Monday, July 7, 2008

Markets and breakfasting

The Oriental Grocer, whose freezer, this week, delivered the prettiest wheels of sliced lotus roots and more bright green edamame pods, is by far my favourite market stall. Tightly-packed shelves teeter with produce from the four corners of the globe, all the while jostling for your attention with the freshest of coriander, large, crisp heads of wombok and colourful chillies, bunched like tiny, hot bouquets. Long smooth garlic shoots, as wide and solid as a pencil nearly tempt me each week. Nearly. Next visit, perhaps. I wish I knew what to do with them. Let’s see what can be rustled up for those for lotus roots, first. This recipe I know to be a sensation.

gluten-free week

Challenged by A.O.F., the past week was spent, rather happily, eating gluten-free. In the process of noting each meal, my style of breakfasting – a vague hunger seems to set in only after 9am – obviously requires a little work. Predictable slices of toast or rice cakes punctuate most mornings, interspersed with the odd small bowl of muesli. Porridge sits too heavily, alas, and smoothies, that other unthinkably-easy breakfast, are too cold mid-winter. Lacking imagination, clearly. So, I’ve been playing with morning food and one of the more interesting thoughts, found while flipping wistfully on a Saturday morning, was a dish of fresh Medjool dates served with a sliver of mild feta cheese and toasty almonds; a simple, elegant idea from Nadine Abensur.

It’s wonderful. Unexpectedly so. I wouldn’t suggest you eat this regularly – cheese at breakfast is a little over the top - but if you, like me, prefer to eat a little (and later) in the morning, then this may just grab you. Makes a lovely, if not slightly odd lunch, too. A couple of years ago, we meandered through a Parisian market, looking for fruit to satisfy the familiar traveller’s need for fibre. One stall holder coaxed us over by pitting a fat, fresh date and stuffing it with the smallest, sweetest, milkiest walnuts I’ve ever tasted. I audibly gasped. He grinned. Naturally, we bought handfuls of both. Merci beaucoup.

Take three or four fresh, plump dates per person, slice each along its length and discard the pit. Toast some sweet walnuts, pecans or almonds in a dry pan until fragrant and, while warm, stuff each date with two nuts. Cut a slice of feta, a mild, creamy one, and stuff a little of it, too, into your date. Arrange on a plate, drizzle with honey or agave syrup mixed with a tiny, carefully measured droplet of orange blossom water. Rich. Blissful. Indulgent. But not the stuff of everyday breakfasting. Lord, no.

Still, the question remains. I need ideas, suggestions and inspiration, people, to get out of this silly self-made breakfasting rut.


Any ideas?



31 comments:

Desci said...

My grandfather used to eat the garlic shoots raw, like a carrot. Some odd chemistry happens, apparently: if you eat enough of it raw, the garlicky stench doesn't happen.

My grandmother preferred to use them like spring onions, especially chopped in salads.

Do you go to Victoria Market? I've just discovered edamame and would love to know where to get it/how to prepare it (can you just pop 'em out of the shell and eat them raw? I want to recreate the magic that happens in my favourite Japanese cafe).

Ricki said...

Medjool dates are just divine, aren't they? This sounds like a fabulous combination.

I eat cooked grains for breakfast--a favorite is millet with just a bit of teff. Brown basmati cooked slowly in plain soymilk until thick and pudding-like, sprinkled with cinnamon and a few raisins tossed in. And an old (non-grain) favorite is a baked sweet potato (yam) with almond butter--yum! Or how about a rice cake with almond butter and a drizzle of blackstrap molasses?

Okay, now I have to go get some food. . .

Lisa said...

No, not a breakfast for everyday, but this sounds really good. I'm intrigued. I don't tend to be creative with breakfast, sticking with fruit, or toast and eggs, with the exception of Sunday. If you have sometime on your hands, you might want to check the recipes under the breakfast label on my blog. Some are simple, some take a bit more effort.

Anh said...

I love these dates... Just sooo beautiful and tasty. My fav way of using them is dipping them with yoghurt and some drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sound weird but it's really wonderful!

Lucy said...

Hi Desci, I do sometimes shop at Vic Market, but more often you'll find me at Prahran (closer to home). I do know for a fact that the incredible Oriental Grocer across the road from Vic Market sell edamame, both in the pod and podded. Thaw for an hour before you want to eat them, and yes, just eat them straight from the pod - I'm addicted now. Completely.

And thank you, very much indeed, for the garlic shoot ideas - raw clearly sounds like the way to go!

