Last weekend I spoke with Jim Wallace, a local cheese maker from Shelburne Falls. He makes several different varieties of cheeses, mostly all with Italian origins. Their entire basement is devoted to his productions of beer, cider, wine (red and white), sausage and, of course, cheese. Although I didn’t try the cheese for myself, he did describe each wheel’s individual flavor. Some were fresh cow’s milk cheeses, taking only several weeks to age, and others had been sitting for up to three months. The sausages hung drying in the same small back room, and they too had been aging for quite some time.
Wallace spends his time making cheese and wine simply because he wants to. Since the U.S. has strict standards on what’s appropriate for sale and consumption, most of his cheeses would not pass regulation. But that’s not to say that they aren’t normal, or sanitary. In fact, if I’m so bold, many of his creations are probably better than most of what we buy in stores simply because they are made specifically for enjoyment, rather than profit.
Wallace and his wife, Robin, have been going to Italy every other year to the cheese making festival in Bra (the origin of the movement and Carlo Petrini’s birthplace). They described the wide array of cheeses and people, hailing from all over the globe. Wallace and his wife don’t speak Italian, but they don’t need to. The crowd in Bra is mostly international, he says, and English is the common language.
He also described a town in Italy where the cheese making tradition functions much the same way it did a hundred years ago. During the season, the farmers climb the mountains with their livestock and actually live with them, pitching rudimentary tents in the hills. To me, it is not surprising that Italy has carried over such a rustic tradition. I have been to Europe before, and can attest to the comment that much of the lifestyle is still firmly rooted in the past. But, when I think about it, it is surprising that this tradition is still alive only because it produced the best cheese. So, in this case, the only reward is flavor. And if flavor is that important, we’ve still got a lot to learn about food.
I made this frittata with the winter in mind. Eggs and parmesan can be local, chives can be grown inside (sadly mine weren’t), the parsley pesto can be made during the summer. Maybe have some rolls as well?
Start with the mushrooms, I used a combination of shitake and cremini mushrooms.
Cut into narrow strips after washing and de-stemming.
The eggs should be light and well-whisked. Don’t add anything random to them, like milk or oil. They should taste as fresh as possible. Remember to oil the pan!
This could be a savory breakfast, brunch or lunch.
So I didn’t really measure anything, so these are loose estimations. For things like Frittata’s, just put as much as you want. It’s more about the look and taste than actually amounts.
For the Pesto:
2 cups parsely
1 cup swiss chard
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch of parmesan
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Combine in food processor. Pulse until very well blended and thick. Add more oil of not sticking together.
For the Mushrooms:
1 cup cremini mushrooms, cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup shitake, cut into 1 inch strips
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup wine
Oil pan and turn heat to high. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until browned. Add wine and turn to med. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the mushrooms are tender. Turn off, let sit to cool.
For all other Toppings:
1 scallion, finely chopped
small handful of chives, finely chopped
handful of shaved parmesan (about 1/3 cup)
Chop accordingly and set aside. These will be added once the eggs and mushrooms have cooked.
For the eggs:
Beat the eggs until well combined, they should be a light, even, consistency. Choose a frying pan that is small and tall, about 8 inches across. This give you the lightest and cakey-est frittata. Heat pan over medium and pour in the egg. Wait until a crust barley forms and use a spatula to pull the edges away so that the runny egg fills the gap. Keep going around the pan until most of the egg is cooked. Turn heat to low.
To Assemble Frittata:
Add a fine layer of cheese and then arrange the mushrooms on top. Then add the pesto in dollops around the frittata. Next, add chives, scallion and cheese. Turn oven on to broil and put pan in oven. Allow to cook for two minutes, or until the eggs have set and golden crust forms along the edge.