Monthly Archives: February 2011

Breakfast of Champions

For many, breakfast is a meal that is either skipped entirely or eaten on the run. For me, it is a meal I always sit down to eat before I start my day. This doesn’t mean I have a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs every morning, though eggs are featured at weekend breakfasts. Until recently, when our morning schedules just can’t accommodate it, both Howard and I sat together and ate our breakfasts every morning.

On weekdays, breakfast is simple. The menu varies by mood, but is usually the same for weeks or months at a time. Then, feeling a rut coming on, I change it. I always have fresh fruit: half a grapefruit this time of year, switching to berries or melon in season. I also have a small bowl of plain yogurt with some homemade fruit jam stirred in. For substance, I have toast with cheese (rye bread is my favorite) or a bowl of cereal. Last week, I felt a granola phase coming on.

This was partially inspired by one of the new books on my bedside table: Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. I’m not a regular New York Times reader, so I hadn’t followed her column in the Dining section, but this compilation of writing with recipes is delightful. I suppose one could call it a cookbook because of the recipes, but, for me, it’s more a book filled with food writing. I’m rationing out reading each story because I don’t want to finish the book.

Melissa Clark’s voice reminds me of one of my all-time favorite food writers, Laurie Colwin. And, if you’re not familiar with Laurie Colwin, go look her up. Her food writing is compiled into two books Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. She also wrote several novels. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1992 (she was only 48) but her writing can still inspire.

Melissa Clark writes about an Olive Oil Granola that I couldn’t get out of my mind. This weekend, I made a batch for this week’s breakfasts. This granola has uses more oil and sweetener (maple syrup AND brown sugar) than what I usually make, but the result was outstanding. Her version called for pumpkin seeds and pistachios. I used the nuts I had on hand, mimicking the granola from Big Sky Bakery with pumpkin seeds, whole almonds, sunflower seeds, and some sesame seeds. I don’t like coconut, so I left that out. I also omitted the apricots, which I would have liked, but Howard doesn’t do dried fruit and I thought I should share.

Wow! This has to be the best granola I’ve made. It’s sweet and crunchy. It has been delicious all week stirred into plain yogurt with a little bit of homemade jam. I’ll be skipping the toast at least until this batch is finished off, or maybe I’ll make another batch and keep granola on my breakfast menu until I feel another rut coming on.

Olive Oil Granola
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1½ cups whole almonds
1 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
½ cup sunflower seeds (unsalted)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
¾ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 300F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Spread the mixture into a large rimmed baking sheet (mine was 13×18 inches) in an even layer. Bake for 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and well toasted.

Enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

French Fridays with Dorie: Pancetta Green Beans

After a few weeks of more elaborate recipes, this week’s assignment for French Fridays with Dorie was a welcome change. Pancetta Green Beans was a perfect side dish for our home-cooked weeknight Valentine’s Day dinner.

There’s not all that much to say about these green beans. They were good, a nice change from plain green beans. They were both easy enough for a weeknight and special enough for a holiday meal.

For this recipe, the beans get boiled briefly in a pot of water then plunged in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Then, they were reheated in butter with sautéed pancetta. The beans were finished with some walnut oil, actually a staple at my house for making Beet and Walnut Salad. When I make green beans (which is mostly in the summer), I usually just steam them in the microwave, but the boiled beans had a better texture. I’ll have to remember that next summer.

Pancetta by Howard

The most exciting part about this recipe was a chance to use the piece of homemade pancetta in my freezer. My husband Howard had made the pancetta from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. He even built a little wire cage for aging the pancetta in the basement. I would be lying to myself if I thought our 150-year-old fieldstone foundation kept all little critters out, so the protection was critical. I recently read about Charcutepalooza, a year-long group cooking project from the Charcuterie book. I’ve been trying to convince him to try to next challenge. It’s right up his alley.

The green beans went well with our lamb chops and mashed potatoes dinner. And the bottle of Korbel we popped open (on a weeknight, oh, my!) went down very smoothly. Dessert was a few squares of dark chocolate topped with fleur de sel. It was a yummy Valentine’s Day.

Even with this simple recipe, I’m sure my fellow bloggers from French Fridays with Dorie will have some creative twists. Check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but if you’re tempted, buy the book, Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table and consider trying some of the recipes for yourself.

Next week, we’re making Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port, a perfect Sunday supper. Stay tuned.