Edible Cooks: Breakfast and Brunch

EDIBLE COOKS: BREAKFAST AND BRUNCH
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

Breakfast is having its moment. Nearly every single food magazine and website I subscribe to has covered breakfast or brunch in recent months. Lucky Peach devoted an entire issue to this “most important meal of the day,” and Boston Magazine gave us a comprehensive list of their favorite places to dine out in the morning. Martha Stewart urged us to “rise + shine” after the long winter, and the New York Times asked us to “Seize the Morning,” making “the case for breakfast.” Even my Instagram and Pinterest feeds are chock full of the latest and healthiest avocado toasts, green smoothie bowls, and savory oatmeals. Bloggers really like to photograph their breakfasts.

So we thought we’d jump on the breakfast bandwagon, too, but with an eye towards home cooking. Everyone knows how important eating breakfast is to sustaining a healthy body, so why do so few people eat a proper one at home anymore? It’s not hard, rarely time consuming, and so much healthier to prepare it yourself than to wolf down a yogurt or eat a sad drive-through Mc-something in the car.

Here are a handful of recipes to get you through the week, whether it’s a quick, pre-commute bite, or a family-friendly, stick-to-your-ribs traditional breakfast. For weekends, ditch your reservations and put on an easy spread for a crowd, or, for a change, make a comforting, lazy weekend brunch for two. And for those who feel that “brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast,” we’ve even got some low-alcohol— but very festive—cocktail recipes courtesy of Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli.

PULL-FROM-THE-FRIDGE BRUNCH ASSEMBLY FOR ENTERTAINING

I love entertaining in the spring, and brunch is a fun alternative to a dinner party. But if I’ve got a big crowd coming over, I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen flipping pancakes or frying eggs at the last minute. Instead, I shop wisely and assemble platters as a large buffet, set out around the house, for people to nibble on with a drink in hand. Sure, bagels with lox or a make-ahead strata are just as easy, but why not expand your horizons and try something new? These two menus are more shopping lists than recipes, exactly; using these suggestions, you can build your own brunch from ingredients you love, adjust the quantities to suit your guest list, and do everything ahead so you actually enjoy your party!

Scandinavian “Smørrebrød” Breakfast

Hit the farmers market and a specialty store or two to get some (or all) of the following ingredients, and be sure to serve plenty of thinly sliced brown bread and crackers for your guests to make their own Danish-style open-faced sandwiches (Smørrebrød). Add a big green salad, a bowl of berries for dessert, and put some vodka or aquavit on ice for authenticity.

  • sliced cucumbers, tossed with salt, a splash of vinegar, and lots of dill
  • thinly sliced watermelon radishes or scarlet turnips (red radishes are a good substitute)
  • vinegar-doused roasted beets and steamed potatoes, in thick slices
  • hard boiled eggs, sliced or coarsely mashed with mayonnaise and black pepper
  • cured fish and seafood, like a slab of hot-smoked salmon from Boston Smoked Fish Company, some Maine smoked trout or mackerel, bluefish pate, boiled shrimp pickled in a lemony dressing, or even domestic caviar
  • piles of shaved roast beef with fresh horseradish
  • small bowls of capers, gherkins, pickled onions, chopped fresh dill and chives, minced shallots, lemon wedges
  • crème fraiche, sour cream, homemade mayonnaise, soft butter, thick yogurt
  • whole grain and smooth mustards, and a sweet dill mustard sauce for the fish
  • thinly sliced brown bread like Bread Obsession’s seeded German Rye, and Onesto crackers

“Turkish” Breakfast

I’m sure people eat like this all over the Middle East, not just in Turkey, but in the US, this kind of savory breakfast based on vegetables, cheeses, olives, and bread, has come to be known as “Turkish.” I love eating this way, a bunch of little things on a plate to nibble at, even during the busy week. It’s so simple to put together, and most of the ingredients are long-lasting and already in my fridge. For a party, I’ll look for some of the harder-to-find items at Middle Eastern markets, like basturma (a spiced air-dried beef) or another cured beef sausage, a wide variety of olives and dried fruits, as well as pre-made pastry items and breads. It goes without saying that you should use the best local tomatoes you can when they are in season, but until then, seek out a Massachusetts- or Maine-grown hothouse one instead. Arrange on platters and in small dishes and encourage your guests to take a little bit of everything. Serve with a bright, spicy arugula salad, strong coffee, and Mimosas.

  • local feta cheese, firm sheep’s milk cheeses, soft MA chèvre
  • sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, large heirloom tomatoes sliced into wedges, sugar snap peas
  • two or three varieties of olives: green, purple, and black oil-cured
  • minced garlic, mint, and parsley, mixed with olive oil and salt, stirred into a bowl of thick, Greek-style yogurt
  • sliced basturma or other dry-cured beef sausage
  • whole walnut halves in honey
  • boiled eggs, halved and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
  • dried apricots, prunes, dates, or fresh cherries in season
  • crusty baguettes, olive focaccia, pita, or simit (sesame-coated ring-shaped bread from Middle Eastern markets.)

WEEKEND AT HOME, LATE BRUNCH FOR TWO

As the parents of busy kids, my husband and I rarely get a lazy weekend day to ourselves—when our first meal isn’t until after noon—but once in a while our calendar is clear, the kids are away, and we can putter around the kitchen making brunch. Here are two comforting, romantic meals to fortify you for the afternoon.

STICK-TO-YOUR-RIBS FAMILY BREAKFAST

You’ve got a big weekend ahead of you. Perhaps a museum trip is on the books, or a full day of sports games with the kids. Maybe you’ve planned a day hike in the mountains, or a family trip to the seashore. You need a hearty meal to get you through to lunch! These two meals, scaled for 4 people, will fortify your troops and, I hope, make it into your weekend rotation.

Nothing fancy, just traditional, kid-friendly American food.

EASY MAKE-AHEAD OR THROW-TOGETHER WEEKDAY BREAKFAST

Here are two very different recipes to nourish you through a busy week. The first, my favorite granola, makes a huge batch and will keep in your cupboard for months, so you always have a healthy, homemade breakfast at the ready. The second, a fried egg salad, is a light, protein- and vegetable- filled breakfast that you can make in just about 5 minutes, and use up leftovers in the process.

Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com