Winter fruit on my breakfast

Maple roasted apples

After months of unusually hot weather, we are finally beginning to get the kind of winter chill that makes me think of Christmastime even though the sky is still clear and blue and the air is dry.  That’s California for you.  No change of season when you think about it.  It’s either dry and hot or dry and cold.


Our local farmer’s market also reflects the season.  We have persimmons, oranges and apples and that’s about it.  Some enterprising farmers dried their summer and fall bounty so plenty of dried fruit is also available.  With that in mind, I wanted fruit on my pancakes but the kitchen was looking pretty sparse.  We have plenty of Fuji apples in the fridge so playing off of a recipe for maple roasted yams that I love, I decided to maple roast some Fuji’s to top our pancakes with.  This was an impromptu effort on my part so the following recipe is just an approximation.  I don’t think it would be easy to mess these up even with my “pinch of this, pinch of that” instructions.  These apples were fabulous on our favorite cornmeal pancakes with yogurt and toasted walnuts.  I think they would also make an excellent side dish for pork chops as well.

 Apple topped pancakes

Maple roasted apples

4-5 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and sliced


Lemon zest from ½ a lemon, approx. 1 tsp


1-2 tsp lemon juice


A generous amount of cinnamon


A miserly amount of nutmeg


Ginger to taste


A generous handful of raisons


2-3 tbsp grade B maple syrup


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.


Toss the apple slices with lemon juice and zest.  Combine apple mixture with raisons and cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and maple syrup to coat.  Roast the apples in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or until the raisons are plump and the apples are caramelized and soft and lightly browned.


Unusual for breakfast…yes, but unusually tasty


Sorry.  I know the picture I took is terrible.  It was dark when we sat down to breakfast this morning and I knew I wanted to write about something that is enjoying a renaissance in our kitchen.  It is something that I have never cooked myself.  This is something my boyfriend used to cook all of the time for his own breakfast but it is something he stopped eating years ago.  All of a sudden this tasty breakfast item is back and even though I never get to have it, I was treated to it today. 


 Sunday morning is grocery-shopping day or I should say grocery-shopping hell.  Although we love eating home cooked meals, we don’t like to shop.  I don’t like to go by myself and my boyfriend sees it as something that wastes perfectly good weekend relaxing time.  Both of us are committed to shopping at our farmer’s market because the produce is mega fresh and reasonably priced and we love the idea of eating local and supporting the farmers.  But…the farmers market adds time to the whole shopping experience, which includes two stores.  Why two stores?  Well, the best meat, cheese and dairy products come from our local high end grocery store but we are cheap bastards who would rather pay much less for staple items so we hit Trader Joes too.  Thus, shopping hell.  Things are crowded, and our tempers begin to flare in anticipation of the whole ordeal.  So the picture is lousy because we decided to add making French toast and this yummy scramble to the already stressful, time strapped morning.  I don’t feel bad about the picture.  This tasty breakfast entrée is impossible to photograph anyway.  It looks soupy, it has strange angles, which catch the light in odd ways. It is completely unnatural looking.  There was really nothing I could do about the photo.


So… ew…what is it?  My friends, you are looking at tofu scramble (with a side of non-vegan sprouted grain French toast).  Now before you decide to go find another blog to look at, hear me out.  This stuff is really, really good.  The whole story starts in the early 90’s with a natural foods market on the east side of Santa Barbara.  The store called Follow your heart started out as a tiny whole foods store up the block from where it ended up.  It had a really great deli in the old days.  In the early 90s a shopping center was built up the street from them and a space was made for a full size grocery.  They moved into the space and opened a restaurant to go with the excellent deli.  The restaurant was open for breakfast and we went there often because they had the most amazing vegetarian breakfast items I have ever seen in my life.  I was so, so sad when they finally closed their doors a few years later.  One thing they did well was tofu scramble.  It had spices and a wonderful yellow color.  They served it as a scramble, in benedicts and burritos.  I managed to stumble onto a recipe that produced a very similar product in the kind of magazine they give you for free at the health food store and my boyfriend who loved tofu scramble began making it at home.  During the week, I am a bowl of cereal kinda gal.  My boyfriend has to have more than cereal, so tofu scramble became his recipe, which is always made during the week.  So today was a treat for me.  He cooked it for me!  I was happy to have it.


As I said, my boyfriend suddenly began making tofu scramble again.  Out of the two of us, he is the one who consistently keeps a healthy outlook.  He gets regular exercise and eats very healthfully.  I asked him why he became interested in making tofu scramble again.  He told me it is because it contains brewer’s yeast, which is difficult to add to your diet in other ways.  Brewer’s yeast is loaded with B vitamins and he wanted a dietary way to ensure he was getting enough B vitamins. 


Aside from how healthy it is, tofu scramble is also delicious.  This recipe has plenty of onion powder and garlic powder and miso paste.  It is creamy and flavorful and it is filling.  The other day we had leftovers.  I sampled a little bit of the leftovers cold.  Although I haven’t tried it yet, I think cold leftover tofu scramble would be wonderful as a substitute for another egg favorite.  It would make an incredible egg-less egg salad sandwich.

