Breakfast

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I never can resist a pun – last year I paid $91 for a t-shirt because it had a vegetable pun on it. Yup, I am a sucker for a pun. But the title here, play on words though it may be, is no joke. These tarts, galettes, or whatever you want to call them, are savory and so good. I can only take a little credit, since they borrow heavily from other sources, and I encourage you to riff still further on their basic elements.

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The starting point was this post on My Name is Yeh (congrats on the new book, by the way!). That everything bagel topping, I started dreaming about putting it on, well, everything. Except, apparently, pie crust. I envisioned a crust that was somewhere between a thin-crust pizza and a cracker, so I turned to a standby recipe that I’ve used plenty of times in the past, this whole wheat yeasted olive oil pastry from the NY Times. To make a more substantial dinner, I filled it with sauteed spinach, FINALLY delicious heirloom tomatoes, and a liberal sprinkling of Gruyere. There’s something really amazing about the garlic-onion-sesame that’s just bang-on with the slight funk of the cheese, and I couldn’t be more proud of these tarts if I’d thought of them myself!

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Spinach galettes with tomatoes and everything
Serves 4
Spinach, tomatoes and rich Gruyere in a crisp crust that brings to mind your favorite bagel.
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Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr
For the dough
  1. 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  2. ¼ teaspoon sugar
  3. 1 large egg
  4. ¼ cup olive oil
  5. 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  6. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  7. ¾ teaspoon salt
For the filling
  1. 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  2. 1 Tbs olive oil
  3. 12 ounces baby spinach
  4. 4 medium tomatoes
  5. 4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese, about ¾ cup
  6. 1 egg, beaten
For the topping
  1. 2 tsp dried minced garlic
  2. 2 tsp dried minced onion
  3. 1 Tbs poppy seeds
  4. 1 Tbs sesame seeds
  5. ¼ tsp table salt
Instructions
  1. Make the dough, about an hour and half before you want to eat.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Stir in the oil and egg, plus about half a cup of warm water. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer or your hands, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball. It's not necessary to work it too long. Place dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic and leave to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  3. While the dough rises, heat the tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, letting it cook down and release its liquid.
  4. Slice the tomatoes (tip: slice from the bottom of the tomato for slices that hold together the best) and place the slices on a couple of paper towels to absorb some of their liquid.
  5. Mix together all the topping ingredients in a small bowl.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  7. When dough has doubled in bulk, divide it in half; re-cover the half you're not working with while you form the first galette.
  8. Roll out the dough into a circle about 10 inches across. It should be quite thin, about an eighth of an inch.
  9. Place the dough circle on a piece of parchment paper. Brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg to help keep the bottom from getting soggy.
  10. Place half the spinach in a thin layer over the dough, leaving a generous inch uncovered at the edge. Lay slices of tomato on top of the spinach, and then sprinkle with half the cheese.
  11. Fold the edges of the dough over the toppings, making the prettiest folds you can. Brush the crust with egg wash, and sprinkle the topping mixture generously over the dough.
  12. Repeat the whole process with the second half of the dough.
  13. Carefully slide the galettes on their paper onto a large baking sheet.
  14. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is beginning to crisp on top.
  15. Let rest for 5 minutes on a cooling rack before slicing.
Adapted from Molly Yeh & Martha Rose Shulman
Adapted from Molly Yeh & Martha Rose Shulman
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

Hey! The blog has been really quiet for ages (years!), I know. But we’re back in Slovakia for a few weeks, so we thought we’d share some thoughts and pictures from the old homestead. We’ll try out some recipes as well.

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One of the first things we noticed was how much the food culture here has improved. Score! I used to tease Valerian because he always reads the supermarket circulars that come in the mail (which go straight to recycling in California). But they’re actually worth a look these days; while the pictures of raw chicken are still a feature, there are so many new products! There’s chia seeds, hummus, fancy cheese, and yes, that’s Ben & Jerry’s!

Circulars

Really, though, we’ve come for nostalgia: utopenci, Mila, kifli/rožok, lángos, yogurt and all the candy. There’s even a retro version of the local beer, isn’t it cute?

Pheasant by bowl

When we moved to our house in Slovakia, we were so excited to have a huge garden. We went a little crazy planting trees, which were still skinny saplings when we left. No longer! We have a jungle out there.

