Brunch. A nice word made even nicer with baked French toast and berries. It is bursting with exquisite berry flavor, especially when served with its joyful berry compote. And best yet, it can be made hours before and popped into the oven last-minute.
With this recipe in hand, go ahead! Invite your favorite moms over on Sunday, or set up a fun friends brunch. This pretty dish is also perfect for upcoming baby or bridal showers, or a just-because celebration breakfast treat. Or, why not make it with kids the night before to let the anticipation of a special breakfast build in their dreams?
Where I live, we'll be flooded in the best berries in the world in a couple of months. While we wait, we home cooks reach to the back of our freezers where last year's ripe bounty is preserved. I feel especially accomplished when use the last bag of icy blueberries or blackberries just in time for the new harvest.
Making Baked Berry French Toast
Make-ahead berry French toast is perfect with any of the berries-- straw, blue, black, Marion, huckle, rasp, or a colorful mix. Use frozen berries, or fresh. A note on berries-- it is worth waiting for peak-of-season varieties for the full flavor experience. Unless it is summer berry season where you live, quality brands of frozen berries will taste better than less-than-ripe store bought.
The quick custard is customizable, too. Use cream if you have it for the most silky texture, but any dairy or non-dairy milk will work well. Just follow the modification outlined in the recipe below. Spotlight the berry-burst flavor with a simple vanilla custard, or try adding add grated lemon or orange zest (2-3 teaspoons) for complexity. Or maybe a little cinnamon or cardamom (1/2 - 1 teaspoon.)
Assemble and bake the French toast right away, or assemble it the night before you plan to serve it. The bread soaks up the custard, integrating into one lovely dish with soft cakelike insides and crispy edges and top once baked. It easily cuts into beautiful serving squares. For best make-ahead results, stir the berries into the bread/custard mixture just before popping it into the oven.
Other Delicious Recipes to Round Out Your Brunch Menu
You'll already have the oven on, so Oven-Baked Bacon is the way to go. Try this method.
112 ozbaguette or french-style bread(one slender baguette)
½cupwhipping creamOR ⅓ cup milk or non-dairy milk
1teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓cupchopped almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts
2tablespoonsDemerara sugar or coarse baking sugar
1½cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varietiesCut strawberries into quarters
For the Berry Compote
2cupsfresh or frozen blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, or a mix of varieties
⅓ to ½cupssugardepending on the ripeness of your berries
3tablespoons cold water
1tablepsooncorn starch or rice flour
For the Berry French Toast
Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter or spray a 7" x 11" baking dish.
Cut the bread into ¾" pieces. There is no need to trim the crusts unless the bottom crust is quite browned, in which case trim the dark part away before cubing the loaf. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream (or lesser amount of milk), vanilla, salt and th optional orange zest and/or cinnamon, if using, until the ingredients ar thoroughly combined and bubbly. Fold in the bread cubes turn over and over until th read is thoroughly soaked in the custard mixture. Set aside 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until all of the custard has been absorbed into the bread. If making ahead, cover tightly and place in the bread/custard mixture in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.
Just before baking gently stir the frozen or fresh berries into the bread mixture. If using frozen berries, do not thaw in advance. Tip the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with nuts and sugar. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, 18-22 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before cutting into squares.
For the Berry Compote
While the French toast is in the oven, combine the berries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over meduim heat until the berries start to soften and break down, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Stir the cornstarch or rice flour into the cold water, and slowly drizzle it into the cooked berries, stirring constantly. Allow to cook another 3-4 minutes until thickened. Keep warm while the French toast is ready to serve.
When ready to serve, spoon some of the compote onto individual srving plates. Place a square of baked French toast on top, and serve.
I had forgotten how much I adored egg foo young. The recipe, "Eggs, Edamame, Bean Sprouts" in Nigel Slater's 2020 book, Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter opened my aroma memory floodgates. I was taken back to very special meals in Chinese restaurants as a child.
That sent me searching the phenomenal "Omnivore's Cookbook," with its hundreds of classic and modern Chinese dishes by Maggie Zhu. Her traditional egg foo young versions include the brown sauce I remember. Approachable recipes and interesting family history fill her beautiful blog.