Ricki, they're just so chocolate-y, aren't they? Brilliant breakfasting ideas - the sweet potato sounds Very Do-able (I can get up and pop a small ne in the oven an have it ready by the time I'm ready to eat) and the brown rice sounds bloody marvellous! Thanks, darls.

Lisa, yeah, I'm at my least creative in the mornings. I'm fully awake, out and about quite early most days, but just not hungry. Will pop over for some inspiration...you always 'know' what I want to eat!

Anh, lovely Anh! Yum idea. Just imagining the oil and yoghurt together and it's quite divine. Hope you're well - you still coming to the veg bloggers meet?

Anh said...

Hi Lucy, yes I am coming. Just returned from Sydney and it was so cold in Melb... :(

Lucy said...

Hooray, Anh! Yep - look out the window at all that rain...I love it, actually, but it finally does feel like winter here, especially today!

Carson said...

I often have ricotta for breakfast (with cous cous made with butter instead of oil and some fruit) or on a toasted bagel with jam, but I must admit that fetta for breakfast does seem a bit full on

Desci said...

Fantastic, thanks for that, Lucy!

Johanna said...

your dates look lovely - have never had them with nuts or fetta but love them with some gooey brie!

re breakfasts - when I am rushing it is just toast and fruit but I have been enjoying smoothies more lately and also love baked beans on toast which are such a great start to keep you going during the day. Have you tried lightly fried vegies like tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach over toast or fried potatoes (I would highly recommend Scottish potato scones if you want a mix of potatoes and wheat)

Dhanggit said...

oh i love dates, your photos are all feast for the eyes..

it is always great to inject inventiveness in the way we serve breakfast..but with my hubby its kinda hard for he only wants croissant and home-made jam LOL anyways..my dates i use them in making tajines most of the time

Simona said...

I wish I could be of help, Lucy, but I am really not a breakfast person. Too much of an Italian, I guess. My morning bliss is summarized in a name: Italian cappuccino. Love those dates.

shula said...

Excellent breakfast suggestion.

Nadine. I just LOVE her. The book lives on my kitchen table to read while whenever I stop for a minute.

What about rice porridge. I find that a lot less heavy than oats.

Or is that too heavy on the gluten. Does it have gluten? I wouldn't know.

Lucy said...

Carson, Carson, Carson...ricotta AND cous cous. Oh. My. GOD. Yum. YUM!

Pleasure, Desci!

Johanna - with brie? Lovely idea. Just lovely. Veg at breakfast, especially spinach and 'shrooms is a divine idea.

Hi Dhanggit, and thank you. Your hubby sounds like my bloke - he adores bread-y, pastry things in the morning!

Simona, oh, I hear ya. Lunch is MUCH more exciting, I must say. P'raps there's a little Italian blood in these veins after all...

Shula - she's a bloody wonder, that Nadine. Like a kitchen witch. I did a class with her once and not only is she a brilliant writer, but she's gorgeous, warm AND gentle. Rice porridge sounds right up my alley. And not a scrap of gluten in view. Shall make with haste, tomorrow and report back.

kale for sale said...

You've inspired me to try dates. Of course anything that can hold a sweet walnut and domino of feta and be drizzled with honey must be delicious. But it may only be the way you present them. You have a way.

nicole said...

This looks so good! And I think cheese w. breakfast is perfectly acceptable :)

Thermomixer said...

Try dates with blue cheese and smoked almonds (Jane Lawson idea). Or try dates sliced into matchsticks and rolled in some icing sugar with some mixed spices,little pepper,chilli and then sprinkle these over ornage segments drizzled with orange blossom water (a Janni Kyritsis based idea)

You can poach pears - as per my blog (or on stove) and eat warm.

winedeb said...

This would not be a breakfast for me, just a bit too rich, but I think it would make a wonderful desert! It would also be a wonderful dish for a party as they really do not require a plate and fork for eating.
Now, for breakfast a nice bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit is my winter send off for the day. In the summer, a big bowl of fruit salad with nuts and a bit a agave drizzled over...fresh and satisfying!

bee said...

my mom used to put a deseeded date with a hidden almond as my tiffin treat in lieu of candy. i can imagine how great the feta makes it.

Lucy said...

Katrina - hope you do, indeed, try the ocassional, rich treat that i fresh dates. Feta and walnuts...how very well they get along.

Thanks, Nicole, for the yes to cheese before lunch vote!

Thanks, Thermomixer - pears poached are a gorgeous breakfast at this time of the year. I've been playing with unsulphured dry fruits in a compote of late. Is that a little Jack Russell I spy?