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The plums were sadly shut out by a late frost, but the cherries are loaded–we have a long-suffering old tree in the front of the yard, and back in the orchard, we have several varieties of both sweet and tart/cooking cherries. Apples and Asian apple-pears are on their way, and possibly even before we leave there will be peaches ready to eat.

Valerian created a “berry alley,” which is now overgrown into more of a patch, with plenty of raspberries, some struggling gooseberries, and rampaging currants both black and red.

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Years ago when I visited a Swedish friend at her home near Stockholm, she served an amazing dinner and afterwards, took us out to her back yard where she had a thicket of red currant bushes at the edge of a lake. We filled a bowl in the late twilight of the far north, and then brought the berries back in where my friend crushed them with a little sugar and served them over vanilla ice cream. It was a simple and splendid way to finish the evening.

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We do love our European yogurt, so I was inspired to layer up some parfaits to celebrate our summer return. Easy and festive! Maybe you’ve had red currant sauce at Ikea, or tried black currant jam; if you see some in the produce section, snap up a pint and try this recipe (or just substitute another berry). If you can’t find currants, raspberries or blueberries are just as delicious, and probably need less sugar.

Granola and currant yogurt parfaits
Serves 4
Crispy granola, creamy yogurt, and sweet-tart currants make a satisfying breakfast or, with a drizzle of honey, a festive dessert
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the granola
  1. 2 cups oats
  2. 1 cup slivered almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups puffed rice
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
  6. 1/3 cup honey
For the parfaits
  1. 2 cups red or black currants, or a mixture (about a pint), or another berry
  2. 2 tsp. granulated sugar or to taste
  3. 4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
First, make the granola
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in oil and honey. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir gently, then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stirring to get nice chunks of granola.
While the granola bakes, prepare the currants
  1. In a medium bowl, gently crush the currants with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sugar.
Create the parfaits
  1. When the granola is cool, layer the yogurt and currants in four jars or glasses. Top with the granola (you'll likely have leftovers). Top with additional honey, if you like a sweeter treat!
Notes
  1. Granola adapted from Megan Gordon, A Sweet Spoonful
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
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Summer! How I miss you. If you’re like me, you think of summer as a relaxing, low-key time; you imagine lazy days, long evenings, letting the schedule slide. But then there’s: reality. The kids lay waste to the house, starting endless glue or paint related “craft” projects, then squabbling, then wanting to play Minecraft instead, until HOORAY, the camps begin. But wait – now it’s making sure everyone has swimsuits and goggles and sunscreen, who’s getting picked up when? Who needs a plain white t-shirt to tie-dye NOW? And the inescapable lunches. So many lunches. In fact you have to redouble your efforts because the long, active days call for extra sustenance. Luckily, summer also means fruit and plenty of it, which makes it much easier to fill up hungry kids.

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So here’s one thing that’s easy. These bars originate on a recipe card my mother gave me many years ago, but every few years I come up with a variation. These days, I’m using fresh fruit instead of a layer of jam, because who can pass up the tumbled piles of stone fruit and the gleaming berries that are everywhere in summer? Not me, that’s certain. These bars are sturdy enough to hold up in a lunch box or even for scarfing in the car as a quick breakfast. They’re full of whole grains and not too sweet either.

To bring out the juicy best of the fruit, I like to dice it up and let it macerate with some sugar for a few minutes while I assemble the other ingredients. And it really is just a few minutes – this recipe is supremely unfussy, mixes in a single bowl and can be modified any number of ways to suit your taste or what you have in the cupboard. Now that school days are here again, make the most of the last fruits of summer and make a quick batch of these bars for snacks. They pack well, or are the perfect after-school treats, and easy enough the kids can make them with just a little help.

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Fresh Fruit Crumble Bars
Yields 16
Quick and easy snack bars loaded with whole grains and fresh fruit.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound fresh fruit - strawberries, apricots, blueberries, peaches, plums are all good.
  2. 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick cooking)
  5. 1/4 cup almond meal
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  8. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  9. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  10. 4 Tbs water or fruit juice
  11. 1 Tbs honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line an 8" square baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Prepare the fruit: pit and chop larger fruit into fine dice, toss with the granulated sugar in a medium bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the oil and honey, and add the water or juice, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is uniformly moist and beginning to form clumps.
  4. Reserving about 3/4 cup of the mixture, firmly press the remaining mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Spread the fruit evenly over the oat layer, making sure to get all the collected juices in as well.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top of the fruit.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and toasty and the fruit is beginning to bubble.
  8. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

Our daughter was probably the last kindergarten girl alive to see Frozen. She was belting out the songs with the rest of her classmates for months before we finally got around to seeing the actual movie, when it had been showing at the second-string multiplex for ages. It was no surprise she knew all the characters and major plot points going in; hopefully these were no surprises to the other people in the theater with us, either, because my darling girl blurted out all the twists well in advance. Sorry, fellow movie-goers!

Keeping secrets is clearly not our strong point here, so I’ll give away the twist on this recipe and tell you that the surprise in these muffins is a deliciously creamy dollop of sweet cream cheese in the middle. Just like my now first-grader, I come late to trends: I had never tried the winning combination of brown sugar and cream cheese until recently. So good! Almost butterscotchy. I’ve been finding ways to use it everywhere.

These muffins are otherwise not too sweet and have good things like whole wheat flour and flax meal in them, so that not-so-secret center is a real treat, if not a surprise. It’s a little bit of a process to make each one, so if you’re feeling lazy straightforward, just drop a spoonful of the filling on the top when you’ve portioned out the muffin batter – it will sink down a bit under the weight of its own deliciousness, and be every bit as tasty.

Secret Center Pumpkin Muffins
Yields 12
Healthier muffins, with a sweet cream cheese surprise
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
17 min
Total Time
30 min
For the batter
  1. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup all purpose flour
  3. ¼ cup flax meal
  4. ⅓ cup brown sugar
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp baking soda
  7. ¾ tsp salt
  8. 1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  9. 1½ cup pumpkin puree (contents of one can)
  10. 1 egg
  11. ¼ cup oil
  12. ⅓ cup buttermilk
For the filling
  1. 4 Tbs (2 oz) cream cheese, softened
  2. ¼ cup brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°, and oil a 12-cup muffin pan (or line with cupcake papers).
  2. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese and ¼ cup brown sugar until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the flours, flax, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spice in a medium bowl. In a large measuring cup, combine the pumpkin puree, egg, milk and oil until well mixed. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined; the batter should be thick with some lumps remaining.
  4. Using a medium ice-cream scoop or a spoon, place a dollop of the batter into each of the muffin cups. Spread it around if needed to cover the bottom. Using two small spoons, drop about half a tablespoon of filling on top of the batter in each cup. Cover with the remaining batter, so each cup is about ¾ full.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 5 minutes or until the muffins are nicely domed and spring back when touched. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

While I was growing up eating Jell-O pudding cups,* halfway across the world Valerian was snacking on miláčik. Now, miláčik means “darling” or “dear” in Slovak, so if you run a search on it, you’ll get a rather surprising selection of results, particularly pet photos.

Last time he was back in the Old Country, Valerian noticed that miláčik is basically sweetened, flavored sour cream, and so when he returned to California, he decided to whip us up a batch himself. It’s not quite as firm as the kind you buy in the store, which sometimes is called tvarohový miláčik because it’s made with tvaroh, the local cheese that’s similar to ricotta. Valerian’s recipe here couldn’t be simpler, though, and while the vanilla bean gives you those authentic little speckles, just bump up the amount of good quality vanilla extract if that’s what you have. Sour cream makes a perfect consistency to top or fill crepes, or, honestly, just slurping it up all on its own. Good thing I’m wearing these elastic-waist pants.

Sour Cream Desert
This creamy delight falls somewhere between a pudding and a sauce. If vanilla seems, well, too vanilla, sift in a tablespoon of cocoa powder and make a chocolate version instead. Could you use yogurt instead of sour cream? Sure, but then you'll have flavored yogurt.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 16 oz. container sour cream
  2. ¼ cup brown sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean
  4. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and their surrounding paste.
  2. Whisk together the sour cream, sugar, and vanillas in a medium bowl.
  3. Serve in small bowls, as a topping or filling for crepes or pound cake.
Notes
  1. Your kids will fall in love with this. It is easy to make so let them do the work.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/