- JeanMarie Brownson Chicago Tribune
Mom started our family’s Sunday traditions long before brunch became a popular way to while away the day. She cites a thin hardcover cookbook, “Gourmet International Pancakes Waffles” (1970) as the source. At 85, she still fires up the waffle iron and the crepe pan on a regular basis. In between, veggie-stuffed omelets, pepper-laced frittatas and steamy hot cereals feature in the breakfast-is-our-favorite-meal rotation.
This summer, our Sunday breakfasts at home draw heavily on the herbs overflowing in the garden. Especially the terrific crop of fresh basil varieties — Genovese, common, dark opal and sweet Thai — planted so I have a supply for plenty of Caprese salads. Eager to experience this heavenly combination of tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella all day long, I combine those elements with velvety scrambled eggs.
Adding cream to eggs before scrambling renders them rich and guarantees moistness. I use half-and-half or milk if that’s all that I have in the house. Sour cream (or creme fraiche) might just be my favorite addition because its tang cuts the richness a tad.
For perfectly scrambled eggs, have all the ingredients pulled together by the stove before you start cooking. Select the right-size pan — a 10-inch skillet works well for 6 to 8 eggs. Use a smaller pan for fewer eggs. If the skillet is too large, the eggs will spread too much and they’ll overcook quickly. Nonstick pans make for easy cleanup and require less fat.
Heat the empty pan first over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Then reduce the heat to medium, add a light coating of oil or butter, and when that is hot, add the egg mixture. I like to use a silicon spatula to keep the eggs moving in the pan, flipping them and gently stirring to form large soft curds.
When the eggs are nearly set, fold in chopped ripe tomato, soft fresh mozzarella and plenty of basil. Don’t overcook the eggs; rather, leave them soft-set for a luxurious texture. Serve with toasted French baguette slices and a side of fresh berries drizzled with a little balsamic glaze.
A recent meal at the casual Manhattan bistro, Jack’s Wife Freda, shook up my egg repertoire. Its green herby version of shakshuka — the Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in red tomato sauce — is stunning. The perfect dish to make for a special brunch for my herb gardener (husband).
This shakshuka starts with a green sauce. I used a small leek and some kale leaves (fresh Swiss chard or spinach leaves work here too) for the base of the sauce (which can be prepared in advance). While the eggs bake gently in the oven (easier than poaching), I brew the coffee, set the table and make a fruit salad.
My favorite breakfast spots, mom’s or and elsewhere, lure me in with warm bread and muffin offerings. At home, I jazz up store-bought naan with a coating of good olive oil and garlic before crisping in a hot oven. A shower of fresh herbs and coarse salt makes them a breakfast temptation no one will resist.
CAPRESE SCRAMBLED EGGS
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
To prevent wateriness in the finished eggs, cut tomatoes crosswise in half and use your fingertip to scoop out the seeds before dicing the flesh.
8 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced or diced fresh mozzarella (half of a 7.5 ounce container, drained)
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh herb sprigs
1. Crack eggs into a large pitcher or bowl. Add sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and garlic. Use a whisk to mix well.
2. Mix tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, chives and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Transfer to a colander to drain while you scramble the eggs.
3. Heat a large (10-inch) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil and heat. Add eggs. Scramble, stirring gently with a heatproof spatula to create large curds until almost set, usually 2 to 3 minutes. Add drained tomato mixture; scramble softly to incorporate mixture into the eggs. Serve immediately with more herbs for garnish.
Nutrition information per serving: 302 calories, 24 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 389 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 18 g protein, 642 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
SPICY GREEN SHAKSHUKA WITH STURDY GREENS AND FRESH HERBS
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small leek, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, well-rinsed, thinly sliced
1 medium-size jalapeno, halved, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic chives, green garlic or garlic scapes (or 3 cloves regular garlic, finely chopped)
4 loosely packed cups, thinly sliced, trimmed sturdy greens, such as lacinato kale, spinach or Swiss chard leaves (stems removed)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons each, finely chopped: flat parsley leaves, chives, fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/8 teaspoon dried
8 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheese, such as cotija, white cheddar or aged feta
2 to 3 tablespoons creme fraiche, thinned with a little milk
3 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
1. For green sauce, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat. Reduce heat to medium; add leek and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic chives; cook, 1 minute. Stir in sliced greens, broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook uncovered, stirring often, until greens are tender, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.
2. Puree mixture with herbs in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust salt. (Sauce can be made 1 hour in advance and held at room temperature. Or refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days; use at room temperature. If necessary, thin the sauce with broth or water, so it is the consistency of a thickish cream soup.)
3. For the eggs, heat oven to 350 degrees. Have 4 individual (2- to 3-cup capacity) ovenproof baking dishes ready on a baking sheet.
4. Divide green sauce evenly among dishes. Use the back of a spoon to make two indentations in the sauce in each dish. Crack an egg into each indentation. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in the middle of the oven until the egg whites are set and the yolks nearly set, 20 to 25 minutes. (The timing will depend on the temperature of the sauce. Don’t overcook the yolks; they should be somewhat soft and runny like a poached egg.)
5. Stir the creme fraiche; drizzle it over the eggs. Sprinkle with green onions. Serve.
Speedy variation for 2 or 3 servings: Omit the green sauce. Puree 2 cups (16 ounces) roasted tomatillo salsa with 4 sprigs parsley and 1/4 cup chopped chives or cilantro in a blender until smooth. Use as directed in step 4 to make 2 or 3 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 305 calories, 21 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 394 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 19 g protein, 549 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
GREEN GARLIC NAAN
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or green onion tops
1 stalk green garlic, trimmed, finely chopped (or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped)
4 plain tandoori naan (or flour tortillas)
1. Mix oil, chives and garlic in small a bowl. (Refrigerate covered up to 1 week.)
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place naan on a large baking sheet. Brush each with the oil; distribute the chives and garlic evenly over the breads. Sprinkle with salt.
3. Bake until edges are golden brown and bottoms are crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 262 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 7 g protein, 330 mg sodium, 4 g fiber