Frugal Frittata

April 22, 2008


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As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

Whenever we visit my family in Montreal as we did this past weekend, I return to Toronto feeling a little discombobulated.  Since I was a callow young’un when I moved away from home (at 17), I never really got to know La Belle Ville that well before I left, so I always feel like a tourist when I return.  At the same time, these somewhat frenetic, drive-by junkets (never more than 2 days long) tend to be so micro-scheduled that our itinerary is often tighter than one of Madonna’s corsets. 

Regarding our “visits,” the HH once remarked, “I’ve been coming to Montreal with you for ten years, and all I’ve ever seen is a hotel, your dad’s house and your sister’s apartment.”  Unfortunately, too true, and this last trip was no exception.

Still, I do enjoy reuniting with family and friends, even if for a few minutes each during out revolving-door visits.  And despite my anxiety over a still-tentative back, the driving was fine.  By late Sunday, we’d arrived back in Toronto, picked up The Girls from doggie daycare (“Thank God you came back, Mum!  We thought you had abandoned us forever!“) and returned home to feed them–and us.

Striding into the empty house, setting down bags and opening windows, I felt the familiar combination of exhaustion, relief, and hunger that always occurs upon returning home after a long trip. A quick glance in the refrigerator revealed a sad inventory of the following: one carton of firm tofu; a lone zucchini (looking almost as tired as I felt); a bag of baby potatoes sorely in need of attention; a bunch of fresh tarragon (bought on a whim after I was inspired by Lucy‘s fabulous post on Leek and Flageolet Soup), and a pint of grape tomatoes, sporting an uncanny resemblance to fingertips that have lingered too long in a warm bath. (And isn’t it interesting how, even though everything here in Canada is metric and I always refer to liquids in those terms–I would never say “a quart of milk”–that I still think of those little cartons for berries or grape tomatoes as “pints”?). 

Faced with this unpromising array of tired, wizened produce, the HH responded with a characteristic reaction:  “Okay, let’s go out to eat.” 

Now, I do believe that anyone who knows me well would never describe me as “extravagant.”  In fact, I am rather moderate in my spending habits. Come to think of it, I am extremely economical as a  rule.  Well, actually, I’m even what you might call unbelievably frugal most of the time.  Parsimonious, even.  Oh, all right, fine, I admit it!  I am stingy!  I’m a tightwad!  I’m a total cheapskate

Really, I hate spending money unnecessarily. I will do my darndest never to pay a higher price for an article I KNOW costs less elsewhere. I actually find it fun to plan out a budget; I get a kick out of (literally) saving my pennies; I thoroughly enjoy scanning the grocery flyers so that I can plan out a shopping route worthy of a military operation. As a shopper, I experience a little frisson of pride every time I nab one of those funky sweaters I’ve ogled in the store window all season, now at 50% off (even if I don’t actually need a funky sweater and only manage to wear it once before stumbling upon it again years later, abandoned at the bottom of a drawer, at which time I pack it up to send to Goodwill).

As a result, there’s no greater crime in our house than spending money on a restaurant meal if it means throwing away otherwise perfectly good food.

And so, after having just spent a small fortune on travel, boarding The Girls, AND an opulent dinner last week, I was faced wtih my mission, and I chose to accept it: make use of all those leftovers in the fridge–even those shrivelled, elderly tomatoes. 

“No way,” I responded, “I can make something out of this.  No sense in wasting it.” (Yep, if ever there were a couple who embodied the phrase, “opposites attract,” the HH and I would be it).

Cooking tofu for the HH has become quite a challenge of late, as there are very few tofu-centric meals he’ll deign to eat.  And while he did adore my tofu omelette a while back, the prospect of cooking and flipping four of them just then was beyond the bounds of my remaining energy. 

I decided to try a frittata.  I love fritattas, and hadn’t had one in ages.  Besides, like George and Jerry propounding on salsa, I may like the final product, but love the sound of the word even more:  free-TA-ta.  Like some rollicking anthem a group of suffragettes might have sung as they turned on their heels and sashayed off into the sunset. 

My only real problem was the pile of slightly shrivelly tomatoes, too old to attract a suitor, yet still too fresh to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren.  Then I remembered a great recipe from Martha Stewart (who is, herself, still rather spry looking–even though, in fact, old enough to start dispensing sage advice to the grandchildren) for oven-roated tomatoes.  The slow heat renders them no longer really juicy, but not dry, either, dehydrated just enough to intensify the natural sweetness of the fruit. And with grape tomatoes, the oven time could be cut down considerably.

So, while the red grapes roasted, I parboiled the potatoes and zucchini, sliced into rounds.   For the base of the fritatta, I employed a variation of my original omelette mixture with a few modifications to create a more savory, firmer texture.  I added the chopped tarragon, which brought it all together with its intense grassy color, light flavor and slightly flowery aroma.

Overall, this was a perfect homecoming dinner:  simple, satisfying, evoking springtime and–much to my delight–highly economical.  And since this is so chock-full of veggies, I’ve decided to submit it to the weekly ARF/5-A-Day event, hosted by Cate at Sweetnicks.  You can check the full roundup every Tuesday!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Tofu Frittata with Potatoes, Zucchini and Oven Roasted Grape Tomatoes


Hearty and colorful with healthy veggies, this dish makes a wonderful light dinner or showpiece for a brunch table.  Of course, you can vary the veggies to your taste (just keep the basic volume about the same).  If you don’t feel like roasting your tomatoes, just cut them in half and use them as-is. 



