Tag Archives: breakfast

carrot cake bran muffins

kitchen seems sunnier

Okay, so it is really odd, my culinary response to the Easter season. I always want to make things with carrots. Reading this hilarious essay by Nicholas Day on Food52 recently probably didn’t help. For one thing, it reminded me of the 3-pound grocery store bag of unglamorous, bizarrely fluorescent carrots in the bottom of my crisper. (By the way, if you’re looking for pantry-savvy dinner recipes, using carrots, you should read this piece.) There is just some switch in my mind that goes, Easter, Easter bunny, carrots. I mean, eventually I come around to the ham, the coconut cake (mandatory), coconut meringue pie,  hot cross buns, and the egg dishes. And I have even adopted a love of the seriously weird Easter pie tradition here in New Haven, including rice and wheat. But it’s cold, still, and I like breaking open my baked goods and seeing a little spark of color. Orange specks! Yes?

why is this so fluorescent

And this recipe, it is pretty good. It’s like a kind of carrot coffee cake (there is sour cream, after all) crossed with a bran muffin. My basic bran muffin is a riff on the one in the Cheese Board Collective Works—if you don’t own this cookbook, and you have even the teensiest obsession with muffins and scones, go out and get a copy now. It is virtuous, but delicious. None of the punishing texture that can sometimes be associated with bran muffins. Not too sweet, and just perfectly spicy. The ingredient list is long, but if you keep bran and germ in the house, the rest of the list is just staples, and much of it is an assortment of spices. If you have a favorite crumb or streusel topping, it might be good on here. I often find myself eating my morning muffin on the run, so I left those off. Crumbs tend to get stuck all over me when I walk and eat, and the result is not good for my sartorial presence in the office. What is the best accompaniment to these muffins? A slab of cream cheese, right down the middle. Reminiscent of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but good for breakfast.

orange flecks

Bonus: these muffins freeze really well. You can pull one out of the freezer and toss it in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw it. The best part? When the days warm up, you can have a nice muffin for breakfast without turning on the oven. I am counting the days until this is a legitimate worry, my friends. Enjoy your spring festivals, everyone!

Carrot cake bran muffins

Adapted wildly from Cheese Board Collective Works

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup rye or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated carrot, packed (about 3 to 4 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if you like

1. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin thoroughly, or line muffin tins with paper or foil liners. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, molasses, water, raisins and vanilla. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, soda, salt, bran, wheat germ, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg.

3. Pour egg mixture into the center of flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add carrot and nuts, if using, and mix well, just until dry mixture is thoroughly incorporated into batter. Let batter rest for 15 minutes, so the moisture can distribute.

4. Spoon batter evenly into prepared tin. Bake at 375 F for 5 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 F. Bake 25 more minutes. Test to ensure muffins are done by inserting a toothpick near the center. The toothpick should emerge batter-free. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature with butter, or a smear of cream cheese.

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multigrain banana (smoothie) pancakes

shortstack

On the rare occasions when Ty goes away on a trip, his sister has asked me, “so, what is your secret single behavior?”

I seriously, seriously wish I was the sort of person who might have a saucy answer to that question.

But: know thyself, woman. My “secret single behavior” involves trying to remember to cook instead of reverting to eating only giant bowls of popcorn at mealtimes. (I’m sure upon my arrival in April the Italian authorities will arrest me for having consumed a glass of phenomenal nero d’Avola with a bowl of popcorn while watching an episode of “Bones.”) It involves rocking out to Brandi Carlisle at top volume (sorry neighbors) while trimming Brussels sprouts. (You should hear me on some of those key changes mid-song. Heart-stopping, I tell you.) It means that I use the blender in the morning. (Ty doesn’t like loud noises right after waking up.) It involves, I will not lie, watching BBC productions of Bleak House, Jane Eyre, or Persuasion, and, if I’m really given time to deteriorate, Emma. It involves cooking all of the very few foods that Ty won’t eat.

