30 June 2011

A Sweet and Savory Breakfast

Article by Elizabeth Miller

Always a fan of the multi-dish meal, I’ve long thought it most pleasing to eat sweets in the company of other, non-sweet foods, allowing the flavors and sensations of each dish to complement one another.  Since it is generally frowned upon to eat a slice of cake simultaneously with one’s dinner, I have found that it is best to reserve my sweet and savory combination meals for breakfast, a meal that has always seemed to almost inexplicably welcome pastry and cake consumption in the name of heralding the new day.

There is no shortage of places to find ingredients both savory and sweet at the farmers market.  In addition to the vendors selling absolutely gorgeous cookies, tarts, and pastries every week, right now there are tables and bins bursting with early summer strawberries, cherries, and blackberries.  Winter’s Farm was showcasing long beautiful stalks of rhubarb that were just calling out to be baked into something warm and tartly sweet.  While buying fresh eggs from Jacob’s Creamery and thinking about the options for the non-sweet component of my meal, I spotted a fellow farmers market shopper holding a massive bunch of spinach that was positively bursting out of its bag.  When I asked her where she got such a lovely bundle of greens, she practically clapped her hands in excitement as she directed me to the Thompson Farms stand, where there, to my delight, I found that I could purchase my very own oversized bag of spinach for a mere $1.

You don’t meet people that enthusiastic about their produce purchases as a grocery store, I tell you.  And at the grocery store, you rarely find the sort of inspiration that hits when perusing the wealth of options offered at the farmers market, which this week motivated me to create a breakfast that maintained a nice balance between healthy and indulgent, savory and sweet.  Bright and puckery rhubarb baked into a caramelized bread pudding is the perfect companion to a fresh and filling vegetable frittata, and, lucky for you, it’s breakfast time, so you can have your pudding can call it a good morning.[slideshow]

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

1 baguette
1 pound rhubarb
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.

Slice rhubarb into ½ inch chunks.  In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb, white sugar, and brown sugar.  Stir to combine, then set aside for 15 minutes to allow the rhubarb to macerate and release some of its juices.

Meantime, slice baguette into thick slices, then tear each slice into large bite-sized chunks.  You will need 5 cups total of bread chunks.  If you have any baguette remaining (as I did), set aside for another purpose.  Place bread chunks in pre-buttered baking dish.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine milk, eggs, vanilla, and pinch of salt.  Whisk vigorously until the eggs are entirely incorporated.  Pour milk mixture over bread chunks and allow to soak for 10 minutes, tipping the dish every few minutes and spooning excess liquid over the bread to make sure bread is completely soaked.

Evenly pour the rhubarb mixture over the soaked bread.  Being sure to include all the liquid released from the rhubarb.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until bread is puffed, the custard has been mostly absorbed, and the rhubarb has softened.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until a few edges of the exposed bread begin to turn golden and crisp.

Cool slightly before eating.  Serves 6-8 people.

Spinach and Potato Frittata

1 large bunch of spinach, washed and trimmed of any large stems
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced into thin chips
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large potato, roughly ¾ pound
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Boil the potato in its jacket until soft, about 15 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.

In a medium-sized pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat.  Add garlic chips and sauté, stirring constantly, until garlic has released its aroma and is just starting to look crisp around the edges, about 20-30 seconds.  Add spinach.  Toss to evenly coat spinach in garlic and oil, add salt, then cover.  The spinach will still be quite large at this point, so do not panic if you lid does not fit tightly over all the spinach at first.  As the spinach wilts, continue cooking for 5 minutes to release as much liquid as possible.  Then, uncover spinach and sauté for another 2 minutes to evaporate liquid.

Peel the potato and slice it into thin rounds.  Add the potato to the pan with the spinach, add pepper, and stir to combine.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat your oven’s broiler and set an oven rack at its second-highest level.

In a small bowl, beat eggs with milk.  In a medium-sized ovenproof pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low heat.  Add beaten eggs all at once.  Add spinach and potato mixture, placing the vegetables over the eggs as evenly as possible without stirring.  Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until the edges of the eggs are dry and cooked, and the eggs have started to puff up a bit around the vegetables.

Place entire frittata, in pan, in the oven.  Cook under broiler for 1 minute, until eggs have puffed up quite a bit and the middle of the frittata is firm and does not jiggle when moved.

To serve frittata, loosen the edges of the frittata with a heat proof spatula.  Place a large plate over the top of the pan, then, wearing oven mitts, firmly grasp the plate over the pan, then turn the pan upside down and allow the frittata to release onto the plate.

Serves 4-6 people.