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.
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1 large potato (about 200 g.), cut in quarters and sliced into thin rounds; or use 3 baby potatoes
about 1 cup pre-roasted grape tomatoes, or about 1-1/3 cups fresh, cut in half
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 pound (about 500 g.) firm or extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup (about 60 ml.) nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) potato starch
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) onion powder (not salt)
1 tsp. (5 ml.) turmeric
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) cashew butter
2 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a 9 or 10 inch tart pan, souffle dish, or a 9 inch square pan.
In a large frypan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, zucchini, and potato, and cook for about 5 minutes, just until the vegetables start to wilt. Add the 1/2 cup vegetable broth, cover, and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and the onion is beginning to brown. Turn off heat.
In a food processor, mix the tofu, nutritional yeast, remaining 2/3 cup broth, onion powder, turmeric, remaining 1tbsp. olive oil, and cashew butter, whirring until very smooth and evenly textured. Turn the mixture into a large bowl, and stir in the tarragon.
Add the vegetable mixture to the tofu and stir to blend well. Spread the mixture into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until firm and just beginning to brown on the edges. Cut into wedges to serve. Makes 8 servings.