so lonely

Ty really doesn’t like to have pancakes on weekend mornings—he always wants something very savory, like eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, grits, and what have you. I love these things, too! But sometimes a girl just wants to get her pancake on. The other thing he hates in the morning is noise, so I generally avoid using the blender when he’s around. I started to make a smoothie the other morning, because when I woke up I found myself face-to-face with that most common of kitchen gremlins: the single, almost-too-ripe banana. Without thinking, I threw that banana in the blender. But then I realized that I really just wanted a nice stack of pancakes. The following recipe was born. You can use a combination of flours, and I would always make at least one part of the flour all-purpose, just to get a light and fluffy pancake. And I always, always, use part cornmeal in my cakes—it gives you a nice crispy exterior, which I love. I had rye on hand, and you could use that or whole-wheat pastry flour, or oat flour, or anything else you had on hand.

foamy batter

With any pancake recipe relying on chemical leaveners (baking soda or baking powder) and buttermilk or yogurt—especially ones with whole-grain flours—you should let your batter rest for a few moments before you start to cook the pancakes. The acidic dairy and the baking soda interact and create millions of little air pockets in the batter. These are what lend your pancakes lightness. Typically I create time for resting by mixing the batter and then letting it rest while I get out my griddle, spray or butter it, and heat it up nice and hot. By then, 10 minutes have passed, and when you scoop into that batter to start cooking, you have a lovely, light, foamy, loamy pancake mixture. The mixture will be so airy that you may have a hard time dolloping it onto the griddle in circles. Just do the best you can—and don’t force it by manipulating or mashing it to make a circle—and you will be rewarded with the lightest pancakes you’ve ever had.

The recipe below makes just enough pancakes for two people. You can multiply it out to make enough for up to eight people. I just hope they’re eight people who don’t mind the noise of a blender in the morning.

last bite

Multigrain banana (smoothie) pancakes

This recipe makes enough for 2 people, multiple as necessary to feed more hungry folks

  • 3/4 cup flour (I use all-purpose, rye, cornmeal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 c buttermilk or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of nutmeg

1. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda in a large bowl. Toss in the kosher salt and set aside.

2. Place all remaining ingredients in the pitcher of your blender. Blend until a smooth liquid forms. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix lightly, until completely smooth. Set aside for about 10 minutes to lighten while you prepare the griddle.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle wiped with vegetable oil over medium-high heat, until very hot, but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium. Scoop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto griddle. Allow pancakes to cook fully on first side (take a tiny peek using your spatula to lift up the edge) before gently flipping to cook the second side. If the pancake is turning too dark before it is cooked in the center, reduce the heat under the pan.

4. Plate pancakes on warm plates and serve with orange slices and maple syrup.

nice and brown

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apple + oat crumble

Every Wednesday and Saturday, I walk to the farmers’ market. Among my purchases this time of year is always a half-dozen or so apples. Something strange happens in the crisper of my refrigerator as late summer weeks pour over into late fall. It seems like about one apple from every trip isn’t eaten by the time the next wave comes in the door. By the end of October, my crisper looks like the land of misfit fruit. The apples are slightly shriveled, speckly, and generally neglected and miserable-looking. I would feel worse about this if it wasn’t the perfect excuse to make pie or crumble. As it is, I believe that I probably, subconsciously, buy too much fruit each week on purpose.

I started out wanting to make a recipe from SmittenKitchen, which makes a granola topping for the apples, with very little sugar. However, I have a slight intolerance for nuts and coconut, and then decided I wanted the topping to have a little more bulk and crumble. One thing led to another, and I wound up with this lovely dessert, which works equally well for breakfast with some Greek yogurt. It’s the perfect destination for your misfit apples. And it’s not too fussy, either. I cut each apple into eighths and then just cut each one-eighth wedge into two or three chunks. No delicate slicing is needed.

If you’re a big fan of the crumbly topping, you should double it. The amount below gives a nice, substantial coating to the dish, but isn’t overly dense. The other way to play it is to select a smaller pan (like an oval baking dish) and use fewer apples, but the same amount of topping. I had a good number of rag-tag apples to use up (six large ones) and so I used a 9 x 13″ pan and I thought it worked out perfectly.

