Nasty Capers: The G-Rated Kind

We decided to grow our first patio garden this summer. It started with flowers–impatiens, lobelia, alyssum, and empresses of India. These were only for show, except then I realized, not having read the label very carefully at the nursery, that the empress of India is a nasturtium.

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We reused recyclable bags and other containers we had lying around for our garden. The planters on the railing were left behind by the previous tenants.

What’s the big deal about nasturtiums, you ask? Nasties (as I prefer to call them) are edible, that’s what. Leaves, flowers, and all. Eventually our garden grew to include other edible things, but since the nasties were planted so early, they were the first to be harvested.

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The nasties, when they were still babies.

They grew quickly, like mint. I didn’t take photos of the bounty, so I don’t have them to show, but we experimented with using the leaves in stews to add a dash of flavor or even as a replacement for spinach. The leaves were peppery and interesting in flavor… but ultimately, we never really got around to doing much with the plant, even though it’s said to be a great addition in salads. Thankfully, it didn’t care what we thought: it continued to grow beautifully, developing buds that bloomed into the most beautiful flowers (also edible!).

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Don’t worry, the petals aren’t stained: those are just raindrops clinging to the flower like it’s no big deal.

To show how on top of things we were, we also never used the flowers. Not even to pretty up desserts. Not even to pretty up a vase! The flowers started drying out, the leaves started browning, and then one day, when he was out watering the garden, CS came into the kitchen exclaiming: “The nasties are bearing fruit!”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. “Those are seeds. I remember reading about that.”

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The seeds grow in pods of three (the third one is teeny tiny and hiding). This one’s hissing at us.

I had a vague memory of reading about how the seed pods can be used to make poor man’s capers—nasty capers, that is. So, this time, we were on top of things and collected as many of the seeds as we could, leaving behind the ones that were still tiny for a later harvest.

Now I am following directions on how to pickle nasturtium pods to make our own homemade capers. The pods we picked may be a little too mature—the reddish-brown coloring indicates they were starting to dry out—but I have my fingers crossed and am hoping for the best. Sure, we struck out with the leaves, didn’t even show up to bat with the flowers, but we might still bring it home (or maybe just to 3rd plate) with the pods.

Off to a Frittata Start

All great days begin with a great breakfast. So, you can imagine what my life was like as a teenager: despite my mother’s best efforts, I would mix Coca Cola into a glass of milk and count that as a breakfast had. Suffice it to say, my mornings were lackluster. I am glad to share that that particular “meal” hasn’t seen the light of day since.

Marigolds and impatiens, picked from our patio garden to dress up the dining table

Cooking in the morning can be such tedious business, especially when your eyes are crusted with sleep. For the longest time, I stuck to toast and cereal. Over the past year, though, I’ve started to think of starting my day by cooking as the activity that wakes me up. Other people go jogging, I go dicing.

I have a few staple breakfast dishes, and the easiest of them revolves around eggs. Most days scrambled eggs do the trick, but as this was a late Sunday morning, and breakfast was turning into brunch, we decided to go with something a little fancier but still rustic: the frittata.

Kale, Red Onion, and Tomato Frittata

Kale, Red Onion, and Tomato Frittata. See how all the kale’s in a layer on the bottom? That’s because I poured the egg mixture on top.

A frittata is just a quiche-like omelette (without the hassle of a crust) prepared in a skillet. It’s an easy, hearty breakfast to make in the mornings because as long as you have enough eggs (and if you don’t, you can just make an omelette instead!) you can fill up the dish with whatever filling you happen to have on hand. In our case: kale, red onion, and tomatoes.

You can add whatever you want to a frittata: meat, cheese, vegetables, herbs...

You can add whatever you want to a frittata: meat, cheese, vegetables, herbs…

We’ve also had some cheese in our fridge for a couple weeks. For whatever reason, we just weren’t working our way through it! We had butter cheese and old cheddar, but feta is my favorite thing to have on a frittata, because it’s both salty and holds its shape well. But cheese is cheese, so we sprinkled some into our frittata and enjoyed every creamy bite, mmm…

A slice of gooey goodness

This is what a slice of gooey goodness looks like. In case you were wondering.

The great thing about preparing a frittata is that you can easily make it with the “it will work out more or less” mentality. These are approximately the measures I used, but if you don’t have enough (or too much) of something, don’t worry about it. Frittatas are very forgiving.

Kale, Red Onion, and Tomato Frittata

4 large kale leaves, chopped (about 3-4 c)
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 green onion
1 large tomato, chopped
6 eggs
1/2 c milk
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tbs cheese
fresh basil, minced
butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half the cheese with salt and pepper and set aside. Melt a dash of butter on a 9-inch skillet on low heat. Add red onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Do the same with the green onions and tomatoes, separately and in that order. When ready, pour the veggies into the egg-milk mixture.

In the same skillet, melt some more butter and add the chopped kale. Cook on low heat until it shrinks to half its size. Pour in the egg mixture and sprinkle reserved cheese and basil on top. Cook the frittata on low heat for 5-10 min, or until you start to see it set around the edges, and then transfer to the oven. Bake for another 10 min, or until the frittata has set and is golden around the edges.

I’ve never been very diligent about timing how long my frittata spends on the stovetop versus in the oven. And from what I understand, you could prepare it entirely in the stovetop or entirely in the oven. As long as it sets (and tastes great), anything goes. I love how flexible this dish is!

We decided to slide our frittata out of the skillet, but you can serve it right from the pan. If you somehow happen to have leftovers, just seal with plastic wrap and eat for breakfast (or lunch!) the next day.