Memorable Mornings -June 2013
by: Marianne R. Stanton
If you are an empty-nester, summer is the time when sons and daughters return to visit, bringing husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, and, if you’re lucky, your grandchildren.
All these visitors mean it’s time to stock the larder with staples, treats and some foods that make it a snap to whip up a dish for a crowd on short notice. While the summer days may unravel into an uncontrollable jumble of joy and yes, frustration and exhaustion, by planning ahead you can lessen the confusion and at least get your household off to a good start each morning with a tasty breakfast worthy of any five-star country inn. Breakfast is the one meal of the day where you can round everyone up before they head off to beaches, boating trips and parts unknown for the rest of the day, and spend a few moments together.
The key to success here is planning ahead. Do your shopping before your company comes, stocking up on good coffee, fresh fruit, fruit juices, butter, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, ingredients for baking, dried fruits and nuts and anything else that tickles your fancy.
Bakers get a chance to show off their talents at this first meal of the day. A dozen freshly-baked muffins tucked into a napkin-lined basket, next to a pot of freshly-brewed coffee and a bowl of fruit is a wonderful simple breakfast everyone can enjoy. Everybody loves blueberry muffins made with fresh berries and a grating of lemon peel. Stop & Shop’s produce section can assist if blueberry season hasn’t yet arrived. I also like to do a combo berry muffin with half blueberries and half red raspberries. Another muffin that is very popular in our house is pumpkin chocolate chip, using a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate and chopping it into chunks. I often put walnuts in this muffin, but if you are hosting houseguests, be sure that no one has a nut allergy before incorporating them into foods you are serving. I’ve included my favorite bran-muffin recipe, which I arrived at after testing and tasting many candidates. Bran muffins can be dry and tasteless as cardboard, overly oily or just blah. This recipe is moist without being greasy, and sweet with dried figs, dates, golden raisins and chopped pecans. If there are any left over from breakfast, they make a good late-afternoon snack after the beach or gardening, with a dab of cream cheese and a cup of tea or iced lemonade.
Sometimes the wee hours will see family members searching for fishing rods and tackle boxes before they head out for a pre-dawn morning of angling. If you want to send them off with a memorable breakfast to go, and aren’t averse to getting up early, these Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches which involve freshly-made baking-powder biscuits with chives and Parmesan, spread with hot-pepper jelly, into which crisp bacon and a fried egg have been tucked, are just awesome. Wrap them in parchment paper, and your fishermen can nibble on them on the drive out to Great Point or Smith’s Point.
Granola often gets a bad rap as a health food, and honestly the stuff that is commercially prepared doesn’t have much going for it in the flavor department either. I stumbled upon a very good granola recipe a number of years ago in a cookbook that I have used ever since. I make a batch every now and then and send it off to my daughter at college, and make a big batch for the house from time to time to stir into yogurt, cookie dough or to snack on as-is. The wonderful thing about making your own granola is that you can customize it to your own tastes, adding whatever combination of fruit and nuts fits your fancy. One of my recipes has a tropical feel, with generous flavorings of vanilla, ginger, flaked organic coconut, macadamia nuts, dried papaya, golden raisins and apricots. Another iteration blends hazelnuts with dried cherries and blueberries. The basic recipe is listed here. Customize it to suit your own tastes.
If your company has come in Friday night on the late boat, they will appreciate waking up to a hearty breakfast the next morning. Decide if you want to put together a sweet or savory dish the night before, and depending on your predisposition, you can assemble a pan of fruit-stuffed French toast, a breakfast strata or quiche, for your crew to wake up to. The advantage to this is a hassle-free morning where you can enjoy your company, and breakfast, with minimal time spent cooking.
A quiche I particularly like is one from former Nantucketer Pam McKinstry’s latest cookbook collaboration, “Food to Live By.” This California-based cookbook pulls from the fresh produce grown in the area, combined with cheeses made on small family farms. I love the spinach, feta and mushroom quiche, and use local mushrooms available at the Farmers & Artisans Market in the summer.
When you have new guests in the house, be thoughtful and ask about any food allergies ahead of time. It’s surprising how many people are gluten-free, lactose-intolerant and dairy-free, or are embracing a vegan (no animal products) or all-raw diet. These days if you know in advance, you can be a good host and pick up a few items such as gluten-free bread, to accommodate specialty diets. Annye’s Whole Foods on Amelia Drive and Stop & Shop both have good selections of gluten-free pastas, mixes for baked goods and specialty breads (often in the freezer) for those who can’t tolerate gluten in their diet. The thoughtful host will have some of these items on hand.
Marianne Stanton is the editor and publisher of Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821. She writes frequently about food, travel and lifestyle for both publications.
VERY BEST BRAN AND FRUIT MUFFINS
Dates, figs, golden raisins and pecans make these sweet and moist and a good choice for an afternoon snack with a dab of cream cheese, as well as the first meal of the day.
2 large eggs
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup milk, can be fat-free
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
11⁄2 cups bran flakes cereal
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup golden raisins
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Fill muffin tin with 12 paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add oil, milk and vanilla. Stir in bran flakes and let sit at least 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in smaller bowl, whisk together flour, oat bran, baking powder and salt. Add to wet mixture.
4. Chop fruit and nuts and toss with tablespoon of flour in a small bowl. The flour will keep the fruit and nuts from settling to the bottom of the muffins.
5. Fold fruit and nuts into batter.
6. Fill paper-lined muffin tins with batter.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are brown and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.