Apple + oat crumble

Serves 10 to 12 in a normal family, serves 6 in my family; adapted from SmittenKitchen, so much so as to be unrecognizable

Filling:

  • 3 to 4 pounds apples, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan and set side. Toss all filling ingredients together in a large bowl and pour into prepared pan.

2. Place pepitas in a dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat until pepitas turn light gold and just begin popping and dancing around the pan. In a small saucepan, melt butter and honey together over medium-low heat. Pour pepitas into a medium bowl. Add salt, oats, flour, and baking powder to the bowl and combine with a whisk. Pour in melted honey-butter mixture and use a spatula to combine well, until dough forms a mass and then breaks into chunks.

3. Crumble the topping over the filling evenly. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check to be sure top is a deep brown color and apples are juicy and cooked through. If not, bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

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leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

In many ways, fall is the ideal time to be making tarts. Fall vegetables like cauliflower, butternut squash, leeks, hardy greens, and potatoes are all very low in water content and therefore play very well in egg custard. (A tart or quiche with tomato or zucchini is always welcome, but you have to do a bit of work with salt or roasting to pull a lot of the water out first; otherwise you end up with an egg custard that oozes water. It tastes okay, but I really hate the little channels of moisture running through the custard.) As with most egg dishes I prepare, this one was the result of scrounging around in a more or less bare cupboard. I had lovely fresh leeks and eggs, and an odd nubbin of Humboldt Fog cheese kicking around the refrigerator, as well as a couple of scrabbly pieces of bacon. If that doesn’t scream “tart!” to you, I don’t know what would.

I give two options for tart crust below, but you could also buy a tart shell in the grocery store or pull one out of your own freezer. I like my tarts—especially if they are for lunch, which this one was—to be quite eggy, so you will see this recipe has a much higher ratio of egg-to-dairy than most tarts you’ll find in your cookbooks. It sets up quite quickly in the oven, and it terribly filling. You could add more cheese—I simply didn’t happen to have any more suitable cheeses around—and make it more savory. In the recipe below, when I say to slice the bacon into “batons” I simply mean that if you have regular slices of bacon, slice them crosswise into thin strips. That way, when you slice into your tart, the bacon won’t get caught up in between slices the way longer pieces would.

To clean the leeks properly, simply trim off the green top end and the root end, and slice the leeks thinly. Then, after they are sliced, dump the slices into a big bowl or tub of cold water. Put your hands in there and agitate everything. The grit and sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl, and the leeks will float at the top. Scoop the clean leeks off the top, and into the pan they go.

I made this for lunch with a salad, but you could just as well serve it for breakfast with fruit. I think some of the season’s nice pears would be perfect. If you have a slice left over, it makes an excellent supper washed down with a glass of wine.

Leek, goat cheese + bacon tart

  • a prepared tart crust of your choosing (suggestions below)
  • 3 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut into batons, or 2 oz. pancetta, sliced into batons
  • 2 large or 3 small leeks, trimmed, washed very well, and thinly sliced
  • a little butter, if needed
  • a knob of goat cheese (about 1 oz.) – I used Humboldt Fog
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • black pepper

1. Prepare a tart crust of your choosing in a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. There is a great one here and my standard crust here. Or you could buy a prepared one and thaw it according to package directions. You may also have to par-bake it a bit before filling it. Once the crust is set into the tart pan, put it in the refrigerator to hold it.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Meanwhile, place chopped bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until bacon is browning and fat is rendered. Add the cleaned leeks and stir occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes, until leeks are softened and cooked. If your bacon was too lean to render enough fat, add a little butter if necessary to cook the leeks. Set cooked mixture aside.

3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg, and a few grinds of black pepper. If your bacon is salty, you do not need salt, most likely.

4. Place tart crust on a baking sheet on the counter. Scrape leek and bacon mixture into the shell and distribute evenly. Distribute dollops of goat cheese around the tart. Pour in the egg mixture carefully. Put the baking sheet with the tart pan into the oven. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (without opening the oven door). Bake for 20 more minutes, or just until the center of the tart is set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes; cut into wedges; serve. The tart can also be served later, at room temperature.

