I credit the spring sunshine. As soon as those streaks of light peek through the window, I’m ready for a new day — and a new meal.
And I’m not alone, judging by the crowds of hungry diners clamoring for breakfast and brunch at restaurants around town. You don’t, of course, have to hit the road to find comfort in those morning gatherings that seep into early afternoon before you know it. You can indulge in the best of all possible first-meal-of-the-day occasions with friends or family, or without (there’s something to be said for dining luxuriously alone).
This is the season when there’s one good excuse after another to gather around the table. So indulge.
Think Salted Caramel Bacon Bread Pudding. Chocolate Milk French Toast. Caramelized Onion Frittata. Citrus and Avocado With Greens. Leek and Red Potato Galette.
Make the weekend morning special. And thank the sunlight.
Salted Caramel Bacon Bread Pudding
Serves 6 or more.
Note: From "Egg Shop, the Cookbook," by Nick Korbee.
Sea Salt Caramel Sauce:
• 2 c. cane or granulated sugar
• 1/4 c. water
• 8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more to grease pan
• 1 c. heavy cream
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Bacon Bread Pudding:
• 7 eggs
• 1 c. packed light brown sugar
• 2 c. heavy cream
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 10 to 12 panini rolls (about the size of dinner rolls), days old, cut into 2-in. cubes
• 1/4 c. finely chopped cooked bacon, plus 4 to 6 strips cooked thick-cut bacon, for garnish
• A few pinches of sea salt
To make caramel sauce: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid, combine cane or granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Stir gently until mixture is consistency of wet sand. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, reduce heat to low, and cook until sugar begins to caramelize and takes on color of dark honey.
Remove from heat and stir in butter with a long-handled whisk. When the butter is fully melted, stir in 1 cup cream and finish with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Let sauce cool for 20 minutes before tasting or using. (Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.)
To make bread pudding: In large bowl, whisk eggs, brown sugar, 2 cups cream and vanilla until completely combined. Add bread cubes and chopped bacon and toss to let bread soak up egg mixture. Lightly press bread mixture into the bowl. Cover surface of bread mixture with plastic and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking pan (metal preferred). Spread 1/4 cup caramel sauce on bottom of pan, followed by half the bread mixture, then 1/4 cup caramel sauce, a pinch of sea salt, then the rest of the bread mixture, and another pinch of sea salt. Drizzle 1/4 cup caramel sauce on top.
Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until top is deep brown, 30 minutes longer. Cool completely before cutting.
To serve, either microwave for 2 to 3 minutes or cover with foil and reheat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Cut into large squares in the pan, then cut each diagonally into wedges. Garnish each with a strip of cooked bacon and plenty of caramel sauce.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 1,190 Fat 65 g Sodium 810 mg
Carbohydrates 136 g Saturated fat 36 g Total sugars 110 g
Protein 19 g Cholesterol 400 mg Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: None.
Chocolate Milk French Toast
Serves 3 to 4.
Note: The soaking mixture can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days. From "Egg Shop, the Cookbook," by Nick Korbee.
• 1 c. whole milk
• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 4 oz. (1/2 c.) dark chocolate chips
• 4 eggs
• 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• Pinch of salt
• 6 slices challah or brioche bread, preferably day-old
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
• Maple syrup, for serving
To make soaking mixture: In small saucepan, heat milk and cream until just simmering (about 180 degrees). Place chocolate in heatproof medium bowl and pour milk-cream mixture over chocolate. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then stir until evenly melted and combined.
In medium bowl, whip eggs gently, then stir in brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Add 1 cup of the chocolate-cream mixture and stir until combined, then pour egg mixture back into original chocolate mixture.
To make French toast: Heat large cast-iron pan over medium heat while you dunk the bread in the egg mixture a few slices at a time. Be sure to saturate bread fully, especially if using day-old bread. Add a bit of butter to the pan and swirl to coat pan. Shake off any excess soaking mixture and cook toast in the butter. Serve drizzled with maple syrup.
Nutrition information per each of 4 servings (without syrup):
Calories 865 Fat 54 g Sodium 270 mg
Carbohydrates 78 g Saturated fat 31 g Total sugars 47 g
Protein 17 g Cholesterol 330 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ milk, 2 starch, 3 carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 9 fat.
Caramelized Onion Frittata With Sherry Vinegar
Makes 2 thin frittata or 1 larger, thicker one. Serves 2 to 4.
Note: You will need to make the caramelized onions in advance, or even the day before. From "In My Kitchen," by Deborah Madison.
• 3 eggs
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
• Caramelized Onions With Vinegar and Cloves (see recipe)
• 5 tsp. butter, divided
• Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
• 1 1/2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
Whisk eggs with a few pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, then stir in the parsley and the caramelized onions. Heat your broiler.
Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a 10-inch skillet until it's sizzling, then add the eggs and lower the heat. Cook the eggs, covered, until set and golden on the bottom, about 6 minutes for a thin frittata, longer for a thick one.
Grate a little of the cheese over the top, then slide pan under the broiler to finish cooking. The top should be light gold and firm. Loosen frittata and tilt onto a plate, then return pan to stove and raise heat.
Add remaining butter to pan and when it begins to foam, add sherry vinegar. Slide pan back and forth to emulsify the two. Stand back! The vinegar fumes are strong. When you have a sauce, pour it over the frittata and serve.
