Break-fast dishes: light, simple, tasty

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By Keri White

One of the challenges of the break-fast meal for the cook is the prep. The ideal menu is one that can be done ahead of time and pulled out when the sun sets, not one that requires the cook to spend hours in the kitchen in the run up to serving.


Many families gravitate toward a traditional bagel spread — lox, whitefish salad, cream cheese, etc. This is certainly delicious and, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But for those looking for a lighter repast, or one that reflects the season which, in this case, is still summer, I offer some alternative fare.

These dishes can all be done ahead and served chilled or at room temperature. I also factored in the growing number of people who are vegan, celiac (or avoid gluten for other reasons) or just plain picky. These dishes all meet the first two requirements — I can’t help with pickiness!

Given the current state of the world, large, indoor gatherings are not recommended. But the fact that the High Holidays are early this year encourages outdoor festivities, so this menu is casual and summery and well-suited to a backyard gathering.

Quinoa salad

Serves 6

This is the most basic version of this grain salad — feel free to jazz it up with chopped bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh mint, etc.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas or your favorite bean (navy, cannellini, etc.), drained
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa according to package directions; cool it thoroughly. (You don’t want it mixing with the fresh parsley when it is still warm or it will “cook” the herbs.) In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the beans and quinoa to make a dressing. Add the beans and quinoa, toss and refrigerate overnight until ready to serve.

Classic 24-hour salad

Serves 10

This is an oldie but a goodie. The classic version contains bacon, but this is easily avoided in one of two ways: Use a veggie/kosher bacon bits product such as Soy Boy, or use smoked cheese to infuse the salad with the flavor without breaking any rules. This dish has a dramatic presentation, so serve it in a tall, glass bowl and toss it at the table.

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled peas
  • 1 cup kosher/veggie bacon bits
  • 2 cups smoked cheese (such as cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, etc.)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sliced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Generous sprinkling of pepper

Place half of the lettuce in the bottom of a large, deep bowl. Sprinkle it with the sugar, salt and pepper.

Layer the eggs over the lettuce, placing some on their sides facing out to add to the visual appeal. Add peas, kosher bacon bits (if using), cheese and the remaining lettuce. Spread the mayonnaise over the top of the salad, sprinkle with a bit more grated cheese and top it with the scallions.

Cover the salad tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight. Toss before serving.

Israeli roasted eggplant salad

Serves 8

Sumac is a reddish-colored spice commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a fresh, citrusy flavor, so if you can’t source it, use a teaspoon of grated lemon zest in its place.

  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1½ teaspoon sumac
  • 1 scant handful fresh parsley, chopped, for topping.

Place the eggplant cubes in a colander, and sprinkle them with salt. Allow them to sit for about 30 minutes; the eggplant will “sweat,” and this removes some of the bitterness.

Heat your oven to 400 F.

Rinse the eggplant, dry it with paper towels and place it on a parchment-lined, rimmed cookie sheet. Add the onions and tomatoes to the eggplant. In a measuring cup, mix the olive oil with all the remaining ingredients except for the parsley, and mix well with a fork. Drizzle this mixture over the vegetables and toss well to coat.

Bake for 30 minutes until the eggplant is soft; stir it occasionally in the oven to ensure even cooking. When done, place the eggplant mixture in a bowl, cover and place it in the fridge.

Before serving, sprinkle the salad with parsley and toss. This can be enjoyed warm, chilled or at room temperature.

Keri White is a food columnist in Philadelphia.

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