Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tiny Kitchen? Sumptuous Brunches in 30 Minutes

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then what is brunch but a celebration of that importance? You don't gobble up brunch – you savor it. The entrees tend to be special treat versions of comfort foods. But many people don't cook such brunches for themselves. Why not?

Even in my tiny home (two rooms totaling 750 sq ft), with few pots and pans and little counter space for preparation and assembly, this grumpy, not-a-morning person routinely churns out the following breakfast egg entrees for family and occasional friends within 30 minutes (after my coffee) such as:

  • Fried eggs on tomato basil bruschetta,
  • Huevos rancheros (eggs over refried beans and cheese, on tortillas topped with salsa)
  • Scrambled eggs over crab, salmon or pike cakes, topped with a lemon aioli
  • A frittata of roasted potatoes with sausage, peppers, onions, cheese and eggs
  • Eggs on creamy spinach sprinkled with bacon and chives
  • Cheesy potato slices topped with smoked salmon and an egg

My go-to secret for quick, interesting breakfasts? Appetizers. You might not think of those two words in the same context, but I serve delicious and innovative morning meals throughout the week by utilizing prior hors d'oevres (and other foods cooked for prior meals). And with breakfasts as hearty as these, I tend to cook only two meals a day, which usually are – guess what – brunch (a late breakfast) and hearty appetizers (another sort of celebratory meal) for an early dinner. (I've never understood how people can sleep on a full stomach after a heavy, late meal)

Among the components below, you can buy or make the appetizers (like spinach dip, smoked salmon, raita or refried beans) and breads, depending on your time/space/budget/inclination. Either way, last night's appetizer can contribute to a fast and impressive breakfast or brunch later in the week, to be enjoyed as a decadent treat all by yourself, or with family and friends.

Because our space limitations include a small dining table too, most of my brunches are layered, like eggs benedict, on one plate, rather than requiring large platters or multiple dishes. Below are sample components of the various layers. For lighter meals, combine just two of the layers. For heartier ones, more. Add a fruit compote, as a side dish, if you wish.

Layer 1 (carbohydrate):

warm or griddled bread or tortillas, potatoes, left over pizza, or puff pastry appetizer (actually, there never is any leftover from these appetizers, but they would be great), grits, polenta, or cornbread.

Fried egg on homemade sausage
and spinach pizza  


a) Potatoes of virtually any recipe left over from a prior dinner work well – baked potato scooped out somewhat, potatoes Anna or lyonnaise, roasted, or even potato salad are all fair game.

b) Colored tortillas, such as spinach or tomato, are very pretty wrapped around some of the following ingredients. Picture an omelet richly colored with spinach and feta or red/yellow/green peppers, served in or on a red or green tortilla. A treat for the eyes.

c) Depending on the other ingredients, the oil for crisping up the bread or tortillas might be associated with the meat (such as bacon fat or ham grease), butter, olive oil, or another favored vegetable oil. However, crisping the tortilla is imperative to taste and texture, unless you like “breakfast on cardboard.” Cold bread or tortillas: NO.

Layer 2 (firm protein or hearty vegetable):

Choose one or more of the following:

Meats: cooked bacon, ham or sausage are obvious picks, but also consider fish or shellfish (whole, smoked, or dips, hamburger, flank or other steak, any other meat, like pork, chicken, chorizo, shredded goat or rabbit.


Grains and vegetables: refried beans, baked beans, hummus, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, thick tomato slices, grilled zucchini or onions. The bacon is often cooked that morning and the tomato is raw, but the rest were usually prepared for a prior meal, and re-purposed for breakfast.

Layer 3 (Eggs):

For the two of us, I tend to make two fried eggs or small omelets, but for groups, scrambled eggs are easier, with flavoring additions mixed in (so the dishes don't get cold while you layer elements). In the case of scrambled eggs, add about a tablespoon of milk or water, which keeps the protein layers of the egg from seizing up and forming a lacy, crisp edge if you don't attend to them enough while multi-tasking the other items) I love poached eggs, but I usually lack the space for that designated pan, since my four burner stove has the coffee on one, the plates warming on another, the dip heating on a third, and the meat/eggs/bread cooking on the fourth.

If you wish, skip the eggs, and just layer 1 (carbo) 2 (meat) and 3 (dip). (I do that all the time and call it lunch).

For most of the year, our hens provide enough eggs for us, but every once in a while they “go on vacation” for extended periods and don't lay, so I keep some store bought eggs on hand. (I do use powdered eggs successfully as a binding agent in baking, particularly during the winter, when the hens lay less, but they are unsuitable when eggs are “up front” in a recipe.)

Layer 4 (Goopy Toppings:)

(choose one or more among leftover appetizers. For a lighter meal or snack, forgo Layer 2 (the firm proteins or vegetables) or 3 (the eggs) or both and just slather one of these on top of the bread, tortillas, or potatoes).

  1. spinach/parmesan dip (recommendation: add lemon juice and lemon zest (scrape the yellow, not white skin) and/or pickled jalapenos if the dip tastes boring
  2. sundried tomato/feta(or goat cheese) dip
  3. creamy queso of any kind (cheese dip)
  4. salmon, crab, trout or any other fish dip
  5. chopped tomatoes/basil (pretty)
  6. salsa, perhaps with guacamole or sliced avocadoes
  7. chimichuri sauce (a garlicky parsley and cilantro vinaigrette)
  8. aioli (a garlicky mayonnaise) varied with flavors such as soy sauce, lemon, mustard, or dill
  9. pesto (basil or other herb/nuts/olive oil)
  10. onion dip (recommendation: add vinegar if it tastes boring
  11. raita (cucumber/yogurt/garlic dip)
  12. olive tapenade (go easy on this one - salty)
  13. stuffed mushrooms (I never have any leftover when I serve this for happy hour, but if I did, I could dot the scrambled eggs with them or chop them up in an omelet)
  14. small, stuffed peppers (ditto)

Layer 5 (Dry, decorative toppings)

  1. shredded cheese
  2. raw onions, shredded vegetables, such as colorful peppers, jalapenos
  3. sprinkled herbs (or carrot tops, which I use instead of parsley)
  4. bacon bits
  5. small, edible flowers: chives, nasturtiums, bolted flowers from broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, etc.


Leftovers speed up morning meal preparation for results more interesting than a bowl of cereal could ever be. Look over your favorite appetizer recipes or those containers in the back of the refrigerator. Maybe you'll discern a mouthwatering breakfast in the making. Enjoy.

Laura looks forward to your comments or suggestions on this or other blog entries. Additional recipe ideas are most welcome!

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