17 Responses to “Frugal Frittata”

  1. Cmoore Says:

    Mmm, this is one of my favorite posts thus far, maybe because I’m “thrifty” (as my friend Allison politely terms it), too. And I really love challenge dinners like this — I used to listen to NPR’s radio show where the host would list 5-6 ingredients and listeners would call in with ideas for making dinner. You definitely would have won the challenge with this beauty. Bonus points for suffragettes mention.

  2. VeggieGirl Says:

    Despite feeling like a tourist, it DOES sound like your trips home are quite enjoyable – and that’s what counts! :0)

    Wow, that tofu-frittata looks just like the “real thing” (haha). Glad that you found a tofu-containing dish that HH will eat.

    Happy Earth Day!

  3. Yay for frugal girls! I understand your feeling, and I would’ve done the same! only less attractive, that’s for sure. The frittata looks so great (and so frittata-ish!)

  4. Celine Says:

    this is absolutely stunning!! and hooray to find out you’re a fellow “won’t spend more than needs to” kind of gal. 🙂

  5. Lucy Says:

    Well, I wouldn’t have believed it was chock full ‘o tofu if I was left with the images alone. Utterly amazed that’s tofu. It’s a fridge-clean-out stunner!

    You see, you go away, come back and still manage to write up a a great piece. Sigh.

    I’m with Cmoore. Bonus points for mentioning the suffragette movement and Martha Stewart in one post!

  6. Courtney Says:

    I love your posts, Ricki! (your recipes too!) And I can totally relate–I am so cheap! It is actually a joke among my family and friends. So I know exactly how good it felt to make something out of the things in your fridge–and something delicious and beautiful to boot?! You are much more talented than me…not all of my “creations” turn out so well 🙂 I can’t wait to try this!


  7. Ricki Says:

    I love the sound of that NPR show (must see if I can find it on the internet)! Glad to find another “thrifty” person (and thanks for the bonus points!). 🙂

    I did have a moment’s hesitation when I saw how the photo came out–but really, it does look like this! Maybe that’s why the HH will eat it. . .

    Alice (in Veganland),
    So glad that frugal girls are appreciated by blog readers! Nice to find some like-minded people 🙂

    Thanks! I love that so many people feel the same way (now I just need to work on the HH). 😉

    Tofu–promise. And really, isn’t Martha sort of a latter-day suffragette? So it was really just one mention. . .

    Thank you so much! After years of being teased by family and friends, I am so glad that there are other cheapskates out there!! (I think I may have to start a support group or something) 😉 . And it did feel really good to use up all that food (and freeze the leftovers, of course).

  8. Johanna Says:

    This looks much more delicious and healthy than anything you could buy at a restaurant. Frugality is indeed the mother of invention. My favourite word in your post has to be discombobulated and I was wishing, when you started waxing lyrical about frittata, that you might call it Discombobulated Frittata! I hope to try a vegan fritatta so this is great inspiration.

  9. […] Diet, Dessert and Dogs was thinking eggs this week too, and offers her Frugal Frittata: […]

  10. Dani Says:

    Wow… who knew you could make a tofu fritatta?? That looks great!

  11. Mihl Says:

    Please, I want a piece of this fritatta now. Please! It looks so good!
    And I think you are totally right about saving money and spending it carefully.

  12. michelle Says:

    oven roasted tomatoes = yum. and the fritatta looks so dense and creamy and satisfying.

    working with some with “nutritional yeast” does weird me out a little, though. i guess that’s why i’m not a vegan. well that, and i love bacon.

  13. Lizzie Says:

    That looks mighty tasty, Ricki. And who’d of thought — cashew butter in a fritatta? Good call for some extra protein and tasty too!

    I’m a big fan of ridding my fridge of foods that are close to their “best by” dates with fritattas. Great work!

  14. Cakespy Says:

    Oh my goodness. I love a good frittata, even if I always spell it wrong… and this one looks majorly fiiiiiine. It looks so dense and lovely, just the way I like it!

  15. Ricki Says:

    Glad you like the look of it–maybe this is your portal into the world of tofu? And “discombobulated” is a great word, isn’t it?

    Thanks! Blog-cooking has brought all kinds of new food into my life!

    Thanks for the positive feedback re: finances. The frittata’s not hard to make if you crave some!

    Thanks for your comment, and for visiting! I know what you mean about the nutritional yeast (just the word, “yeast,” prevented me from trying it for some time). Now that I’ve used it for a while, though, I can assure you it’s harmless 😉 .

    Thanks! The cashew butter isn’t really detectable, but it does act sort of like a binder (and adds a little richness). Frittatas are great as “kitchen sink” foods, aren’t they?

    I prefer the really dense ones, too (and tofu is so perfect for that). Must admit, I looked up the spelling before posting 😉 .

  16. Crystal Says:

    This was great! Your pictures kick my pictures butt though. I’m so exited for left overs.

  17. […] this ban will also affect other dishes that harbor grains-in-hiding, such as my tofu omelette or fritatta, or even a delectable nut roast (which contains some breadcrumbs and flour).  What the heck will I […]

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