Bananas, coconut and semisweet chocolate make these a favorite with kids and grown ups alike.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
handful shredded, sweetened coconut
1 banana, chopped
1 handful chopped good-quality bittersweet chocolate
1. Beat egg. Add milk, oil, vanilla and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour with spices, salt, baking powder, coconut.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry, add honey. Mix well. Blend in banana and chocolate.
4. Drop by large spoonfuls onto hot griddle. Cook until air bubbles pop on one side, then flip and cook another minute or two more.
Serve with butter and maple syrup.
BREAKFAST BISCUIT SANDWICHES
Homemade oversize baking-powder biscuits laced with chives and grated parmesan cheese are the basis for this bacon and egg sandwich.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
2/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup coarse grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 450°. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped chives and grated cheese.
2. Add milk and stir with a fork until it just comes together.
3. Knead five to six times lightly and pat into a circle about 1⁄2-inch thick.
4. With oversize biscuit-cutter, cut out 6 large biscuits. Place in cast-iron skillet and bake 12-14 minutes until medium brown.
To Make the Breakfast Sandwiches:
Split warm biscuits and spread with Stonewall Farms Hot- Pepper Jelly. Top with a fried egg, over-easy, and three slices crisp bacon, sausage or fried ham.
Customize this to your own personal taste, and change with the seasons, with the blend of nuts and dried fruit you choose.
1/3 cup wildflower honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup mild olive oil (not extra-virgin)
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup coarsely-chopped pecans
1/2 cup hazelnuts, skins removed
3/4 cup organic unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries or whatever dried fruit you like
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line large lasagna pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large measuring cup, mix honey, maple syrup, vanilla, olive oil, water, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix oats with nuts and coconut and pour in the liquid from the measuring cup. Toss well to mix thoroughly and pour into the lined lasagna pan, spreading it out evenly. Dried fruit will be added after the mixture bakes in the oven.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes and stirring.
5. Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit.
6. Cool completely and store in jars or canisters.
Makes about 6 cups.
Layer healthy Greek yogurt with fresh berries and homemade granola for a health-conscious and delicious start to your morning.
1 cup Fage 2% Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons wildflower honey
1/2 cup homemade granola
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1. Mix yogurt with cinnamon.
2. Put 1⁄4 cup yogurt in bottom of parfait glass, top with a drizzle of honey, a layer of berries and a layer of granola. Repeat until ingredients are all used.
FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH LEMON VERBENA
This is an easy salad to prepare in the morning. Customize it to your own tastes by the fruit you choose. Consider growing lemon verbena in a ceramic pot outside on your porch, or in an herb garden so you will have a ready supply of the fragrant leaves to use in a salad like this, in homemade ice cream or iced tea.
11⁄2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup blackberries or blueberries
11⁄2 cups raspberries
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped mint leaves or lemon verbena leaves
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)
Combine fruit and mix gently with mint or lemon verbena, stirring in liqueur just before serving.
SPINACH, FETA AND MUSHROOM QUICHE
From “Food to Live By” Workman Publishing by Myra Goodman with Linda Holland and Pamela McKinstry
This California cookbook is packed with recipes for good food you want to cook and eat. One of the authors, Pam McKinstry, lived on Nantucket in the 1980s, running the Morning Glory Café, and is the creator of those eponymous muffins. This quiche is nice on its own or served with a fruit salad spiked with lemon verbena, from the same cookbook.
1 homemade or store-bought 9-inch pie crust
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms cut into 1⁄4-inch slices (about 2 cups)
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces (about 6-7 packed cups) baby spinach
3 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half Freshly-ground black pepper
7 ounces good-quality feta cheese, crumbled (about 11⁄4 cup)
1. If using a homemade crust, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle and place it in a 9-inch pie plate, patting to fit. Trim the dough with a pair of kitchen scissors, leaving a 3⁄4-inch overhang. Fold the edge under to form a double layer and crimp or flute the crust around the edge of the pie plate. Pierce the crust all over with a fork. Place the crust in the freezer for 30 minutes.
2. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and set a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 375°.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add mushroom, onions and salt. Cook, stirring oc- casionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, 8-10 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts, two to four minutes.
5. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and add half-and-half and pepper, whisking well until all combined.
6. Spoon the spinach mixture over the bottom of the chilled pie crust and sprinkle the feta cheese on top. Pour the egg mixture into the crust.
7. Place the quiche on the baking sheet in the oven and bake until puffed and golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool 15-20 minutes. Cut the quiche into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
BLUEBERRY-STUFFED FRENCH TOAST
Make this delicious treat the night before to minimize kitchen time the next morning so you can enjoy breakfast with your family and friends.
1 loaf Something Natural challah bread or French bread
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
1 pint blueberries
11⁄2 cups whole milk
11⁄2 cups half-and-half
7 large eggs
11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash grated nutmeg
2 cups cornflakes, crushed
3/4 cups chopped pecans
Nonstick vegetable oil spray, such as PAM
1. Slice the bread into half-inch-thick slices. Spread with softened cream cheese.
2. Lay half the bread slices in a 9-by-13-inch pan, cream cheese-side up.
3. When the pan is full, spread the berries across the top. Then top with the remaining slices of cream-cheese-spread bread with the cheese-side facing down.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and add milk, half-and- half, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Mix well. Pour over the bread in the pan. Let sit 10 minutes to allow mixture to soak into bread, and then turn bread slices over to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and store overnight in the refrigerator.
5. The next morning preheat the oven to 350°.
6. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.
7. In a medium bowl mix cornflakes and pecans. Roll each blueberry-stuffed piece of bread in the cornflakes-pecan mixture and place on the baking sheet. Bake until light golden and crisp, about 30 minutes. Serve warm with bacon and maple syrup.