Market-Fresh Breakfasts

Biting into my morning sandwich of perfectly toasted pita bread, yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, onion and cucumber, I knew spring had arrived.

As the season slowly flows into summer, winter greens and root vegetables give way to a bounty of fresh produce, expanding the options for lunch, dinner and, yes, even breakfast. Walk into a farmers market and find the multicolored array of white and purple splatter-painted eggplants, yellow blooming into red on bell peppers like the inside of a tulip, and heirloom tomatoes swirling with purples, greens and deep reds — new colors and shapes revealed with every slice.

I fill my bag at the market but find it hard to leave anything behind. I pause, my hand wavering above a small basket of mushrooms, eyeing the purple asparagus standing tall beside it, tapping my foot, trying to decide. I finally tear myself away.

I start snacking on my produce on the walk home when it hits me: I don't have to wait until lunch to eat my vegetables.

Red, purple and yellow peppers fill bags at a farmers market i i

Piles of peppers in multiple hues at the farmers market inspire recipes like this breakfast tart. Eve Turow for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Eve Turow for NPR
Red, purple and yellow peppers fill bags at a farmers market

Piles of peppers in multiple hues at the farmers market inspire recipes like this breakfast tart.

Eve Turow for NPR

Typical American breakfasts don't often include vegetables. Not so in other countries. I remember the shock of my first breakfast in Israel. Groggy-eyed and jet-lagged, I wandered into the hotel dining room to find a large bowl of tomato and cucumber salad, eggplant and chickpea dips, and a tomato stew with eggs known as shakshuka. Peering into the bowl of rose-red tomatoes and clear cucumber pieces, I thought, "Salad for breakfast? What are they thinking?"

Then I tasted it. The cool crunch of the cucumber woke my taste buds, and the tomatoes released a refreshing juice. I spooned baba ganoush and hummus onto my plate, swooping it into my mouth with the warm pita bread. Perfection.

Pickled vegetables are a breakfast staple in Japan, and morning meals across India incorporate a handful of different spices and vegetables including tomatoes, onions, peppers and peas. Ethiopia's traditional breakfast dish, ful — variations of which are eaten all over North Africa — is made with fava beans, tomatoes and onions. And a traditional Turkish breakfast buffet includes not only bread and cheese, but also tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.

About The Author

Eve Turow is a native Chicagoan currently residing in Washington, D.C. Often she can be found wandering the stands of D.C. farmers markets. She has previously written on the topics of food and travel for a local publication in Buenos Aires, and semi-regularly blogs about food, music and travel at Bacchus & I.

So I decided it was acceptable for me to incorporate vegetables into my breakfast. I could bake an egg in a tomato shell instead of a ramekin, or top my bagel and cream cheese with roasted eggplant, onion and bell peppers or avocado and tomato. Oh, the possibilities.

Besides satisfying my possibly abnormal enthusiasm for fresh produce, eating vegetables early in the day provides vitamins and minerals. One cup of tomatoes has over half the recommended daily vitamin C, and bell peppers provide a day’s worth of vitamins A and C. One cup of broccoli has 5 grams of dietary fiber, while a medium artichoke has 10 grams of dietary fiber, 40 percent of the recommended daily allotment. As sources of antioxidants and dietary fiber, vegetables are a perfectly sensible way to start your day.

In most American restaurants, adding vegetables to breakfast means a vegetable omelet or substituting tomato slices for a side of hash browns (but who really wants to eat plain tomatoes instead of fried potatoes?). There are so many more interesting options.

I look forward to exploring the possibilities. When I go to my farmers markets each week and gaze at the selection before me — the pink and white radishes or purple cauliflower — I'll be tasting tomorrow's breakfast in my mind.

Summer Squash And Red Pepper Tarta With Basil Crust

This is a traditional Argentine dish. I've added basil to the crust and roasted the vegetables instead of sauteeing them. You can also prepare this dish with pre-packaged puff pastry dough (breakfast should be easy, after all) and simply sprinkle the basil in the tart before adding the vegetables. Best of all, slice the tarta and freeze it in sections for a quick meal to go on a hectic morning.

