below, i have pasted an article from today's new york times. mark bittman is writing about grains and breakfast and polenta. as always, he is entertaining and full of great ideas.
this weekend i used my new appliances, eep! eep!, to makes things like a giant pot o' grains (grandma's grain recipe from 101 cookbooks) and a polenta pizza (from the new moosewood cookbook). i think that somehow mark and i got, like, all aligned cosmically, or something. amazing.
anyhoo, the grains were fabulous. totally worth doing. i ate them sweet (brown sugar, butter, cream), savory (base for turkey chili), and as stuffing for peppers (currently in the crock-pot.) the recipe says that it will feed a family of four for a week. apparently, the man and i eat a lot, because we are officially on day three and they're gone. oh well, delish and good for you. what could be better?
polenta pizza, also a winner. and easy. my half, spinach, peppers, onions, garlic, goat cheese, cheddar. his? all the same, add sausage. make it. it's easy.
February 18, 2009
Your Morning Pizza
By MARK BITTMAN
THERE are many reasons to rethink breakfast.
Maybe you’re trying to get more whole grains into your life, figuring they’re more beneficial (and cheaper) than the alternatives, or that they’ll help you lose weight or postpone hunger. Or you’re sick of sweet breakfasts. Trying to cut down on eggs. Looking for something new.
All of those were reasons for me when, a year or two ago, I started eating things at breakfast that you would more likely associate with dinner: black olives, quinoa, miso, dried tomatoes, sesame oil, bok choy, wheat berries, roasted carrots.
The foundation of most of these breakfasts has been whole grains, and making them a morning staple has done me nothing but good. I’m eating more of them, I’ve lost weight, the morning meal “lasts” longer before I’m hungry again.
The differences between the ways our bodies handle whole and highly processed grains may be arguable, but surely it would be foolhardy to pretend that a stack of doughnuts or a bowl of Sugar Pops is the nutritional equivalent of a bowl of bulgur or cooked oats.
But even putting aside the health argument, the narrow spectrum of highly sweetened morning food is limiting and ultimately boring.
At first glance, the savory options may seem just as limited. But everybody eats savory breakfasts at least occasionally, from bacon and eggs to bagels and lox, dim sum and the breakfast burrito. And, dare I say it, the Egg McMuffin. Then there are dinner leftovers — like cold pizza — and the occasional brunch dish.
Once I started looking around, in fact, I didn’t feel limited at all. It could be that my breakfast preferences stem from my mother, who served oatmeal and cream of wheat with nothing more than butter and salt — no brown sugar, no maple syrup. I thought this was the only way to go until I got out into the world a little and found out how unusual her approach was.
Or it could be that I’ve traveled enough to learn the joys of jook, the Chinese rice porridge also known as congee, which is among my favorite ways to start the day even when seasoned with nothing more than scallions, soy and chopped peanuts; of the kipper, baked beans, broiled mushrooms, tomatoes and other staples of the traditional English breakfast; of cucumbers, feta and olives, which I ate daily in Turkey; of ful medames, the lemon-kissed fava concoction of Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East; and, one glorious day about 10 years ago, of kao tom, the Thai version of jook, loaded with sausage, eggs and nam pla.
Everything is fair game at breakfast — and long has been, of course — but to most Americans it doesn’t seem appropriate to start making what amounts to dinner at seven in the morning. It’s one thing to eat leftover pizza, pasta, roast chicken, soup, whatever; it’s entirely another to start cooking them while your tea or coffee is still brewing.
It does feel natural, however, to see grains as the basis for a savory breakfast. Grains are the foundation of many traditional breakfasts, like cereal, toast and porridge; they can be fast or prepared in advance (more on this in a moment), they require little or no attention, and they’re satisfying. Their flavor is also neutral enough to be the starting point for a host of dishes that can be as simple as oatmeal with scallions and soy (or olive oil and tapenade, or chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, or miso and seaweed), or as complex as polenta “pizza” with greens and pancetta, an unusual and spectacular weekend breakfast dish.
About speed and the rushed-morning syndrome: I have long maintained that instant or even “quick” oatmeal is a hoax, given that rolled oats require only a few minutes to make, that even steel-cut oats can be cooked pretty quickly, and that any grain can be made “instant” by grinding it a bit finer in a good blender or food processor. There are other tricks that make whole grains faster (pre-cook halfway, soak overnight or use a pressure cooker, for example), but in the last few years I realized that even these aren’t crucial.
That’s because any whole grain can be cooked ahead of time in any quantity. The easiest technique is simply to boil a couple of cups of grains as you would pasta, in abundant water, until done and then refrigerate. If, as happens with finely ground grains, the cooked grain sets up in the refrigerator (often desirable, in the case of polenta), you just whisk in a little water before reheating, which you can do on top of the stove or in the microwave.
Uncovering this little-known fact has made the savory, grain-based breakfast a matter of routine for me. I do polenta with butter and Parmesan; steel-cut oats with peanut butter (sometimes with hot sauce); and, a recent favorite, brown rice with dried mushrooms and dried tomatoes.
In addition to the polenta “pizza,” and the wheat berry-soy-scallions bowl, which I eat in one variation or another at least once a week, you might consider this coconut oat pilaf, a spicy, aromatic dish that will change the way you think about oatmeal. As for the wild rice and quinoa dish, a kind of stuffing for breakfast, this — like the traditional post-Thanksgiving meal — is a perfect place for leftovers. As is breakfast in general.
Here are a few more fast ideas for savory, mostly whole-grain breakfasts (some of which come from readers of my blog, Bitten — for these I say a general “thanks”):
Breakfast risotto I can’t think of a leftover risotto I wouldn’t love at breakfast. But if you’re starting from scratch, fry sausage or pancetta in a little oil; add dried tomatoes, garlic, and onion, then rice. Make the risotto. Finish with cheese, parsley or sage, lemon juice.
Congee Best in a slow cooker. Use about one cup rice to six cups liquid — stock mixed with water, or all water. Cook with a little salt, maybe a bit of meat, until very soft and soupy. Top with dried or cooked shrimp, scallions, cilantro, bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, soy. You can use brown rice, too.
Saffron chickpeas Cook chickpeas in abundant water with garlic and a pinch of saffron; when they’re almost done, add salt and chorizo, along with a bit of pimentón if you like. Serve over barley, polenta, rice or flatbread. Other chickpea breakfasts: falafel, hummus.
Whole wheat flatbread With Parmesan or olive oil and rosemary.
Migas Essentially stir-fried bread: Take 1/2-inch pieces of good whole wheat or rye and cook it in (lots of) olive oil with garlic, crumbled chorizo, or whatever else you like, until the bread is crisp.
Stir-fry Any one you like. I do bok choy with tofu frequently, over whatever cooked grain I have around.
The sandwich Whole wheat bread, avocado, tomato. Mayo is optional; lemon juice is also good.
Grits or polenta A godsend with Parmesan or other cheese, lots of black pepper, maybe a bit of butter. Or with shrimp sautéed in butter. Or baked, as in the polenta pizza recipe, but with eggs in place of the greens or tomatoes and mozzarella. Or with eggs and greens, especially kale.
Vaguely Japanese Bake leftover brown rice with eggs; drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce, garnish with toasted nori.