Breakfast is funny business. There were the days (years, really) when small babes couldn't make it the night. Would wake up one, two, three times to re-fill tiny bellies. Breakfast, then, wasn't so much meal as artifact, an alien concept from pre-newborn days. Those years are behind us, now.
There were the days (years, really) when toddlers would wake up at four, five, six, for a top-off before their final few hours' sleep. Or not. Sometimes they were ready to rumble, before daybreak. We are past those, now, also. Those were rich, hard, tired, good years.
Then came the days (years, but by now you know that) when preschoolers could actually make it the whole night through. For some, these days came by age two. For others, hourly wake-ups were standard operating procedure until four. But finally, eventually, complete nights came. Those days felt like miracles. They still do.
Small bodies such as these, who've slumbered without pause, always seem to wake up hungry. The sort of hungry that is spelled f-a-m-i-s-h-e-d. So we tend to start the day with breakfast, off the bat, nothing fancy, toast and peanut butter, scrambled eggs and toast, cinnamon toast. Some yogurt, some fruit, so much better, already. For those who are hungry, anyway.
I qualify 'those' because appetite's a fickle thing, like upper arms and arches, subject to change. I am rarely hungry when I first wake, which, because morning's not my thing, is almost always when they wake. My singular goal is to grind beans and boil water, and to let the two mingle until my mug can be filled. I always eat a little something, because coffee begs a little something, biscotti or a biscuit or a square of said peanut butter toast. But this is all I need, all I want, until later.
(Age changes appetites. I see this, plainly. My eldest little, who just yesterday woke up starving, today coasts to eleven on funnies and fumes. For all the kerfuffle over breakfast being important—and I'm getting to breakfast, and I underscore the important—the timing and content is up for debate. Not everyone needs flakes and o.j. before eight.)
As for me, later does not equal lunch. Later, for me, usually arrives around 9:47, or three hours after eyes open, whichever comes first. Whether I've had a stack of flapjacks with a side of sausage and scrambled eggs at seven, or nothing at all, three hours in, I'll be ravenous. I can't account for this. I only know it to be true. So when I can, I wait until the appetite goes off. And when it does, I listen.
Mostly, it asks for produce and protein. Sliced apples and almonds, lots of both. Plain whole yogurt plus banana, crunched up with granola. Last night's leftover veg, with this morning's scrambled egg. Yesterday's salad, topped with a fried egg. A bowl of the week's soup, with a poached egg afloat. If you're sensing a theme, you found me out. Put A Bird On It!: The Breakfast Edition.
Sometimes, it's pretty fine. Sometimes, worse for the wear. A little deflated, but the right idea, and quick. I'm no fan of quick eats for their own sake, but mid-morning's an awkward time to insert breakfast. Everyone else has eaten, we're in the middle of some big thing (watercoloring, weeding, adding, Farkle-ing, encrypting bananas with top secret messages), and no one's interested in me setting aside 45 minutes to chop and cook a proper, glorious vegetable skillet for one. Myself least of all. For the mess alone.
But the other morning, twenty mintues before swim lessons, I threw together a plate that hit all my high notes. Yesterday morning, I did it again. Today, I jumped at the gift of zucchini. You can see where this is headed.
It began with something called gilbir, a Turkish dish of yogurt and eggs I stumbled over in Silvena Rowe's latest. But really, before that, it began with Jess' yogurt and eggs, a combination I'd never thought to make, much less eat. I mean, really. Yogurt, eggs. Soft, soft. Creamy, creamy. White on white. I don't know. It seemed so too too. Like potato pizza, or spaghetti tacos. (To read the comments in this piece, apparently I'm not alone.)
But I've never known Jess to champion anything an inch less than excellent, and yogurt and eggs are no exception. Read her words to understand why they work, and how. (Actually, read her words because they're just pure joy to read.) Maybe, like me, you'll walk away craving the contents of that blue-rimmed plate, a version I intend to try very soon. As it is, I was waylaid by rusty butter.