Summer Squash And Red Pepper Tarta With A Basil Crust i i
Eve Turow for NPR
Summer Squash And Red Pepper Tarta With A Basil Crust
Eve Turow for NPR

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon ice water, plus more if needed

Filling

2 large red bell peppers

2 large summer squash

Olive oil for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh basil as garnish

2 large eggs

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the butter with a pastry blender, food processor or your hands until the dough looks like coarse crumbs. Once it reaches the desired consistency, add the egg yolk and ice water, working it into the mixture. Pinch a section of the dough together between your fingers: If the dough is still crumbly and does not bind, add more ice water, a small amount at a time. You want the dough to bind without being too damp or sticky. When the dough has reached the right consistency, roll it into a ball and flatten it into a disk (this will help the dough cool faster). Then wrap the disk and place it in the refigerator for at least 30 minutes, ideally one hour.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the bell peppers into quadrants and the squash into rounds 1/4 inch thick. Cover a baking sheet with foil and lightly drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Spread cut vegetables on top of seasoned foil. Drizzle again with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, turning them over halfway.

While the vegetables roast, take the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour a kitchen board and roll out the dough into a 10-inch round. Drape the dough over a rolling pin and transfer it to a 9-by-9-inch baking or pie pan. Press the dough into the pan and trim the edges.

When the vegetables are done, lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees Prick the bottom of the tart crust with a fork and place it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust begins to brown. If it begins to puff, cover with foil and add pie weights, dried beans or rice to hold it down (or just push it down with an oven mitt or kitchen towel!).

Pile the vegetables into the pre-cooked tart crust, beginning with the red peppers, breaking the curled edges to let the pepper lie flat. Once the red peppers are arranged, whisk 1 egg and pour evenly over tart. Then place the squash slices and whisk the other egg and pour over the tart. Place the tart in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. If the edges of the tart begin to brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil. Once the egg is cooked through, the tart is done. Cool on a rack and garnish with basil before serving.

Sweet Corn And Blueberry Pancakes

I know corn is not technically a vegetable, but it provides key nutrients and is a staple of fresh summer produce. This recipe is adapted from one in Gourmet Magazine (March 1993).

Sweet Corn And Blueberry Pancakes i i
Eve Turow for NPR
Sweet Corn And Blueberry Pancakes
Eve Turow for NPR

Makes about 12 pancakes

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal (available at specialty food shops and many supermarkets)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional melted butter for brushing the griddle

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup fresh corn (approximately 1 large ear, corn trimmed off cob)

1/2 cup blueberries

Maple syrup or apple butter, for serving

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda and sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, egg and buttermilk. Stir corn and blueberries into the liquids mixture. Combine dry and wet ingredients. Heat a griddle or flat pan over moderately high heat until it is hot and brush it lightly with the additional butter. Drop the batter by a 1/4-cup measure onto the griddle. Spread the batter slightly, thinning the pancakes, to form 3 1/2- to 4-inch cakes. Cook the cakes for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden. As they finish, transfer them to a heatproof platter and keep them warm. Continue to add butter to the pan between batches. Serve with maple syrup or apple butter.

Eggs Baked With Spinach And Feta In Tomato Shell

This is one of my favorite breakfasts. It is quick, healthy and delicious. If you slice through the middle, you will see the red of the tomato, green of the spinach and white and yellow from the egg all piled on top of one another. It is great for entertaining or even a multitasking morning: Finish getting ready as they bake away in the oven. The recipe is adapted from 60-Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey (Times Books 1992).

Eggs Baked With Spinach And Feta In Tomato Shell i i
Eve Turow for NPR
Eggs Baked With Spinach And Feta In Tomato Shell
Eve Turow for NPR

Makes 4 servings

4 large ripe tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium eggs

4 tablespoons feta cheese

1 pound spinach

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut off tomato tops and set aside (may be used later as garnish). Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the tomato and scoop out insides, creating a tomato shell. Sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper and turn the tomatoes upside down on a towel to dry and drain out any excess liquids.

In the meantime, steam or sautee the spinach. To steam, fill a pan with a thin layer of water and bring to a boil. Turn off the burner, add the spinach and cover the pan until the spinach wilts. Drain out excess water once the spinach is cooked. Stand the tomatoes right side up in a pan, and place approximately 1/4 cup spinach into the bottom of each, pressing down to make room for other ingredients. Break an egg inside each tomato shell. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and feta cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not let the yolks become too firm. Serve immediately.

Israeli Tomato And Cucumber Salad With Pita Bread

Try this with a number of toppings that you can mix and match, or just choose one: hummus, baba ganoush, tahini. Though it isn't traditional, I like to make pita sandwiches filled with this salad and chive cream cheese for the morning.

Israeli Tomato And Cucumber Salad With Pita Bread
Eve Turow for NPR

Makes 6 servings

3 medium tomatoes, cubed into bite-size pieces

1 large cucumber, preferably with skin thin enough not to peel such as an English cucumber, cubed into bite-size pieces

4 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts, or 1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bell pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients, stirring to evenly distribute lemon juice and olive oil. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with slices of warm pita bread.

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