Deb, it IS rich stuff. And perfect - absolutely perfect - for buffets nd the like. Dessert, too. Lovely stuff!

bee, I reckon it's better than any kind of candy - you were a lucky wee girl! Feta makes it that little more 'grown-up'. You'll love it!

neil said...

How about tofu rancheros, a take on the Mexican breakfast dish of huevos rancheros? Corn tortilla, salsa, refried beans and a some lovely fried tofu, that would fix that nagging hunger thing until lunch time for sure.

Thermomixer said...

Hi Lucy - yes it is a JRT (Lily) my avatar has my two most precious things (apart from my betrothed).

Like the idea of tofu Neil-but lightly scrambled silken with some coconut milk, honey and some spices. Reminds me of junket (my young co-workers didn't know what that was!!)

Wendy said...

These are beautiful! I can almost taste them right now. Wish I really had one...

I'm not the ideal person to give breakfast advice, I'm afraid. I wake up every day feeling famished and devour whatever I can find. Usually toast or muesli or (on the weekends) some kind of eggs. Always plan to make more effort with my food in the mornings but it just isn't happening.

heather said...

Like Ricki, I'm a big fan of cooked grains for breakfast. Sometimes it's an assortment of different organic grain flakes (brown rice, oats, barley, millet, rye and spelt) cooked in the rice cooker on its porridge setting. Or, I'll use an assortment of unadulterated whole grains (varieties as above but with often some buckwheat and rinsed quinoa) and cook them 12 hours in the slow cooker. Either way, for the cooking liquid I'll typically use half water and half Bonsoy or almond milk or fresh apple or pear juice. For added lusciousness, I might add a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick. I always make a bucketful because it reheats very nicely in the microwave. Usually serve with some poached fruit or, if feeling too lazy to make poached fruit, I'll stir either prunes or sun muscatels through the cooked grain right before I dump it in the container and put it in the fridge. The cooked grain makes for a very sustaining breakfast without the stodgy heaviness that a traditional oatmeal porridge can have. Hope you're still cooking my exotic mushroom recipe, as posted some time ago on Elegant Sufficiency. I was stoked that you made them and posted about it. They're just the business! Meant to get in touch back then but the new bambino was being a tad high maintenance.

Holler said...

That does sound lovely Lucy! I think it would be especially good mid-afternoon, when I always get that energy dip.

Oh and I have tagged you for a photo meme, so that you can show off some of your gorgeous photos :)

Sue said...

Hi there Lucy, just discovered your blog and love your recipes and writing - can't wait to try some. I am a big fan of peanut butter at any time of day (or indeed night), and have been known to have it for breakfast.

Lucy said...

Neil, tofu at breaky...not so sure. Thing is I'm not really hungry in the mornings...p'raps for a weekend brunch.

Thermomixer, now THAT sounds sensational! And hello to Lily - who is your other furry friend, I wonder?

Wendy - you and I, both! Granola and raw oats in the warmer weather, fruit, too are my staples. Hmm...the dates are good any time of the day. ANY time...

Oh, Heather...yum. Pear juice and vanilla and all those grainy-goodies. Have got my imagination flowing now! And yes, those 'shrooms of yours are a regular around here - so pleased to hear from you!

Holler - a perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up! Shall take up the meme as time permits. God, have soooo many photos to go through...

Hi Sue, and welcome! Glad you found me...has led me back to you.

Suganya said...

I always have these granola bars on hand. Neither skimpy, not too heavy.

Zoe said...

Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes use garlic shoots as a vegetable in stir-fries; not the big mixed kind, but ones with maybe two ingredients and seasonings.

There are lots more ideas at http://www.chow.com/digest/622 and http://www.chowhound.com/topics/293159

They're also called suan-miao, sweet garlic chives and (I think) garlic scapes. They are delicious - you should get some!

Susan said...

Ooooooo....this isn't over the top at all - gorgeous dense dates and stinging feta. I do fancy cheese for breakfast; it's very traditionally Dutch (not feta, of course). :D

What I've made of late are huge skillets full of varied whole grains, nuts, dried fruit and legumes. Lasts all week, the perfect lazy man's pilaf.

(Oh, and Suganya's granola bars are ridiculously fantastic!)

Lucy said...

Suganya, you are a star! Just checked them out and will be making them this week.

Hi Zoe - you've made me get out my Dunlop book...utterly delicious addition to the 'simple' stir-fries of two or three veg. You're on!

Susan, have just bookmarked Suganya's granola bar. That combo - dates, creamy, salty feta and warm nuts - is rich and satisfying. And of course, it comes from Nadine so you know how exotic the flavours are...lazy man's pilaf. Love it!