When you think of ingredients for a perfect summertime dish, eggs are not the first thing to come to mind. My mom used to get up every morning and fix a traditional Southern breakfast of bacon, eggs, grits and toast. Sometimes she'd repeat the menu for supper and I'd complain. It's 30 years later and I'm lucky to get toast on the table for our six-minutes-and-out-the-door breakfast. But I miss the eggs. So I've started making them for dinner, not in breakfast form but as frittatas.

Frittatas are thick circles of egg made in an ovenproof skillet. Other ingredients such as vegetables, meat and cheese are mixed with the eggs--unlike omelets, for which the filling is added late in the cooking process and the cooked egg is folded over the filling. Frittatas are firmer than omelets, since they are cooked at a long, slow heat and--here's the good part--there's no technique to master.

Here's how a frittata comes together. Start by adjusting the oven rack to the upper-middle position and setting the temperature at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on whether you're cooking for four or six, pull out a 10-or 12-inch ovenproof heavy-duty nonstick frying pan.

To be quick and efficient, you should cook the vegetables and frittata in the same pan. First, the additions are cooked in the skillet. Then beaten egg is poured on top and cooked until a firm edge forms. Next, the skillet goes into the oven. When the eggs puff up 10 to 12 minutes later, the skillet comes out. Add a salad and you've got dinner.

If you choose a "hard" vegetable, such as asparagus or potatoes, I recommend that you "steam/saute" first. That direction means exactly what it says: The vegetable is first steamed, then sauteed, right in the skillet. Place the cut-up vegetable and a minced garlic clove in the skillet along with a few tablespoons of water, some olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. In just a few minutes, the vegetable will steam and the water will almost evaporate. At that point, remove the lid, and as the last of the water evaporates and the oil kicks in, saute the steamed vegetable.

If you choose "soft" vegetables, such as peppers, mushrooms or onions, you need only saute. Heat the oil while cleaning and slicing the vegetables. The oil in the skillet should be shimmering. If vegetable preparation takes longer than the three or four minutes to heat the oil, start the skillet over medium heat, increase the heat to medium-high after a minute or so, then add the vegetables. Since garlic burns easily, I cook the vegetables, reduce the heat and then add the garlic.

While the vegetables cook, prepare the eggs and grate some cheese. By the time the vegetables are done, the eggs and cheese will be ready to be poured into the skillet. And by the time you've added the eggs and they start to set around the edges, the oven will be hot enough for the final stage of cooking.

I have tried making frittatas on the stovetop only, but have had little success. Even with reduced heat and a cover, the frittata bottom overcooks before the eggs cook through. Some cooks prefer to flip the frittata in the skillet or finish it under the oven broiler. But a frittata needs baking time in the oven to cook evenly and to get puffed. Remember to use the middle of the oven, not the bottom, because the frittata will have already gotten enough bottom heat from its beginning on the burner.

While the frittata does its oven time, have a salad or other simple first course. If your timing is off, the frittata can be eaten cooled. It's even good at room temperature or cold.

Whereas bacon, eggs, toast and jelly beg for juice and coffee, a frittata meal calls for a glass of wine--another good reason to make frittatas a weeknight regular. Although I've given specific filling amounts in the recipes for 10-inch frittatas that follow, you don't have to measure. If you can figure out what you want to put on your lettuce at a salad bar, you can figure out how much filling you want in your frittata. Just grab a handful of cheese and a pinch or two of herbs and sprinkle them on. And if you want a larger frittata, use a 12-inch pan and 12 eggs instead of eight, and adjust the other ingredients to your taste.

Frittata With Mushrooms, Fontina and Thyme

(4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried

8 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded fontina cheese

2 tablespoons minced parsley or basil

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering and carefully tilt the skillet to coat the sides with oil. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the two cheeses, parsley or basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Shake the skillet to distribute the mushrooms evenly and add the egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the skillet, invert the frittata onto the plate, cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 295 calories, 21 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 22 gm fat, 449 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Frittata With Tomato and Goat Cheese

(4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 medium clove garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 ounces mild goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons minced parsley or basil

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering and carefully tilt the skillet to coat the sides with oil. Add the tomato slices in a single layer and cook until lightly browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is lightly browned, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste; cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the two cheeses, parsley or basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Shake the skillet to distribute the tomatoes evenly and add the egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the skillet, invert the frittata onto the plate, cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 281 calories, 18 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 443 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 328 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Frittata With Zucchini and Mozzarella

(4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium or large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium clove garlic, minced

8 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (3 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons minced parsley or basil

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering and carefully tilt the skillet to coat the sides with oil. Add the zucchini and salt and pepper to taste; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the two cheeses, parsley or basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Shake the skillet to distribute the zucchini evenly and add the egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the skillet, invert the frittata onto the plate, cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 267 calories, 18 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 442 mg cholesterol, 7 gm saturated fat, 300 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Frittata With Fennel and Fontina

(4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium clove garlic, minced

8 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) shredded fontina or Swiss cheese

2 tablespoons minced parsley or basil

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering and carefully tilt the skillet to coat the sides with oil. Add the fennel, onion and salt and pepper to taste; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the two cheeses, parsley or basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Shake the skillet to distribute the vegetable mixture evenly and add the egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the skillet, invert the frittata onto the plate, cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 297 calories, 19 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 449 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 398 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Frittata With Peppers and Onions

(4 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 medium onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 medium clove garlic, minced

8 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced parsley or basil

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering and carefully tilt the skillet to coat the sides with oil. Add the bell peppers, onion, salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, lightly beat the eggs with the cheese, parsley or basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Shake the skillet to distribute the vegetable mixture evenly and add the egg mixture. Cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set around the edges, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Place a large plate over the top of the skillet, invert the frittata onto the plate, cut into wedges and serve.

Per serving: 217 calories, 14 gm protein, 4 gm carbohydrates, 16 gm fat, 428 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 229 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Variations on The Theme

It's quite easy to devise your own frittata fillings based on whatever vegetables are in season or happen to be in your fridge. It's as simple as steaming or sauteeing the vegetables and pairing them with your choice of cheese and herbs. Here are just a few ideas to inspire you:

Asparagus and Ham

Artichoke Hearts and Potatoes

Spinach and Sausage

Chickpeas and Kale

Potatoes and Green Olives

Sausage and Potatoes

Pam Anderson is the author of "The Perfect Recipe" (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), which won the 1999 Julia Child Cookbook of the Year award in the general reference category.