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french toast w pears + lemon

Say hello to the perfect Sunday breakfast for fall. For the past three or four weeks, we have been devouring obscene amounts of Bosc pears from Rose’s Berry Farm, who bring all kinds of produce to our downtown Wednesday market and our neighborhood market on Saturday morning. For whatever reason (divine providence?) the pears this year are sweet, crisp, and smell distinctly of honey when you slice into them. I have not put a single pear into a cooked dish until this weekend, simply because they are too darned good.

However, as I was mixing up the egg for a batch of French toast, the giant bowl of pears on the table caught my eye. A knob of butter was in the pan and next thing you know, I was cutting the pears into eighths, lengthwise, and sliding each slice into the warm, sputtering butter. As soon as you remove the pears from the pan, you can cook your French toast in the same pan. (To me a happy weekend breakfast is a one-pan weekend breakfast.)

I guess I have a few things to say about French toast in general. One is that unless you have a restaurant kitchen and sous chefs and tons of lead time, it’s best not to slice your stale bread too, too thick for French toast. For one thing, it is hard for really thick slices to properly absorb the custard mixture all the way to the center. For another, it is hard for us to cook the inside of the toast properly before the outside burns. I know it looks all glamorous and restaurant-y to make your French toast slices thick, but I would tend more to the 1/2-inch-thick slice. Make sure the pan you’re cooking it in is hot enough that the butter is sizzling, but not so hot that the butter is going to burn while the toast is cooking. And if you’re making more slices of French toast than you can fit in one batch in your skillet, keep the cooked slices warm in the oven (at about 140 F)  while the rest are cooking.

Pears, browned in butter, paired with a lemony, nutmeggy French toast? Heaven on a plate.

French toast w pears + lemon

Serves four

  • 2 Bosc pears, cut into eighths lengthwise and cored
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus a little more if needed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 8 slices Italian bread or brioche
  • warm maple syrup for serving

1. Place butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When butter melts, add pear slices on one cut side and reduce heat to medium. When pears are browned on the first side, flip them to the second cut side and brown that side. Remove browned pear slices to a plate and keep warm. While pears are browning, mix up custard. In a pie plate or another shallow bowl, combine eggs, nutmeg, sugar, zest, vanilla, and half-and-half. Use a fork to whisk mixture together until a uniform consistency is achieved.

2. Add another tablespoon of butter to the skillet if needed, leaving heat at medium. Take as many slices of bread as will fit in one batch in the skillet, and add them to the custard, leaving them for a few moments to soak up the mixture. Then use a fork to flip the slices and drench them in the custard. Use the fork to pick up each slice of toast, holding over the pie plate until excess custard runs off, and then place in the skillet. Allow slices to cook until browned on the first side, and then flip to the second side. Remove to a warm plate, and repeat with any remaining slices of French toast.

3. Place two slices of French toast on each plate, top with four pear slices, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve warm.

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soda farls

I feel that along with the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the soda farl may be one of the great gifts Irish civilization has given to the world. I mentioned these shortly after my return from a vacation in Ireland this summer, and I have dedicated myself to figuring out how to make these miraculous breakfast breads. They are the most pedestrian thing in the world in the northern part of Ireland where I traveled, but to an American who is always excited to have freshly baked goods for breakfast, but who is not always excited to heat up the oven or to get into a seriously complicated pas de deux with her Kitchen Aid first thing in the morning, the soda farl seems just the thing.

I was told that “farl” is a word in Gaelic that means “triangle” because these biscuits—they are, essentially, biscuits—are always cut out of a round piece of dough. This recipe makes four good-sized farls, quarters of an 8-inch round. You could double it and make two rounds, also cut into quarters, or smaller sections if you like. The basic idea here is that you take your usual Irish soda bread recipe, and instead of baking it in the oven, you pat it into biscuits that are “baked” on top of the stove. I was also told that this preparation was developed because in Ireland, most stoves were fired by coal or peat, 24 hours a day. But in the morning, when the stove was stoked up first thing, it was not an ideal time to bake inside the oven (temperatures fluctuating, and the fuel flaring up), so breakfast bread was baked on top of the oven. This may or may not be true, but sounds like a reasonable enough explanation to me. The key to cooking something this thick on top of the stove is to get the griddle nice and hot at first, but then cut back the heat right away after you place the dough in the pan. Let them cook nice and slowly, as the bottoms gently brown.

