Flashback Friday – Pecking Order

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/12/08 at Exit 51.

Pecking Order

The ants are back.  Instead of climbing the walls of the building, they are swarming our trashcan.  There must be something irresistible down there to cause this urban safari.  Emerging from a crack in the sidewalk is a steady line of workers on their way to the target.  Mixed into the line are the ants that have already collected their bounty and are headed back to the colony.  They meander this way and that, around debris laying on the ground and each other.  Watching it reminds me of bumper cars. The zig, they zag, they bump off of one another, and they get back on course. And then the intruders show up.

In most situations, there is an established pecking order.  A before B.  B before C.  And so on.  Usually, the bigger you are, the higher you are in that order.  Think about how we are obsessed with the idea that bigger is better.  Supersize meals.  McMansions.  SUV’s.  More is more and the biggest one wins. Except that sometimes, bigger is NOT better.

Take those ants.  They are your typical picnic ant.  Not big at all, maybe 1/8 of an inch.  But when bigger ants show up and try to get in on the action, that little picnic ant becomes a mighty giant.  I watched in wonder as the big ants tried to cut through the line.  When they got close to a smaller ant, it’s like they got zapped by an electric shock.  They would jump back and twitch.  Every time.  It was fascinating.

Less can be more in the kitchen too.  Sometimes that heavy meal is just no match for something lower in the pecking order.  I’ve had dinner parties where we’ve eaten breakfast for dinner.  Pancakes, waffles, and bacon taste just as good at six o’clock in the evening as they do at six o’clock in the morning.

This recipe could not be easier and showcases how less can be more.  Pair it with a salad and serve it for brunch or dinner.

Less Is More Frittata

  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup regular or 2 percent milk
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 coarsely chopped spring onions (scallions), white and tender green parts only
  • 2 ounces (about 4 cups) baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (Note: I usually set the oven lower, 390-400, because I can never remember how oven safe my nonstick pans are.  If you lower the temperature, you will need to increase your cooking time slightly).

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese, chives and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a 10-inch nonstick, ovenproof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach, cover the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the cover and stir the spinach just until it wilts. Add the remaining oil and increase the heat to medium-high. Let the oil heat for 1 minute, then pour in the egg mixture. Use a fork to evenly distribute the spinach without scrambling the eggs. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes without stirring until you see the edges just starting to cook. Transfer to the oven.

Bake until the frittata has puffed and browned around the edges and is firm in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. To serve, slide the frittata onto a platter or invert the frittata onto the platter so the browned side is face up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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