This recipe is a mash-up of tradition and change. Omnivore's Kitchen for tradition. Greenfeast for the addition of edamame. My own addition of making the brown sauce mushroomy.
Making Egg Foo Young at Home
Maggie Zhu's trick for getting the omelette, as she calls it, thick and puffy is to use a fair amount of vegetable oil in the pan. Her recipes say to use between 2 and 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Less oil will give you a flatter, less puffy, less traditionally Chinese omelette, she says, and she is right. I found that 6 Tablespoons in my 8" skillet is perfect for that tall, puffy egg foo young that I remember having in Chinese restaurants. The extra oil helps the Chinese omelette become well-browned, with the slightest crusty crispness that is more traditional.
If mushrooms aren't your thing like they are mine, omit them. Instead of the water, substitute dark vegetable or chicken stock. Here's my recipe for a rich brown roasted vegetable stock.
The edamame is optional, or peas or finely chopped broccoli can be a substitute. Egg foo Young doesn't require animal protein, so leave that out if you'd like. Once you get the hang of it, you'll see that egg foo young is more of a method than a prescription. It can be filled with any number of things, just like a French-style omelette.
The resulting egg foo young is amazingly easy, restaurant take-out fast, and powerfully delicious. I hope you like it.
Egg Foo Young
Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy
Season: All Season
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Total Time: 30 minutesminutes
Servings: 46" egg patties
A Chinese take-out favorite made in a flash at home. Fill your egg foo young with any number of fillings to suit your mood or what you have on hand.
⅓cupedamame, peas, or finely chopped broccoli, optional
3green onions, two finely chopped and one thinly sliced on the diagonal
1cupcooked shrimp, chicken, or ham, finely chopped, optional
salt and black or white pepper to taste
Cook the Sauce
In a small saucepan, use your fingers to break the dried mushrooms into small, irregular pieces and cover them with 1¼ cups hot water. Set aside for 15 minutes. Whisk all the remaining sauce ingredients into the saucepan with the mushrooms and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the sauce simmers and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Keep warm.
Cook the Egg Pancakes
In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until well combined. Add the bell pepper, bean sprouts, chopped green onions, and shrimp, chicken or ham, if using. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil* in a small skillet over medium to medium high heat. Scoop about ½ cup of the egg mixture into the skillet. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture. This should make about four 6" patties.
Serve with steamed short-grained rice, spooning the mushroom sauce over the top. Garnish with sliced green onion.
This recipe is adapted from Maggie Zhu at Omnivore's Kitchen. I thank her for her delicious blog and the step-by-step guidance in learning to cook Chinese dishes. *Maggie's recipe for egg foo young says to use between 2 and 8 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Less oil will give you a flatter, less puffy traditional omelette, she says, and she is right. I found that 6 Tablespoons in my 8" kitchen is perfect for that tall, puffy egg that I remember having in Chinese restaurants.
I've been experimenting with the design Rule of Threes in my cooking. Used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion-- really anywhere design concepts are applied-- the principle is that things arranged in groups of three are more appealing, evocative, and satisfying.
Long ago, it is said, Nordstrom sales associates were required to dress this way-- skirt, blouse, sweater; slacks, shirt, vest; dress, boots, scarf, etc. Accessories were the grace notes added to the rule of threes formula. I've begun to think this is true for the food on a plate as well.
Not only does this method of cooking work from a taste and visual point of view, but it is actually pretty easy to pull together a dynamic dish using this concept.
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
In this 30-minute dish the triad of warm earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and cool creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Each of the parts requires very little or no preparation. The simple vinaigrette acts like the jewelry that ties the whole ensemble together.
The rule of threes concept worked perfectly in this recent red pepper, white bean, and feta recipe, too. The smoky bright red peppers, the earthy light white beans, and sharp tangy feta create a synergy that is tied together with a crown of herb sauce. Magnificent, yet simple.