See, Rowe's eggs and yogurt, Turkey's gilbir, are drizzled in paprika-spiked butter. That's it. Butter, melted. Sweet paprika, stirred in. A spare, simple sauce. A gorgeous, gutsy thing. The paprika blooms in the hot butter, which takes up the deep sweet roasted toastiness of the pepper. A teaspoon or two of this ruddy, intense stuff splits into vivid rivulets, everywhere. It might overwhelm, were it not for the mint, a tablespoon of fresh leaves, slivered and scattered over all. Together, the mint and paprika are brilliant, cool and hot, sweet and savory, yogurt and eggs. (A fine match.)
Toast, I suppose, would be lovely alongside. Cukes and tomatoes are calling my name. But for now, I can't get past the zucchini. I sauté two, sliced, in a splash of olive oil with garlic, quick enough to hold their shape, long enough to bronze (and lose their bite). They are sweet, and toothsome, and fantastic sauce mops. I imagine green beans might work the same magic.
I imagine also it might seem funny business, calling this spiced-yogurt-vegetable-egg thing breakfast. Not exactly blueberry pancakes, I guess. Call it lunch, if you wish. Or dinner. Or brunch. Just call it up, sometime, when the appetite strikes.
Eggs, Paprika Butter, Mint, Yogurt, Zucchini
adapted from Silvena Rowe, Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume
My first go, I poached my egg, per Rowe's version. The second time, I fried my egg in olive oil, which I maybe loved even more. I'd repeat either in a heartbeat; take your pick. (I am no egg-poaching expert, but the bare bones are outlined below. Deb's tutorial is clear, concise, and spot-on.)
For crunch, I sometimes add a smattering of dukkah, the Egyptian blend of crushed nuts and spices. Heidi has a wonderful, small-batch dukkah recipe. A handful of toasted pine nuts would also be grand.
Rowe's original calls for twice as much paprika butter, but the quantities below got me through two separate servings. FYI.
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
1 clove garlic, sliced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 very nice eggs
distilled white vinegar, a splash
plain whole-milk yogurt
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon fresh mint, slivered
toasted pine nuts or dukkah to top (optional)
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, bring the olive oil to a shimmer. Tip in the sliced zucchini and garlic, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let sit a few minutes to get a good bit of brown going on the underside. Your zucchini will cook in 7-9 minutes or so, with the occasional flip and stir, adjusting heat if necessary, to prevent burning. The end goal is slices with a bit of burnish on both sides, and interiors that still have their wits about them. They can mostly manage themselves, while you go about fixing eggs and melting butter.
For Poached Eggs: Break your egg into a teacup or low, thin-lipped dish, and set aside. Fill a small saucepan by half with water, season well with salt, and bring to a low boil. Add a splash of vinegar. Turn down heat to maintain a not-quite-simmer, then with a large spoon, create a whirlpool of the water. Bring your dish to the surface, then slide your egg into the vortex. All will look lost. Carry on. Use said spoon to fold egg whites gently over the yolk, to help the whole thing hold together. Turn off the heat, and let poach to desired doneness. I like a solid white, and a yolk that is fudgy at the outside and saucy at the center, which is a 4.5-5 minute poach for my jumbo market eggs.
For Fried Eggs, Over Easy: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small heavy skillet until it shimmers. Crack in your egg, season to your liking, and let fry, covered, over a hottish flame, 2-3 minutes, or until white is completely set, and egg almost done. Flip egg, if desired, and cook until yolk is done (or undone) to your liking, 1 minute for a runny bit at the center.
Check your zukes. Toss, taste and season, and/or turn off the heat, when done.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. When bubbling, add the sweet paprika. Let burble gently 30 seconds over medium heat to meld flavors.
Paint half a plate with a generous 1/2 cup of plain, whole milk yogurt. Tip caramelized zucchini onto the other half. Set poached (or fried) egg atop both, drizzle spiced butter over all, scatter with slivered mint, and sprinkle with dukkah or pine nuts, if desired.