Here’s a nice breakfast dish that I had forgotten about. Usually when we have apples on hand, if I haven’t already turned them into applesauce, we saute them in butter and serve them as part of a German apple pancake. Last weekend, though, some fresh Jonagolds were crying out to be used and Jon remembered the apple popover recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle cookbook.
We used to make this a lot, and my parents still do (they often throw in blueberries, which is nice). It’s basically a clafoutis, with a lightly sweetened egg batter baked over apples that have been precooked with butter and cinnamon. As with many dishes of this sort, you could use any sort of fruit or seasoning – I haven’t tried pears, but I bet it would be fantastic. Maybe with a little nutmeg?
You never know how this is going to turn out – we never know if it’s to do with humidity, or temperature, or the fruit, or what. Sometimes the whole thing poofs up into a perfect dome, sometimes you get a craggy mountain range. This one refused to rise at all, but produced fantastic caramelized edges. Certainly nothing to complain about. We ate half on Sunday and saved the rest to reheat for Monday breakfast, which worked very well. It would also do nicely as a dessert, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It’s no secret that I love fried eggs – I do tend to put them on every possible type of leftover. But I also love boiled eggs, and often have one for breakfast with cereal and a pot of tea.
Everyone seems to have their own method for boiling eggs, and I have different methods depending on what final result I’m going for. If I want them hard-boiled for making devilled or curried eggs, I use the approach of putting them in cold water, bringing the pot to a boil, then turning it off and letting it sit covered for exactly twelve minutes, then quick-chilling the eggs. But when I’m boiling an egg for breakfast, I want it soft and runny inside, with the white just set.
I was so thrilled when I finally found a copy of Nancy Silverton’s pastry cookbook at Powell’s a few weeks ago. Of course, I still haven’t made the recipe I bought the book for (the incredible homemade buttermilk crackers we had at Duckfest), partly because my eye was immediately drawn to the ricotta-stuffed muffin recipe. Our favorite goat cheese vendor had fresh ricotta last week, we just had to do it. Really, could you have resisted?
The muffin batter itself was a lot like my usual muffin recipe – yogurt and oil, not too sweet. The difference was the addition of ground toasted fennel seed into the batter, a fabulous idea in itself – plus a creamy center of ricotta mixed with a bit of sour cream, that spills out when you bite into the muffin. Mmmm.
When a farmer hands you a beautiful fresh summer squash and tells you, “this is only the fifth zucchini I’ve picked so far this year,” you really want to do something nice with it. I made fritters.
Zucchini fritters are something I used to make a lot, but it’s been a while and I can’t find my original recipe, which was from a low-carb book by Fran McCullough and seems to be lost in the mists of time. I made something up, based loosely on my memories and on a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and a bowl of egg yolks in the fridge left over from my grandfather’s birthday cake. Next time I think I’ll actually follow a recipe, but this was still pretty yummy.
This week has been crazy busy, but we did make time to get down to opening day of our local farmer’s market. It was a classic Pacific Northwest Memorial Day weekend, which is to say it rained every. single. day.
Fortunately there were plenty of vendors and customers, and the hardy Prozac Mountain Boys managed to keep the music playing without floating away.
We bought leeks, fingerling potatoes, asparagus, hothouse peppers, and butter, which seemed like a pretty good haul for the season (thank goodness for Hedlin Farms’ greenhouses). Then we checked out Gothberg Farms’ stand. A local goat dairy, they’re newcomers to the Mount Vernon market, and we’re really excited to have them here. I expect we’ll be eating a lot of their cheese in the months to come, but for now we limited ourselves to a tub of fresh ricotta and a block of Queso Blanco.
In the annals of putting fried eggs on top of things, this breakfast came very close to perfection. Here’s how to make it.
Take one Dungeness crab, cooked and cleaned.
Pick the meat out and set aside. Put the shell into a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Strain and keep warm.
A sudden craving last weekend had me searching my cookbook shelf for a recipe for buckwheat pancakes. I don’t know where the urge came from, but I wanted that earthy, rich flavor, preferably smothered in applesauce, for Valentine’s Day breakfast.
It was harder than I thought finding a recipe, but I ran one down in a true American cookery resource, Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook from 1961. This is a book that reads like something from another dimension, including this marvelous bit of advice in the “Hints for the Homemaker” section:
Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne. Does wonders for your morale and your family’s, too!
My family’s morale is going to have to wait until after breakfast, sorry, Betty. But in any case, the recipes are pretty sound. I halved the recipe for buckwheat pancakes, starting it the night before as advised, and it turned out beautifully.
I thawed a container of Jonagold applesauce from last fall, and fried up a couple of homemade sausage patties that were left over from the previous week. The pancakes were wonderful, springy and chewy and with plenty of deep buckwheat flavor. They were also great with butter and syrup.
Even after halving the recipe, we couldn’t eat them all by a long shot. Eventually it dawned on us that we had made blini, and blini are made to be eaten with caviar. It was Valentine’s Day, after all…
It baffles me that something as wonderful as a scone can often be so awful.
The scones I grew up with (my mother’s) were like rich biscuits: a little fluffy, a little crumbly, with a sweet butter flavor. They might have some currants or a bit of zest, but the main attraction was always the scone itself, plus whatever fabulous jam you smeared on top. They also weren’t too big, so you could have the pleasure of going back for seconds or thirds, perhaps trying a different jam on each one.
Commercial scones, on the other hand, always seem to be huge, floury and dry. Not to mention full of chunks of things: citron, cranberries, nuts – all distractions, in my opinion. This sort of scone gets you to drink a lot more coffee than you normally would, just to wash all that dry plaster out of your mouth. I can never eat more than a bite or two.
They need to be made at home, and eaten fresh. That’s all there is to it.
Eons ago, on our honeymoon, Jon and I stayed at a wonderful place in the San Juan Islands called the Inn at Swifts Bay. It was a charming little B&B with a hot tub tucked back in the woods and a movie library of great quality – and the breakfasts were amazing. It was fifteen years ago and I still remember some of the food (I told you I had food on the brain, didn’t I?). One thing that made a huge impression on us both was the smoothie that kicked off each morning’s dining. Served in a large goblet, it was a puree of peach, a whole lime, banana, and pineapple. It was divine, and as soon as we were settled in our new (married student housing) apartment and owned a blender, we started making them for ourselves.
These days I can’t eat peaches (and pineapple makes my mouth feel a little odd, too), and I usually prefer a glass of orange juice with a hot breakfast than a full-on smoothie, but we still make smoothies on weekdays, especially if we’re feeling a little frail and dehydrated. Every summer I buy flats of local berries and freeze them, so all winter we can mix berries with mangoes, oranges or bananas for a variety of flavors. My usual smoothie formula for the two of us is something like: 1-2 cups fruit, half a cup of full-fat yogurt, half a cup of orange juice, two scoops of vanilla-flavored whey protein powder, and water to dilute and top up.
It’s easy, tasty and restorative. Always a good backup during the holidays, when one sometimes needs a bit of restoring.
When it comes to festive breakfasts, it’s hard to beat a blintz. A soft white crepe wrapped around a cheesy filling, fried golden and drizzled with syrup…I’m making myself hungry just writing about it. Blintzes were one of the foods my husband wooed me with (along with breakfast burritos, chocolate pudding and curry (no, not all at once)) and I’d say they worked quite well.
There are a lot of directions you can go with blintzes. Sometimes we put fruit in, or you could make a different flavor of crepe to wrap around (buckwheat, perhaps?), but they’re really great made plain, so everyone can put whatever topping on they want. You could even do them savory: mushrooms seem like an obvious thing to try.