Nutrition information per each of 4 servings:
Calories 170 Fat 12 g Sodium 285 mg
Carbohydrates 8 g Saturated fat 5 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 7 g Cholesterol 155 mg Dietary fiber 1 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 1 ½ fat.
Caramelized Onions With Vinegar and Cloves
Serves 2 to 3.
Note: From "In My Kitchen," by Deborah Madison.
• 3/4 lb. white or yellow onions
• 3/4 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 to 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Pinch (1/16 tsp.) ground cloves
Peel onions and halve them lengthwise, then cut each half into thirds or quarters. For frittata, slice each piece crosswise about 1/4 inch thick.
Warm olive oil in 10-inch skillet, add onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they begin to color. Reduce heat to medium low, cover pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they've started to color, abut 20 minutes. Remove lid and stir frequently, keeping active eye on them to make sure they don't burn.
When onions are limp and caramel-colored, add vinegar and let it reduce. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and the cloves. Taste, and if you want a little more vinegar, add it carefully. Use immediately or refrigerate for several days. (Can use with pasta, on toast with more vegetables, on grilled meats — or with the frittata recipe.)
Nutrition information per each of 3 servings:
Calories 70 Fat 3 g Sodium 200 mg
Carbohydrates 10 g Saturated fat 1 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 1 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ starch, ½ fat.
Citrus and Avocado With Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette and Shredded Greens
Note: Dress up the morning table with this lovely salad. Kumquats are at the end of their season now, but if you find them, they make a good addition. From "In My Kitchen," by Deborah Madison.
• 6 oranges, different varieties, preferably seedless, plus a few kumquats, if desired
• 1 large ripe but firm avocado
• 2 handfuls finely shredded radicchio, nappa cabbage or romaine lettuce
• 1/2 c. pistachio nuts
• 1 small garlic clove
• Sea salt
• Grated zest of 2 limes
• 3 tbsp. lime juice
• 2 green onions, including an inch or so of the greens, finely sliced
• 1 tbsp. finely diced jalapeño chile, optional
• 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
• 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
• 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
• 1/4 tsp. sweet paprika
• 4 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
To prepare fruit: Take a slice off the stem end and flower end of each orange so that the fruit stands on a cutting board without wobbling. Using a sharp knife, slice down the sides, cutting just beneath the white pith. (Sometimes it takes a few strokes to get under it.) When you've removed most of the pith, hold the orange in your hand and slice off any patches that remain, then slice fruit into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Do this with all the oranges and put the slices in a shallow bowl. (If you wish to include thin slices of kumquats with their skins, do so.) Cover and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
To make the dressing: Pound the garlic in a mortar with 1/2 teaspoon salt until it's smooth, after half a minute or so. Add lime zest, juice, green onions and chile, if using. Set aside.
Toast cumin and coriander seeds in dry skillet until aromatic, then place them on a plate to cool. Grind them to a powder in a spice grinder. Add them, along with the rest of the spices, to the mortar and whisk in the oil and add the cilantro. Taste a little dressing on a piece of orange to make sure the balance is right. Halve avocado, scoop out the flesh and cut it lengthwise into slices. Lay them on the oranges.
Pour dressing over all, then scatter shredded greens and pistachios over the top. Present the salad like this, but toss it a bit as you serve so that everything is well mixed.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 370 Fat 26 g Sodium 300 mg
Carbohydrates 33 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 20 g
Protein 6 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 9 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ fruit, ½ carb, 1 medium-fat protein, 4 fat.
Leek, Red Potato and Feta Galette
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Adapt this to your own combo of flavors — crumbled goat cheese in place of feta, or a handful of crumbled bacon tossed in, for example. If you make the dough and freeze it, be sure to plan ahead to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and then allow it to warm up on the counter for 15 minutes before rolling it out. From "Feeding a Family," by Sarah Waldman.
• 2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
• 1 c. (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
• 1/4 c. ice water
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 c.)
• 3 medium red potatoes sliced into 1/8-in.-thick rounds
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 5 grinds of black pepper
• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
• 4 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
To make the crust: Measure flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt into food processor, then pulse a few times to combine. Add butter cubes and continue to pulse until butter bits are size of peas. Next, turn on motor and stream in the ice water, starting with 1/4 cup, then adding a bit more if the dough looks really sandy. Continue to run the motor until the dough just begins to form a ball. Turn the motor off.
Dust the work surface with flour, then turn out the dough and gently form into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and store in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes and up to 24 hours. (Or place wrapped dough in freezer to use in future.)
To make galette: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Clean sliced leeks in large bowl of water; gritty soil often hides between the leeks' layers. Dry the washed leeks well on a kitchen towel.
In large sauté pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add dry leeks, sliced potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft, gently tossing, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add in chopped dill, crumbled feta and lemon juice. Allow filling to cool slightly as you roll out pastry dough.
Dust counter with flour and roll dough disk into a 14-inch-wide round (no perfect circle necessary). Fill middle of pastry with vegetable mixture, leaving 1-inch border of dough all around. Fold border of dough up around the filling and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is slightly golden.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 590 Fat 37 g Sodium 395 mg
Carbohydrates 57 g Saturated fat 21 g Total sugars 3 g
Protein 8 g Cholesterol 90 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, 1 carb, 7 fat.