It only looks challenging! Make Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad soon for an ever so delicious, beautiful, fancy-fast-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it is still delicious. Serve it alongside meat, or enjoy it as a vegetarian main course.
How can you use this Rule of Threes concept in your cooking and meal planning? I'd love to hear about your ideas and experiments!
Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarine + Burrata Salad
Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish, Quick + Easy, Salad, Side Dish
This triad of earthy lentils, smoky-sweet nectarines, and creamy burrata is more than the sum of its parts. Quick to make but ever so delicious and versatile, make this soon for a fancy-easy brunch, lunch, or dinner. Make it vegan by omitting the burrata, and it's still delicious.
In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, place the minced shallot and Dijon mustard. Stir gently. Add about half of the thyme leaves stripped from the stems, salt and pepper. Cover the shallot mixture with the vinegar of your choice. Eyeballing it, add enough olive oil to double the volume in the jar, or about the same in height to the shallots and vinegar. Shake until the salt is mostly dissolved and the mustard is thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
Now Make the Beluga Lentil, Grilled Nectarines + Burrata
Light or preheat your grill for a hot, direct fire/heat.
In a medium saucepan, place the lentils, bay leaf, a pinch of salt, and 3 1/2 cups water. Bring lentils to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are al dente, but not mushy and broken. Begin chcking their doneness at the 15 minute mark.
While the lentils are cooking, place the halved nectarines on a preheated grill over direct heat. Oil the grates first, and place the nectarine halves cut side down. Do not move them until the 3 minute mark, and check for rich grill marks. They may need another minute or so to become deeply marked. Flip them and grill another 3 minutes until the skins have grill marks, for a total of 6-7 minutes. Don't let the nectarines overcook-- you just want them warmed through and kissed with flavor from the grill.
When the lentils are done, drain off any remaining liquid. Sitr in the diced celery and leaves, reserving some of the leaves for garnish. Mound this onto plates or a serving platter.
Arrange the nectarines on to mounded lentils. You may chose to halve some of them.
Place the burrata on top of the lentils. Sprinkle the remaining thyme and celery leaves over the top and serve.
This recipe serves three people as a main course, or six people as a side dish.This salad is especially luxurious served warm, but equally delightful served chilled, especially if you need to make the components ahead of time.Peaches would be just as lovely in this dish as the nectarines. Use what you have or prefer.Recipe star ratings are very welcome and appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback this way.
The broad category of humans called mothers, like all the other broad categories of humans, are not intractably indivisible and uniform. Nope, the perfect motherhood monolith is just a false notion. Every single person who bears the label "Mother" stands uniquely alone in their personhood. The way each mom fills out their mother-space is theirs alone.
My mom and I live nearly 3,000 coast-to-coast miles apart, or roughly the same distance as it is from my home to Mexico City or Montreal, Quebec. It's been nearly 16 months since I've seen her.
We've missed some big things this year-- we made the most of her 80th birthday celebration with a Zoom party. She's stayed well, the most important thing. But I miss her.
Here are some of the things that make my mom different than all the other moms in the world:
My mom has always had that young-for-her-age cuteness.
My mom has a great sense of aesthetic. It is from her that I learned to group things in odd numbers, what the word monochromatic meant, how to fan a stack of paper napkins with the bottom of a glass, and how to accessorize an outfit.
My mom throws great parties. She makes custom invitations for every event, even a neighborhood weinie roast. She carries a theme all the way through the party, from that early invitation to some little parting gift-- usually something she's made.
My mom made sure that my Christmas birthday was never overlooked. Not one single year in all my years has she ever given me a birthday gift wrapped in Christmas paper, and she always held some fun birthday party in the midst of the holiday bustle.
My mom was a good cook and made sure she introduced my brother and me to lots of different foods at an early age.
My mom is an intuitive gift-giver. She gives clever, meaningful presents that always surprise and delight.
My mom likes bananas only if they are in the four-hour window of being pale-to-medium yellow and ever-so-slightly slightly green at the tip. At the ice-cream shop she asks to see the bananas before ordering a banana split. Deep yellow or spotted bananas are meant for baking ONLY.