Unfortunately, my usual Irish soda bread recipe has too much sugar and is too heavy for this treatment. So here I revert to a much more typical mixture. However, I ultimately added a trick that my mom has always used in her biscuits—the addition of cream of tartar. Like buttermilk, cream of tartar is an acid (tartaric acid, to be precise) and it just makes the dough rise up a bit higher and a bit more tender. You can make these without it, just as the recipe is written. The whole point is that it’s first thing in the morning! Don’t knock yourself out. Just pull out a pot of jam and enjoy.

Soda farls

  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

1. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk. Using a spatula, gently mix buttermilk into dry ingredients until it produces a shaggy mixture. Be careful not to overmix; there should still be a few teaspoons of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.

2. Lightly flour a counter and turn contents of bowl onto counter. Pull dough together and knead very lightly for five turns. Pat gently into a circle about 8 inches in diameter. Dough should be about 1 inch thick. Cut into quarters.

3. Heat a dry and well-seasoned cast-iron skillet–large enough to accommodate the farls you have cut–over medium-high until very hot. The griddle should not smoke. Reduce heat to medium-low. Take each farl and place into the pan. (Try to shake off any extra flour before placing in the pan, as the flour will burn. If it does, it is not the end of the world, however.) Cook on the first side for 10 minutes. After about 1 minute, gently nudge each farl around the pan to loosen it from the griddle. After 10 minutes, carefully and lightly flip each farl over and cook for another 10 minutes on the second side, until cooked through.

4. Remove farls from pan and serve piping hot with breakfast. Jam and butter are great, or just eat yours with eggs and bacon.

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open-faced egg sandwiches w chard, bacon + garlic

Good morning! I have just returned from a delightful vacation in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and am having a wee problem with jet lag, leading to my rising and posting at an absurdly early hour. I had stacked up the posts that you all have been reading the last two weeks before I left, including this one. However, when thinking of Ireland, a country that knows how to appreciate breakfast for the fine and substantial meal it was meant to be, this post seemed particularly appropriate for this morning. I believe I gained approximately 12 pounds during my vacation, and much of that can be attributed to the delightful breakfasts we were served throughout the countryside. Near as I could tell—after a fairly thorough survey—the Full Irish Breakfast involves: sausage, Irish bacon, eggs, a potato farl, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. When we moved on to Northern Ireland we experienced the Ulster Fry, which reincorporates the more British element of beans, something delicious called a soda farl, and more frequently includes white and black puddings.

As you can imagine, lunch is not really necessary after having had such a breakfast. A pint of Guinness is enough to get you through the afternoon, perhaps with a bag of crisps (prawn cocktail and pickled onion being among my favorite potato chips on the trip). In any case, it is difficult to transition back to life without those glorious breakfasts, I will tell you that. I do intend to learn to make the potato farl, or boxty, as well as the soda farl. I will be experimenting with recipes, and will be sure to share them here if I can pin down the perfect construction. (Let me know if you have any farl recipes—I feel these are items for which everyone must have her own family recipe!)

Anyway, it happens that we made these open-faced sandwiches for breakfast on a weekend morning, but we have decided this would be equally delicious for supper. You can decide which you’d prefer. I’ve been buying this really delicious applewood-smoked bacon and using a few slices to doctor up greens in the evening. The key here is to brown the bacon really well, but over medium heat so the fat renders without smoking. I wish I had some of that divine Irish bacon here, but alas, American will have to do for now.

Open-faced egg sandwiches with chard, bacon + garlic

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves very fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch (about 8 ounces) Swiss chard, washed, spun dry, chopped well
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 thick slices of bread for toasting
  • coarse or kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large skillet (if you have one large enough, select one that will fit 4 fried eggs with extra room to hold the chard mixture later), warm bacon over medium heat. Slowly let the fat render and let the bacon completely caramelize. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two, until garlic is very fragrant and is becoming translucent.Turn the heat to medium high and add the chard. Saute it, stirring constantly to allow moisture to evaporate. When chard is wilted and tender, yet still bright green, scrape it to the side if there is room in your skillet. (If not, put the chard aside and cover with foil to keep it warm.)

