In my casual observation, there are two kinds of breakfasts: sweet and savory. Sometimes I crave one, sometimes the other. Certain culinary traditions do one or the other better—the French with their strong, highly sweetened coffee served with buttery croissants and a generous pot of strawberry jam fall into the sweet category. In Japan, expect fish and pickled vegetables for breakfast. In New York City, you’ll find the best bagels and lox, while no trip to New Orleans is complete without a plate of fresh beignets dusted with powdered sugar.
In an earlier blog, I described shakshuka, a spicy tomato, onion and pepper stew topped with poached eggs popular in Israel and the Mideast. It’s having a moment on American breakfast and brunch menus. Try it and you’ll see why.
Moroccan Semolina Bread
This recipe can be made sweet or savory. My recipe is the slightly sweeter version. Semolina is the same flour that is used to make pasta and cous-cous, so the bread is a little chewy.
Makes 4 to 6 Servings
5 oz. neutral oil, such as avocado oil
½ cup super fine sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 lb. 2oz. medium semolina flour (plus extra for dusting)
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
2 Tbs. melted butter
1 Tbs. ground almonds
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. argan oil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch round baking pan or cast-iron skillet with oil and dust with semolina.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg, oil and sugar. Whisk in the milk and baking powder. Beat in the semolina, cardamom and salt and set aside for 15-20 minutes to let the batter thicken.
3. Transfer batter into the baking pan (or skillet) and bake for 20 minutes until just golden brown. Brush the warm bread with the melted butter and let it cool slightly in the pan.
4. Mix together the ground almonds, honey and argan oil. Drizzle over the bread, cut into wedges and serve.
Mexican Breakfast Tostadas
You’ve probably had (or heard of) huevos rancheros, a Tex-Mex breakfast specialty that is delicious, but quite heavy. Tostadas are lighter and you can improvise the ingredients. The combination of flavors and textures is terrific and there’s great nutrition in this dish—high quality protein from the eggs, fiber and more protein from the black beans, good healthy fats from the avocado and vitamins from the spinach and cilantro.
Makes 4 small tostadas
4 5 ½-inch corn tortillas
1 16 oz. can vegetarian black refried beans
4 large eggs
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 avocado, sliced
1 cup baby spinach, divided
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup chunky salsa or pico de gallo
½ cup cotija cheese
1. Spread each tortilla with the refried black beans, about 1 ½ Tbs. each.
2. Heat a griddle or large skillet on medium heat; place the tortillas on the griddle to warm.
3. Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat; fry the eggs sunny side-up till the yolks just start to get firm, but still a little runny.
4. On a large platter, place the warmed tortillas with refried bean topping; place ¼ of the spinach on each tostada, place a fried egg on each, then the sliced avocado, salsa (or pico de gallo) and top with the cilantro leaves and sprinkle the cotija cheese.
5. Serve immediately.
Chinese Congee or Rice Porridge
This simple breakfast food is very comforting — sort of a Chinese version of Cream of Wheat. The way it’s eaten in Asian countries is almost always savory with toppings like soft boiled eggs, shredded chicken, or pork, bok choy or peanuts. This is another breakfast item where you can unleash some creativity—drizzled with melted butter and soy sauce, topped with sautéed mushrooms or cooked with some cinnamon and raisins thrown in.
Makes about six 1-cup servings
3/4 cup long-grain rice
8 cups water (or chicken, vegetable, or beef stock)
1 tsp. mild vegetable oil (sunflower, avocado or canola)
Topping options: minced ginger, minced garlic, shredded chicken or pork, bok choy, soft-boiled egg, crushed peanuts, raisins, sautéed vegetables, scallions, etc.
1. Rinse the rice and soak the rice in water for 30 minutes; then drain the water.
2. Add 1 tsp. of oil to the rice and mix evenly (adding oil can help the rice cook quicker and makes the congee smoother and softer in texture).
3. In a large pot or Dutch oven, boil the water (or stock) and add the rice.
4. Turn the heat down to medium and stir the rice for 5 minutes.
5. Turn the heat to medium-low, put on the lid, and simmer for 45 minutes. Tip: put two wooden chopsticks across the rim of the pot and put the lid on top to allow the steam to escape. Season to taste and add your choice of toppings.
Fluffy Pancakes from Germany
This stunning pancake is commonly known as a Dutch Baby. It turns out that it’s actually of German origin, and was known as Deutch, which was corrupted into ‘Dutch’. No matter. It’s delicious, easy to make and makes a stunning brunch presentation. It generally falls into the sweet breakfast category when it’s topped with berries, sautéed apples, powdered sugar or maple syrup, but if you’re in the mood for a savory start to the day sautéed mushrooms and onions would be tasty. If you’re going the savory route, try a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme in the batter.
This basic pancake recipe is fairly low in carbohydrates and contains a healthy dose of high-protein eggs. The addition of fresh berries or vegetables makes this a substantial breakfast or brunch.
½ cup flour
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. baking powder
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
Sweet variations: Syrup, preserves, fresh berries, confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon sugar
Savory variations: Fresh herbs (in the batter), sautéed mushrooms, sautéed spinach or other vegetables
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar and in a blender or use a hand mixer. Mix until smooth.
3. Place butter in a heavy 10-inch skillet or baking dish and place in the oven. When the butter has just melted, add the batter to the pan. Return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer.
4. Remove pancake from oven, top with the sweet or savory toppings, cut into wedges and serve.
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