Tofu Scramble

One 14-16 oz container of firm or extra firm tofu, drained


4 tbsp nutritional yeast


4 tbsp water


2 tbsp light miso


½ tsp turmeric


½ tsp onion powder


Garlic powder to taste (optional)


Pepper to taste (optional)


Olive oil for sautéing


Coarsely crumble the tofu into a bowl.  Sprinkle yeast over tofu and stir to coat.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients except for the optional pepper.  Set aside.  Heat a lightly greased skillet over medium high heat.  Pour in the tofu mixture and then pour in the miso mixture.  Sauté and carefully turn the mixture with a flat wooden spatula or spoon.  You don’t want to break up the tofu too much.  The mixture should turn a nice uniform yellow color.  Cook until completely heated through.  Season with pepper if using and serve immediately.


Simply exquisite

Mini flatbreads

My subscription to Sunset magazine has been such a good investment over the years.  Not only do I find out things like good places to shop in Cambria or where the best Mochi shop in little Tokyo is, but I also get so many good ideas for food.  The one thing I find ironic about this publication is that the best recipes don’t come from their staff.  No.  The best recipes come from their readers. Sunset magazine readers have to be the most inventive group of cooks on the planet.


When I received the September issue of Sunset, I sat down to page through the magazine as I always do.  I had to stop and book mark a recipe right away.  Staring at me from the page was the most amazing onion and cheese covered little breads.  They were Red Onion and Gorgonzola flatbreads.  They looked mouth watering delicious!  And…of course, they were from the section of recipes submitted by talented Sunset readers.  I knew I would need to make these luscious little breads sometime. 


The dough called for semolina flour.  I have never used semolina for baking but the idea of using pasta flour in bread was very appealing to me.  Since September, I have had it in the back of my mind that I need semolina flour.  I have casually looked for it in every store I have been to, but have not bumped into it.  I guess if I had been making an effort to find it, I would have a bag of it in my pantry now, but I was lazy.  Today, I wanted to make soup and I wanted to use my sourdough starter.  I remembered this recipe and went to take a look at it.  I looked up semolina flour and found out it is prized as hard wheat with high gluten content.  I decided I would use whole-wheat flour for semolina and use sourdough starter for yeast and some of the water.  I didn’t have Gorgonzola but I did have a smoked provolone.  I was ready to go play in the kitchen.


I mixed up the dough, making the usual adjustments I make when attempting to use my starter for yeast.  The original recipe called for mixing the dough but not kneading it.  Since I did not have that high gluten content semolina to work with, I made sure I kneaded the dough a few minutes to work up some gluten in the dough.  The kitchen was chilly today and my starter was having a hard time waking up from being in the fridge so I had to let the dough ferment for a couple of hours.  I mixed up the topping ingredients, shredded my cheese and then got to work.  The original recipe instructs you to bake these on cookie sheets in two batches for 15 minutes each.  I decided to use my pizza stone.  I was only able to work with eight mini flatbreads at a time so I had to do four batches.  The pizza stone gets hotter than a cookie sheet so I found out the hard way that I only needed 13 minutes per batch.  Don’t worry.  That first batch came out very dark, but did not burn.


Fresh out of the oven, these little breads were remarkable.  The sourdough crust was shatteringly crisp.  The onions were sweet from the balsamic vinegar but caramelized.  The smoked cheese was a perfect contrast to the other flavors.  I could not stop snacking on these as they came out of the oven.  They were that good.


If you don’t have a sourdough starter, go here to look up the original recipe.  If you have a starter and you are ready for a treat, here is my version.  Be creative.  I can already think of many variations on this theme.  For example:  spinach and garlic with kasseri or feta cheese?  Roasted red peppers, green onions and jack cheese?  How about sautéed Kale, garlic, and bleu cheese?   Just find a great red wine, some friends and you have a party!

Red Onion sourdough mini flatbreads

Adapted from the September 2007 issue of Sunset Magazine


½ cup sourdough starter


1 cup water


2 cups unbleached white flour


1 cup stone ground whole-wheat flour


4 tbsp olive oil, divided


2 tsp salt, divided


1 medium red onion


1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, minced


2 tbsp balsamic vinegar


½ tsp red chili flakes


4-6 ounces smoked provolone, shredded


Cornmeal for dusting


In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter, water, white and whole-wheat flours and 1 tsp of the salt.  Mix until it comes together into a ball.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a clean bowl that has been oiled.  Cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel and allow it to ferment for 1 to 2 hours until doubled in bulk. 


An hour before you are ready to bake the flatbreads, put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Sprinkle a peel or two baking sheets with cornmeal.


Halve the onion lengthwise and then slice it thinly.  In a bowl, combine the sliced onions, minced rosemary, 2 tbsp olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp of salt and chili flakes.  Cover and set aside. 


Divide the dough in two.  Roll the dough halves into two long tube shapes.  Divide each into 16 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and return the balls to the covered bowl.  Working with 8 balls at a time.  Roll each ball into a thin round.  Place each round on the cornmeal dusted peel or cookie sheet you intend to use to transfer the flatbreads to the oven.  Top each round of dough with about a teaspoon of onion mixture and a sprinkling of cheese.  Transfer to the pizza stone in the oven and bake for 13 minutes.  Remove the flatbreads to a plate with a spatula.  Repeat this process 3 more times until all 32 breads are baked.