Saturday, February 20, 2010

Breakfast For Dinner

Every now and then, I play that game with myself - if I had to live off of one type of food, what would it be? And a lot of the time, I think it would be brunch food. Eggs, pancakes, waffles, fruit salad with yogurt and granola on top; these are the things my tastebuds never tire of. I can qualify this with several reasons, the most compelling being that some of my happiest childhood memories are from my family's Sunday brunches. Sometimes, we'd make the waffles from scratch and top them with homemade jam. Other times, we'd just heat up a Sarah Lee coffee cake, the one with the walnuts on top, and we'd sit for hours talking and laughing, and my mother would tell us stories of her life in Haifa and Washington before any of us populated it. I think we all knew on some level that what we had - this happy family unit who enjoyed spending time together - was rare and precious, and we took a deliberate pride and care in preserving our tradition for as long as we could.

If I'm eating brunch, chances are I'll have spent a lovely, lazy morning in bed, reading the paper or watching Coronation Street, staying in pajamas and loving the fact that I don't have to be anywhere or do anything. Fresh coffee flows freely in my giant mug; great books beckon me. I'm on my own schedule. Brunch is this tiny thing I can do to make myself feel like I'm living at just the right pace. Which is hard when you're not independently wealthy or altogether emotionally balanced. Yet.

The funny thing is, I hate actually going out for brunch. Having been a waitress for several years and serving the brunch crowd, I can honestly say that brunch always seemed to have a pretty contrary effect on a lot of the people I waited on. It seemed to make them care a bit too much about the consistency of their eggs or the authenticity of their "fresh" orange juice; somehow, they forgot to enjoy themselves or remember this was a decadent treat. Mind you, I was a terrible waitress, so maybe that had something to do with it. Still, I prefer to brunch with Almost Husband at home, where we can unabashedly cook our scrambled eggs to the point of almost criminal dryness, and we can proudly make our mimosas more champagne than juice. (And the juice might just come from concentrate.)

Last night, I had the house to myself and felt the familiar hankering for some late breakfast food. I'd been craving this black bean dip I saw on Dishing Up Delights and decided to pair it with sweet potato pancakes, which would effectively "breakfast up" my dinner. I found a good recipe for them here, poured myself a glass of wine and got started. The whole thing was fantastically simple to put together and amidst the familiar smell of the pancakes turning golden in a hot pan, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for my sweet childhood Sundays. Food is constantly delighting me with discoveries, the most powerful being that it is not merely fuel for activity, but a social glue of sorts, a way of connecting to people. Food can have a delicate grip on the past; days that can't necessarily be relived, but can be cajoled back to remembrance by the simple act of cooking.

Here's a take on breakfast for dinner. I omitted the cilantro and green onion because I didn't have any. I also dressed it with some plain yogurt and shredded white cheddar. Next time, I'm going to try some chopped avocado with it.

Black Bean Dip, via Dishing Up Delights:

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 chipotles in adobo

1/4 teaspoon adobo sauce
(I think I used about a tablespoon; I love the heat!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, grated

2 small tomatoes, seeds and pulped scooped out and diced, one reserved for topping

Juice of 1/2 lime (I used a whole lime!)

2 green onions, whites and light green parts sliced, green tops reserved

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1. In food processor, pulse together the black beans, chipotles, salt and garlic till well mixed.

2. Add one of the tomatoes and the lime juice, green onions and cilantro if using, and pulse till just combined.

3. Top it with grated cheese, the remaining tomato and any other additions you like!

Sweet Potato Pancakes, via Taria at

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cooked till soft, then mashed or pureed.
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 1/3 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of milk; more if needed
2 tbsp butter, melted

1. Prepare the sweet potato. I chopped the pieces pretty small so they boiled in about 10-12 minutes.

2. In a medium sized bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

3. In a separate bowl, mash the sweet potato puree with the vanilla, eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir till just combined; add more milk if needed.

4. Over low-medium heat (again, it's my freakishly hot stove!) pour batter and cook till bubbles dot the surface of the pancake. Flip and allow to turn golden. Keep them warm in the oven, or serve immediately!

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