Slow down! Mornings are a time for savoring
Especially on cold winter mornings, when we like to sleep late and then start the day with a hot and hearty breakfast.
A few new cookbooks offer some intriguing approaches to these morning meals, especially Morning Food: Breakfasts, Brunches and More for Savoring the Best Part of the Day, by Margaret S. Fox and John B. Bear (Ten Speed Press, $19.95).
The book is an updated edition of a 1990 cookbook that grew out of the menu at Cafe Beaujolais, a beloved before-noon dining spot in Mendocino, Calif.
Patrons loved the place because of its expansive approach to "morning food," which went beyond the typical omelets and pancakes.
"We took ingredients that most of us associate with the comfort and conventions of breakfast and shaped them into dozens of wonderful specialties whose only common denominator was that they were utterly delicious - and they were served in the morning," Fox writes in the introduction.
In that vein, her book also branches into the terrain of creamy polenta, Waldorf salad, cookies and cakes.
With homey graphics and photographs and authors named Fox and Bear, the book has a cozy feeling that matches its subject.
The tang of goat cheese and the aroma of roasted garlic made the colorful Mendocino Frittata a winner. It was mildly irritating, though, not to be told just how much oil and garlic it would take to get a quarter-cup of roasted garlic (about 3 tablespoons oil and 11 cloves of garlic, for the record).
Seduced by Bacon: Recipes and Lore About America's Favorite Indulgence by Joanna Pruess with Bob Lape (The Lyons Press, $24.95) offers recipes for those occasions as well as other meals while capturing one of the big food trends of last year: using bacon to flavor everything from pasta dishes to sweets.
Though the book states that 71 percent of bacon still is consumed at breakfast or brunch, the breakfast section offers just 10 recipes. But they're tantalizing enough to make you want to move on to the appetizers, sandwiches, entrees and even a few desserts that use bacon the rest of the day.
A savory bread pudding marries Canadian bacon with multigrain bread, feta cheese, tarragon and wild mushrooms for a sophisticated combination that would be welcome at any meal.
Along with the recipes, there's also a handy section on how to cook bacon. Author Joanna Pruess prefers to oven-fry large batches in jellyroll pans, in a 400-degree oven for 11 to 16 minutes.
Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet and Savory by Lou Seibert Pappas (Chronicle Books, $18.95) is a pretty little book dedicated mostly to sweet morning morsels - though there is a chapter of interesting savory breads. Veteran cookbook author Lou Seibert Pappas separates the "everyday" coffee cakes from the more decadent specialty cakes, a few of which are really desserts.
The pecan-streusel coffee cake we tried was both easy and guest-worthy, with a moist body and enough sweet, nutty topping to make everybody happy.
Savory Bread Pudding With Canadian Bacon, Wild Mushrooms and Feta
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper or
3 cups stale, firm-textured multi-grain bread, torn into
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
11/2 cups sliced wild mush-
rooms (about 4 ounces)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
5 ounces sliced Canadian
bacon, finely chopped
4 ounces feta cheese,
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, beat the half-and-half, milk, eggs, salt and pepper together until smooth. Add the bread and let stand for 15 minutes to absorb the liquid.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme and saute until the onion is lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally.
4. Combine the mushroom mixture, Canadian bacon, feta and tarragon with the bread, gently turning until just blended. Do not overmix. Scrape into the baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on the grated cheese; return the dish to the oven, and bake until the top is puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Remove and let stand for a few minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
Per serving (based on 6): 271 calories, 15 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 17 grams fat, 144 milligrams cholesterol,
1,047 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber
Makes 8 servings
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup grated dry cheese (Parmesan, dry
Asiago, or dry Jack)
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
11/4 cups cubed (3/4-inch) cooked, peeled
3/4 cup finely chopped red peppers
2/3 cup finely chopped green onions
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 ounces goat cheese, cut into small cubes or
thin slices, depending on shape
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup roasted garlic
1. Beat the eggs with the parsley, dry cheese, salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat a large ovenproof saute pan, add the olive oil and cook the potatoes over medium heat until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the peppers and saute until soft. Add the green onion, cook until limp, and add the thyme. Sprinkle the cayenne pepper over the vegetables and stir to distribute. (Turn on the broiler at this point.)
4. Turn up the heat and add the egg mixture. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let cook, slowly, until the edges are set. Lift the edges so that the uncooked egg can run underneath, and repeat this a couple of times during the next 5 minutes or so. Peek underneath and make sure the bottom isn't browning too quickly. If it is, reduce heat.
5. When the top is set and still moist, place the pan under the broiler for 45 to 60 seconds, until the top is slightly browned. Slide the frittata onto a warmed dish and cut into wedges.
Per serving: 201 calories, 11 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 14 grams fat,
245 milligrams cholesterol, 306 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber
Rise'n'Shine Mexican Cornbread
Makes 9 squares
6 slices bacon
Unsalted butter (as needed)
11/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached flour
11/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup defrosted frozen or drained canned corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalepenos
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease or butter an 8-inch sauce pan.
2. Cook the bacon until browned and very crisp; remove, blot on paper towels, and crumble. Set aside. Strain the bacon fat into a measuring cup; if needed, add melted butter to measure 1/4 cup.
3. Blend the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together the reserved bacon fat, buttermilk, eggs, corn kernels, bell pepper, cheese and crumbled bacon. Stir in the dry ingredients until just blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Remove, let stand 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into 9 squares and serve warm.
5 grams sugar, 10 grams fat, 71 milligrams cholesterol, 563 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber