Zucchini Bread with Maple Cinnamon Walnuts.

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Breakfast is not my favorite meal of the day. In the morning, forget a meal, what I really want is a cup of coffee. Followed by a second cup of coffee.  Afterwards, we can talk about breakfast. Or we could, except at that point it is definitely time to head in to work. Scratch breakfast.

For more years than I’m comfortable admitting (it would be more than I’m able to count on two hands), breakfast out the door most likely consisted of some dark chocolate, maybe some milk chocolate if that’s all that was left.

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Long before it was hip, a friend’s mom was turning out quickbreads loaded with zucchini and pancakes made of different sorts of flour. Try handing a seven-year-old a buckwheat pancake and you may be disappointed. Wait a decade or two and when that now 24-year-old is grabbing at alternative flours, you’ll can say, “I told you so.”  You’ll also probably say something like, “I can’t believe you’re still eating candy for breakfast.” But it’s the small victories that matter.

Partly because our kitchen ran out of chocolate, and partly because it seemed like at least for a couple of days it’d be nice to have an actual breakfast ready on my way out the door, I went back to that zucchini bread recipe, graciously passed along. Motivated—most likely by the odd things a lack of chocolate and sugar will do to the brain—I swapped in honey and maple syrup for some of the sweetener and whole wheat for a bit of the white flour. Clearly, I should have reached for the buckwheat.

This zucchini bread is the non-chocolate breakfast that’s, truthfully, better than chocolate. It’s spiced, with just a touch of sweetness, soft and moist with just a bit of crunch from candied maple cinnamon walnuts.

Unfortunately, we froze half of the loaf thinking we wouldn’t eat it quickly enough. Two days later what was left is gone leaving me with a sad, half frozen loaf of zucchini bread only one option this morning . Chocolate raisins for breakfast.

Recipe on the following page.

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Salmon Gravlax.

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A lot of the best things you can eat are remarkably simple. Beer, bread, cheese, that perfectly grilled piece of fish. All require few ingredients, a lot of patience, but very little doing in the manner of stirring, whipping, and tenderizing. (Let’s hope no tenderizing…)

But for things that are remarkably simple, yet fantastically delicious, chances are there’s one or two tricks required to yield the perfect result.

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With gravlax, there are no tricks, unless of course, you count faith in your refrigerator. But with faith, there really isn’t any trick. Just forget about the piece of fish hopefully not rotting on your bottom shelf, and wait for breakfast a day and a half away.

Smoked salmon, or lox, are undeniably one of the true pleasure of the breakfast/brunch canon. Don’t even try to argue that a lox benedict isn’t the supreme, the queen of all Bennies.

Because you’d be wrong.

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Gravlax, or lox’s fresh, slightly more delicate sister, may subvertly challenge lox as the premier bagel topping. (May. I’ll have to do a thorough round of testing before I can present you with any sort of accurate conclusion). Lox really is just gravlax, or cured salmon, that’s been taken a step further down preservative lane and been smoked. Slightly more stable, but a little more work.

Gravlax as it turns out, requires little to no work. If you can successfully wrap something in plastic wrap, you can make gravlax. And in the realm of impressive cooking techniques, whipping out homemade, freshly cured gravlax on a Sunday morning surely ranks.

Gravlax has appeared as an appetizer on the family table before, and it was always very impressive. It is after all, a full filet of fish, ready to be eaten straight from the knife. On a hot New York City night out in a backyard, are you really going to opt for too-ripe creamy cheese over chilled, dill-laced salmon? (Thanks to Irene, and the best Upper West Side backyard.)

No, because you’d be an idiot to. And ten years later, displaced in Miami, a slice of gravlax on homemade sourdough is just as perfect as it sounds.

Even better than perfect, because it’s so goddamn simple.

Recipe on the following page.

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Bacon Sausage Scones with Cheese, Chives & Masa.

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Sometimes when you’ve been knowingly slacking, say when you’ve been gone from the interwebs for way too (not like that’s me or anything…), you have to do something big. And “do something big” can really only mean one thing.

Bacon.

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Hello! I’m back. After a little venture to New York where I gained an appreciation for things that aren’t necessarily rolled and smothered with pork (only to return, clearly, once again to my natural state), followed by a trip down to Miami where sourdough really was the way of life. And goats. In mini SUVs. (That’s a story for another time, when a bit about getting a male goat, horns and all, into the back seat of a car is appropriate. Maybe when it’s a goat taco recipe.) By sourdough, I mean kilos of the stuff, hours in a pseudo bakery, time spent in the back of a delivery truck, and more than a fare share of goofing around and trying different pastry recipes in our downtime. (Which let’s be honest, wasn’t downtime, we really should’ve been doing other things like cleaning, cleaning, cleaning…prepping? But who cares about efficiency when there are sticky buns to be had? Come on.)

I find it most appropriate to re-enter any situation whether it’s blogging or you know, a room, with bacon. While off for a lovely weekend in South Carolina, I was reminded– really, my bad for ever forgetting– of the wonders of a bacon sausage scone. And as luck would have it, the next weekend there was “downtime” enough to try a batch of bacon sausage cheddar scones ourselves. While some would say that bacon and sausage fat, butter, cheese, and sour cream is excessive…wait. Why would you listen to someone that talks like that?

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The key to these scones, and I really think you should follow through, for your own sconely-benefit (real word), is the pizza stone. This recipe was first tested in a deck oven with a nice stone bottom, but at home a hot pizza stone (I used a couple leftover kitchen floor tiles) creates the perfect bottom crust. With the saltly bacon, punch from a chive, and a nice added flavor from the masa harina, I pretty sure you’ll agree that they were worth wasting downtime.

Because really, how can anyone waste time when a bacon sausage cheese scone is the result?

 

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Cornmeal Silver Dollar Pancakes with Blueberry Compote.

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It’s pancake time. Besides the fact that you can stack ’em high like a Lego tower held together with delicious blueberry mortar, there is only one reason why you need to make pancakes, in particular these cornmeal silver dollar pancakes. They’re delicious. And they’ll brighten up any part of the day. Alright, two reasons. Recipe, here. If you’re unsure of the silver-dollar aspect of these pancakes, let me just say that the more pancakes resemble silver dollars, the tippier the pancake tower will be. Which means an awesome resemblance to everyone’s favorite tower.

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Kaya Toast with a Poached Egg.

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Let’s be honest—there’s nothing that makes a better food picture than a poached or soft boiled egg just popped. All that oozy yolk, that richness flowing across something that’s sure to have just gotten all the more delicious. It’s practically food photo cheating and I’m happy to admit my guilt. Because after these shots were taken, I got to partake in something that was even more tasty than it looks. For every shot of an oozing egg, there is a happy tummy.

So…sri kaya. It’s coconut jam that’s some magical mixture of egg yolks, coconut, and sugar and it cooks down into something the texture of a smooth caramel or unpasteurized honey. It’s sweet and coconut delicious and is perfect on everything from toast to pancakes to yogurt to ice cream. Probably even more, but I can hardly wait for the amount of time it takes to toast something because this jam is so delicious. I’d eat it on crackers, or off a spoon…

As tasty as sri kaya is, it gets a little weird. One way to eat it, as popularized in Southeast Asia, is on buttered toast and dipped into a soft boiled egg. Susan Feniger’s LA restaurant STREET takes it a bit further and tops it all off with a rich soy sauce and white pepper. Having just acquired a jar of Hey Boo Coconut Jam from the stinky cheese heaven known as the Bedford Cheese Shop, I pulled together a version of kaya toast and while it may sound a little weird, man it’s good. The creaminess of the yolk matches the sweet richness of the jam, cut through with cultured and salted butter and spicy pepper. The  soy sauce perfectly cuts through the sugar for a salty and sweet combination. and I even dragged local mustard greens into the mix, which was a weird and delicious addition.

For all the coconut lovers out there, I can only insist that you track some of this jam down. And if you’re in the mood for something completely different, give the jam/egg/soy sauce/pepper combination a try.

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Chocolate Coconut Loaf.

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Sometimes, you just have to know when to cut your losses and…eat cake. One instance, which happens more than you (let’s be real “I”) would hope is when, in your smaller than average Brooklyn kitchen, the one window in the entire apartment which provides any decent light is not doing its job. Yea, sure it’s letting in a few UV rays and if we were a couple weeks along I probably would even crack the window and let some sweet, fresh air in. But those UV rays are not lighting my nicely styled food in the proper way. Even though it should be soft morning light, it’s all harsh and shadowy. Bleh.

Thankfully, as with most instances in food blogging, if the pictures aren’t turning out, at least you have something tasty to eat. And in this particularly instance, after a few failed attempts to get an overhead which finally culminated in the two slightly weird little shots you see here (backlight and looking over the back of the cake like a creepster?), I got to eat cake.

So all in all, a win.

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Losses than have been cut and resulted in cake are not only to be found in the food blogging space. In simple baking, you often end up with cake. Especially when you venture into the realm of breakfast “breads.” You know what I’m talking about. Looking at you banana walnut, carrot raisin, and apple. The breads that, if we were perfectly honest, are really just cake that you can throw in the toaster and heat up, real nice. To do away with any pretense that this coconut loaf was actually bread, I added a decent sized handful of chocolate chips.

By which I mean a cupful. And let me say, it improved the “bread” quite nicely. All studded up with coconut, scented with vanilla, this really is one of the best pieces of bread a girl could have.

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Olive Oil Cake with Caramelized Pears.

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This is going to have to start with an apology, because this cake isn’t new to my dessert rotation. In fact I’ve been baking, caramelizing, artfully swirling, and yes, eating this cake since I was an intern at Martha. Yup, that’s right. I’ve been hoarding this cake, all on my own. For more than half a year.

Truthfully, what’s been keeping this cake off the blog is the fact that it’s best eaten right after assembly, and that as soon as it’s assembled, everyone in sight seems to gobble it up. Cake gone. Empty platter, only. Hence, no photo evidence. And while a written recipe and a cute little story is all well and good, let’s be real. It’s better with photo evidence.

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For this cake, you could skip the vanilla bean yogurt just like you could skip the caramelized pears. Because this cake is really perfect sliced, toasted, and spread with honey as is. It’s also good eaten unsliced, by the handful, in a style best known as starving Frenchman with a big baguette. You know, that full-on tearing into a giant loaf of something. Except, this would be me. Not-starving Brooklynite, with a loaf of cake.

Perhaps for civility, I should stick to adding the yogurt and pears. As a bonus, they are really, quite delicious. And pretty. Stacked up like little pear buildings.

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