2. Toast your bread slices. While they’re toasting, pour olive oil into skillet and warm it over medium heat. Crack all four eggs into the skillet and let them fry until solid on the bottom. (After the first minute, loosen them with your spatula so they’re easier to flip.) Gently flip each egg, trying not to break the yolk. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and a healthy grinding of pepper on the center of each egg.

3. Assemble sandwiches. Place toast on a plate or in a shallow dish. Top each toast with one-quarter of the chard-bacon mixture and then one egg. Serve piping hot with a knife and a fork.

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cornmeal-crusted pan-fried tomatoes

The markets here are bursting with red: tomatoes, cherries, plums, beets, nectarines, raspberries, flowers. The tomatoes are from the hothouse and are not the meaty, sweet ones that we’ll have in a few weeks’ time. To bring out the interplay of sweetness and acidity that you expect from fresh summer tomatoes, a quick fry does them wonders. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been eating our fair share of Greek-style salads lately, even though the tomatoes aren’t at their peak. Anything will do after months of tomato-free living.

I don’t recall anyone in my family ever frying green tomatoes. We fried lots of red ones, though. Beefsteak-style tomatoes that have small seed cavities tend to work best here, although you can use any variety of tomato. I recall my grandmother was particularly prone to fry smaller tomatoes, rather than the very largest ones. My guess is that it was probably because the large tomatoes were for slicing, taken straight to the table for eating with a knife and fork and a bit of salt. Eventually smaller ones would make their way to the canner, but during peak season we often had them fried. Granny dredges them straight into flour. Oftentimes I will do the same, especially at breakfast, but for a few more seconds’ work, cornmeal yields a thicker, crispier crust, which provides more contrast to the lushness of the tomato.

I made this batch at breakfast and simply added a bit of grapeseed oil to my bacon drippings. With a double-thick coating of cornmeal on the tomatoes, a couple of fried eggs, a couple of slices of bacon, and some fresh fruit, this makes a fantastic breakfast. At supper with roast chicken or pork chops, and a bowl of cucumbers and onions on the side, ditto. Perhaps not the most virtuous way to consume tomatoes, but let’s not overthink it.

Cornmeal-crusted pan-fried tomatoes

  • 1 large beefsteak type tomato, sliced about 1/4-inch thick, ends included, but stem trimmed away
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal or polenta
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • canola or grapeseed oil for frying, mixed with bacon drippings if you like

1. Crack egg into a pie plate and beat well with a fork. In another pie plate combine cornmeal, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and salt.

2. Pour enough oil into a nonstick skillet to coat the bottom of the pan well. (The oil should be less than 1/4-inche deep.) Warm it over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking.

3. Using a fork, coat first tomato slice in egg. Then coat each side in cornmeal. Coat again in egg and a final time in cornmeal. Place slice in hot oil, carefully, and repeat with remaining tomatoes. Nudge each tomato slice in the pan a bit after about 30 seconds of cooking time; this prevents sticking. Cook tomato slices on first side until dark golden brown. This takes about 5 minutes. Then carefully flip slices to cook the second side until dark golden brown. If tomato isn’t browning well, increase the heat slightly.

4. When tomatoes are dark golden brown, remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately, piping hot.

 

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whole-wheat blueberry-lemon scones

I don’t delude myself that these scones are good for you because they are made with whole-wheat flour. In fact, there was no intent to make anything healthy on Saturday, when I woke up realizing I should make something for Breakfast at Wimbledon. Scones, of course, would be just the thing, but I had no white flour on hand. (How did that happen?) I did have, lurking in the refrigerator, a respectable bag of whole-wheat pastry flour, milled super-fine, as well as a box of very fresh blueberries. And that is how we got here, with these faux-healthy scones that still contain quite a bit of butter and sugar. They are absolutely delicious.

