Ode to Breakfast

285- WholeGrainMorningsThe first meal of the day shines in this collection of nourishing, delicious recipes.

By Diana Price

For many of us, breakfast has become—at least most of the time— a purely utilitarian meal: a quick, necessary bite meant to launch us out the door and keep us energized and focused through the first part of the day. We have heard the studies about the importance of this first fuel—about the ideal mix of protein and fiber—so we do our best to dutifully down some combination that will keep us moving and motivated.

But what if we actually took the time to savor breakfast? What if instead of rushing through an obligatory, over-the-sink bowl of boxed cereal or smoothie-in-the-car, we thought about the tastes, textures, and aromas that would inspire us not only to get out of bed but to take our time at the table? What if we made a change to be mindful, to gift ourselves with a meal that nourished both body and soul?

The recipes in Megan Gordon’s Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (Ten Speed Press, 2013; $22) prompt the reader to do just that: to remember why breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to enjoy it. The 65 recipes that fill the book are built around diverse seasonal ingredients that range from spring’s first apricots to winter’s leafy Swiss chard, each anchored by a whole grain.

Both Megan’s recipes and the format of the book, which is organized seasonally, are thoughtful and creative. The narratives that accompany the recipes and each season’s introduction provide a sense of the author’s culinary and personal journey through, as she notes, a “particular season” in her own life. We learn about her first gig as a baker; the launch of her mail-order granola business, Marge; and the milestones in life and love that led her from the San Francisco Bay Area to her current home in Seattle.

The recipes themselves tell their own stories, of the relationship between flavors and textures, seasonings and sweetness. Inventive combinations expand our idea of breakfast: Peach Breakfast Cobbler with Cornmeal Thyme Biscuits; Zucchini Farro Cakes with Herbed Goat Cheese and Slow- Roasted Tomatoes; and Creamy Breakfast Rice with Honey- Poached Figs and Pistachios. The more “standard” recipes are equally interesting, bringing new ingredients to old favorites: Apricot Pistachio Granola; Greens and Grains Scramble; and Pear-Hazelnut Oat Muffins. Yum.

And because some of the more involved recipes take more time than we might have on an average workday morning, Gordon provides tips for make-ahead prep and repurposing leftovers that make the recipes manageable. But in the end, maybe it is the fact that these recipes make us want to slow down—to think more about what we are eating for breakfast and to linger at the table—that makes this collection such a gift.

Recipes

Apricot Pistachio Granola

This is a version of the granola that the Wall Street Journal wrote about on a Saturday morning in early June 2012. Once you develop product flavors for a business, you don’t get to continue altering them once the packaging is printed and customers fall in love with it. However, I’ve taken to adding sunflower seeds and crystallized ginger when I make this at home.

Morning notes: Buying apricots from bulk bins with a high turnover is always a good bet because they are likely much fresher than packaged dried fruits. You can also buy diced dried apricots, which is what I do for Marge.

3 cups (300 g) rolled oats
1 cup (130 g) raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 cup (130 g) raw pepitas
½ cup (60 g) raw sesame seeds
½ cup (60 g) raw sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (120 ml) extravirgin olive oil
½ cup (120 ml) maple syrup
½ cup (75 g) finely chopped dried apricots (about 10 apricots)
¼ cup (25 g) diced crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 325°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pistachios, pepitas, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Add the vanilla, olive oil, and maple syrup and stir to combine. I use my hands at this point so that all of the wet and dry ingredients are evenly mixed. Turn the mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.

Bake until fragrant and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure that the granola bakes evenly. Remove from oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. If the granola doesn’t seem as toasty and crunchy as you would like, it will firm up considerably as it cools. Once the granola has cooled, stir in the apricots and the crystallized ginger. Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 weeks or refrigerate for up to 6 weeks. (If refrigerating, keep the apricots in a separate sealed bag and add  them as you enjoy your granola so that they don’t become hard and dry.)

Yield: about 8 cups

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

This is the ultimate all-purpose breakfast bar. They blend right in with a weekend brunch spread but are also the perfect help-get-me-through-morning-traffic snack. They boast a toasty flavor from the almonds and sesame seeds and a warm fragrance from the marriage of brown sugar and oats. While I love using fresh berries in the summer, in the dead of winter I rely on frozen blueberries I have stored from previous farmers’ market hauls.

Morning notes: If you cannot find rye flakes, you can use more rolled oats instead.

Blueberry Filling
3 cups (720 ml) fresh blueberries or one
12-ounce (350 g) package frozen blueberries, unthawed
¼ cup (45 g) natural cane sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon water

Whole-Grain Crust
½ cup (50 g) rolled oats
1 cup (100 g) rye flakes
¾ cup (60 g) sliced raw almonds
¼ cup (30 g) raw sesame seeds
1 cup (120 g) whole-wheat flour
½ cup (75 g) packed light-brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
8 tablespoons (115 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8-inchsquare pan.

To prepare the filling: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Continue stirring until berries just begin to break down and the sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

To prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the rolled oats, rye flakes, almonds, and sesame seeds just until they form a chunky, mealy texture, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder and pulse a time or two to combine. Add the egg and butter. Add ice water slowly and pulse until mixture just begins to clump together.

To assemble and bake the bars: Press approximately half the crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Pour the berry filling onto the crust and spread evenly. Scatter the remaining crust mixture across the top as you would for a fruit crisp or crumble— messy and haphazard but evenly dispersed. Don’t worry about pressing down; it will bake into the bars beautifully.

Bake until the top crumble is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan. Slice into bars. If wrapped and kept at room temperature, the bars will keep for 3 days.

Yield: 12 to 16 bars

Make it your own: Try these with your favorite seasonal berries. Blackberries or huckleberries would be lovely, as would cherries.

Greens and Grains Scramble

This is the breakfast Sam and I probably eat most often regardless of the season. In truth, it is usually a dish we whip up as a late breakfast on weekdays when we are both working from home and most e-mails have been returned. It is wonderfully versatile and allows you to use up any leftover grains you have from previous meals, folding in leafy greens for a bit of color. In that sense think of it more as a template rather than a hard-and-fast approach. Any leafy greens and most grains will work, although I veer away from small, delicate grains like amaranth because they can get lost in the dish.

4 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1 green onion, white and light green parts, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup (240 ml) well-packed chopped leafy greens (such as kale, Swiss chard leaves without ribs, or spinach)
½ cup (120 ml) cooked whole grains (wheat berries, farro, barley, or millet)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Flaky salt
Crusty bread, toasted English muffins, or warm corn tortillas, for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the green onion and the garlic and sauté until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the greens, grains, and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté until the greens are wilted and the grains are warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Decrease the heat to low and pour in the egg mixture, gently stirring to comingle with the greens and grains. Continue stirring until the eggs are softly scrambled, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chives, and season with pepper.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of flaky salt on top, and crusty bread, toasted English muffins, or warm corn tortillas alongside.

Yield: Serves 2, heartily

Make it your own: Stirring in grated Parmesan cheese or a creamy chèvre is always nice. For a splurge in the late fall or early winter, I can’t think of a much better way to begin the morning than cooking up a handful of chanterelles in a bit of butter and folding them into the eggs.

Reprinted with permission from Whole- Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon (Ten Speed Press, 2013). Photos by Clare Barboza.