My mom LOVES all things wedding. My mom has made wedding bouquets for more brides than I can count, and a few wedding dresses and cakes too. Her telephone ringtone is Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
My mom hosted a ladies-only royal wedding sleepover for William and Kate and stayed up all night watching the festivities. People from three states attended.
My mom always cries at the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of the national anthem or Amazing Grace, and at goodbyes.
My mom allowed me full access to her kitchen as a tiny little kid. It wasn't her kitchen-- it was our kitchen. She taught me how to use flame and knife safely and didn't hover over my experiments thereafter.
My mom taught me that cleaning up after myself was an important part of cooking and would call me back into the kitchen if I'd slap-dashed through it. I appreciate the sense of discipline she instilled.
My mom is not afraid to be the only couple on the dancefloor.
My mom starts almost every day with coffee and a breakfast bar in bed. Her routine makes me smile.
If I were with her this week, I'd make mom these tasty Banana Coconutty Breakfast Cookies. I'd actually make a double-batch, and zippy-bag them up for her freezer so she'd have a month of homemade breakfast cookies after I left.
What makes your mom the unique person she is or was? Please leave a comment to help us all celebrate our mothers this week.
These breakfast cookies are made with hazelnuts, one of our Oregon treasures. They are naturally gluten-free if you chose GF oats. The contain no dairy, and no added sugar-- just naturally sweetened with very ripe bananas. Don't be tempted to use the green-stemmed ones here. The browner the better and you will never know there is no sugar added.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, egg, olive oil, and vanilla. Set aside.
Crush the hazelnuts with the wide side of a chef's knife blade, then roughly chop the hazelnuts a few times, leaving them somewhat chunky. Slide them into the wet ingredients.
In a food processor fitted with its steel blade, pulse the oats five or six times to begin breaking them down. Add the hazelnut flour and pulse another 5 or 6 times to combine. Add the baking powder, spice of your choice, and salt and pulse another few times just to incorporate.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the bowl, along with the coconut. Stir thoroughly. Leave it sit 5 to 10 minutes.
Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the tops are light golden brown and the bottoms are lightly browned, switching the pans half-way through. (Teaspoon-sized drops will bake in about 16 minutes; larger drops will take longer.) Allow the cookies to cool on their baking sheets 5 minutes or so, them move them to a cooling rack to complete cooling.
Store airtight for up to 5 days. These also freeze nicely.
Welcome to the launch of 101-Mile Kitchen. Just as this Modern Pasta Primavera recipe represents springtime renewal, 101-Mile Kitchen is a new beginning for me. I formerly blogged as Sticks Forks Fingers beginning in 2009. Sticks Forks Fingers journaled my early experiences as a country dweller, my love for great food and great wine, my love of Oregon and its thriving food culture, and stories of falling in love with the man who became my husband.
101-Mile Kitchen will follow that thread, including recipes developed to encourage readers to cultivate their cooking intuition and confidence. The recipes you see here are developed to give you confidence to play, learn, and grow.
On these pages you will also meet some of my heroes-- the growers and makers who keep our community fed and happy. I hope this will encourage you to seek out the special people who dedicate their lives to growing and making food, wine, beer, and the like in your area, no matter where you live.
And, of course, you'll read stories about being in love, which come to learn is a whole different thing than falling in love. Cooking and loving, to me, are completely intertwined and provide magical opportunities to reflect on one another.
What is so Modern About this Pasta Primavera Recipe?
The premiere recipe for 101-Mile Kitchen is a Modern Pasta Primavera. Primavera, the Italian word for springtime, signals the new beginning cycle of growth we can count on year after year, no matter what else is going on in the world. The daffodils poke up their perky heads no matter what. If that isn't hopeful, I don't know what is.
Tender pasta squares make a bed for the sprightly vegetables. A sauce of pancetta, butter, white wine, and bright green herbs bath the the dish. (Be sure to check the recipe card for gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options.) Softly boiled "jammy" eggs contribute to the sauce giving it even more of a springtime feel of the dish. It truly is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.