The best scone recipes in my repertoire come from the Cheese Board Collective Works—the scones are craggy, just sweet enough, tender, flaky. In short, they are everything a great scone should be. It turns out that if you make scones using whole-wheat flour, you need to add extra liquid. The typical recipes in the Collective Works make twice as many scones; I cut the recipe back so that we didn’t have scones sitting around the house tempting us. But that means if you want to make more scones for more people, go ahead and double the recipe; it will work just fine.

Whole-wheat blueberry-lemon scones

Adapted from The Cheese Board: Collective Works; makes 6 large (5-inch diameter) scones

  • 1 and 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut up into small pieces
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Sift flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add kosher salt and sugar, and whisk to combine. Add butter and cut it into the dry mixture using a pastry blender, or two knives. If you have difficulty making this into a coarse, crumbly mixture (which still has some pieces of butter the size of peas in it), use your fingertips to rub and pinch the butter into the flour mixture.

2. Add lemon, blueberries, half-and-half, and vanilla, and use a spatula to combine lightly. Do not overmix. The mixture should be mostly uniform, with just a few dry bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl. Scoop batter by half-cups onto the prepared baking sheet. Scones should be piled high (they spread out) as well as rough and craggy. Leave 3 inches between them. Sprinkle the tops with more sugar and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly brown on top.

3. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before attempting to eat the scones.

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chocolate cashew biscotti

I’m not sure whether it happened this way or not, but I like to think that I recognized my own deficiencies in spatial reasoning the first time I made biscotti. Somehow, even though it is obvious from looking at the sides of biscotti that they are slices cut from a big piece of dough, I just never pictured that you make them by baking a giant, lumpy, ugly rectangle of dough for a while, removing it from the oven and slicing the slab into the thin, elegant cookies we know as biscotti, returning them to the oven to crisp up for a bit. But this is, in fact, how biscotti are made. Each lithe finger of biscotto was once part of a lumpen blob. This idea delights me, for whatever reason. The silk purse and the sow’s ear, and what have you.


My go-to recipe for biscotti is from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. The recipe for the cornmeal-almond biscotti (I use pistachios, though) is alone worth the price of the cookbook. Which leads me to my next point in this journey of self-discovery: I guess I like unconventional biscotti. It is not very common to see cornmeal in biscotti—but they are delicious. These chocolate ones are also unconventional. You could cook them until crisp, but the directions I give will render you a slightly soft, more cookie-like biscotto. I used cashews because it’s what I had in the house. I think toasted almonds or pistachios would work just as well. (What nut doesn’t go beautifully with chocolate, after all?) These are not overly sweet, and are just as good for tea time as they are for breakfast. And I think they’d be marvelous with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as well.

This dough handles easily. As with all biscotti studded with nuts, you do have to have a sharp and swift cutting tool to cut the fingers from the slab of dough after the initial baking. (I use my very sharp metal bench scraper for this task.) Any nuts near the ends of the biscotti will tend to crumble or break off a bit, so be particularly swift and sure in cutting all the way to the edge. Of course, if any of them crumble, then the House Rules state that they are “messed up” and the cook gets to eat them.

Based on this recipe from Martha Stewart

Makes 18 to 20 large biscotti

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (if using salted nuts or 1/2 teaspoon if using unsalted)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cashews (see note above regarding salt)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Put the cashews on the baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, soda, cocoa, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. When the nuts are toasted, set them aside and cool before proceeding. After they’ve cooled, roughly chop the nuts and set them aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and well mixed. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down in between additions. Mix in vanilla and beat until mixture is light and uniform. Add flour mixture to the mixer and mix on lowest speed just until dough is mixed. Add nuts and mix on low until incorporated. Scrape down bottom and sides of bowl if necessary.

3. Dump dough into center of prepared sheet. Form into a uniform and coherent log as long as the baking sheet and about 4 inches wide. (It will be necessary to push the dough together where it crumbles along the edges and pat down the top. No need to handle it too much, but just be sure it’s all in one piece.) Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F. Using a very sharp knife or bench scraper, slice the log into biscotti slices, flipping them onto one of their cut sides, carefully, on the tray. When all biscotti are cut, return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the tops are slightly crisp. Place biscotti carefully on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

 

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