parsnip Frittata with Chives and Pecorino

Recipe excerpted from "Molto Batali" (ecco, 2011)

Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 medium parsnips (approximately 12 ounces), peeled and cut into matchstick julienne

8 large eggs

1/2 cup Pecorino Romano

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

In a 12-inch ovenproof nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the parsnips and cook until they are very soft and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the eggs, cheese and chives in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mixture into the sauté pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, pulling the sides in with a wooden spatula to distribute raw egg around the pan, until the center is curd-like but still wet. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until just cooked through.

Invert the frittata onto a warmed serving platter, cut it into wedges, and serve.

(Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind twenty-four restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo. In this column, Mario answers questions submitted via social media and by people he encounters daily in Downtown Manhattan. Keep asking!)

(c)2014, MARIO BATALI. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
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