I've never been much of a breakfaster.
What do you mean, I can't just drink a quart of raw milk?
For years I struggled to find the perfect combination of whole foods with adequate protein, carbs, and fats to keep me somewhat satiated and civilized until lunchtime.
I've tried various models of proper morning nutrition - overnight soaked oatmeal (steel-cut or oat groats) cooked in a rice cooker, crepes, dutch babies, homemade granola and yogurt, and I've stared at an overwhelming number of compilations of "20 Easy Breakfast Recipes" and "10 Breakfast Recipes with Whole Grains." I've done my research on the breakfast front, spending hours reading all the tips and secrets to an easy, healthy breakfast ready in minutes and bookmarking with every intention to test. I even have recipes bookmarked for breakfast pizza, breakfast soup, breakfast nachos, and breakfast noodles. I had 68 bookmarks in my Breakfast folder and none of them were what I wanted. I don't like anything sweet in the morning (The secret to busting sugar cravings: eat lots of quality protein and fats) or anything too complicated in flavor or preparation. So how did I crack the egg (code) and come to this calm place of breakfast competency?
I found a roommate who cooks breakfast for me every morning at 7am.
When choosing a roommate, it is important to find one with similar likes and dislikes. Does he like to dance to the same few Top 40s songs on blast every single morning? CHECK! Does he like to make and follow endless rules about running a house? CHECK! Will he stay away from your emergency LaLoos Deep Chocolate Goat's Milk Ice Cream? CHECK! Will he serve you sautéed vegetables and fried eggs every morning wearing a white lacy negligée and singing Iggy Azalea's "Work"? CHECK CHECK CHECK!
My hetero-flexible housemate is a dream-come-true; his breakfasts are incomparable. In the springtime when I was dating his roommate James O'Keeffe and first ate Jeff's standard breakfast of steamed vegetables and fried eggs, I was not amused. I thought: "I like interesting and exciting meals with contrasting textures and flavors!" I turned down the meal and would instead spent hours and twenty ingredients crafting a masterpiece with seared radishes and cured pork (below) or other complex messes. The result was worth writing about, of course, and would have impressed those around me - except that the boys had all left for work by the time breakfast was ready.
Clearly, if I was going to switch from independent study contracts to actual college courses, I had to buck up and settle for the provided and timely nourishment offered. Luckily, since I've moved in Jeff refined his technique, replacing the Bragg's Liquid Aminos with Espresso Balsamic Vinegar, and now I bring a bowl of utter joy into class to irreverently chew throughout my morning lecture. This bowl of fried vegetables and eggs sustains me for at least a couple hours, gives me protein, doesn't weigh me down, and contains enough vegetables that I don't need to worry about them for the rest of the day.
Want to hear how we make it?
We keep our kitchen stocked with: onions, beets, carrots, cabbage, hearty greens (kale, collard, chard, beet), butter, coconut or apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt. With those items, you'll always be ready.
Wake up. Open your eyes real wide. Stretch your face and your ribcage. Bound energetically out of bed, then make your bed. Chug a pint of water. Turn on some loud hip-shaking music like on our 'Mornings' playlist.
Coffee is a pretty good idea at this point.
1. Heat a large (cast-iron pan) on medium with at least three tablespoons of butter. Sometimes I use half a stick. You may use coconut oil, lard, or grapeseed oil, but note that olive oil has a low smoke point and oxidizes with high heat or in the oven over 350 degrees. I prefer not to heat olive oil at all.
I like to use Straus Creamery Organic Butter (available at the Olympia Food Co-op) or Organic Valley. I buy salted butter because it tastes better than unsalted. Ideally, I'd buy unsalted and add good quality salt to my own preferred levels, but as I go through at least a pound of butter every week (sometimes two or three) I've had to draw the line. Compromising is good.
2. Chop onions and add to pan when the fat in the pan is hot (so much that you can feel the heat when holding your hand two inches over). We average one large onion for two people or two large onions for three people. I'm particular about the size; here's my recommended onion size: peel, remove base madness, cut in half, cut horizontally into ½ inch strips, then cut those in half. You'll end up with 1/2 inch wide quarters of onions. Or, you know, cut them however you want.
3. Stir, stir, stir! You're going to want to stir the pan every few minutes and continually make sure all elements are coated in fat and nothing burns on the bottom. So... stir, brush your teeth, stir, put on your big girl sturdy tights, stir, pour some coffee, stir, dance on the table, stir. If you need to take a long dance break, turn down the heat.
4. When your onions are shiny and pliable but not yet translucent, mix in chopped stems from the hearty greens you'll be adding toward the end of the dish. You can strip your hearty greens now, or strip them later and save the stems for tomorrow's breakfast. You can add cabbage at this point, too.
5. Beets and carrots! Golden beets are delicious and don't overpower the same as red beets. Purple carrots also add a delicious color. I like thin strips or disks about 1/4 inch thick and not more than an inch wide. If your beets are a bit old and soft, add them some time after the harder carrots. It's all about estimating hardness here.
6. When everything is soft, you're going to want to strip. Your greens, I mean. Maybe at this point, you're showered with your day clothes on, teeth flossed. Maybe you're going to spend the morning in your pajamas. Maybe you're naked. The point is, now it's time to strip your greens. We use a variety of collard greens, kale, beet greens, chard, the occasional carrot tops. I like to wash my vegetables before eating. As discussed before, you can save your stems for tomorrow's breakfast (if you add them this late in the game, they'll be somewhat crunchy and astringent).
7. Roll the green leaves into a thick bundle and cut into inch pieces then cut those roll-ups in half. Does that make sense? Basically, you want to avoid the tragic three-inch-piece-of-greens problem that often happens with salads. Chop your hearty greens. Turn up the heat a notch or two and add your greens.
8. Sprinkle or glug about a teaspoon of coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (my favorite is espresso balsamic from Olympia Olive Oil).
9. Cover the pan and let the greens sweat. Keep lifting the lid and stirring every few minutes.
10. Start your fried eggs! I like the heat on 40%, crack eggs (two per person) into warm melted butter. When the white is halfway cooked, generously salt the yolk only. Two drops of truffle oil per yolk is also delicious. As soon as the white is cooked through and no longer translucent on top, turn off the heat and flip your eggs. This usually results in a fried egg with a gooey but not runny yolk. Here's some information on egg labels and refrigeration of eggs.
11. Meanwhile, your vegetables should be getting close. Keep stirring and cooking until you're satisfied with the tenderness.
That's all. Put it all in a bowl. You're done now. Breakfast is ready. You did it.
Of course, an hour is a long time to prepare a meal. Sometimes I wake up late or antsy and just want to get out the door as soon as possible. Sometimes I just fry a couple eggs for breakfast. Sometimes I just drink a quart of milk for breakfast. I don't feel as good, as energetic, as satisfied, sure - but I can get on with my day and motivate other people to put time into their food. Ultimately, the getting on with my day is most important.
Do put some time and effort into your breakfast. Don't worry if it doesn't happen every day.
Emily and Jeff's typical fridge: Clockwise from the top-left: chicken stock, collard greens, kale, other kind of kale, dinosaur kale, rainbow chard, more collard greens, soaked/sprouted almonds and walnuts, kraut, coconut sugar (we have ants), purple carrots, beets, chicken from Don Grower, tri-tip steak from friend of friend, pork flank from James, compromise eggs (Wilcox pasture-feed), two gallons of raw milk and a quart of raw cream from Sigmon Dairy in Rochester.
There's a lot of bad food in the world. Let's talk about the good food.