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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Savory Breakfasts

In my last post, I included both a sweet and a savory brunch dish. While my usual quick morning start is a bowl of mixed cereals topped with fresh or dried fruits and a quarter cup or so of rolled oats, a special breakfast for me always leans toward the savory rather than sweet side. When I go out for breakfast or want something out of the ordinary on a weekend or when guests are present, I don't crave pancakes or French toast or lots of pastries. Instead, give me real hash browns (not those grease-soaked patties from the fast food places), moderately spicy salsa and maybe an egg or two. Another alternative is a vegetable-heavy frittata with more salsa and a sprinkling of cheese.

A package of purchased sweet rolls, a couple of cereal boxes set out with a carton of milk--it's hard to beat the ease of these options, but here are a couple of ideas for foods that really don't take too much more time or effort, especially after you have made them a few times. They are casual mixtures that don't require lots of measuring, and they are a good way to use up some leftover vegetables or even meats that aren't quite enough for a full meal on their own. Best of all, the cost can be quite low for the amount of nutrition provided. Feel free to experiment using whatever is at hand and in season.

Frittatas
Basic ingredients:

Eggs—probably about two per serving, with an extra one added in for each two or three people
Oil for the pan (or bacon or ham fat if you want added flavor)
Seasonings
  • Herbs—I like to use a little basil, thyme, and rosemary mixed together
  • Minced garlic—a little or a lot, depending on your family's preference
  • Black pepper
  • Salt (optional)
Onions—about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chopped onion per person
Vegetables: any (or all?) of the following. These may be fresh, frozen, or (pre-cooked) leftovers:
  • Bell peppers, chopped
  • Celery
  • Green chilis, diced
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Broccoli flowerets
  • Diced carrots
  • Cauliflower flowerets
  • Peas
  • Sugar peas
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Shredded cabbage
How many vegetables? For a really veggie dish, you may want as much as a cup of vegetables for every two eggs; for a dish that is more like an omelet, the amount of vegetable may be less.

Optional ingredients could include:
• Cheese—mozzarella, cheddar, Monterrey jack, etc.
• Leftover ham, bacon, chicken, etc.
• Black olives

1. Slowly saute the onion in the oil in a large skillet. Add whatever vegetables you will be using, starting with those that will need the longest time to cook (raw carrots, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower), then adding others with shorter cooking time (shredded cabbage, grated or diced zucchini, etc.). Turn the heat down and cover the pan, letting the vegetables simmer until just tender. If you are using frozen or pre-cooked vegetables, add them just before stirring in the eggs.

2. While the vegetables are cooking, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are well mixed. Add whatever seasonings you plan to use.

3. Stir the eggs into the vegetables and mix well. Fold in the meat and cheese.

4. Microwave instructions: Turn the mixture into a well-oiled microwave safe casserole dish. (To be sure that the mixture will cook evenly, the eggs should probably not be more than 2 inches deep in whatever dish you use.) Cover loosely and microwave on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir the mixture with a fork and continue cooking. The total length of time will depend on the amount you are making. Four to six eggs will probably not take much more than another minute or so, while a dozen eggs with a lot of vegetables could take 10 or 11 minutes. The key is to be sure not to use too high power and to stir frequently so that the mixture cooks evenly.
Oven instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the top of the frittata with additional grated cheese if desired. . If the skillet that was used for the vegetables is oven-safe, simply slip the pan into the oven. Otherwise, turn the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until set in the center.

Veggie Hash Browns with Eggs
Canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan well
Chopped onions
Sliced potatoes (see NOTE)
Thinly sliced carrots or sweet potatoes
Diced bell pepper (optional)
Diced celery (optional)
Seasoning salt or seasoning blend
1 egg per person

1. Prepare the vegetables, allowing one medium potato, about 1/2 cup sliced carrot or sweet potato and 2 to 4 tablespoons of onion per serving.

2. Heat the oil on medium high in a large skillet. Saute the onions and carrots or sweet potatoes, stirring often, until the onions are golden and the carrots are just starting to become tender. Stir in the potatoes (and peppers and celery if used), sprinkle lightly with seasoning salt and turn heat down to medium. Cover lightly and cook about five minutes, until the bottom is well-browned. Turn the mixture and continue cooking until the second side is browned and crispy.

3. Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan. If necessary, add a little more oil to the open center and then add the eggs, one at a time. Cover the pan and turn the heat down (for eggs with a firm yolk) or off (for eggs with a soft yolk). Allow about five minutes for the eggs to be cooked. Grated cheese may be sprinkled over the top just before serving.

NOTE: "Southern style hash browns" in the frozen food section are simply grated potatoes, usually without any added fat, and can be substituted for the potatoes in this recipe.

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