Barbara O’Brien is one of those women who wear about 10 different hats and all of them are haute couture.
There’s her medical hat — she’s a now-retired nurse-practitioner. Her wide-ranging career included stints at the Wood County Health Depart-ment, in migrant health care, as an industrial nurse for Owens Corning, and as an OB-GYN nurse in Toledo.
She designs her own jewelry.
She does costumed historical portrayals of a pioneer ancestor.
She’s also a near-professional entertainer. Just recently, she hosted a baby shower for a friend from one of her book clubs. “It was a sit-down champagne brunch for 20 women.”
And coming up she has plans to host both a going-away party for friends and a racquetball party for her husband and 10 other men.
“I love to entertain. I’m an organized person” and that is the key factor in entertaining, she believes.
For anyone else who wants to host a brunch for friends, family or colleagues, O’Brien suggests Italian Frittata.
“This is very easy to make for company. Unlike scrambled eggs or an omelet that cools off right away as soon as you take it out, this stays hot in the pan for quite awhile.
“And the other thing — you can serve it room temperature and it’s still good.”
“Frittata means ‘to fry’ in Italian,” according to O’Brien, who said she’s been making the dish for years.
“The first place I got it was probably Bon Apetit (magazine) in 1993. Then I modified it over time.”
The possibilities for ingredient substitution are practically endless, making the dish ideal to customize for particular guests who may prefer ham or crispy fried bacon to the sausage in the frittata. There’s also an array of cheeses that work well.
“This (version) is parmesan, but cheddar is good, and goat cheese with spinach is amazing.”
O’Brien’s husband Tom knows well how much his wife likes to experiment with foods.
“I have 80 cookbooks and I subscribe to three or four cooking magazines. And I love to modify things. I think that’s the sign of a good cook.”
O’Brien, a native of New York, grew up in a Polish family “where food was the centerpiece of everything.”
She comes from a long line of working women, who nevertheless were also excellent cooks.
“My mom was a psych nurse. One grandma worked in a research facility, and my other grandma was a cook in different restaurants.”
O’Brien’s daughter and three sons also all love to cook, says their mom.
“They call me (for only two reasons): If they’re sick, and to get recipes!”
O’Brien even created the perfect family heirloom for her brood a few years ago when she compiled a family cookbook.
“We did it all on the computer, Tom and I... something like 100 recipes. It was a lot of work!”
Her dream is to next year travel to the scenic Amalfi Coast of Italy, near Capri, to take a week-long cooking course.
Closer to home, she’ll exercise her cooking chops at the introductory event of the 2008-09 season for the local University Women, a group in which she is very active. It’s a Fall Brunch in late August when members vie to impress. In fact, she brought the frittata to the event a few years ago, where it speedily disappeared.
The dish feeds 10 easily. Prep time is about 10 minutes, including the vegetable chopping included, and total time to complete the dish is 30 or 35 minutes.
Despite the vegetables, don’t hesitate to serve the Italian frittata if children are on the guest list. “Kids usually like eggs that way.”
A unique and easy breakfast/brunch egg dish
1 cup chopped seeded tomato
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped zuchini
½ pound Italian sausage
1 Tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
8 large eggs
¼ cup butter
salt and pepper to taste
In a large (12-inch) non-stick skillet (with oven-proof handle) brown the sausage, then add the butter, Italian herbs, onion and zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper. Pour over sausage, onion and zucchini in skillet. Cook eggs over low heat for 5-7 minutes.
Sprinkle with cheese and chopped tomato.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
Cool slightly and cut into wedges. Serve with toasted Italian bread.
Can be served room temperature as well. Serves 10.
* Vegetable and meat substitutions can easily be made.
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