If you like this recipe, please give it a rating by clicking the green stars in the recipe card below. And I invite you to follow my newsletter by signing up in the box at the bottom of the page. You'll receive a gift of my Flavors of Oregon tartine recipe booklet as soon as you do.
Modern Pasta Primavera
Course: Breakfast + Brunch, Main Dish
Season: Evergreen (April - July)
Prep Time: 30 minutesminutes
Cook Time: 30 minutesminutes
Servings: 4to 6
A deconstructed take on a classic, featuring early spring vegetables and a delicious new sauce.
4smallartichokes, leaves and choke removed to expose heart, and cut into eighthsor 1 12-14 ounce can or jar of artichoke hearts
1poundfava beans, removed from their pods (optional)or edamame
12ouncesfresh or frozen peas
1 headfennel, sliced into fans through the root end
12 - 16ouncesfresh egg pasta sheets, or other pasta of your choice
salt for pasta water and to taste
6 Tbspunsalted butter or ghee
4ouncespancetta, finely diced
2clovesgarlic, thinly sliced
1largeshallot, finely minced
½cupdry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 bunchfresh chives
1 bunchfresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the Eggs
Cover the eggs with water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. For perfect jammy eggs, allow to boil for 7 minutes. While they are cooking prepare a bowl with ice water. After the eggs boil for 6 ½ minutes, remove them from the boiling water into the ice bath. Leave them in the ice bath for 10 minutes. Remove them from the water, peel them, slice them in half, and them set aside.
Get the Vegetables Ready
Prepare all the vegetables: Peel the asparagus stems with a peeler if they are the chubby variety, and trim or snap off the woody ends. Pull off the leaves from the artichokes, scrape out the fuzzy chokes with a spoon, and trim the stem with a peeler. Remove the fava beans from their pods. Slice the fennel bulb into ½ inch fans down through the stem end. The peas will be added to the sauce later.
Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. When it comes to a boil drop in the asparagus and let cook until bright green and just starting to be tender, about 4-5 minutes; remove an set aside. Drop in the shelled fava beans (or edamame) and cook 6 minutes until tender; remove and set aside. When the fava beans are cool enough to handle, slip them out of their waxy skin. Drop in the artichoke heart wedges (if using fresh artichokes) and cook until tender, about 6 minutes; remove and set aside. Keep the water at a low boil.
Make the Sauce
Melt the butter into a 10" skillet or saucier over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and is beginning to lightly brown.
Add the sliced fennel to the skillet, and cook until just translucent, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic and minced shallot to the skillet, stirring often, until they are just beginning to become translucent, about 3 more minutes.
Add the white wine and about a teaspoon of salt and ground pepper (to taste) to the sauce, stirring until the wine has reduced about half. (The fennel will absorb some of it.)
Add the fresh or frozen peas to the sauce, cooking for one minute. Stir the finely minced chives and dill into the sauce, reserving a tablespoon of each for garnish. Turn the heat to low while you cook the pasta.
Bring the pot of water back to a full boil. Cut the pasta sheets into 3" squares, drop them into the boiling water, and cook according to package directions. (Most fresh sliced garlic and minced shallot to the skillet, pasta only takes 90 seconds to cook.) Drain pasta and set aside.
Assembling the Dish
On a pretty platter, lay out the cooked pasta squares. Arrange the asparagus, artichoke hearts, fava beans, peas, and fennel over the pasta. Spoon the sauce over the vegetables and pasta. Arrange the halved eggs over the top, and garnish with the remaining fresh herbs.
Make It Your Own:Fava beans are wonderful, yet they can be hard to find and do add a little work to this dish. Feel free to omit them, or swap in edamame.Prepping fresh artichokes to get to their hearts also adds a lot of time to this dish. For a shortcut substitute frozen, canned or jarred artichoke hearts (marinated or not.). Thick stemmed asparagus is preferred, but use what's available. Gluten-free option: use your favorite GF pasta.Vegetarian option: omit the pancetta.The success of this dish lies in not overcooking any of the vegetables. They are young and tender, and don't need much time on the heat to be perfect.
You’re in the right place! I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! The fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest are my creative medium.
Heroes: Local food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.